Sunday, November 29, 2009

measure of a man

You measure a man by how he acts in times of crisis, not in times of prosperity.

"Gone" On and On

Well look at all those fancy clothes
but these could keep us warm just like those
and what about your soul? is it cold?
is it straight from the mold and ready to be sold?
and cars and phones and diamond rings
bling bling
those are only removable things
and what about your mind does it shine or
are there things that concern you
more than your time

~Jack Johnson


“Enjoy your incredible human journey. Accept the highs and the lows as equally valuable. Recognize that your deepest sorrows reveal your greatest joys. Share your stories with others, and know that you’re not alone. Be grateful for your time on earth.
Live consciously.”
~ Steve Pavlina (excerpt from Afterword)

connect the dots

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” ~Kierkegaard

Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech.


“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. Now THAT’S relativity.” - Einstein


To nearest, to dearest, to The Crew, to cahoots, to the ones who've been there, to the ones who'll be there, to dropping everything, to saying anything, to no judgements, to no doubts, to loyalty, to trust, to the vault, to favors, to lifelongs, to been too long, to nothing's changed, to life savers, to having history, to going way back, to moving away, to never too far, to growing up, to settling down, to your closest friends, to your second family, to the perfect guest list.

To celebrating the Holidays with those who matter most.

Virtus et Honor

The reputation of one thousand years can be determined with the conduct of one hour.

Virtus et Honor

Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with might -Ecclesiastes 9:10

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Love Life, Not Stuff

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
We’re in love with stuff — with shopping, with acquiring, with owning, with collecting.

Let’s lust after life instead.

Our obsession with stuff has become unhealthy. When we have a void in our lives, we buy things. When we have problems, we buy things. And these things are becoming more and more expensive, bigger, shinier … more wasteful.

This obsession with stuff leads to owning a lot, having a lot of clutter … and yet this stuff doesn’t fill our lives with meaning.

It leads to deep debt, from buying so much, and needing bigger houses and storage spaces to contain everything. Financially, we’re worse off than ever, because of this obsession with stuff.

We buy things when we’re depressed, we buy things for others to show how much we love them … and in this way, stuff has separated us from actually dealing with our emotions, blocked us from truly connecting with others.

Let’s replace that lust for stuff with a lust for life.

Some ideas:

Rediscover a passion for life. Get outside and feel nature, appreciate the beauty of the world around you. Get active, do some gardening or yardwork, play a sport, go for a walk, take a hike, go for a swim, ride a bike. Feel the life coursing through you. Breathe it in.
Give experiences as gifts, not stuff. Instead of shopping for someone come birthdays or Christmas, think of an experience you can give them instead. A date with you, doing something fun, hanging out, cooking, playing, talking, exploring. A fun time at a park or beach. Something other than everyday. An experience is much more meaningful than an object.
Connect with others. In real life. If you haven’t hung out with a friend recently, give him a call and go hang out. Get your kid away from the TV or video game player and take her outside to do something. Go on a date with your partner. Visit your mom or grandparents. And be present while you’re with them — really listen, really be there.
Deal with your emotions. If you have a need to buy things, to shop when you are having emotional issues, be more aware of this. Then deal with the underlying emotions, rather than using shopping as a way to forget about them. If you’re depressed, or anxious, or lonely, deal with those. Find solutions, figure out what’s causing them. Good news: experiencing life, getting active, and connecting with others all help you deal with those emotional issues.
Disconnect your attachment to stuff. Sometimes I find myself reluctant to give something up, even if I don’t really use it. And that’s when I ask myself, “Why?” What is holding me back from getting rid of this possession? Sometimes, the item has an emotional connection, but then I realize that it’s just an object, it’s not the emotion or the actual source of the emotion. Then I’ll take a picture of the item, upload it to my computer, and get rid of the object. I feel liberated, because I’ve broken an attachment to a physical object (but saved the memory). If you are attached to an object, figure out why — it’s not healthy in the long run.
Realize that life, not stuff, is what matters. Objects are just objects — if you lose them, if they get stolen or destroyed … it’s not a big deal. They’re just objects — not your life. Your life is the series of moments that is steaming through your consciousness right now, and how you use those moments and what you fill them with is what truly matters, not what you fill your home with. At the end of this short journey, you’ll look back and remember your experiences, the people you loved and who loved you back, the things you did and didn’t do. Not the stuff you had.

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” - Buddha

Do interesting Things...

“Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” - Goethe

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
We live in interesting times. We’re blessed that way.

The world is changing rapidly.

The way we work is changing, the way we live has already changed. Entire industries are crumbling, and more are growing on their ruins. People are empowered to express themselves, to create, to become a part of a global conversation and transformation, in a way that has never existed before.

What will you do with that?

What will your place be in this new, interesting world? Will you have a voice? Will you be a creator, or just a consumer?

Do something.

Do something interesting.

Be a part of the conversation, and say something remarkable. Create something unique, new, beautiful. Build upon the works of others and transform it into your own.

How to do this?

Write a book. Or an ebook. Write poetry and publish it on the web. Create interesting, lovely or funny videos, put them on You Tube. Be passionate. Write a web app that will solve a problem in people’s lives. Become a watchdog to replace the faltering newspapers. Explore the world, and blog about it. Try something you’ve always been afraid to try, and put it on video. Be yourself, loudly. Start a new company, doing only one thing, but doing it very well. Start a business that does a service you’ve always wanted, or that you are frustrated with in other companies because the service sucks. Put your heart into something. Say something that no one else dares to say. Do something others are afraid to do. Help someone no one else cares to help. Make the lives of others better. Make music that makes others want to weep, to laugh, to create. Inspire others by being inspiring. Teach young people to do amazing things. Write a play, get others to act in it, record it. Empower others to do things they’ve never been able to do before. Read, and read, and then write. Love, and love, and then help others to love. Do something good and ask others to pass it on. Be profound. Find focus in a world without it. Become minimalist in a world of dizzying complexity. Reach out to those who are frustrated, depressed, angry, confused, sad, hurt. Be the voice for those without one. Learn, do, then teach. Meet new people, become fast friends. Dare to be wrong. Take lots and lots of pictures. Explore new cultures. Be different. Paint a huge mural. Create a web comic. Be a dork, but do it boldly. Interview people. Observe people. Create new clothes. Take old stuff and make new stuff from it. Read weird stuff. Study the greats, and emulate them. Be interested in others. Surprise people. Start a blog, write at least a little each day. Cook great food, and share it. Be open-minded. Help someone else start a small business. Focus on less but do it better. Help others achieve their dreams. Put a smile on someone’s face, every day. Start an open-source project. Make a podcast. Start a movement. Be brave. Be honest. Be hilarious. Get really, really good at something. Practice a lot. A lot. Start now. Try.

Stay Motivated -Jeff Tang

“Do what you love.”

We’ve all heard this advice before. It’s great advice, though not many people truly take it to heart.

But sometimes doing what you love isn’t enough to keep you going. Inspiration, passion, and motivation are difficult things to hold on to. They always seem to slip away right when you need them most.

You know that feeling. Where you’re that close to finishing a project, or achieving a goal, or crossing a task off your to-do list … but you just can’t muster the energy. You’ve lost interest. You’re exhausted. Drained. And you don’t know why.

That’s burnout. It’s something many of us are all too familiar with. I’d like to share with you a few ways that I fight burnout – or prevent it from catching me in the first place.

1. Achieve in increments. When you only focus on a big goal someday, it’s easy to get burned out by the daily grind. It’s like driving toward a mountain in the distance. You can drive for hours, but the mountain doesn’t seem to get any closer. And spinning your wheels gets real tiring real fast.

The solution is to give yourself a way to measure and record every little step forward you take. Here’s how:

Get a journal, notebook, or calendar. Writing things down is important.
Identify milestones on the road towards your goal.If you’re writing a book, you could treat each chapter as one milestone. Or, even better, treat each 500 words or 1000 words as a milestone.
If milestones aren’t obvious, create them. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, hold yourself to a progression of distance. If you start out running at your maximum distance, you’ll plateau very quickly. Instead, start at a shorter distance – even if it’s very easy for you – then work your way up slowly.
Track milestones in a simple, visual format. Think of the progress bar on a download. One glance tells you exactly how much progress has been made. The format you choose doesn’t need to be detailed or comprehensive. It just needs to show that you’re moving forward day by day.
Learn to appreciate the little accomplishments. Let yourself enjoy the feeling of getting things done.

2. Train your muse. One of the biggest myths about inspiration that it’s random. One day you’re inspired and motivated, the next day you’re burned out – and there’s no way around it. Or so they say.

In fact, inspiration is just like any other skill. It may start out as unreliable, but it can be trained and developed into something you can rely on.

So how do you train your muse? The best way I’ve found is immersion. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and reflect your goals. Great composers listen to music. Great authors read voraciously. Great marketers attend seminars. Great productivity-ists subscribe to Zen Habits. And so on. Immersion trains your mind to work efficiently in the ways you need it to.

The more that your inspiration becomes a part of your life, the less likely it is to run out when you need it most. With that in mind, be creative. What ways can you connect with your inspiration on a daily basis?

3. Work less. Cut down on the amount of energy and time you spend working. If you have sick days or vacation days left, take advantage of them. Or, if you’re self-employed, force yourself to work fewer hours each day – even if that means turning down new projects.

Working less doesn’t mean you have to slack off or get less done. It does mean that you:

Eliminate unnecessary tasks.
Take strategic breaks.
Stop multi-tasking.
Seek help from other people.
4. Define success realistically. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having big dreams and big ambitions. But if you’re constantly frustrated by a lack of progress, it might be time to take a step back and examine your goals. Are they achievable? Are you holding yourself to a reasonable timeline?

Here’s a good way to do this. Get a piece of paper and write down your big, ambitious goal. Then write down at least 10 specific, concrete steps that will allow you to achieve that goal. Be as detailed as possible. If you can’t come up with a series of down-to-earth steps to get you from here to your dream, that’s a sign that you need to either redefine your goals or rethink the way you’re pursuing those goals.

5. Get more sleep. You’ve heard this before, I know. So have I. But that didn’t stop me from going against my better judgment and tiring myself out by staying up late to work. Getting enough sleep takes a conscious decision – and, just like any good habit, takes time to develop.

One of the biggest barriers for me in this area is procrastination. I have a tendency to put things off throughout the day, then stay up later as a result. What’s keeping you from getting the rest you need?

6. Take it slow(er). The world tells us to rush things: “Get there faster. Make money quicker. Retire sooner.” And while these things aren’t necessarily bad, they can easily get us in over our heads. If you’re feeling burned out and overwhelmed, it’s time to slow down.

A few ways to take yourself out of 24/7 high gear:

Spend at least 10 minutes a day in a quiet place, away from distractions. Breathe.
Put together a playlist of slow, relaxing music. Listen to it whenever you start feeling frazzled.
Take a butcher knife to your to-do list. Set a limit to the number of tasks you take on each day and stick to it.
Extend your deadlines. Do you absolutely, positively have to get this done now? Just remember – this isn’t an excuse to procrastinate.
7. Get a second opinion. It’s hard to spot burnout from the inside. Your close friends and family are likely to identify the signs of burnout long before you do. So listen to what they’re saying. The next time your spouse, parent, or best friend tells you you’re working too hard, take it seriously.

8. Set clear boundaries. Burnout happens when we allow work to overflow its boundaries and interfere with every other part of our lives. So set strong boundaries. The clearer the better. In writing, if possible.

For example, instead of saying: “I’ll spend at three hours every night with my family,” make it clearer: “I won’t work after 8 o’clock. That’s 100% family time.” Clear boundaries are easier to stick to and harder to rationalize away.

Once you’ve set up your boundaries, make them public. Let your family know that you’ve set aside time just for them. They’ll hold you accountable to your promises. Let your clients know that you’ll be unavailable during certain hours. This will reduce the temptation to fudge on your boundaries.

9. When you’re working, focus. I’ve found that concentrating on work is actually less exhausting than allowing yourself to be wishy-washy about it. When you decide that it’s time to work, buckle down, eliminate distractions, and do it wholeheartedly. There’s something amazingly refreshing about pure, sharp focus.

10. Create outlets. If you’re a person of diverse interests (and really, who isn’t?), it’s likely that you have several very different goals and ideas bouncing around in your head at any given time. These ideas need outlets. If you hold them inside, they’ll eventually start interfering with your focus and creating unnecessary frustration, leading to burnout.

In other words, I think it’s okay – healthy, even – to start a few side projects as outlets for creative energy. Just make sure that you keep your priorities straight and your side projects fun. If these side projects become sources of stress, cut them out immediately.

11. Know when to power through it. This is going to sound out of place given what I’ve said above, but it’s powerful – if applied correctly. Sometimes the solution for burnout is just to power through it. Sometimes burnout can be an illusion. In these cases, the best choice is to refuse to use burnout as an excuse, ignore the fact that you feel burned out, and just work through it. It’s like a runner gaining her second wind and coming out stronger on the other side.

However, just as an experienced athlete knows when to push through the pain and when to pull back, you’ll need to be very careful how you take this particular piece of advice. Until you develop a keen awareness of your own tendencies, it’s usually better to err on the side of caution and pull back when you start feeling burned out.

12. Never accept defeat. Burnout is an obstacle like any other. It can hold you back for a while, but it’s not the end of the world – unless you let it defeat you.

If you have a great goal in mind, don’t give up on it, no matter how apathetic, exhausted, or frustrated you might feel. If everything I’ve said up until this point fails, do this: hold on to your dream – even if it doesn’t feel like much of a dream at the moment. Hold on to it anyway. That way, when the storm clears, your dream will still be intact, ready for another try.

“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” - Henry David Thoreau


When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”

Live it to the Limit

Those who think they can get by in life without providing the same amount of value for value received will eventually find themselves working harder than ever to deceive others and receiving very little in return. Life has a funny way of evening the score. In the long run, you will get in the same measure you give. Spend your time on productive, positive efforts; give generously of your time and talents, and you will stand out from the great multitudes whose primary goal in life seems to be to get something for nothing.

when a heart breaks it doesn't break even.

Do more Get more.

‘My life is my message.’ - Gandhi

Charles Darwin... agree or disagree?

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and Nov. 24 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, the landmark work in which Darwin laid forth his theory of natural selection. While celebrations have emphasized the British naturalist's giant role in the advancement of human progress, British political journalist Dennis Sewell is not convinced. In a new book, The Political Gene: How Darwin's Ideas Changed Politics, he highlights how often - and how easily - Darwin's big idea has been harnessed for sinister political ends. According to Sewell, evolution is scientifically undeniable, but its contribution to human well-being is unclear.

Should we reassess Darwin's legacy?
Bicentennial celebrations have portrayed Darwin as a kindly old gentleman pottering around an English house and garden. What that misses is the way his ideas were abused in the 20th century and the way in which Darwin was wrong about certain key issues. He asserted that different races of mankind had traveled different distances along the evolutionary path - white Caucasians were at the top of the racial hierarchy, while black and brown people ranked below. [Racism] was a widespread prejudice in British society at the time, but he presented racial hierarchy as a matter of science. He also held that the poor were genetically second-rate - which inspired eugenics. (See a photo-essay on Darwin.)

In your research, you found vestiges of this warped way of thinking in an unexpectedly modern setting: school shootings.
Pekka-Eric Auvinen, a Finnish schoolboy who murdered eight people at his high school in November 2007, wrote on his blog that "stupid, weak-minded people are reproducing ... faster than the intelligent, strong-minded" ones. Auvinen thought through the philosophical implications of Darwin's work and came to the conclusion that human life is like every other type of animal life: it has no extraordinary value. The Columbine killers made similar arguments. One of the shooters, Eric Harris, wore a "Natural Selection" shirt on the day of the massacre. These are examples of how easily Darwin's writings can lead to very disturbed ways of thinking.

You believe that Darwin should continue to be taught in schools. But how can we teach Darwin and also teach that humans are somehow exceptional in the natural world? Wasn't his great breakthrough to show that humans, like all animals, share a common origin?
I think we have to decide what status we are going to give to the human race. Most of the world's religions hold that human life is sacred and special in some way. In teaching our common descent with animals, we also have to examine what is special about human beings, and why they deserve to be treated differently and granted certain rights.

Are you concerned that your ideas will be trumpeted by the creationist movement?
Science is a big enough interest group. It can look after itself. (Read "The Ever Evolving Theories of Darwin.")

We understand now that eugenics was an illegitimate science, so why even worry about it today?
The thinking behind eugenics is still present. Many senior geneticists point to a genetically engineered future. As the technology for this falls into place, there has also been an explosion of the field of evolutionary psychology that tries to describe every element of human behavior as genetically determined. What we will begin to see is scientists arguing for the use of genetics to breed out certain behavioral traits from humanity.

Is it that you oppose artificial selection in principle, or that you feel scientists are still too far away from a full understanding of genetics to be making such decisions?
Who is going to make the value judgment of what is human enhancement and what makes a human better? I don't feel comfortable with such judgments being left to scientists.

All things considered, do you believe Darwin was a great luminary in the path of human progress?
What has the theory of evolution done for the practical benefit of humanity? It's helped our understanding of ourselves, yet compared to, say, the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the World Wide Web, I wonder why Darwin occupies this position at the pinnacle of esteem. I can only imagine he has been put there by a vast public relations exercise.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bring Excellence to LIfe...

You cannot achieve excellence just by proclaiming it to be. Excellence is built in the details.
Attend faithfully and competently to the details, while staying true to your purpose. That is how to bring excellence into your world.
What is done with genuine love is done with excellence. Let love guide you in each moment, and you will consistently create excellence.
Excellence resonates with what is true, what is good and authentically valuable, with what is right. Work with honesty, integrity, and a commitment to truth, and excellence will permeate the results.
Intention is critical, yet excellence does not come from good intentions alone. Excellence comes from actions persistently and consistently guided by the highest and most authentic intentions.
In each thing you do is the opportunity to create excellence. Again and again, bring excellence to life, and live true to your highest purpose.

mood busters

So here's the plan: Try a new tip each day. Work through the month, accumulating more changes as you go and make over your mood—to happy!

1. Believe in what you're doing.

Convincing yourself that by working out you're doing something positive for yourself can be as important to boosting your mood as the exercise itself, according to Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California. In one of his recent studies, 60 subjects exercised for a single session. Those who were told about the benefits of exercise before working out were better able to cope with stress and anxiety (key mood wreckers) than those who were not.

2. Eat the mood-booster-in-a-bowl.

Eat breakfast every morning; it's the most important thing you can do for your mood for the rest of the day, says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of the newly revised Food & Mood. "If you skip breakfast, you'll never be able to get your mood up to what it would have been had you eaten something." It doesn't have to be much: Just be sure to include both protein (eggs, low-fat milk or yogurt) and carbohydrates (fruits, whole-grain toast or cereal).

3. Rise and shine—then get moving!

To get the feel-your-best effects from exercise, you have to do it consistently. "Make exercise a nonnegotiable part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth," says Plante. "Morning is the easiest time to make this happen." If you wait until later, you run the risk of unexpected things popping up and interfering with your workout. And morning exercise is ideal for weight control. Research shows that after a morning workout, your mood is still elevated at bedtime.

4. Plan to snack.

And often. You should be putting something in your mouth every four to five hours. "People who divide their food intake into mini-meals and snacks evenly distributed throughout the day maintain a more even temperament and are less prone to depression and mood swings," says Somer. So stock up on quick, no-fuss snack-sized foods, fruits and vegetables.

5. Go social, not solo.

Plan to work out where there are other people around. Studies show that exercising near others—running in a park, walking next to someone on a treadmill—improves mood more than being out alone, even if you never actually talk to anyone. Why? The theory is that watching others inspires you to work out longer and harder, and you feel more committed to the activity, which makes you feel better about yourself.

6. Color your world.

Eat six to eight servings daily of the brightest, most colorful fruits and vegetables you can find. Boosting your consumption of antioxidants (among them, vitamins C and E and beta-carotene) has been proven to improve memory, reaction time and thinking, which boosts your mood.

7. Try the rhythm method.

Pick an activity with repetitive motions, like jogging, swimming, cycling or rowing. "If you don't have to think about the exercise or what your body is doing, your mind can wander and think about pleasurable things," says psychologist Kate Hays, Ph.D., owner of the consulting firm Performing Edge. "The more you can do that, the better you'll feel afterward."

8. Sweat—but not too much.

Part of the high you experience during and after exercise is due to an increase in body temperature, which causes the release of beta-endorphins, says Keith Johnsgard, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at San Jose State University in California. That heat affects muscles, decreasing internal activity, which causes a feeling of relaxation. Best of all, you don't need to go overboard to get this effect. A recent study showed that people working out at 40 percent of their aerobic capacity got the same mood benefits as those exercising at 80 percent.

9. Fork up the fish.

At least once a week have sardines, anchovies, pink salmon or striped bass. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and new research shows that when consumption of these fatty acids goes up, depression rates go down. It turns out that these fatty acids may raise levels of serotonin (the brain chemical that's directly responsible for boosting your mood).

10. Hit the shower.

Raining or snowing today? Too time-crunched to fit in a workout? Jump into the shower. Taking a warm bath or shower can also help give you a temporary mood boost by heating up your core body temperature.

11. Dress up your salads.

Look for salad dressings made with canola or soybean oil, both of which contain alpha linolenic acid—this fatty acid is one of the omega-3 fatty acids, the ones found in fish. Sprinkling on flaxseed (a health-food-store staple) or walnuts also helps up your intake of omega-3's.

12. Fast-forward your thoughts.

Can't face a workout today? Then skip to the end of it: You'll be able to get going, go longer and enjoy yourself more if you think about something positive as a mental warm-up—like how good you'll feel and look afterward, how nice the sauna will feel, or how effectively you're beating stress with exercise.

13. Pop a pill.

Taking in sufficient vitamins and minerals daily affects how you feel physically every day, which naturally affects your mood. You know that the best way to fuel up is by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish and lean meats, but let's face it: 99 out of 100 Americans don't eat well enough to meet their daily requirements. So it's a good idea to take a multivitamin supplement. It can help give you an extra boost where you're lacking. (Try Centrum or Nature Made's Essential Balance.)

14. Trick—and treat—yourself.

Build rewards into your workouts and you'll stick to them. Walk to a coffee shop that is two miles away rather than making coffee at home. Splurge on a skim decaf cappuccino. If you like to jog, pick a scenic route. Or take a class at a gym that's near a store you like so you can browse on the way home.

15. Pick up some prunes.

A recent study at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., found prunes (surprise!) to be the best source of brain-boosting antioxidants. Eat them for snacks (they're high in fill-you-up fiber and iron) or chop them up and sprinkle them over your breakfast cereal or oatmeal.

16. Become a control freak.

This is your new mantra: By completing my workout, I gain control. Start chanting this now. "It will help you feel as if you have made time for yourself and that you're in control of your own life," explains Johnsgard. Remember, you—not a diet, not the weather, not your job—are in control and responsible for your success and happiness.

17. Drink up.

Increase your water intake to eight or more glasses a day. What's the connection to mood? Not drinking enough water leaves you dehydrated—which causes fatigue and lack of energy and eventually leads to blue moods, says Somer.

18. Get in tune.

Set your workout to music. Tunes not only get you going and keep you going as you exercise, they also directly affect mood. "Listening to music takes your mind off what you're doing, so the time passes faster," says musician and former track athlete Bruce Blackman. Find songs with a tempo that matches your tempo (122 beats, or steps, per minute is the average walking tempo for a 5-foot-5, 125-pound woman; joggers average 155 strides per minute). Prerecorded exercise cassettes do the counting for you—just call Sports Music at (800) 878-4764 for 60-minute workout tapes ($13) with various types of music.

19. Try proactive snacking.

No matter what time of day your mood/energy low hits—it can vary from midafternoon to early evening—be prepared. Snack your way out of that slump with two cups of air-popped popcorn with water or half a whole-wheat bagel with nonfat cream cheese and jam. The key: high carbs, which promote the formation of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.

20. Reality-check your overall goals.

Are your goals too lofty? You'll end up feeling bad if you can't meet them. Keep goals concrete and reachable (to run a mile without stopping, to cut back 100 calories a day). And keep track of when you reach your goals. Knowing you've accomplished what you set out to achieve goes a long way toward improving your mood.

21. Stop snacking on sweets.

Don't panic—you don't have to cut them out entirely, just change when you eat them. When you eat sweets for a snack (on an empty stomach), they're very quickly metabolized, which can cause mood swings. It would be smarter to save them for after a meal. Your body will process sugars more slowly because it has protein, complex carbohydrates and fat to contend with, explains registered dietitian Maria Walls of Weight Watchers International.

22. Track your hidden workout.

Keeping your activity level up even when you're not exercising can keep a good mood going. To find out how much you're walking and to add new steps, check out a Digiwalker (a pedometer that attaches to your belt, from $25 to $35. To order one, call 888-SIT-LESS or log on to Your goal? Aim for 10,000 steps or five miles daily, an amount recommended by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas. Low-tech tactics: Count flights of stairs, blocks and parking lot slots and better your daily totals the next day.

23. Increase your B.

Bolster your dietary intake of vitamin B6 (found in chicken, fish, bananas and dark green leafy vegetables); it aids in the manufacture of serotonin.

24. Exercise your mouth.

Gossip your way to thin thighs! Talking during exercise makes any workout go by faster and gives you a sense of support and community—all crucial to boosting your mood, says Hays. Consider organizing a neighborhood walking group or making exercise "dates" to go jogging three nights a week with those friends you never get to see.

25. Consider a sugar cutback.

Researchers have found that when you cut sugar from your diet, your mood and depression levels immediately improve. They're not sure why yet. But in any case, if you're sugar-sensitive (a cookie or doughnut makes you soar—and then crash), try to cut back on as much refined or added sugar as you can, including hidden sources like ketchup, canned fruit, fruit "drinks" and flavored yogurt, says Somer. If you're not as sensitive, try eliminating concentrated sugars in candy, cakes, desserts. You may notice a better mood in a matter of days, she adds.

26. Compete—but only with yourself.

For a great mood boost, remove the competition from your exercise program. Studies show that competitive conditions actually have a negative effect on participants' self-confidence and mood, says Larry M. Leith, author of Exercising Your Way to Better Mental Health. The only time competition works in your favor is when your opponent is you; then it can spice up an old workout and inspire you to work harder, he says.

27. Feed your carb cravings.

When you're feeling down, you tend to turn to carbohydrate-rich foods as a quick fix. While these do elevate brain levels of tryptophan (which is then converted into mood-boosting serotonin), you'll feel worse later because of the drop in blood sugar. So don't ignore these cravings, but try to satisfy them by making sure every meal contains complex carbohydrates like whole grains. Complex carbs give you the mood boost without the swings in blood sugar, so you'll get fewer cravings later on.

28. Time it right.

You can easily use exercise to manipulate your mood. Say you want to be serene and calm for a big presentation. To prepare, simply schedule an aerobic workout (swimming, jogging, walking, cycling, etc.) for two hours beforehand. Research shows that aerobic exercise reduces feelings of stress and anxiety for up to four to six hours by promoting the release of the brain chemical known as dopamine. In addition, you may want to consider skipping the strength training for the day—anaerobic activities like weight lifting may actually increase anxiety, says Johnsgard. The mood-boosting bonus: Doing aerobic activity regularly has a cumulative positive effect on any anxiety you commonly feel.

29. Jettison some java.

No, you don't have to cut it out altogether, but stop at two cups of coffee, tea or soda a day. Caffeine may interfere with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, which is why a cup of joe when you're low could just make you feel worse.

30. Cut back on the vino.

Alcohol dehydrates cells, suppresses your nervous system and lowers the tryptophan levels in your brain, which in turn hampers serotonin production. It may also reduce levels of omega-3 fatty acids (the fat linked to lower rates of depression). So instead of having a cocktail to relieve a blue mood, take a walk or pop in a funny video. Laughing can give you an instant natural high, just like exercising.

31. Up your iron intake.

Low iron levels go hand in hand with fatigue in women, and fatigue is sometimes the underlying cause of blue moods. To ensure you're getting 15 to 25 mg of iron a day, cook in cast-iron pots; don't drink caffeine with meals (it interferes with iron absorption); eat more extra-lean meat, legumes, tofu, green, leafy, veggies and prune juice. If you take a supplement, make sure it's got at least 18 mg of iron. Still tired a lot? Ask your doctor for a serum ferritin test. If your levels are below 20 micrograms per liter, your doctor may suggest a prescription supplement.

Monday, November 23, 2009


kanye west

Whether you knock on the front door of a house in inner-city Detroit, a home in wealthy suburban Boston, or a farm house on the sparsely populated plains of Nebraska, if a teenage boy answers the door there’s a good chance you’ll be faced with the reality of hip-hop’s cultural saturation. With youth culture (a demographic segment created and driven by aggressive marketers) fueling and shaping mainstream culture, the unique subculture fueling and shaping youth culture is the urban hip-hop culture and all the values, attitudes, behaviors and styles that are a part of that world. And with radio, television, film, music and the Internet dropping the latest and greatest from the hip-hop world everywhere simultaneously, it’s not at all surprising that it’s not just the kid who has grown up in the urban hood, but the suburban and rural kids who are dressing, talking and acting like they’ve come of age in the hood as well But who currently reigns supreme in the world of hip-hop music? The culture of rap music has always been one where the game of King of the Hill never ends as performers with huge egos fight (sometimes literally) and posture to make their way to the top.As far as youth culture is concerned, hip-hop is omnipotent and omnipresent.

But who currently reigns supreme in the world of hip-hop music? The culture of rap music has always been one where the game of King of the Hill never ends as performers with huge egos fight (sometimes literally) and posture to make their way to the top. Judging from his place on the charts, the mainstream success of his debut album, his accomplishments as a producer, and his 10 Grammy Award nominations (more than any other artist) and three awards in 2005, a good case could be made for crowning Kanye West as today’s hip-hop throne holder.

West and his musical message deserve our attention as they not only reflect the heartbeat of contemporary culture, but because they are a powerful directive force shaping the hearts, minds and worldviews of children and teens living across North America and worldwide. West’s popularity and following are growing with unlimited potential in a manner that’s positioned him as one of the most powerful voices in today’s youth culture. But why? What is it about Kanye West that’s established him as a significant cultural presence? What message and worldview does he communicate through his lifestyle and music? Are his frequent references to Christian spirituality an indication of a deep and orthodox Biblical faith, or is it something else? Is there anything we can learn from West’s ability to connect with and influence kids? Is there anything his music can teach us about the realities of growing up in today’s world? And, does Kanye West issue any necessary challenges or valuable insights to those of us who long to see the heart cries of young people answered by their Creator?

The Kanye West story
Twenty-seven year-old Kanye West was born in Atlanta as the only child of parents Ray and Donda. His parents divorced when he was three and he moved to Chicago with his mother, although he would grow up spending summers with his dad. Unlike many of his peers in the world of rap music, West’s life wasn’t one steeped in poverty and the resulting lack of opportunity. His father Ray is a pastoral counselor. His mother Donda teaches English and serves as head of the department at Chicago State University. West also inherited a heart for activism as his grandparents were heavily involved in the civil rights movement and his father had once been a member of the Black Panthers.

Right from the start, it was obvious West had a creative bent. When he was little he wanted to grow up to be a fashion designer. By the time he was in third grade, he had fallen in love with rap music and was starting to do some rapping himself. After discovering video games he changed his career aspirations, deciding he wanted to design his own games. When he was 14, he got a music sampler in order to make musical soundtracks for the video games he hoped to one day develop. That same year, he also met a man named Willie Scott. West calls Scott his “stepfather” and says he owes his strong discipline and work ethic—something that has certainly paid off for West in terms of success—to Scott’s influence. Once he discovered how to sample and manipulate music in the process of making his own beats, his video game dream died. He was hooked on making his own music. This became his career goal after a chance encounter with a local Chicago beat producer named NO I.D. who was producing rap artist Common at the time. NO I.D. convinced young Kanye to dig into the rich catalog of old soul and R&B music hits to find samples that he could manipulate and rework. West developed the skill that can be heard clearly in his music today.

During his high school years, West continued working hard to create and sell his own beats for $50 to $200 a pop. A good student, he took honors classes and also found time to work at The Gap. He also made some extra money selling Cutco knives to family and friends. His creativity could also be seen in his painting and drawing abilities. In fact, West was so good that he was offered a one-semester scholarship to the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He went reluctantly knowing he was someday going to make it in the world of hip-hop music. He says, “I didn’t believe in school but I didn’t have anything better than that (at the time)” (Rolling Stone, 4/29/04). Eventually, he took advantage of getting a tuition discount at Chicago State—thanks to his mom—and stayed there for a semester and a half before dropping out. All the while he continued to pursue music by taking piano lessons.

West’s big break into the music business came when he did a track for rapper Jay-Z’s song This Can’t Be Life. He signed with Jay-Z’s agent and began to sell more of his beat samples. In 2002 he signed a contract with Roc-A-Fella Records to cut his own album. This came after he had already established himself as a talented and successful producer, having worked since 2001 producing hits for a growing list of artists including the likes of Jay-Z, Ludacris, Alicia Keys, Scarface and Talib Kweli.

Perhaps the most significant recent event in West’s life was his near-fatal car accident in October 2002 that left his jaw broken in three places. Thinking back on 50 Cent’s commercial success after getting shot nine times, West says, “The best thing that could happen to a rapper is for him to almost die, right?” (Rolling Stone, 12/11/03). The accident not only helped West with his publicity, but it gave him a new perspective on life. He says, “You find out how short life is and how blessed you are to be here” (

Kanye West stands apart from other hip-hop artists in that his background was void of the gangsta ties so prevalent among many popular east coast and west coast rappers. He admits that any exuberance, overconfidence or boasting that is found in his lyrics is an act to cover up his insecurity. West is a young man filled with self-doubt. He says, “I say in my songs, I’m so insecure. So a lot of times, arrogance is to combat insecurity … facing people telling me I couldn’t do it, I had to build a force field around myself” (Toronto Star, 8/7/04). He also admits that, “I’m so self-conscious. I’m a human being. I got this gap in my teeth that was supposed to be fixed when I had my braces. There are certain pictures where you can see it really well” (Time, 12/20/04).

West’s creative streak extends beyond his production, recording and performing abilities. He’s currently creating and marketing a line of jewelry featuring religious themes. This is partially due to his love for the $25,000 jewel-encrusted head of Christ he designed with the help of a professional jeweler. He’s also developing a line of designer clothing. All this has combined to make Kanye West not only a commercial success, but a familiar pop culture icon who was recently named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.”

Kanye West’s music
Not surprisingly, West writes, performs and produces all his music himself. He’s committed to making good and creative music that is rich in “message and melody” (Entertainment Weekly, 2/27/04).

Melodically, West’s creative musical package incorporates a variety of genres and elements, making it more listenable for a mainstream audience than the sounds of typical hard-core rap music. He incorporates instruments not typically heard in the genre, including an acoustic guitar. He melds the sounds of Gospel, old-school soul and R&B. He is best known for sampling old and familiar soul classics and speeding them up before inserting them into his own songs.

As far as the message goes, West says he wants his songs to be less about the normal rap fare (drugs, sex, violence, etc.) and more about the common man. “It’s more like the person who works at The Gap but still likes nice clothes, or the guy with the regular job and a car payment who was finally able to afford some rims by the summer,” says West (USA Today, 12/23/03). He says, “My persona is that I’m the regular person. Just think about whatever you’ve been through in the past week, and I have a song about that on my album” ( “I try to see how I can express things in my life that other people will relate to and feel like, ‘Man, I’m glad that somebody said that.’ There are so many people that vent through other stuff other than shootin” (

It all combines in a package reviewer Christian Hoard describes as full of “bouncy-yet-soulful hooks” (Rolling Stone, 12/11/03) and Ashante Infantry says is “clever and contemplative enough for smart listeners” (Toronto Star, 3/28/04).

The College Dropout (February 10, 2004)
West’s triple-platinum debut effort entered the charts at #2 and sold over a half-million copies in its first week of release, and has since gone on to achieve triple-platinum status and the 2005 “Best Rap Album” Grammy. He began writing the album in 2001 and says its title refers to his decision to leave college to begin making music.

The cover art depicts West as a costumed high school mascot, dejectedly hanging his head as if he’s given up on school. Inside, a series of photos depict West as one who entered a high school poetry contest that he never won, as a basketball player who never played, as a homecoming spectator who attended a pep rally but never cheered, and a student who never walked at graduation. All of it adds up to paint a picture of someone who doesn’t see much value in education. West says the album is his message to “set your own goals in life. Don’t let anyone dictate to you what you need to be” ( He goes on, “Every song on this album tells you how you can triumph over something” (Teen People, 4/04).

The liner notes contain a long list of thanks, beginning with West’s praises to God: “THANK GOD!!! Thank u so much, you’ve worked miracles in my life, I always use 2 think, why there no good rappers on GOD’s side??? I know I’m not where need 2 be, matter fact, far from it! But … well u know, when a nigga use the word but, he finna come with an excuse … I don’t got no excuse, you spared my life and I still be on bulls___! AMEN! YOU ARE THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF MY LIFE THANK U!”

The album was met with critical acclaim. Rolling Stone calls it “the most creative hip-hop album since Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below” (3/18/04). Mike Ardelean of RideBMX calls it “a shiny black hovercraft cruising through the disgusting swamp of commercial rap” (8/04).

The album kicks off with a spoken-word skit as a high school administrator/faculty member asks Kanye to “do something for the kids at graduation” that will be uplifting and make them want to jump up and down. Kanye then responds by saying, “Oh yeah, I’ve got the perfect song for the kids to sing.” The skit’s humorous edge is evidence of West’s lighter side. The skit’s message indicates West believes that right out of the gate his heretofore unknown music will be embraced by a generation of young listeners looking for something fresh and new out of the hip-hop world.

West jumps right from the opening skit into “We Don’t Care,” a song that takes listeners into the reality of what it is that motivates youngsters who grow up in poverty. West tells us these are kids who have no money, they’ve been abandoned by their fathers, they’ve been labeled as stupid and destined to fail by their teachers, and the government has cut after-school programs to help them. At one level, “We Don’t Care” is sung to people who rise above this reality and get out of poverty through drug dealing and other various types of hustling (cheating on income taxes, or selling make-up, jewelry and bootleg tapes on the street, etc.). A chorus of children sings, “Drug dealing just to get by/Stack your money ‘til it gets sky high.” At another level, West is singing to those who don’t come from this type of background but who need to see the reality and resulting thought patterns that lead people to see dope money as the way out of poverty. He indicates how easy it is for young children to view drug dealers as role models: “As a shorty I looked up to the dopeman/Only adult man that I knew that wasn’t broke man.” The justification continues as the dealer makes money as a way to provide for his family: “This dope money here is little Tre’s scholarship/Cause ain’t no tuition for having no ambition/And ain’t no loans for sittin on you’re a__ at home/So we forced to sell crack rap and get a job/You gotta do something man you’re a__ is grown.” West tells listeners that even working at minimum wage is not enough and that supplementing a legitimate income is often necessary just to survive. In the end, West says, “we ain’t retards the way teachers thought/Hold up hold fast we make mo’ cash” than the teachers are making by teaching. The song concludes with West singing, “Sometimes I feel no one in this world understands us/But we don’t care what people say” and the chorus of kids singing, “We weren’t supposed to make it past 25/The joke’s on you we’re still alive.” Evidently, crime does at times pay.

On the next cut, “Graduation Day,” the administrator—now angrily ranting at West—throws him out of school while telling him that he can’t graduate with his class. “Pomp and Circumstance” plays in the background. Then, West sings a short autobiographical piece about his post-graduation plans and what he will be doing with his life: “I’m no longer confused but don’t tell anybody/I’m about to break the rules but don’t tell anybody/I got something better than school but don’t tell anybody/My momma would kill me but don’t tell anybody/She wants me to get a gooda___ job just like everybody/She ain’t walked in my shoes I’m just not everybody.” The song encourages listeners to break convention by following your own dreams rather than others’ expectations.

The reality, vicious cycle and emptiness of materialism are addressed in “All Falls Down,” the second single release on the album. West recognizes how entrenched materialism is in our society, particularly in the black culture—a culture he says has been partially created by whites who “made us hate ourself and love they wealth.” He begins by telling about a “self-conscious” and “insecure” girl who thinks that college is the ticket to fortune. After spending three years as a sophomore with no idea what to do with her life, she goes against her parents and drops out of school for a career as a hairdresser. West tells listeners that she justifies the move because she’ll be able to make enough to feed her addiction to retail shopping. West goes on to admit his own self-conscious insecurity and materialism: “That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches.” He admits he can’t act “holier than thou” since he himself paid $25,000 to Jacob the jeweler for a jewel-studded necklace of Christ. West offers commentary on how black materialism not only feeds white pockets, but leaves the materialist feeling empty: “But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem/The prettiest people do the ugliest things/For the road to the riches and the diamond rings … We buy a lot of clothes when we don’t really need ‘em/Things we buy to cover up what’s inside.” The song’s chorus asks listeners a valid and important question: “When it all falls down, who you gonna call now?”

Initially, it seems West points to the one true answer for culture’s cries for redemption in the next cut, a beautiful piano-accompanied rendition of the old Gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away.” But the song that follows seems to indicate West included “I’ll Fly Away” for another reason.

He states his desire to “fly away” from a boring job at The Gap in “Spaceship.” (See lyrics on page 6.) He describes his ho-hum life in retail in words heard repeatedly throughout the song: “I’ve been working this grave shift” and I’m “not making s___.” West also decries racism in the song when he states his perceived role at The Gap as a “token blackey.” He passes time by smoking pot on breaks and looking forward to the day when he will be making his living in the music business with his beats.

The most highly publicized and popular song on the disc is “Jesus Walks,” winner of the 2005 “Best Rap Song” Grammy. (See lyrics on page 6.) Ironically, at one point in the song West indicates that he fears the tune’s spiritual content and God-talk will be the very thing that keeps the song off the radio. How wrong he was. The tune was the third single released from the album and was nominated for a Grammy as “Song of the Year.” West’s vulnerable call to self and others to follow in the footsteps of the Savior who walked and died for them begins with a drug dealer invoking the Lord’s protection while he makes his living selling drugs. In the second verse, West bares his own heart and confesses his need for a Redeemer who will forgive him for his sins. Three versions of the song’s video were made. In the first, West is preaching as angels direct three different people struggling in their lives into his church. Eventually, the prostitute, the street drunk and the drug dealer find their healing and redemption. In the second, West takes a more “artsy” approach. In this version, the main characters are a chain gang harassed by guards, drug dealers being pursued by police, and a KKK member who sets both a cross and himself on fire. In the third version, West himself is depicted as trying to sneak away from Jesus. In spite of that fact, Jesus pursues him and eventually leads him back into the church. Each of the three video versions of “Jesus Walks” is filled with powerful spiritual imagery and fodder for discussion on the life, person and ministry of Christ.

“Never Let Me Down” begins with a guest appearance from Jay-Z, who postures about his rhyming skills, genuineness, faithfulness, rap supremacy and the power of his music in the lives of his listeners: “First I had their ear/Now I have their heart.” When West eventually chimes in he praises his grandfather for passing on the genetic desire to make a difference in a prejudiced world: “I get down for Grandfather who took my momma/Made her sit in that seat where white folks ain’t want us to eat/At the tender age of 6 she was arrested for the sit-ins/And with that in my blood I was born to be different.” West goes on to fulfill what he believes to be his created destiny by criticizing the materialistic bling-bling typical of rap music, while saying he wants his music to be music of substance. He also pledges faithfulness to his significant other and confesses that God has been with him, especially in light of the fact that he survived his car accident: “I know I got Angels watchin me from the other side.”

Talib Kweli and Common join West on “Get Em High,” a song that combines autobiography with boastful posturing and a celebration of marijuana and sex. “All the girls pass the weed to your motherf___ing man” is a chant heard throughout the song as listeners are implored to get high and stay high. In the beginning of the song, West talks about his experience dropping out of his first year of college to pursue his dream of success in the music industry: “My freshman year I was going through hell of problems/Till I built up the nerve to drop my a__ up out of college/My teacher said I’s a loser I told her why don’t you kill me/I give a f___ if you feel me/I’m gonna follow my heart and if you follow the charts or the plaques or the stacks you ain’t gotta guess who’s back.” He admits he usually doesn’t smoke marijuana, but still asks for someone to “pass the dro.” West then criticizes other rap music that lacks strength: “That’s why I hear your music in fast forward/Cause we don’t wanna hear that weak s___ no more.” As the song starts to wind down, West talks of how his fame has led girls to pursue him. He tells listeners that a girl is e-mailing him to ask to hook up with him for the first time. When she doesn’t believe he knows Kweli (her favorite artist), West asks Kweli to pick up the phone so she’ll believe him, “Then maybe I’ll be able to give her d___ all the time and get her high.”

“The New Workout Plan” is West’s list of instructions to females. He lustily objectifies members of the gender from start to finish in this song. While the song and infomercial-like video are done as a spoof of the glut of workout tapes on the market, there is a strong message West is sending. He instructs them to perform oral sex: “Get them sit ups right and tuck your tummy tight/and do your crunches like this/Give head/Stop breath/Get up and check your weave”; take care of their marijuana: “Don’t drop the blunt and disrespect the weed”; and random one-night stands: “It’s a party tonight and ooh she’s so excited/Tell me who’s invited you, your friends and my d___ … so excuse me miss I forgot your name/Thank you god bless you good night I came … I came … I came.” He invites a girl to cash in sexually on his fame: “Maybe one day girl we can bone so you can brag to all your homies.”

West’s fantasy in the previous song comes to life in “Slow Jamz.” (See lyrics on page 6.) In this chart-topping single release, West pays tribute to a long list of R&B/soul singers while inviting and engaging a female in sex. Throughout the song, the couple talks back and forth as they are having sex. At one point, she tells West to go faster. At that, West proceeds to showcase his rhyming skills by picking up to a frantic pace.

In “Breathe In Breath Out” West admits the paradox that is his life, his music and his message. He says of himself, “First nigga with a Benz and a backpack/Ice chain Cartier lens and a knapsack/Always said if I rapped I’d say something significant/But now I’m rappin bout money, hoes and rims again.” In other words, West says that on the one hand he’s about substance, depth and intelligence. On the other, he raps in the same materialistic, violent and sexual manner as other mainstream rappers. The rest of the song is filled with sexual banter: “Even though I went to college and dropped out of school quick/I always had a Ph.D. … a pretty huge d___.” He then goes on to invite the girlfriend of another man to engage in sex, oral sex, drinking and drug use with him, while telling her he’s ready to catch it all on tape: “I got a handycam.”

West revisits his feelings about education in the skit, “School Spirit I.” He rants against getting a college education by telling listeners how little the investment of time and money pays off. Instead, they will be destined to a below-entry-level job. As the skit ends, he makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that a college-educated guy who’s followed the rules may be able to brag that he’s never had sex. Instead, he finds his satisfaction in being able to do some math.

The anti-college sentiment continues on the song “School Spirit.” West tells listeners that when it comes to school “I hate it there hate it there” and that he’s going to walk away and make in the music business. He offers proof of how worthless an education is: “This nigga graduated at the top of our class/I went to the Cheesecake and he was a muthaf_____ waiter there.” He goes on to brag up the fact that even though he didn’t go to college, the sorority girls love him more than they love the college guys.

In the skit “School Spirit II,” West continues to deride conventional thinking by telling listeners that all a life of education has to offer is a wall full of degrees. He sarcastically says that can’t get you money, but it does allow you to brag up the fact that you’re smart.

A man asks a younger man, “Hey Jimmy, where you going?” in the skit “Lil Jimmy.” Jimmy answers that he doesn’t know. The reason? He explains that his dad died and all he left him was a bunch of degrees and no money. As Gospel music plays in the background, Jimmy explains how he’s better than all the other homeless people because all they have to keep themselves warm is newspaper. He, however, stays warm with his dad’s degrees. Jimmy tells listeners that he vows to get smart so that he can die without money as well.

The Harlem Boys Choir is featured on “Two Words,” a Kanye West bragfest about where he’s come from, who he is and where he intends to go. He states his resolve to represent Chicago worldwide “till I f_____ die.” He boldly speaks of what he’s able to wear around his neck and waist: “One neck, two chains, one waist, two gats.” His music has made him “most imitated, Grammy nominated.” His humble beginnings have left him going “from the bottom so the top’s the only place 2 go now.” He blames his background for his lifestyle and then confesses his spiritual struggle: “Two words, Chi town, raised me, crazy/So I live by two word, ‘F___ you, pay me’/Screamin, Jesus save me/You know how the game be/I can’t let em change me/Cuz on Judgment Day, you gon blame me/Look God, it’s the same me.”

The disc’s first single release, “Through The Wire,” won the Video of the Year Award at the 2004 Hip-Hop Music Awards. The song recounts his horrible car accident and the experience of healing and recovery. The song was actually recorded while West’s jaw was still wired shut. At the end of the song, West tells listeners, “I’m a champion so I turned tragedy to triumph/Make music that’s fire, spit my soul through the wire.”

West celebrates family and pledges allegiance to his kin in the upbeat “Family Business.” While he goes through a litany of autobiographical family ups and downs, he focuses on two particular people in the song. First, he speaks of his commitment to his incarcerated cousin. Second, he pays tribute to his recently deceased grandmother who he misses deeply. He also mentions his commitment to non-violence in his music (“I woke up early this morning with a new state of mind/A creative way to rhyme without using nines and guns”), and implores listeners to embrace spirituality (“Keep your nose out of the sky/Keep your heart with God/And keep your face to the rising sun”).

The album’s final cut is the 12-and-a-half-minute long “Last Call.” The boastful song chronicles his difficult rise in the music industry from the time nobody believed in him and his rap abilities, to his recent success. He says he made it by sheer determination: “Last year shopping my demo I was trying to shine/Every motherf_____ told me that I couldn’t rhyme/Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem/Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams/I use it as my gas so they say that I’m gassed/But without it I’d be last so I ought to laugh/So I don’t listen to the suits behind the desk no more/You niggas wear suits cause you can’t dress no more/You can’t say s___ to Kanye West no more/I rocked 20,000 people I was just on tour nigga!” The song ends with a lengthy segment featuring West talking on and on as he chronicles his story of how he got his music deals.

What’s the draw?
Kanye West has very quickly risen from obscurity to connect with kids and find his place on the pop culture landscape. But why? There are several reasons.

First, his production background and connection with others in the hip-hop community gave him an instant audience. Just as the rap music world can be filled with deeply intense rivalries and feuds, it can be equally intense in terms of “family” loyalty. Even before West began recording his own album he was well-known and well-respected in the rap community for his beat-making and production work. He had already made many friends. It was those same friends who paved the way for West’s breakthrough debut album and subsequent fame through their promotion of his music. In the world of rap music, who you know always helps.

Second, Kanye West’s commitment to creativity has been rewarded. The world of hip-hop music—like other popular music genres—can get bogged down in the monotonous rehashing of the same sounds and themes. West has set himself apart from the crowd through his willingness to sacrifice convention for creativity. For many, his music is a breath of fresh air in a genre that easily gets stale.

Third, West is a mainstream rapper who didn’t come from the mainstream hood. While recent history shows that living the thug gangsta life and then rapping about it is an avenue to popularity and success, Kanye West has broken that formula by growing up as a “regular” guy who has used his creativity to make his music. The result has been an audience that might be quite a bit wider than the audience for typical rap fare. West has somehow managed to span the demographic spectrum from fans who love the more hardcore rap, to a younger audience that is drawn more to standard pop music. While his rhyming skills have generated respect among the rap crowd, his more “normal” upbringing has combined with lots of air time to secure a following with a wider-than-usual audience.

Fourth, this is hip-hop music characterized by a more gentle and humble spirit. Granted, West’s music is not without its elements of violence, posturing, sex-talk and materialism. But relatively speaking, those elements don’t play as great a role as they do in most of today’s rap music. West is a “kinder, gentler” rapper whose approach has been a refreshing change for listeners. That said, parents concerned about what their children are listening to are more prone to allow West into a child’s musical diet than they are most other rappers.

Fifth, Kanye West is honest with a generation that embraces vulnerability. This is a guy who confesses his experiences, problems, struggles and life story in his music. He even recognizes and admits his glaring hypocrisies. The emerging generations value and respect those who are willing to come clean, admit their mistakes, tell their stories and just be real. While we may never know just how honestly real Kanye West is being in his music, he’s certainly led his young audience to believe that he’s letting it all hang out and that he can be trusted.

Sixth, West is a survivor and overcomer. Many in today’s emerging generations are painfully aware of how hard life can be. While West didn’t have to overcome a poverty-stricken or violent childhood, he has had to deal with his share of difficulty. He is a child of divorce. Kids who have grown up in the same environment are drawn to artists who share and know their pain. In addition, West was nearly killed in a car accident back in 2002. He has not only worked to recover from that accident, but he literally sang his way through it, recording a song and a video while his jaw was wired shut. His music and example offers hope to those who find themselves bogged down by difficult life circumstances.

Seventh, it helps if you don’t take yourself too seriously. West’s videos and music often contain tongue-in-cheek elements that reflect his willingness to allow his sense of humor to shine through in his work. If you can make your young musical audience smile, chuckle and/or laugh from time to time, you’re going to make a better connection.

Eighth, West enlarges his audience by recycling old music familiar to older music fans. Kanye West’s music career was spring boarded by his ability to take old-school soul and R&B tunes and rework them through the magic of computer/digital sampling. Those samples can be heard in his songs. Older first-time listeners might not recognize West or his songs, but they certainly hear and recognize elements of the music that takes them back to the music of their own younger years. In effect, Kanye West has been very effective at crossing over the cultural/age divide.

Ninth, a generation that looks to see social change finds a friend in Kanye West. Youth culture’s growing unity in diversity has made many young people aware of the social and racial injustices that exist outside the walls of their own race and/or communities. West connects with them by sharing their concern for these issues—particularly poverty and racism. To his credit, he never allows his dissatisfaction or anger lead him to promote a violent response. Instead, he raises awareness and calls for change.

Tenth, West connects with our teenagers’ youthful idealism and postmodern individualism by calling them to break with convention, listen to themselves and follow their dreams. The reality is that the storms and stresses of life often combine with wisdom and experience to diminish our youthful idealism as we grow older. Today, as in past times, our children and their young peers are at a developmental stage where idealism typically peaks. That said, there are times when they are more prone to listen to their hearts than to their parents or other authority figures. This is especially true in a postmodern environment where right and wrong are individually defined. While West’s specific message is that education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, his general message to listeners is to “go ahead and do your own thing.”

Finally, West promotes and lives a faith without integrated commitment. While this may seem to be a risky “judgment” to make, West clearly trumpets his faith in Christ. At times, his message strongly reflects the reality of Christ’s love for the outcast. But it appears West’s professed love for Christ and resulting redemption hasn’t moved into other areas of his life. While mature believers would look and see that glaring inconsistency, many young postmodern listeners interested in spirituality and faith are attracted to West’s brand of faith that has salvific benefits without need for commitment or cost.

How should we respond?
What, then, should parents, youth workers and educators make of Kanye West? Can we use his music as a tool for understanding and reaching today’s children and teens? What can West teach us about our kids, their hopes, their dreams and their allegiances? Does he have anything to say to us about how we do youth ministry in today’s cultural landscape? And, how should we respond to our children if they express an interest in Kanye West? Let me offer the following analysis and suggestions:

First, we need to celebrate Kanye West’s stated resolve to depart from the more violent, materialistic and sexual elements prevalent in much of today’s mainstream rap music. With the popular music audience getting younger and younger and the parallel rise of thematically dangerous music into the mainstream pop music consciousness, we should definitely be concerned. The result is a growing number of vulnerable and impressionable young hearts and minds that are shaped negatively long before critical listening skills are developed … if they are developed even at all. In other words, the music has incredible life-directing power. In a music environment where the envelope continues to stretch in a perilous direction, its nice to know that someone is saying they want to reverse course in regards to gunplay, sex-talk and bling-bling.

Second, we need to recognize that West’s “less” might be better, but it’s not always good. Relatively speaking, Kanye West has delivered on his promise. For that reason, he’s been embraced by a wider and more mainstream audience. In some cases, parents have embraced West as a preferable music option for their children. But don’t be fooled. Discerning listeners will discover that while there may be less ego-fueled posturing, less materialism, less violence and less sexuality in West’s musical recipe, the ingredients are still there in ample measure in the finished product.

Third, we must celebrate West’s work ethic, grit and determination. Kanye West set out with the resolve to make it in the music business and he worked hard to get there. As he stepped to the top he faced the hardship of a serious accident that could have led him to give up. Through it all, he remained determined to be an overcomer whose work is marked by excellence and creativity. His example and words offer a challenge to the emerging generations to work hard and pursue their dreams with that same creativity and excellence. These commitments should be embraced by all Christians who desire to bring glory to God in all their creative pursuits.

Fourth, we must springboard from West’s dreams and determination to discuss Godly dreams and determination with our children and teens. In today’s culture, “success” is typically defined in materialistic terms—measured in terms of fame and fortune. West has certainly achieved both. By doing so, he’s become one in another parade of role models whose checkbooks matter more than their character to our kids. Sadly, too many young people are choosing their vocation solely as a means to the end of earthly success. West simply mirrors the prevailing attitudes in today’s youth culture. We should seize and use the Kanye West story as a case study to stimulate discussion on success, vocational choice, vocational purpose and the will of God. In the end, our prayer for our children must be that their success lies in who they are as lovers of God and lovers of their neighbors as they live out lives marked by selfless, Christ-like service.

Fifth, we should applaud West’s honesty and vulnerability in admitting his own hypocrisy and shortcomings. Discerning listeners will quickly pick up on the fact that West doesn’t consistently live the faith he proclaims. The good thing is that West knows it and admits it himself. Because he has not bought wholeheartedly into a postmodern ethic, West does believe in right and wrong. Sadly, he doesn’t choose to live those convictions. In a sense, he comes clean to listeners like the Apostle Paul, admitting that he’s a wretched man who is aware of the fact that his life is filled with sins of commission and omission. We should encourage our children and teens to embrace the same discipline of honest self-examination that can lead to a humble recognition of one’s sins.

Sixth, we must remind our children and teens that confession should always lead to repentance. Granted, while admitting one’s own failure and hypocrisy is admirable—particularly in a rap music world where the finger is usually pointed at someone else—the admission should never serve as a justification to continue on in sin. West never seems to get the point where he says, “I recognize my shortcomings and now I’m going to stop.” True repentance is a turning away from sin and moving—with God’s help and forgiveness—in the other direction. We must point out to our students that West’s musical package sends a mixed message, especially when he says in regard to sinful behavior, “It’s wrong,” but “I’m still doing it and even enjoying it.”

Seventh, we must cite and celebrate West’s willingness to state the truth about materialism. In “All Falls Down,” West tells listeners that, “We buy to cover up what’s inside” and “we can’t buy freedom.” This is the message Jesus spoke over and over again in the Gospels as he warned his followers about the dangers of materialism and wealth. With materialism reigning as the dominant idol and great unaddressed sin of the church, we must use West’s message to bang the relevance and reality of Christ’s words home to a materialistic generation of children and teens who mistakenly believe that redemption comes in accumulation.

Eighth, we must discuss Kanye West’s theology with our kids. Because of the overt spiritual nature of his music, Kanye West is recognized by listeners as someone very concerned about his faith. In effect, he’s a popular theologian. Many of our Christian kids longing to see signs of life in popular culture will cite and celebrate West as a Godly man and example. Our role is to embrace this enthusiasm on the part of the kids we know and love, and use it as an opportunity to teach students how to view popular culture and its theology through the framework of a distinctively Biblical world and life view. We can affirm West’s theology where it falls in line with God’s Word—particularly when he affirms that God is in control, that we’ve been made for Him and that God is our protector and provider. But we must challenge West’s theology wherever and whenever we find it out of sync with God’s revelation of Himself—for example, where he may devalue humanity through his objectification of woman, where he may disrespect God-ordained authority, etc.

Ninth, we must always let Jesus define Jesus. A growing number of pop culture icons trumpet the fact they embrace and love “Jesus.” Many of them go out of their way to thank “My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” when they win awards and garner honors. My 12-year-old son has a habit of asking me—in response to these “kudos to Christ” —”Dad, is he (she, they) a Christian(s)?” While we can never fully know the hearts of the artists, Jesus did tell us that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. We can listen to their words (lyrically, etc.) and view the fruit in their lives. These are avenues to discovering who they believe Jesus is, and how they believe that Jesus has instructed them to live their lives. We must teach our kids to do the same with wisdom and discernment. I always answer Nate’s question by telling him that it’s important to know who the Jesus they say they worship is. At times, I fear the Jesus they say they worship bears little or no resemblance to the Jesus of the Gospels. At other times, I believe we are hearing from people who once raised their hand or walked forward to receive the blessing of heaven, but sadly, no one ever challenged or showed them what it means to live under the Lordship of Christ during the journey through the rest of their lives.

Tenth, we must recognize and address the growing crisis of dis-integrated faith. Kanye West is one in a growing long line of pop culture icons who are increasingly outspoken about a faith that not only isn’t integrated into all of life, but seemingly isn’t desired to be integrated into all of life. In a recent interview in Time magazine, West was asked, “What do you say to the people who see a contradiction between the devoutness of your Grammy-nominated hit ‘Jesus Walks’ and the profanity and sexual content on the rest of your album? His answer: “It’s definitely a contradiction. Contradiction is a part of who everybody is. I am a real person, and I make my mistakes and I laugh and I cry and I smile and I hate and I love. One song is, ‘I love God,’ and the next song is, ‘Can you come over?’ That’s how I feel. Sometimes you’re in church and you’re looking at the girl’s dress right next to you” (Time, 12/20/04). We must go out of our way to diligently and aggressively teach, promote and model true Biblical faith that is truly integrated into all of life.

Tenth, we must discourage some of our students from dropping out. West’s debut album seems to be an unapologetic justification for the career path he’s chosen. Because of his relatively early success, he’s able to look in the rearview mirror of his life and tell listeners that his decision to leave college and follow his dreams was a good move on his part. There’s no denying the fact that for Kanye West, dropping out of college has worked. The danger is that many of his young listeners will be tempted to take a “Kanye did it, so why shouldn’t I?” approach to their present and future plans. No, college is not for everybody. Some are called to pursue a vocational path that doesn’t include higher education. But what about those who are fostering ill-advised dreams, who lack the talent and skills to pursue their dreams, or who just need to get a college degree? We must teach our students to prayerfully seek wise and good counsel from a number of trusted sources as they evaluate their future plans. If not, a generation that places a premium on doing what feels good or right will wind up doing what’s not good and not right, thereby jeopardizing their futures.

Finally, we must teach our children and teens to live their faith through their music and media choices. For our younger and more impressionable children, Kanye West’s mixed bag is not a healthy entertainment option. West maps out a life course of values, attitudes and behaviors that includes flashes of brilliant light, but is more often than not one that a follower of Christ should not pursue. For our older children and teens, West’s music is worth discussing as an exercise in developing media discernment skills.

Kanye West is a truly gifted musician whose talent and work ethic will yield far more than his critically acclaimed and highly successful debut album. Of his future he says, “You never know what the future may hold. I just try to take it one day at a time and try to make everything I’m involved in quality. I’m not gonna do it if I can’t” ( His work ethic has already paid off. He was named Spin magazine’s 2004 Artist of the Year. Rolling Stone pegged “The College Dropout” as their Critic’s #1 album of 2004. West will be around for quite some time. With a line of clothing (Pastel), a line of jewelry and a new album on the way, his future in pop culture is bright. For that reason, we need to follow him as he takes further steps to commercial success. And, we should pray for Kanye West, that he would follow the way and the will of the one true Christ. If he walks on a path that follows in the footsteps of Christ, perhaps our kids will be led to do the same. No matter which direction he chooses, this pied piper is building a huge young following.


If my manager insults me again I will be assaulting him/After I f___ the manager up then I’m going to shorten the register up/Let’s go back back to the Gap look at my check wasn’t no scratch/So if I stole wasn’t my fault yea I stole never got caught/Take me to the back and pat me askin’ about some Khakis/But let some black people walk in I bet you they show off they token blackey/O now they love Kanye lets put him all in the front of the store/So I’m on break next to the no smoking sign with a Blunt in the mall/Takin’ my hits writing my hits writing my rhymes clearing my mind/This f___in job can’t help ‘em so I quit y’all welcome/Y’all don’t know my struggle y’all can’t match my hustle/You can’t catch my hustle you can’t fathom my love dude/Lock yourself in a room doin’ 5 beats a day for 3 summers/That’s a different world like Kree Summers I deserve to do these numbers/The kid that made that deserves that Maybach/So many records in my basement I’m just waitin’ on my spaceship

Jesus Walks
I need to recruit all the soldiers … all of God’s soldiers/We at war/We at war with society, racism, terrorism but mostly we at war with ourselves

Jesus walks/God show me the way because the devil try to break me down/Jesus walks with me

You know what the mid-west is? Young and restless/Where restless niggas might snatch your necklace/And next these niggas might jack your Lexus/Somebody tell these niggas who Kanye West is/I walk through the valley of Chi where death is/Top floor of the view alone will leave you breathless/Try to catch it … it’s kind of hard hard/Getting choked by detectives yeah yeah now check the method/They be asking us questions, harass and arrest us/Saying “we eat pieces of s___ like u for breakfast”/HUH? Y’all eat pieces of s___ what’s the basis?/We ain’t going nowhere but got suits and cases/A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis/My momma used to say only Jesus can save us/Well momma I know I act a fool/But I’ll be going till November I got packs to move I hope

Jesus walks/God show me the way because the devil try to break me down/Jesus walks with me/The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now/Jesus walks/And I don’t think there’s nothing I can do to right my wrong/Jesus walks with me/I wanna talk to God but I’m afraid cause we ain’t spoke in so long/Jesus walks

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers/Jesus walks for them/To the victims of welfare feel we living in hell here hell yea/Jesus walks for them/Now heary heary wanna see thee more clearly/I know he hear me when my feet get weary/Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct/We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think/I ain’t here to argue about his facial features/Or here to create atheists into believers/I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers/The way Kathy Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus/So here go my single dawg radio needs this/They said you can rap anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotape/But if I talk about God my record won’t get played/Well if this take away from my spins/Which will probably take away from my ends/Then I hope it take away from sins/And bring the day that I’m dreamin’ about/Next time I’m in the club everybody screamin’ out …

Slow Jamz
I told her to drive over in your new whip/Bring some friends you cool with/I’m a bring the Cool Whip then I want you to strip/See you is my new chick so we get our grind on/She be grabbin’, callin’ me Biggie like Shyne home/Man I swear she fine homes why she always lying though/Tellin’ me they diamond when she know them rhinestones/She got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson/Got a dark skinned friend look like Michael Jackson/I play ‘Ready for the World’—she was ready for some action/My dog said you ain’t no freak, so you bout to prove my man wrong/I’ma play this Vandross you gon’ take your pants off/I’ma play this Gladys Knight me and you gon’ get right.

Chris Spielman, great player better person.

When Chris Spielman suffered a brutal neck injury, he said overcoming it was a breeze compared to most everything his wife Stefanie had faced. When her hair started falling out, when clumps of it began landing on the floor and in their toddler's hands, Chris decided to shave his own head, a soldier in solidarity. When it became apparent that more chemotherapy and a mastectomy -- breast cancer's evil twins -- were high on Stefanie's schedule, Chris bid a temporary farewell to the NFL, skipping an entire year so he could be with the woman he proposed to on the 18th hole of a Putt-Putt course.

None of the above should be considered exceptional behavior by husbands or partners forced to watch their loved one undergo treatment for cancer. But everything Chris did back in those gloomy days following his wife's diagnosis was regarded as unusual and, in some parts, emasculating.

Stefanie Spielman, 42, died Thursday after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. Chris Spielman, the NFL and Ohio State star, was by her side, along with their four children, and while she deserves a thousand hosannas and a billion thanks for her work in raising millions over the years to combat the disease, it should be noted that he was quite the trailblazer.

When they met at a teen dance in their hometown of Massillon, Ohio, Chris was a high school stud who soon would be featured on the cover of a Wheaties box; his football journey continued at Ohio State, where his bone-crunching hits as an All-American linebacker became legendary. By the time Stefanie found a lump in her right breast during a routine self-exam, they had been married 10 years and he was deep into an NFL career. This was 1998, and let's just say the world of sports was not as enlightened as it is now.

She was three months pregnant when she felt that lump, and later miscarried. Chris told her he wanted to skip his upcoming season with the Buffalo Bills so he could accompany her to doctor appointments, and hold her head when the chemo made her nauseous, and be a calming force as she underwent surgery to remove her breast. Eight stellar years with the Detroit Lions and another two with the Bills (he set a team and personal record in 1996 with 206 tackles) had given him much credibility with the football-crazed public, but how would they understand this kind of absence?

"Players just didn't leave the game unless they were injured or retiring on their own terms," Stefanie once told me at a fundraiser for Lance Armstrong's Livestrong foundation. "It seemed so simple to me. Just tell the fans your wife has breast cancer. Who knows? Maybe it will have some kind of trickle-down effect. Maybe one fan will go home and say to his wife, 'Honey, sweetheart, don't forget to make that appointment for your mammogram.'

"Cancer is never just about the person who has it. At least it shouldn't be. It's about everyone around that person. Chris made a selfless decision and I love him dearly for it."

He took the season off, shaved his head to match his wife's beautiful bald dome and still there were the grumps in the Neanderthal section wondering why a Pro Bowl linebacker had to go and mess up their Sunday fun. When Stefanie's treatment reached a manageable level, he returned to the NFL for the 1999 season, this time with the Cleveland Browns, but a second neck injury ended his NFL career.

"Nothing my body has gone through can begin to compare to what Stefanie deals with almost every day," Chris once said. "She's my hero."

Stefanie's plan, formed in the aftermath of her diagnosis, began on a small level, with a sign at Big Bear, the Spielman's neighborhood grocery story, asking shoppers to please donate money to Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital. A few thousand dollars, she said, would have made her delirious. Girl Scout troops and baseball teams and individuals and clubs from all across the community began offering their pennies, and within six months those pennies totaled $1 million.

The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, along with the Stefanie's Champions awards, has since raised more than $6.5 million for the cause. She survived four bouts with cancer before a fifth, and final, recurrence in the spring left her wheelchair-bound. She accompanied Chris to Ohio State's season opener against Navy, when he was honored at halftime for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Against a backdrop where Chris once played to phenomenal roars, the loudest applause, by far, came when Stefanie was introduced.

And in a cruel coincidence, on one of her last days came a report from a federal task force saying women should delay mammograms until they're 50, 10 years later than the medical community has traditionally recommended. Not to make the Neanderthals in the balcony squeamish, but if you, the sports fan, have a mother, a sister, a wife, a girlfriend -- or if you just happen to like healthy breasts -- this might be a subject worth discussing at halftime. There is one tough linebacker who'd appreciate it.

"Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord," Chris Spielman said in a statement released by WBNS radio in Columbus, where he co-hosts a radio show. "For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last 12 years. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight."

We hear all the time about athletes who'd never win plaques for Father or Husband of the Year. They fail in the complicated tango between celebrity and sports, neglecting their human responsibilities in exchange for fame and an enlarged ego. But there are many more who quietly go about their business between the lines, before returning home and acting as good citizens, good partners.

Chris and Stefanie Spielman's story might have been one of the first public examples of an athlete doing the right -- dare we say, the manly -- thing. Thankfully, and in her memory, it won't be the last.


Love is a many-splendored thing … and a very surprising thing, too. As if you needed proof of that, here are 25 funny little facts about love. Study them, scratch your head over them, and share them with someone you fancy.

1. Men who kiss their wives in the morning live five years longer than those who don't.

2. People are more likely to tilt their heads to the right when kissing instead of the left (65 percent of people go to the right!)

3. When it comes to doing the deed early in the relationship, 78 percent of women would decline an intimate rendezvous if they had not shaved their legs or underarms.

4. Feminist women are more likely than other females to be in a romantic relationship.

5. Two-thirds of people report that they fall in love with someone they've known for some time vs. someone that they just met.

6. There's a reason why office romances occur: The single biggest predictor of love is proximity.

7. Falling in love can induce a calming effect on the body and mind and raises levels of nerve growth factor for about a year, which helps to restore the nervous system and improves the lover's memory.

8. Love can also exert the same stress on your body as deep fear. You see the same physiological responses — pupil dilation, sweaty palms, and increased heart rate.

9. Brain scans show that people who view photos of a beloved experience an activation of the caudate — the part of the brain involving cravings.

10. The women of the Tiwi tribe in the South Pacific are married at birth.

11. The "Love Detector" service from Korean cell phone operator KTF uses technology that is supposed to analyze voice patterns to see if a lover is speaking honestly and with affection. Users later receive an analysis of the conversation delivered through text message that breaks down the amount of affection, surprise, concentration and honesty of the other speaker.

12. Eleven percent of women have gone online and done research on a person they were dating or were about to meet, versus seven percent of men.

13. Couples' personalities converge over time to make partners more and more similar.

14. The oldest known love song was written 4,000 years ago and comes from an area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

15. The tradition of the diamond engagement ring comes from Archduke Maximillian of Austria who, in the 15th century, gave a diamond ring to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy.

16. Forty-three percent of women prefer their partners never sign "love" to a card unless they are ready for commitment.

17. People who are newly in love produce decreased levels of the hormone serotonin — as low as levels seen in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perhaps that's why it's so easy to feel obsessed when you're smitten.

18. Philadelphia International Airport finished as the No. 1 best airport for making a love connection, according to an online survey.

19. According to mathematical theory, we should date a dozen people before choosing a long-term partner; that provides the best chance that you'll make a love match.

20. A man's beard grows fastest when he anticipates sex.

21. Every Valentine's Day, Verona, the Italian city where Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet took place, receives around 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

22. When we get dumped, for a period of time we love the person who rejected us even more, says Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University and author of Why We Love. The brain regions that lit up when we were in a happy union continue to be active.

23. Familiarity breeds comfort and closeness … and romance.

24. One in five long-term love relationships began with one or both partners being involved with others.

25. OK, this one may not surprise you, but we had to share it: Having a romantic relationship makes both genders happier. The stronger the commitment, the greater the happiness!