Fine Iron

When it comes to analyzing the past there are different trains of thought according to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcasts. There is the “Trends and Forces” theory, which asserts that  the events of the world are influenced by the pressures of society and the natural order of how things fall, and if you were to remove people from history they would most likely be replaced by another who would capitalize upon the same trends. For example, in Germany after World War 1 the political, social, and economic environment was ripe for an authoritarian leader to seize control and had Hitler not existed another aspiring German would have taken his place in the Nazi Party. On the other hand, there is a competing viewpoint known as the “Great Man” theory. The “Great Man” theory emphasizes the importance of individuals throughout history. It asserts that in critical moments had certain individuals not existed, our world would be a much different place.

As the Whai Whai adventure through Rome concluded, I had an opportunity to see an artifact from one of the lesser known great men of history. Our hotel here in Rome resides upon the ground where Julius Caesar was assassinated, a pivotal moment in history. What I didn’t realize is without the event that the ruins in front of our hotel commemorate the Roman victory over the Cimbri people. The war against the Cimbri and Teutones, two massive tribes appearing from the north with little notice, nearly ended the Roman Republic in 100 BC. Upon realizing the threat, the Roman people abandoned their customs and gave the control of the government, the position of consul, to Gaius Marius. Gaius Marius then led the legions of Rome to defeat this colossal threat, a feat commemorated by the ruins directly out front of our hotel. Little did the Roman people know that the precedent set by Marius’ near dictatorship of necessity and its consequeneces allowed the rise of one Julius Caesar to those same heights a short while later. It is easy to take the greats of history and attribute all their success to their abilities, or distill them down to the trends that led up to them. It is easy to overlook the individuals, lesser known and lesser appreciated, who influence them.

When I look at the two theories, I believe neither fully encompass how great change comes about. In my opinion it does come down to the role of the individual, not simply the one who enacts the change, but those around that “Great Man”—or woman—who grow, influence, and support them. This assertion that the community that surrounds a person dictates what they can achieve isn’t exclusively applicable to history but instead all of humanity. No matter the level of intrinsic talent, intellect, or charisma a person possesses, alone there will always be a ceiling as to what can be accomplished.

This is the beauty of CR 10, it was a perfectly crafted environment to push and challenge. No matter what any of our members go on to do or accomplish, it won’t be alone. The same way it can be difficult to see the influences of the community upon the individuals of history, the same may be able to be said about us, but I truly believe that each of us have impacted each other for the long term. CR 10 forces thought, examination, and reflection of a historic scale on a personal level. The same line uttered on the first day of CR by Jake Lynn stating Dr. P to be one fine piece of iron rings true for us all on the last. As iron sharpens iron, so will on member of the CRedcade sharpen another.

As I return home I have been left the sights, the experiences, the memory, and the people. The impact has hopefully been made, now comes a summer of reflection to make these changes into  reality.

 

The Art of Peer Pressure

To be honest, I was completely peer pressured by my friends to go skydiving. That may seem like a negative thing, yet it gave birth to one of the most intense and thrilling experiences of my life as I slid out of that airplane into the abyss over the clouds. Not only was I able to check this one item off my bucket list in Switzerland but also alongside a group of my fellow Cultural Routes members. I know had I not let them completely influence my decision making, I would have regretted this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Peer pressure is a powerful tool that can be both used to both positive and negative ends, most of the time trending toward the negative side. Yet I would assert that peer pressure has nothing to do with peers at all, and simply rests upon one’s personal decisions. You get to choose your friends, and if you choose to surround yourself with good and wholesome people they will pressure you to grow and develop. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with the less than wholesome you will be pushed towards error. The people you choose to spend time with dictate so much of your demeanor, your humor, and your priorities. It’s incredible how you pick up mannerisms from your friends, taking a part of them and making it your own. Thankfully, I’m able to spend this experience surrounded by the members of CR 10 who constantly challenge me to examine myself, recognizing both my strengths and deficiencies.

As we crossed the halfway point in Interlaken I feel as if the group has settled in and everyone is comfortable with one another, allowing people to fully express themselves. This raw expression allows for a constructive atmosphere far surpassing any normal environment. During the first half of the experience, my flaws rose to the surface as I’ve become aware of the lack of vision I have. I’ve seen my intensity, my style of thought, and direct nature harm my relationship with others. I don’t find that to be okay by any means, and I’m incredibly thankful to be surrounded by a group willing to stick with me throughout my attempts and failings at growth.

The full expression of everyone’s self doesn’t only help bring into focus my flaws but the strengths of those around me that pressure me to improve, from Audrey’s ability to listen and observe, to Marat’s meticulousness, to Lauren’s joy, to Indigo’s energy, to Nishu’s thought process and so much more from each of the 15 around me.

The extreme nature of Interlaken helped push our cores to the forefront and reminded me not to stay static, but to reach even deeper into the experience and embrace the pressures of those around me.

Fire & Brimstone

(This is meant to document my journey through the Dachau concentration camp, the horrors it held, and my personal reflections. I by no means hope to offend anyone, simply describe the process I went through that day.)

I walked out of Dachau with a smile on my face.

Wait what?

Let’s start from the beginning.

As start I started towards the gate, I was overwhelmed with a foreboding feeling of dread that only intensified with every step closer to the words on the gate. It didn’t leave me once I crossed the threshold.

I began my journey throughout the camp, the horrors were only magnified by the background knowledge that we’ve built up over this last week in Berlin and Munich. The museum explaining Hitler’s rise felt like a broken record, we knew the ending. As the sections went on, the prejudices intensified, and the killings began. There was no escape. Even as the war drew to a close, the Nazi’s accelerated their final solution. Then finally the museum’s exhibits ended, and I had to face the realities of the space itself.  I had to see the overcrowded barracks and walk the killing ground. As I saw my friend Emma walking through the roll call square, I could only see her at the camp in the place of the Hofmeister we found who had been held SS special prisoners section. I had to see the crematorium, the gas chambers, and then the execution sites standing alone along a horribly beautiful forest path. It truly did showcase what depths humanity could sink to as I witnessed the industrialization of murder. People utilizing every ounce of technology, thought, and ingenuity they have access to in order to systematically exterminate.

I went and sat in the Carmelite chapel that’s on the grounds of Dachau before heading to lunch. I stopped to pray for my faith in the face of such evil, I prayed that I could have help reaching the depths of faith those around me hold. I then walked to the Jewish Memorial. There I found why my faith takes such a different shape. As I gazed, all I could feel was anger and rage. Not so much anger at the situation, but instead at the way religions can discriminate between people and how easily humanity gives up their independent thought for what they believe to be a higher purpose, the same process that lead to the Holocaust. All I saw was 6 million Jews murdered.

I walked back to the café in silence, my time in the chapel and at the memorial unearthing the tension I face.

While I was eating with a few Cr’ers, Dr. P talked about the inherent hope of the place. I understood what he was saying and what he meant but couldn’t feel that way. I felt like we hadn’t learned anything at all, people still use religion to say they’re better than one another on Judgement Day. It may be subtle, yet I thought beliefs of superiority are the foundations used by the masses to turn a blind eye. I viewed the racial discrimination that is implied, yet never thought about. How all the North Americans and Europeans are automatically saved by faith, yet Hindu Indians, Middle Eastern Muslims, and countless others are doomed by their situation. I don’t believe God could be racist. I had no measure of peace, I went back to the chapel to write my thoughts out, and hopefully gain some measure of understanding, not of the evil, but of the grounds on which Christianity proclaims itself to be so good. Sadly though, nothing was coming to me but the blatant fallacies I see around me. I began the day praying for faith, but all that was being delivered was a furthering of the divide I feel. I ended the day praying to understand why beliefs such as this exist.

Not much progress was made, and I was still strife with conflict as I stood to leave, disgusted by the world around me and convinced of little change. Then I remembered a clip from the audio tour giving the background of the chapel and monastery that described it as being home to the statue of Mary that stood in the imprisoned priests’ barracks. I hadn’t noticed it during my first stay, yet now I felt drawn to it, a symbol of goodness that had seen nothing but evil. I felt drawn to it now. As I walked to it I couldn’t help but be amazed. I expected the statue to show scars, but as I studied it I realized just how wrong I was. I could only describe it as angelic, the perfection of the carving and the expressions on Mary and the Baby Jesus’ faces. It was love.

Love. That’s all I could feel in that statue. A mother’s love for her child, unconditional human love. God is that love and so much more. I felt insignificant in front of it.  Standing there I realized just how true our brokenness is, no matter how hard we try, we could never even begin to make up for it. In the shadow of that beauty, I saw the power of belief, and began to realize why faith traditions put so much importance into faith. That anger that I felt dissipated instantly, and I understood.

I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. But now I can accept that those around me do. I realized that I’ve spent this whole year, and even the beginning of Cultural Routes, letting this disagreement stop me from growing close to those around me by avoiding the conversation for fear of stepping on anyone’s toes when instead, it’s that very conversation that can bring me closer to those around me than ever before.

The statue, it’s eyes, and what it had seen weighed heavy over me. But the statue stands, God remains throughout all the horror. It is so incredibly easy to immerse yourself in the atrocities of the camp and feel hopeless. Yet when I left the chapel all I could see was that the camp was gone, and I understood what Dr. P was talking about. The Nazi’s lost. There were hundreds along with me there to remember. Dachau at its heart is a memorial testifying that even in the face of mankind’s most advanced industrialized attempts to kill, love overcame it. As I was walking down that main camp road towards the exit, there were no barracks still standing around me, but trees lining the road and birds singing in the air.

Dachau was full of life.

 

-Ryal Reddick

 

Black Mirror

How can you write when you can’t think? How can you learn when you’re so overwhelmed you can’t process through the emotion? When you’re so hollow inside that you can’t but sit, paralyzed.

“Father, I don’t want to die”

This quote and several other death notes from the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe broke me as a person. My empathy runs hard and strong in situations such as this, when one of the most basic human connections is invoked, family. This is one of the strongest bonds between humans, everyone has a family, and everyone loves their family. For me, family is the foundation my life is built upon. This makes it impossible for me to separate myself, it is a mirror by which I can only view the murders and the atrocities as if they are happening to my own mother, my own father, my own sister, my own future son, my own future daughter. I typically do everything I can to keep myself together, yet any sort of effort to remain composed failed. I could only feel my heartbeat rapidly pound and my lungs refuse to take in air. My ragged breathing served as a backdrop as I extrapolated the deaths and destruction to the people I hold dear. It was the closest thing I’ve ever felt to a panic attack, and in that moment,  it became real to me. I’ve been around the monument above the museum before and I’ve even seen a concentration camp, yet the struggles I encountered at that camp were nothing in the face of this highly personal experience. One of my greatest fears is always not being able to help those I love, and the holocaust is the most stark embodiment of that fear I have ever had to face in the mirror of my mind. While I’ve always known I would go to incredible lengths to protect my family, in the Room of Dimensions in the Museum for the Murdered Jews of Europe I began to grasp just how far those lengths would extend, past just about anything I could imagine.

“I fired constantly at the women, children, and the babies. They would do the same and tenfold worse to my children if I didn’t”

This quote comes from one who participated in the mass shootings as he went home to proudly inform his wife about how he had served that day in protecting his family. While I had still not recovered from the Room of Dimensions and subsequent Room of Families—you can see how I continued having some issues—I was confronted with this quote. It is through this mirror that I believe the words that welcome you to the Museum, “It happened once, therefore it can happen again” when those same devotion that is at the core of who I am as a person was used to justify, explain, and validate mass murder. It terrifies me. You can chalk the commanders’ actions to evil, yet our visit to the Topography of Terror taught us just how widespread the operations were. On the individual level,  this mirror allowed me to recognize how ordinary men came to proudly believe they were doing the right thing. The propaganda, scapegoating, and atmosphere channeled the fear for families, their ways of life, and absolutely twisted the noble sense of duty a man feels to those he loves into malevolent, hateful, and horrifying acts on an unimaginable scale. I now realize that the Hitler and Joseph Goebbels didn’t introduce anything new to orchestrate the murder of 9 million people, they simply utilized fundamental traits of humanity, and masculinity in particular, for their own sick devices.

Those elements of humanity remain within us, within me, today. This is why we must face the past, learn it, and truly understand it in all its horrors.

“It happened once, therefore it can happen again.”

I will leave you with the poem that Josh Witkop, a CR alum left me. It lent me strength throughout the day to recover and provided me the mirror by which I could maintain   faith in the face of the struggles I encounter in my aspirations to grow as a man even as I am forced to grapple with the terrifying actions I believe elements of masculinity drove.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

– Ryal Reddick

  Bravo Team

P.S. – Shoutout to my team members of Marat, Taylor, Abbey, and Lauren. Y’all are making this so special, elevating the incredible times, and supporting each other in the difficult and I’m learning from you every step of the way. I couldn’t be more thankful Dr. P’s brain brought us together.

a8711f04-8e35-463c-b9b0-fd9ef5a81f6b.jpeg

Graduation

As freshman year comes to a close, I am faced with the departure of many people I hold dear. Last Saturday the incredible souls of the senior class move on in their lives, on that day they became legendary. Their legacy of what they’ve done at TCU only to be surpassed by what they’ll go on to do. While I might have hoped to spend more time with the Michael Drake’s, Landon Hendrickson’s, Mary Grekstas’, Brenden Voss’, Hayley Henley’s, Ryan DeTamble’s, Hayley Henley’s, and Cole Sanford’s of the class, I am now left with numerous memories and above all, lessons.

As these people I’ve spent the year idolizing make their exit, I’m still here. I am examining myself in the wake of what has been a trying semester for me. While I’m constantly trying to move forward and incorporate their lessons, I still feel woefully inadequate when I look up to them, CR Alum or not, and recognize all the work there’s yet to be done, whether that be personally, academically, or co-corricularly. While I’ve been told what it takes to be number one, I’m still in the beginning stages of the journey, and as this year has taught me it’s going to fly by—both the experience of CR, and my remaining years at TCU. To me this signals that I need to hurry up now, and I can’t wait much longer. I know I got to start being right now, because I can’t get much wronger. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been trying, I just feel stuck relative to the progress I need for who I want to become.

I look forward to CR as a time of reflection, growth, and focus. When I look at myself and this semester I realize it’s time to shift from viewing those above and trying to learn, to viewing those around me and what they have to offer. At the beginning of this year, I figured that those around me can’t tell me nothing as I looked forward towards achievement. I believe that this experience will be the final knell for that line of thinking.

I’ve been fairly obsessed lately over the figure of Kanye West (if you can’t tell), and his approach to his art, philosophy, and life. While listening to his music and its complex  messages I’ve found myself reflecting upon my own life through the lens of his conflict and struggles. He’s led me to the belief that everything I’m not made me everything I am. I’m not normal, I’m not quiet, I’m not complacent, and I’m constantly struggling with the fact that I’m not perfect, no matter how hard I may try. These factors are what define me, I’m not afraid to separate from the crowd, I’m not afraid to be the one to speak up, and I’m not afraid to push myself to grow. I’m curious to see how these beliefs stand up throughout CR, particularly the first two assertions about standing up and standing out in the face of what we will see.

While Kanye’s music has caused me to reflect on my life, his recent antics have caused me to reflect on the world. I have always considered him to be extremely intelligent,  yet it still startled me when he began exposing his current philosophy of life. He has caused me to examine the polarized nature of our world and the hate fueled rhetoric tossed around so carelessly. It’s modified my style of thought, as I’m trying to become much more self-aware of the sources of my motivations and frustrations. Most importantly though, his actions along with the media’s reactions (the cutting of interviews and twisting of words), have caused me to recognize the importance of communication. I initially didn’t agree with anything Kanye has said, particularly with what the media portrayed, but when my love of Kanye led me to investigate deeper past the headlines, I’ve gained an incredible level of respect for what he is attempting to do. When on CR, I may shop so much I can speak Italian, yet even in attempting to learn the languages of other cultures I am coming to the realization that words are an incredibly ineffective way of conveying meaning. I have started to be much more careful in how I present my words, attempting to leave as little up to chance. As I continue my attempts at transparency in language through CR, I hope to be welcomed to the good life as I believe a decent chunk of conflict in our world comes through miscommunication and an unwillingness to listen.

In the shadow of graduation, my excitement only rises. One year down, one CR to go, and a whole lot of growth awaits between now and then. The seniors are making their move and I’m ready to make my own. All in, 24/7, you know the drill. So as I say good night I cherish the fact that in only one day I will be saying

Good Morning to CR 10,

Ryal Reddick

The Lynchpin

Berlin is more than simply a city, I would argue that it is the focal point of our world today. When examining modern history, that being the late 19th century to the present day, Berlin has been in the thick of it all. World War I. World War II. The Cold War. These are the events that shape our present world. If one isn’t able to fully understand those events, then they can not explain today’s climate. The most critical of these in my opinion is the least understood, World War I. For example, I don’t believe very many people know that Germany and their leadership released and smuggled a certain political prisoner into the Russian Empire in order to destabilize their enemy. That prisoner was the one and only Vladimir Lenin. That one decision changed the future of our world…

Interesting stuff to be sure.

I am personally excited to venture to Berlin for the second time (shoutout Frog Camp) to help venture deeper into the wealth of history Berlin has to offer. In the words of Matt Williams, CR 10 Alum, based on its “geography, political history, religious background, and more, Berlin (and Germany as a whole) has become a spring of world history.” I consider myself a history buff, with my most recent fascination coming in the form of his Hardcore History podcast, having listened to nearly all 50 or so episodes ranging from the Persian Empire to Russian front of World War II. Heck, when I was in elementary school I read a 26 volume illustrated historical encyclopedia over World War II. The stuff fascinates me. For that reason I highly value the chance for round two in the city. During the first round of things I was able to see a lot of the sights, but was also fairly overwhelmed by all of the impending excitement for college and focused TCU programming that Frog Camp brings. I absolutely loved the city, but am ready for more and a true experience where I am able to explore without the structure and distraction.

Berlin is more than just history. I believe Matt put it best when he told me it was a “multifaceted city offers an abundance of culture to unpack and absorb” and I’m looking forward to the German culture, the trains, the Grunewald, and the Birkenstocks. Honestly on the culinary front I’m less looking forward to the German food —”beef” haunts me—and more looking forward to some Vapiano’s, which is probably the only advice I’ll give my group as we explore the city. I plan on enjoying the ride, taking in everyone else’s sense of discovery, and compounding it with my own as I delve deeper into the city, the history, and myself.

Onward Crecade.

-Ryal Reddick

 

 

 

The Nature of Idiocy

Coming into TCU I knew I’d be facing an incredible amount of opportunities to pursue, including the most critical of all, Cultural Routes. I’d been taught to near venerate the experience by a sister (and family) who DID venerate it. Due to this, I knew the magnanimity of the chance I had to apply. I just had to follow some advice to ensure that my application was of the highest quality… Don’t be an idiot. Now that statement was much easier said than done, as my freshman year has been full of mistakes, yet alongside those mistakes has been a constant desire for growth. This desire was key to my excitement when I checked my email and found the CR Acceptance and instantly lost my mind. That immense excitement was compounded as I began discovering my peers who I would be making the journey of Cultural Routes alongside. The anticipation grew daily as at first there was a rush of people following the CR instagram account, then the rest began to trickle in over the break as those late-comers decided to check their TCU email account —I mean it was winter break, who could blame them. Speaking of winter break, I made the executive decision to not inform my family of the fact I was accepted for CR until I was back. I did this hoping to create a masterful reaction video, first informing my mother and father that I had gotten an email from a professor dropping me a letter grade due to absences before handing them the CR acceptance letter. My mom refused to even read it out of anger until my dad just started laughing. His laughter set my sister off, and completely surprisingly, she lost her mind. Sadly, my friend videoing ran out of memory so the video was lost.

At that moment I looked back on the semester,  I thought that even though I had made mistakes and have been an idiot as well, I could be proud.

That’s how I felt at the time of my acceptance, but that’s fleeting so let me tell you about what is real. What’s real is what I believe will help make it special for me. Let me tell you why I’m so happy to have be a part of CR, and in particular, this group of 16.

I look back on my life and I see that I have never had to give real effort in much, sure I worked my butt of for football and some other athletic endeavors, but aside from that I’ve just skated along on talent. Now that’s fine in that it hasn’t really ever failed me, but there have been plenty of close calls. As I’m in the midst of what is looking to be a close call again this semester, I’ve had people tell me not to worry, that maybe a tenth of a point on the GPA doesn’t matter long term and yet, I absolutely hate it. I know I’ll pull through, yet still I’m tired of these close calls as I feel their indicative of so much more (my own idiocy). I have huge dreams and enough talent to make just about anything I want happen, yet my lifestyle isn’t in line with either. I spend too much time caring about the wrong things, when there is only so much time in a day. Failure kills me, it drives me, I don’t want it to exist in my world. Now that may be impossible, but I want to do my best to make it a reality. I can hardly stand myself when I mess up, because at this point in my life, the challenges aren’t enough that I have any excuse or justification for imperfection.

Throughout this semester I believe I’ve gotten a better grasp on what that idiocy I talked about earlier is. I see it to be blindness, instead of the propensity for mistakes. A lack of vision as to the big picture, the effects of actions, and how priorities and perception shape behavior. Idiocy is taking an honor such as selection for this trip and sitting upon it instead of pressing forward. The reason I am so freaking pumped for this experience is because I know I have so much room for improvement. I know it’s the time in my life to move past my own past idiocy. I know however much I’ve been able to do, I can —and should—do more. I’m excited because the CR way that we’ve talked about is what I need to fully embrace. I need to be pushed without any of the falsity that comes so easy in the world. I need to be genuine with myself and recognize that even if I’m being patted on the back for things I’m doing now, I’m still only scratching the surface of my potential. I hope to utilize CR to push me to that next level.

I am by no means worried that I won’t reach my potential though, because I’m not an idiot I’ve proven to myself many times that I have an incredibly intense will, and I just need to push it into the forefront of my life and truly utilize it. I hope that by the time we’re all back in the States, I can look back and not focus on pride, but instead focus on the growth. I have full confidence (me and confidence, never heard that before) that statement will become a reality, because I look forward to throwing myself completely into the experience, into Dr. P’s teachings, and into the people around me. Everyone on this trip has leaps and bounds to teach me, I am open and most importantly all in.

Hopefully the decision to tear away at the veneer of excitement is the first step on my path. To realize just how intensely flawed I am and the stark contradictions of how I act. Now I just have to tear away at all the other ways I cover for myself, and embrace who I am, in my raw form, something I’ve never truly been able to do. I hope to strip away what holds me back. I want nothing to do with that idiocy.

Onward to CR 10, I eagerly await.

– Ryal Reddick