Who Are You to Criticize Someone Else’s Happiness?

Every time tragedy strikes, celebrities and school choirs come together to sing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” in an effort to spread peace. When faced with immense sadness, we do everything in our power to emphasize the good and eliminate the bad. But the moment anyone expresses true happiness, it’s as if every Negative Nancy on the planet unites behind one giant megaphone to tout their disdain—those feelings of euphoria are clearly unfounded and they’re here to tell you why.

Last week, for instance, comedian Patton Oswalt and actress Meredith Salenger took to social media to confirm their engagement. While such announcements usually elicit an outpouring of “likes” and emoji-laced exclamations, Internet enthusiasts took the opportunity to hunker down behind their screens and anonymously expound their unsolicited opinions. You see, Mr. Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly in April 2016 and, because he’s been so honest and forthcoming about his ensuing grief, these commenters clearly deserve to voice their concerns before these two consenting adults proceed with their impending marriage.

For some reason, the Average Joe seems to think they’re entitled to rain on someone else’s parade just because the people in question happen to be celebrities. (Call me crazy, but living life in the limelight shouldn’t mean you must silently endure such abuse.) In this case, Mr. Oswalt’s critics chastised him for “moving on too quickly” after his wife’s death. Yet I can’t help but wonder—what constitutes “too soon” and who are these naysayers to judge?

There’s no doubt that Mr. Oswalt was crushed by the loss of his wife. His gut-wrenching Facebook posts and subsequent interviews are testament to his undying love for Ms. McNamara. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve this new love he’s found. Loving once doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to love again, timing be damned. His life was torn to shreds with no warning, so why would this man—this man who knows how precious every minute can be—wait for the rest of his life to begin just because complete strangers might not approve?

In this situation, the only other party besides Mr. Oswalt and Ms. Salenger who has any real right to their opinion would be Mr. Oswalt’s 8-year-old daughter, Alice. Judging by Ms. Salenger’s recent Instagram posts, however, she’s definitely onboard. Who are we to deny this young girl another person who loves her? More love doesn’t dilute the love that already exists. Instead, that love grows and expands until it consumes all those touched by its warmth and its light.

If you’re that interested in judging others, purchase a gavel—that way you can whack yourself across the knuckles every time you consider adding your two cents. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. No matter how transparent someone might seem online, you’ll likely never know the full story.

To put it simply, love and let love. After all, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Images courtesy of Meredith Salenger’s Instagram

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We Must Spread Love, Now More Than Ever

Conversation hearts cannot inspire dialogue—at least not the sort we need right now. “Text Me” and “U R Cute” will merely leave a chalky taste on your tongue. But, as Valentine’s Day continues to evolve, it’s obvious that one day dedicated to cardboard cupids and heart-shaped chocolates will not spread enough love to sustain our increasingly difficult fight against hate.

In today’s volatile political climate, it’s easy to drown underneath waves of anger. Leaders on one end of the spectrum regularly infuriate those on the opposing side, sparking outrage that results in an epic game of emotional Ping-Pong. Those wishing to instill fear go to extremes to cultivate animosity, while those working to alleviate worries aim to promote unity.

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Source: Getty Images

But on this, the greeting card holiday dedicated to love, we must look beyond romantic pursuits in order to show our affection for those who face undue persecution. Border walls and religious bans pollute the air where all the love’s supposed to be. We must treat this day as an opportunity to realign our own thought processes so we may continue to fight the good fight under the veil of justice, not disgust. If these destructive measures remain unchecked, our resistance also runs the risk of becoming disconnected from its primary purpose.

Going forward, we must pause frequently to reflect. We must collect our thoughts and reestablish our goals so we never lose sight of the love and togetherness on which this movement was built. We must commit to small actions and gestures every day so we never abandon the vital message behind our efforts.

Defend those who face unmerited hatred because their skin tone doesn’t match the winter snow. Black, Mexican, or Muslim—show these marginalized groups that their contributions to society cannot be overshadowed by the misdeeds of an extreme few. Pop that bubble you’ve been living in your entire life and engage those who don’t look or think like you. Despite popular belief, love isn’t blind. Instead, love grows from the willingness to open our hearts and minds to new people and possibilities.

But, above all else, we must not forget to love ourselves. Much of the anxiety plaguing our nation resides in the hearts of those who are unhappy with themselves. Insecure individuals project their internal doubts onto those who seem weak, punishing the innocent merely so they may reinforce their false confidence. They assert their supposed power by oppressing those who have very little power themselves.

We have the capacity to inspire revolutionary love—love that bonds people of all races, genders, and religions—but we’ve been complacent for far too long. Now’s the time to stand up for what we believe. Now’s the time to lend our voice to the voiceless. Now’s the time to spread love, not hate. Cupid doesn’t have enough arrows to take up arms against the foolish leaders of America. But if we, the people, march forth hand-in-hand, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.

Source: Dreamy Addictions

Source: Dreamy Addictions

Thanks, Obama: An Ode to the Best Bromance of Our Time

https://twitter.com/VP/status/761253705341480962 Screengrab of Joe Biden's Twitter post of obama's friendship bracelet he made him 8/5/16 Source: Joe Biden/Twitter

Source: Joe Biden/Twitter

Recently, The New York Times asked its readers to reflect upon President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Motivated participants were encouraged to write letters regarding what they will remember most about President Obama’s historic role. Despite the unlikely chance of being published, I jumped at the occasion to praise our Commander in Chief.

Unfortunately, as predicted, my letter wasn’t chosen, but I can’t sit back and watch this “peaceful transition of power” unfold without sharing my thoughts on the current administration. Here’s my submission:

For many, strength can be defined by how well someone conceals his or her emotions. Crying indicates an underlying weakness. But, as President Barack Obama addressed the country after the Sandy Hook shooting, periodically pausing to wipe his eyes on national television, each tear demonstrated that true strength comes from loving your fellow man, especially during their time of need. His mouth may have been moving, but it was his heart that spoke that day.

George Washington will forever be the “Father of our Country” in the historical sense, of course, but in that moment President Obama became the father figure of our generation, for his composure and compassion pulled our entire nation through one of the darkest days since September 11.

His fatherly persona extends well beyond his comforting capabilities, however, as our pun-loving president takes pride in his “dad joke” tendencies. Personally, I’m honored to say he’s the first president I had the privilege of voting for, but I’m afraid we’ll never have another Commander in Chief who exhibits the same genuine love for humanity. He certainly embodies an innate zest for life, but his successors? Well, they are bound to be lemons.

Source: The Atlantic

Source: The Atlantic

Readers were limited to 200 words, but after eight years under the guidance of both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, words are simultaneously abundant and absent. It’s truly impossible to deliver an adequate ‘thank you’ when you consider what these gentlemen and their families have done, and will likely continue to do, for the United States of America.

Beyond the professional and the political, Obama and Biden make their work personal. Through their efforts to ensure policies reflect a government that’s run by the people and for the people, Obama and Biden repeatedly prove that they’re with the people, too. Their love for America cannot be feigned, for it shines bright in their affinity for children and their gratitude toward our troops. But most of all, love for their country comes through in the friendship they’ve nurtured during their time in office.

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Century Village Clubhouse on September 28, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. Biden continues to campaign across the country before the general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Source: Getty Images

While President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama taught us the importance of partnership in both marriage and parenting, Vice President Biden showed us how to smile despite immense grief. From these foundations, our two exceptional leaders forged a bond that goes far beyond the scope of past presidential partnerships. They’re more than friends—they’re brothers. Yes, the Internet loves to poke fun at their so-called bromance. (There are enough memes floating around the Web to carry us all for another four years!) But, underneath all the jokes, we can see that they made our nation better just by loving each other.

We’ve seen them laugh together and cry together. Heck, we have even seen them eat ice cream together. Nevertheless, nothing will ever compare to President Obama’s parting gesture. When Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it was hard not to cry right along with them—not only because of the meaning behind the honor, but also because this ceremony served as one somber, sweet farewell to the administration overall.

(Watch the highlights of Obama’s announcement below, or watch the entire ceremony here.)

 

No administration will ever be able to replicate their devotion to the people, and their exit hurts more than any other transition because, for nearly a decade, they have been much more than the figureheads of our democracy. Through humor and honesty, Obama and Biden have become family—the father and uncle we can all depend upon when life gets rough.

Luckily for us, they aren’t simply characters on some TV show that’s been cancelled. They’re real, live human beings! Thus, while they won’t be at the center of our government anymore, they will still have the ability to empower citizens and inspire change. I’m curious to see how Obama and Biden will put their experiences to use in the coming years. I’m eager to watch First Lady Michelle Obama take her current initiatives to the next level. I’m excited to see what Malia and Sasha will accomplish as they emerge into this brave new world.

But, above all else, I’m incredibly grateful that President Obama and Vice President Biden were part of our lives, even if only for a short time. They taught us how to feel and they taught us how to fight. They taught us that love trumps hate. Despite the current state of affairs, I hope their words and actions will echo throughout the White House, Congress, and the country for decades to come.

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Source: Getty Images

Deck Your Screens with Christmas Adverts: 5 Holiday Commercials That Stole the Show This Season

15317943_10100501619163156_4721658093138191009_nDivisive rhetoric and unrelenting fear have come to define the year in an unforeseen fashion. Our election alone has set the tone for the tumultuous times ahead. But even in this era of unpredictability, advertisers throughout the world refuse to keep quiet.

While companies, such as Marks & Spencer, have invested vast amounts of time, talent, and money into creating memorable Christmas commercials—in hopes of going viral, no doubt—many have accomplished this feat by putting social issues at the heart of their holiday messages. By tapping into themes that foster love and togetherness, brands have the platform to promote unity through universal truths.

But which advertisements have left an indelible impression on the general public this season? Those that devote airtime to emphasizing what ties us to one another instead of what tears us apart, of course.

  1. Sainsbury’s

 

Based in the United Kingdom, Sainsbury’s 2016 advert combines the charm of stop motion animation and the appeal of James Corden in an effort to convey one simple message: spending time with those you love is the greatest gift of all. Dave, our protagonist, realizes that, despite his best efforts to make the holiday special for his family, he was missing out on the activities that matter most. In response, he concocts crazy ways to avoid his everyday responsibilities so he may fully envelope himself in the joys of the season.

Best part? He’s one half of an interracial couple! I know. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking anymore. But, ever since that one Cheerios commercial sent people into an unnecessary uproar, one cannot help but smile at the subtle, yet strong, message behind such creative choices. As long as there’s love, nothing else matters.

 

  1. Allegro

 

For many, the holidays exacerbate their constant, nagging loneliness. Elderly people often find themselves forgotten, especially, as many remain holed up in nursing homes, forced to spend the rest of their days in some sort of living purgatory.

In the case of Allegro’s viral holiday ad, an elderly gentleman lives alone, far from his immediate family. In preparation for his inevitable trip, the man purchases an English learning kit from the Polish online auction website so he may greet and speak to his granddaughter upon his arrival. It just goes to show that, once again, being with the ones you love will always be the best part of the season. We must make every effort to cherish our time with those who mean the most.

 

  1. Apple

 

Brad Garrett has taken on many varied roles during his admirable career, but none are more lovable than his turn as Frankenstein’s monster in Apple’s holiday commercial. Here, we see Frankie, as he’s called, in the preparation stages of his Christmas debut. Once he joins the crowd around the town’s Christmas tree, he replaces his bolts with festive bulbs and begins his rendition of ‘Home for the Holidays’.

While some greet his advances with disdain and hate, one child starts to sing along instead, inspiring the group to set aside their differences and come together in the spirit of the season. Considering the rampant hatred our society now displays for those who don’t quite meet their conformity quota, this commercial promotes acceptance and understanding in ways many have yet to comprehend.

 

  1. Elgiganten

 

Despite being surrounded by family members, those who are considered different may still feel alone this season. But as Elgiganten, the Scandinavian electronics retailer, depicts in its latest advertisement, actions can truly speak louder than words.

While the transgender teen at the heart of this commercial appears to be uncomfortable in the presence of her family, her father walks over and silently hands her his gift. She rips the paper back to reveal her very own hair straightener. Though no words are exchanged, his gesture and her smile say it all. No one has the right to dictate how another should live his or her life. Instead, we must learn to accept people for who they are and empower them to blossom into who they want to be.

 

  1. Amazon Prime

 

Religious intolerance has become the cornerstone policy of the impending Republican administration. But Amazon Prime’s latest advertisement clearly indicates that the company has no tolerance for bigotry. This ad focuses on what happens when two old friends—a priest and an Imam—meet for tea. These two men bond over their aches and pains, ultimately sending each other the same knee braces in response. There’s no tension, no hatred—only laughter.

Here, the creatives behind this concept made sure to highlight the parallels between the two religious leaders to demonstrate that, while many tend to fixate on the differences between Christians and their Muslim counterparts, all are connected by their devotion to a higher power. Just because two people observe different faiths doesn’t mean they cannot come together in friendship. Ultimately, we’re all humans, and it’s this shared experience that should encourage compassion instead of engendering conflict.

From the Seeds of Hate, We Must Cultivate Love

Even the City of Love cannot escape the hate. </3

CTujsdZUkAEo0a4Tragedy strikes every day, whether the headlines say so or not. Terror—both domestic and foreign—has become so commonplace, in fact, we longer ask ourselves if, but when. When will my city become the next terrorist target? When will my school fall victim to mass murder? When will I end up another statistic in this war against gun violence? Refugees abroad continue to flee from this daily horror, risking their lives to escape an unbearable reality, and families at home grieve for loved ones lost, bombarded by prayers from government officials who still put their right to bear arms above their constituents’ ish to live without fear.

Today, however, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris, France, as they seek to make sense of the terrorist attacks across their beloved city last night. Moments like these compel everyone to toss their trivial worries aside in solidarity. (Our parking tickets and broken phones no longer seem so devastating, after all.) Instead, we here in America cannot help but recall images of September 11th, when we were the nation in mourning. We remember the fear. We empathize with their despair. We reciprocate the uncertainty. Though attacks of any nature throughout the world assault our s
hared humanity, the Paris Attacks hit home, in particular, because they remind everyone that terror can wreak havoc anywhere, not just those countries ravaged by death each day.

In his statement, President Obama said: “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share… We are bound by timeless democratic values that the cowardice and perverse ideologues of extremist networks can never match, wherever they are. Such savagery can never threaten who we are. We will respond. We will overcome. We will endure.”

Many have noted, in the aftermath, that the recent attacks in Beirut and the perpetual plight of Syrian refugees fail to receive the media attention they deserve. But it’s in the wake of the Paris Attacks that we have the opportunity to raise awareness and gain support for all those suffering across the globe. While this tragedy has changed countless lives forever, we now have the opportunity to turn this negative into something positive by changing the way we perceived the world forever, as well.

As President Obama explained, these were attacks on all of humanity because, at our core, we are all essentially the same. No matter our religion, race, or nationality, we’re all made of skin and bones. We all yearn to live in peace. Every atrocity appeals to our solidarity, yet we inevitably fall back into the same self-centered rut as we bounce from tragedy to tragedy, dedicating ourselves to the given cause only momentarily before politicizing the events that have transpired in an effort to leverage personal agendas. Once again, we’re all related, but we fail to see eye to eye—brothers and sisters engaged in senseless sibling rivalry.

But in this instance, we can enact change once and for all. We can go beyond the blue, red, and white lights that adorn prominent buildings throughout the world. We can embrace our humanity and engage one another through peace and love, not resentment and hate. How many people must die—how many communities must crumble—before we channel our strengthen to fight for, not against, each other? To quote Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We discover life’s true value in the face of death. Let’s honor all victims’ lives—those in Paris and those around the world—by rooting our efforts in love, for we’ll inevitably nurture a garden in which hate can no longer grow.

(Image by Jean Jullien)

Meet Mr. Happy Man

Every now and then, my mind reaches its breaking point. I can’t think straight or concentrate on any single task. I begin to question every little detail of my life. I find solace in nothing but a fluffy pillow and warm blanket. But, at one point or another, we all feel defeated. We all question the meaning behind what we do each day.

Yet, when I’m feeling down—much like I have today—I can’t help but recall this video and the abundant joy one human being can offer complete strangers:

 

The description reads, “Come rain or shine, 88-year-old Bermudian Johnny Barnes devotes six hours every day to an endearing traffic ritual that has made him one of the island’s most cherished citizens.” (via Matt Morris Films)

You see, life isn’t just about our internal state. Life doesn’t revolve around what we can do to better ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, we are not individuals working independently to advance our own mission. We are one extended community, all operating (or at least we should be) to preserve the human condition and make the world a better place for everyone. We need to push our worries aside when they start to overcome our ambitions and remember that, no matter our struggles, we each have something very important to offer the world—love.

Where “YOLO” Meets “IRL”

Disclaimer: Don’t let the title throw you off. I hate those terms, too.

Certain acronyms and abbreviations have really caught on in this age of the Internet. LOL, IMO, BRB—most of today’s shorthand lingo comes from the desire to type common, mildly lengthy phrases using less time and space. Yet, while most acronyms have quickly become part of the online lexicon, many will agree that YOLO (You Only Live Once) has reached its expiration date. Though the term represents an overt acknowledgement of humankind’s impending mortality, frequent usage has transformed the otherwise meaningful concept into an annoying cliché.

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Countless advocates take to the Internet to state the obvious, but one has to wonder if they fully understand what they’re saying, for it’s not simply the fact that we only live once, but what we do with that one life that truly generates meaning. Many have yet to comprehend that posting YOLO all over Twitter or Tumblr does not constitute living, for life will not wait until you’re done posting that status or reblogging pictures of cats. When you are young, you feel invincible, as if time will never touch you. You believe you have so many years left to live life to the fullest until, suddenly, the days have faded into weeks, and the weeks into months, and years later you are standing with your back to the future, gazing at the past and wondering where all the time went because, in most instances, we spend too much time standing still.

Time marches forward (even if we don’t). We get extra sleep to gather energy for the things we want to do. We study harder so we can get the job we seek. We work twice as hard to earn more money for the goods necessary to survive. But, as our obligations consume every ounce of effort we exert, time slips further out of reach and we are left with mere slivers to spend with those we love. Even though classmates and co-workers may surround us all day long, we spend most of our waking hours in relative solitude. Our pets remain home alone as they await our return, and our friends and family toil away at their own responsibilities, allowing us to come together for only one mere fraction of the day.

Honestly, it’s paralyzing to consider how much time we waste working toward an imaginary future that may never materialize. Once you begin to understand how many moments we subconsciously let slip by, you can’t hope but pause to catch your breath. Much of life remains entirely out of our hands, yet we proceed with the assumption that there will always be another tomorrow, causing us to neglect today’s potential. We put so much energy into jobs that we dread in our pursuit of financial security, and we tackle tasks deemed mandatory by society’s standards, not realizing that what might be right in front of us one week could be gone the next, for just as we believe we’ll always have more time, we believe those we love will always be there, too. We must recognize that distance, illness, and death are not just possibilities, but eventualities, and that to truly embrace this one life we’ve been given, we must love and live in the moment, not in the future.