Monday, November 16, 2015

Skunk in A Well

One cheerful New England summer morn, when I was about fifteen, my mom commanded me and my brother to go "sort rocks out of the pile of topsoil from the driveway". Now the driveway is 900' long through a bit of swampy land abundant in friendly little demons aka deer flys. They attack anything that moves, even cars, smacking into the Windows like hundreds of tiny zombies. The dirt mound to be sorted, by hand lest we forget, was directly adjacent to the main nest of insurgent activity. We brethren immediately looked at each other and telepathically decided that we had to sell our parole officer on something that would appear almost as equally hellacious but with some added benefit to counteract the diminished suffering. Rather quickly "hey what if we hand dug a spring for you?" popped out. In our long careers of living, me at 16 and my brother at 14, neither of us had had the occasion to craft a well by any means; however, we had heard of a hand dug spring up the street of only 10' in depth. This we surely could accomplish with our rudimentary tools of bones, muscle and steel. (Authors note: we didn't have tools made out of bones, just to be clear). There was even a flicker of a fanciful notion that if we were successful, and saved our parents the money they had budgeted for the well they were going to have pounded into the earth - maybe, just maybe,they would give some of it to us. Or at least not be so stressed out about money themselves and chill out. The dreams of kids....

To our surprise Mother accepted the offer, though later I would discover that both our mother and sister openly discussed how we would give up. Women be damned, we started hacking at the topsoil densely bound together by thick wild grass roots. In northwestern Connecticut, the soil below the tangled web of topsoil and roots is hard packed clay peppered with even harder rocks. Rocks twice the size of my head weren't uncommon and truth be told, I thought about giving up in the first few hours but it was better than anything involving swarms of pestilence reminiscent of the Book of Revelation. 

At the end of the first night we had dug down about 15" or so in a 4.5'x5' square. The womenfolk were impressed with our progress admitting their previous dearth of confidence, and not that we would let on, it made us just want to do even more. It's like a back door some woman installed in men's genetic code. It's quite unfair. 

Digging a hole to China can be oddly addicting and it wasn't many days later that we needed a ladder to pass up five gallon buckets of dirt. The morning after we had hit the 11.5' mark, we showed up to work, I mean school to find a skunk in the well. The little bastard slipped past the few inches not covered by the 4x8 sheet of plywood. He said he was stumbling home from a night of boinking a lady friend at the other end of the field. My mother told him was quite enough of that type of conversation and said that we would get him out. I remember feeling uncomfortable - like "my mom thinks I don't know what boinking is". Goddamn. I wanted him out. The son of a bitch was out boinking things and now he was stinking up my well. 

Back when we dug down past head height, I noticed it started getting cooler, quieter, darker - all three increasing the further we dug. I suppose this a barometer for how demented my life was, but I enjoyed being down there. I mean not like I probably would have enjoyed boinking, but you gotta work with what you have. If your kid starts digging deep holes willingly(ish), you may want to consider some things. Anyway, we managed to get James out of the hole with a cage on a rope. At first he didn't want to get in side it because he said it "looked fretfully dangerous" but after I put some peanut butter inside, he agreed that "it looked quite adamantine" and stepped inside. Fucking skunks using big words and shit. Once back on top, James trotted off without a thank you or goodbye leaving behind a chasm of musk impregnated walls. A temporary mausoleum to his devil-may-care parade through my back yard. 

Several days passed as we waited for the hole to air out, something holes aren't wont to do. Then the rain storms hit and we spent several more days working on "character building exercises" inside while the well filled up for its first and last time. When it finally quit raining, the bottom 8' of well were filled with water. I suppose we could have bailed it out, I'm actually not sure why we didn't. Probably because it was just a slick muddy mess around the shaft. Perennially paranoid of being sued, my father deemed the project a hazard. "Someone might walk through here, fall in and drown" he said and then started up the tractor. As he filled in, in minutes what took several weeks to dig, I learned a valuable lesson - even though I never got to take a picture of this unusual accomplishment, I proved I could use my mind and determination to make a better situation for myself even if it was only temporary.

I assert that all of this is true as I experienced it. James was never seen again but occasionally someone ding ding ditches the house in the middle of the night. I swear, if you check the door there is a whiff of eau de skunk floating in the air. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Images

Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I discovered a video that caught my attention. 6 different photographers were asked to capture the same subject. That might sound quite dull except that each one of the image creators was told one fact about the man they were about to meet that defined him: millionaire, ex-con, fisherman, etc. Amazingly each picture captured the essence of the mental lens they chose to shoot their subject through. Here is the link if you want to check it out yourself.

I found the video oddly moving and apropos to much of what I've been contemplating recently. Our perceptions that are hardwired about life cause us to see everything through the eyepiece of our core truth. Most important though, is the way we see ourselves. There are some people who see past our "truth" reaching down to draw out the real truth in others but it has little effect until the real truth is believed. We are pushing towards the banishing of labels in our world because people are fed up with the box society has placed around them. That's what I AM that I AM is all about. It's a declaration of abandoning labels, embracing that you don't have to be anything other than the best version of you.

If you looked up from your screen right now to take a photograph of whatever you saw, what word comes to mind? How is that informed by that label you hold over yourself? Do you know what that word is? Allowing for the idea that reality is largely, if not entirely, a product of how we see ourselves is the first step to recognizing that there may be other lenses that offer a more pleasing perspective. Determining the properties of your life's lens allows you to then look over the other available lenses now that you've accepted their existence and choose the one that reveals the best version of you.

What are you seeing and why do you see it that way?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Monopolizing Life

Saturday morning Monoply at the dining room table. My opponents are 10,9 and 6 - I'm the banker as usual. The game is haphazard at best. It seems I mostly focus on reminding them it's their turn otherwise the game stalls. Today while making change for a $500 bill I realized they don't check me when I do transactions because they trust me. I could cheat so easily but why would I? They aren't obsessed with winning so how pathetic would it be if I was, especially to the point of cheating? The 6 year old throws $500 bills down when he is getting out bid at auction even though the last bid was $76. Yeah, $76. They like to pull the one dollar increments which makes me mentally groan and laugh at the same time. All of them have obsessions with specific properties that kind of suck, like the utilities. Clearly they lack a passion for the point of the game. And that's where I learned a lesson today. 

Our Monopoly games usually end by me winning or us all agreeing to quit because I'm so far ahead and they are bored. While I'm not obsessed with winning, I make "good business decisions" hoping they will learn something. If you don't play with any drive or understanding of what it takes to win, Monopoly could go on just about forever. "No risk, no reward" is the mantra of competitive players because truly it's the only way to win outside of insane luck or cheating. That's when it hit me - this game is a reflection of what's wrong with most societies. We win when we've achieved an exponential amount more than someone else. Many times this requires the purchase price of other people's humanity, though you can't take theirs without giving up some of your own. 

Why are we so obsessed with winning when there truly is enough for everyone? Most people bristle at that thought because they imagine that means they have to provide for lazy bums. The truth is that many people have little because of circumstances - mainly lack of knowledge, opportunities and hope. Most "hard working" people feel anger towards the implication that they have a responsibility to the poor because they have a mentality of lack. When you've had to break your back to achieve tenuous security and status, you aren't inclined to give some away to a perceived freeloader. It's not your job to provide for those who have the capacity but lack the desire to succeed; however, our own pursuits should be tempered with empathy. We all have a responsibility to lift up those less fortunate. I would never condone taking away what someone else has worked for legally and ethically no matter how unpleasant they were. I do believe no one really needs billions of dollars just for themselves. I understand that Monololy is just a game and would get boring if it went on forever but it's the principle that is being demonstrated. You need to be luckier and or more ruthless than everyone else to be considered a success. 

I'm not competitive with my children, but I would be much more inclined to be with adults. I don't want other people to think I'm stupid or some other pejorative. Most people validate themselves based off of a comparison to other people. Personal merit should be founded only in the degree that we are being authentic. We try to distance ourselves from those perceived to be below us to feel closer to those we look up to. Ironically, many we aspire to be like are looking down on us in self-congratulating judgement. Achievements rarely make you any happier as a person because our measuring system is uses the whims of others opinions on which you have no control as the standard. 

Am I making a big deal out of a game? Probably, but we have big problems in our world that are based in ideas encapsulated in the heart of this classic board game. Lifestyles grow from ideas that have been repeated enough that they are like dye in wool fibers. No man is an island. Everything is connected. If, for example, you want inexpensive products, someone probably is suffering in a much worse standard of living for that to happen. That might seem like a contradiction to what I'm trying to say but it's not. It's the conflated, Ponzi scheme of our society. CEOs want to keep making their profits so they use our delusion that we are only temporarily embarrassed millionaires to reel us in. If we buy their products we will feel less embarrassed. Since the CEO isn't willing to give up any numbers from the bottom line, the discrepancy has to be filled somehow - always taken out of the backs of someone already downtrodden. 

Many hands make light work. I believe that if we lifted people up, we would all eventually have to work less. Yes, it sounds like I'm being delusional believing in utopia but if we don't change our mindset, nothing will change. I was listening to a podcast where a man was asking people two simple questions. 1. Do you believe we will ever be free of war? 2. What do you base answer one on? Eight to nine out of ten people say no, war will always be with us. Their reason? It's just human nature. Change your nature, choose to think differently. Evolve. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Raking the Ocean

I wish my brain were little bits of sand.
Bank Run leaves holes for shadows. 
A passing landscaping rake jangles about;
Screaming demons spring into the light.
Now I see the appeal of self delusion:
Pretending the rake doesn't exist,
Ignoring the clamor. 
Eventually the damn breaks,
Memories rush in,
Instantly the picture complete.
Meaning understood though too late to change. 
Life wasted.
Even sand is foolish, imperfect.
I now wish my brain to be an ocean:
An indefatigable expanse not long marred by the tines. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Know The Words

To know a word is to appreciate It's beauty. 
To know the words inside a word, is to know It's soul;
And when you have known the souls inside It's soul,
You will have seen your own soul more clearly. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rituals

In the process of trying to continue growing, I realized that if I couldn't get my mind under control, I would stay stuck. This lead me to try meditating at a Buddhist center my partner introduced me to. When we showed up a few weeks ago, they announced that they were doing some sort of fall ceremony with a smoke offering after meditation. Curious, we decided to stay joining in on the chanting and short dance around the fire at the end. Discussing the experience on the way home we both agreed that it felt kind of religious but we could just enjoy it for what it was without taking it too seriously. 

Last Saturday I took an intro to meditation class where the man talked about how our focus dictates everything. At the end of the class, I discovered that every morning there was meditation from 7-8. Usually I have to be headed to work before then but yesterday I ended up having off of work so I got up at 6:30 and headed to try it out. I won't bore you with the details of my day, that's not the point of this post - suffice to say that I had a good day. Since I didn't have to be at work till 9:30 today, I set my alarm for 6:30 again and figured I would go meditate again if I felt like it. 

When the alarm went off this morning I woke up rested and alert but fought a little laziness and some nagging thoughts. I loathe religion and didnt want to be doing something because I thought I had to like it was a magical path to peace - but also, laying in bed is much easier. I've learned finally that I can separate the good from whatever bad I may see along with it. I don't have to participate with something I don't agree with but I also know that my perspective may need to change. This in mind I decided to go for the purpose of developing some self discipline and of course, the meditation. 

Today was identical to yesterday except for a slight variation in the number of people and I would imagine that's just how it always is. I thought about the rote nature of this practice on my way home and how it would be kind of nice to have a pattern to a part of my life. I still fought against the idea of forming a habit that seemed so religious but suddenly I understood why my grandfather went to mass every morning no matter what the weather. It was the ritual of it, just like going and working on his land "up the mountain". Rituals are a familiar pattern that create a place where we feel everything is right in the world for at least a few minutes. Many rituals aren't the healthiest like the cigarette smoker or person who comes home every night and sits down in front of the TV with a scotch, but they are still doing the same thing - looking for a recurring place of peace. 

I think my grandfather knew that his rituals like going to mass or sitting on the side porch in the summer evenings listening to classical music, were what kept him sane while his mother and brother lost their minds. Our minds are always focused on something and rituals purposefully redirect that focus. Everyone wants personal peace and crafts it in different ways - some to freedom and others in bondage to the process. Rituals aren't bad (if they aren't harmful) as long as you understand that they hold no magical power. They are simply portals to another world created by intention of focus. Some create realms of sparkly self delusion - others are a thick numbing fog induced by drugs, alcohol, sex, food, constant noise etc; but there is also beauty and serenity that can be found and inhabited through practice. If you don't get trapped believing that the ritual is the only way to visit that place, you can begin to take it with you as it imprints itself on to your mind and soul. 

Everyone should have at least one healthy ritual that connects you to yourself and another that connects you to a group of people who believe in something similar. Eventually the repetition will grow your ability to focus creating many paths to that same state of mind. You will find that you only stop living there in the moments you choose to focus on something else. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Least of These

My life has been crazy lately, stumbling around hoping to find the door to growth (that's part of the problem - I'm looking for a door). Growth is mostly a matter of learning how to think and act differently. Fighting childhood engrained, bible based philosophy while comparing it with "humanistic" philosophy has been a challenge because I see problems in both. Religion has taken good ideas and used them to separate, shame and control people and I cannot abide any religion. Yet many non-religious philosophies are very selfish, another thing I cannot stand. While still trying to be open minded, I have had to admit that there are some good ideas and wisdom in religious scriptures. Now this isn't to say that I think you will find the true Christian God and Jesus if you just look at the bible with a different perspective. Instead I think you can find helpful thoughts for how to better be part of the only thing I believe to exist - the Universe.

Moving On - Hoping For Growth
Recently, my love and I moved into a house relishing the idea of having our own space; however, that wasn't to be, at least for now. We had one person who was supposed to live in the basement but decided they wanted to live upstairs and commandeered the space with seeming disregard to our thoughts and feelings on the matter. This highly angered me because I've felt disrespected and unappreciated most of my life. I thought I had been treated this way because I didn't stand up for myself so I tried to do that now. Being further maligned and called "uncaring, unreasonable" and several other things after refusing to back down against selfish people has been exhausting and further angering.

Attempts were made to try and ameliorate that situation to little avail and the roommate moved out. We found someone else who was willing to live in the basement which was perfect except that in addition to being a friend, he was also my boss for the first time. Because we share a house I was on edge wondering if he was going to think I did a good enough job. Would it create an awkward situation at home? Even if the world is falling apart, at least I still had my little bubble at home: but it wasn't so much a bubble anymore. I really try to do my best at everything but I find it extremely difficult to do a good job when I think what I'm doing is stupid. In my head I know that I need to care because otherwise I'll be fired and develop a bad reputation. Mostly though I've believed that lazy people are useless and I don't want to feel like that - it's too familiar.

As we see ourselves, so is the world. 
Many times when you finally realize that you should be treated differently, you think as I did, that it's because you aren't standing up for yourself. What you fail to see is that you want to be treated differently but still see yourself negatively. I'd never been good enough for myself and I just wanted someone to tell me I was doing "okay" so that I could relax just a little. Eventually the disparity between how I want to be seen and how I felt I was perceived and treated reached a head and I "stood up for myself" by blowing up. As I sat on my couch unemployed, unsure of what to do, staring down into a chasm of depression, self hate willing me to fall in, something in a youtube video spoke to me. It was rather in passing, the man stated "the universe is a reflection of us".  He gave an analogy related to work and that's when something clicked. I began to realize I was perceiving other people's attitudes a certain way because that's how I perceived myself. 

More Roommates and....
While all the roommates were clearing out our old house, I was notified that my SIL and her boyfriend would need to stay with us for "a week or two" until their house renovations were completed. I was slightly put out that I wasn't asked but mentally conceded because hey, it's family and I can't imagine saying no anyway. The two weeks has turned into more without a definite end in sight as most construction projects go which isn't a big deal except that I do like to have my space. I've spent the last two weeks reading and reflecting trying to better understand myself and what I need to do next - how to not blow up again. Last night I was given a situation, a test where I again felt like my opinion didn't matter. 

My SIL was at a wedding in the country that morning where they found a beautiful dog alone in a field. After trying to find owners in the area without much luck, the bride said she wanted it but couldn't take ownership till she gets back from her honeymoon at the end of the week. You guessed it, we have it for the week now bringing our dog total to 4. My attitude was anger at not being asked but also because I knew it was putting more responsibility on me (My name is on the lease, what if it damages something? What if it gets my puppy sick?). Not only was I stressed but also felt imposed upon. I was going to have to deal with this animal during the day because someone has to while my SIL and her boyfriend are at work. When I went to bed I was incredibly stressed out and angry to the point my jaw was hurting from all the internal conflict. Trying to find sleep somehow, I realized I was having trouble respecting myself. Who am I? What am I doing? What is the next step in my path?

Cells in a Body
One of the books I'm reading compares us to cells in a body. If they do their jobs properly, there should be no need of worry for provisions. If that was true, what was my purpose so I don't starve? When I woke up this morning, I was much less stressed because before drifting off to sleep, I finally admitted that I am okay with failing. I don't have the energy to fight the monsters of my own self hatred anymore. I'm totally cool with being me even if it means I starve to death. This morning when I brought my puppy in from going potty I saw the orphan everyone but me was showing love to standing in the hallway wagging her tail. At that same instant the question was still blazing in my mind - what am I supposed to do? I knew the right thing to do in that moment was to treat this dog with love so I started walking her outside as the word "purpose" clanked around my soul. 

That's when some words Jesus had said to his disciples recited themselves in my mind: "if you've done it to the least of these, you've done it to me." Instantly I knew I was wrong for the way I had been feeling. I don't believe that there is a god separate from us anymore but that we are all part of this universe completely interconnected. The "least of these" still applies notwithstanding Christianity: loving and respecting even the smallest thing is doing the same to the whole because it's all one. I've been sitting here looking for a purpose because I want to feel like I have worth other people can recognize and define. How else do we make money and survive if people don't think we are worth anything? But I've been approaching it all wrong. My purpose is in front of me and I've been ignoring it because it doesn't seem to put me any further along to fulfilling my needs. It's selfish which is the core of evil. 

What is Evil?
Evil comes when a person (or cell if you will) decides to try and be something different because it doesn't feel sufficient or has it's perspective warped. They are disconnected mentally and emotionally from the rest of the organism which removes them from sustenance except what they steal. Disconnection brings pain because we are then open to fear and abuse as we look for approval, validation, and comfort that may be taken away at any second. Evil is the actions we take to fulfill those needs without consent. Many people settle for the space right next door to evil - mutual using. You consent to being used because you are getting enough and when you don't, you'll leave and be free to go since they knew what was happening all along.

Convicted
Christians talk about being convicted which most of the time is accompanied by a large amount of guilt and shame. Religious conviction further reinforces you being a piece of shit that can't get things right unless you try harder. I've been missing opportunities to live my purpose because I'm so busy looking for it. Realizing that didn't make me feel guilty - instead I felt sad that I had had it so wrong. I still don't know what I'm doing other than trying to be open to the smallest moments but that brings hope because accepting the basic truth behind this is very freeing. When you show love to the inconveniences, the irritations - the least of these, you are doing something without expecting a return. That is reaching the highest purpose because you cannot reach down in a pure heart until you've completely accepted yourself and place in the Universe.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Universe is God

A few minutes ago I realized that not only on an experiential level, but also at a logical level I can cease to believe in an god except the universe: the universe is God. 

Some prerequisites
God claims to be:
Infinite. 
Separate from us (because one person sinned). 
Male (I cannot think of a single scripture that attributes female as being any part of God). 

The Infinite Separated God.
You cannot have infinity and something apart from it: otherwise this isn't infinity. Religion claims God is infinite and science claims the universe is without end. Infinity cannot be proven outside of the fact that our minds can imagine it. But it also cannot be disproven satisfactorily. Just because you hit a wall doesn't mean there isn't something on the other side. A God who claims to be all encompassing in every way but is separate from us, holier than us, supreme with us as his creation - is a flat out fraud. 

The Masculine God
In Genesis 1 it says "let us create man in our image...so God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them". I'm not sure why it makes a point of saying multiple times that humankind (referred to a man) was created in gods image except that it's to prove a point. Notice that it says "male and female he created them". This is where the writers perspective shows up. If male and female are god's image, then why is a masculine pronoun being used as the creator? You see this ramp up in the very next chapter. Genesis 2 claims God decided that "it wasn't good for Adam to be alone" so god knocks Adam out and makes a "helpmeet" of one of the dudes ribs. Woman supposedly means "taken out of man". This is where the writer shows his/her mysognistic hand. Men and women are born from a woman. Our DNA all starts as female and becomes male. The idea being purported here is preposterous. 

Based off of this logic, I don't understand how any reasonable person can accept a god other then one that everything and everyone is part of. If anyone can prove it wrong, I would love to dialogue because I only seek the truth. 

More and more people are believing that our reality is based largely on our perceptions. If this is the case the Christian God is the construct of a woman who hates herself and sees herself as less just like an anorexic sees themselves as fat. 

I'll just let this sit here for now. More to come eventually...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

No!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that this past week has been different to say the least. I've done a lot of thinking and realized I'm fed up with two things: 1. The expectation of perfection and 2. People acting like having boundaries is somehow wrong. Both are abusive - point blank.

Perfection. There's a word I'm quite familiar with. I was taught as a child that God is perfect and we definitely are therefore are headed straight to hell. Oh hey, but since perfection is an impossible task, and God is love, he was kind enough to let humans murder his son as a substitute instead of killing all of us (I can't believe this ever made sense to me - oh wait, I was brainwashed). Even though our own efforts would never succeed, we still were supposed to try to "be perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect" because otherwise we were "crucifying Christ anew". If that's not a way to mentally fuck people up, then I don't know what is.

There you are, stuck knowing that what you do is irrelevant, but still feeling like you have to try to bail water out of a sieve lest you sink before the rapture or death come to rescue you. I've had people say to me "relax, no one is perfect" and it sounds great; but when I've made a mistake, many of those same people have ranged from disappointed to ripping me apart. The truth is I've made a lot of mistakes in my life but what's fucked up is that I can think of very few that were intentional and deliberate. After 29 years of dealing with the people who were supposed to love me saying I wasn't good enough, I left everything but my kids behind.

I didn't realize how far past full pressure I was till this week when I did something rather imperfect and immature at work but still not intentional, just in the heat of the moment. Less than 5 minutes after losing my shit, I knew I had made a mistake but I also wasn't sure how to prevent it from happening again. As I've pondered my life over the last few days, I realized that I should have understood myself better and done something about the situation before stress reached critical field. Normally I would have been hard on myself but I chose not to this time. I regret my actions and take responsibility for them and the consequences; however, I refuse to be ashamed because fuck it, I'm not perfect and I'm finally accepting that. Instead of striving, I just need to be an adult and that requires having boundaries and enforcing them.

Reality is defined by boundaries and if it were not, I suppose everything would simply be one infinite jumbled sea of whatever the stuff every particle is made out of. IBLP, the organization my parents acquired most of their seriously misguided ideas from, put out a book called The Pineapple Story. You can buy it if you want the long version but don't bother. if you are that desperate, I'll write a longer synopsis of it so you don't waste your money. This is the short version:

A missionary decides to grow pineapples on his plot of fertile missionary land. The natives steal his pineapples. Missionary gets angry, loses sleep, becomes an asshole driving the natives away receiving the Bad Missionary award (that could go to a lot of people...) God tells BM that he's failing because he's putting pineapples over the people he's trying to help. Pineapple man extrapolates from this that we have no rights to anything. You know, turn the other cheek type shit but not just cheeks or pineapples - everything. Some obsequious fools took that to mean for example, they shouldn't call the police when men repeatedly broke into their house to rape their wives and daughters. I'm sure from that example, you don't need me to provide others to get the gravity of this lunacy. But hey, I believed this to a certain extent too for a while.

As I've struggled with letting all this brainwashing go, I met with a lot of resistance. Nearly everyone who says "it's cool, no one is perfect" will become upset with someone for screwing up in the same day - I'd put money on it. It could be the barista messing up the coffee order or their partner forgetting to check the mail, who knows, but something is going to bug them because NEWS FLASH, they're not perfect either. Genpop wants you to be perfect because it benefits them but god forbid you throw any restrictions on how they interact with your life and realms of influence: "that's expecting perfection".

Each element and compound have different boundaries and structures. Some mix well, while others release energy explosively when combined. The boundaries you have define who you are just like atomic structure determines an elements properties. You aren't an asshole for having boundaries. If you allow yourself to be dirt, you will be walked on. Yet, you cannot fight every battle - that's what children do. Almost every toddler has a stage where it seems like everything makes them scream. Unless coddled, they quickly learn that their wailing is a pointless endeavor unless something is seriously wrong.

Not knowing and accepting who you are is like window shopping - you want something, even think you might deserve it, but believe you don't have the money for it. That feeling of deserving the unobtainable is what causes anger to boil because deep down, know you have the power but can't see your way out of it. As that internal struggle builds it gets to a point where the stupid snap behaviors come into play. You know you can do something, you're an adult for Pete's sake, so you just do anything needed to prove a point. Accepting who you are and what you believe not only informs your values, it empowers them. We put up with shit because either we don't think we have the right, or we don't want to deal with the consequences. If you put yourself on an island with a bunch of thieving natives, you will have to let the idea of retaining possessions go to be effective at developing relationships and making a difference. However, a business person would be stupid to leave their doors unlocked in a society with laws to punish malfeasance. Mature actions should be based off of the end goal and your priorities (which should include love at the top if you are a mature adult).

Why are perfectionism and a lack of boundaries abusive? Because other people put them on you to take what they want. We've sat around for too long thinking either we don't have the money for things in the window, or that we deserve things that we do not. I saw this the other day in an article about finances " stop saying I can't afford xyz because the truth is that we find money for what is important to us." Maybe if we understood what we actually are, we would reappropriate the currency to back values that could change our world. Regardless of your opinion on unions, they are an example of a group of people saying "we've been pushed around enough. We're worth something and you need to recognize it." Facebook is replete with bitching about how messed up (you fill in the blank) is in the world, but who's taking the sacrifice to say in an adult manner "I've had enough and refuse to stand for it anymore." Just because you develop some rigidity doesn't mean you are becoming an unsavory person. Diamonds are one of the hardest items on the planet but they still allow light to pass through them when polished. The form you take will dictate the life you lead.

As I said earlier, I regret my stupid behavior (no, I didn't harm anyone) or more accurately, I regret that I didn't learn this sooner in life. In many ways I was expected to be an adult from childhood completely skipping much that and my teenage years. At the moment I feel like that kid has grown to mid teens but it feels like it's been an exponential type of growth - super difficult at first but now years are flying by. None of us deserve to be bullied, disrespected, treated like garbage but we let people do it because we don't find the voice to say "no". Good people don't need to be told no because they have empathy but many people lack that quality and need to be stood up to. That doesn't mean that they are all evil, it simply means they need to be told that their antennas are out of alignment somehow.

We see very little empathy coupled with authority. Most powerful people are sociopaths completely lacking empathy. A bulldozer can get a lot done but life and relationships don't need bulldozers. Many children's favorite word is "no" because they still think they are powerful. We are taught that we are powerless by those who are afraid of us and want to use us. Good parents only take away their child's power temporarily giving it back each day as they grow in wisdom and empathy. Like I said in a recent post, adulthood isn't a tool chest you are given when you leave your parents house and know how to use because you saw them do it. Every day till graduation should be a chance to take out a tool and learn how to master it.

It's time to start saying "no" to the maniacs who have been in power for ages, before they drive us into extinction. Who are you and what are you passionate about? People who have the security of knowing and accepting themselves while possessing empathy could probably change the world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Spiders

Sometimes I think it would be better to be a spider. 
Sure, most everyone hates you, thinks you're ugly and scary,
But these eight legged creatures continue spinning webs without a care.
A few folks appreciate the "creepy crawlers" yet it is still of no consequence.  
"They take hold in kings houses" observed the great King Solomon.
Maybe he wanted to be a spider too. 
Arachnids are like honey badgers with four more legs.
No owners or masters. 
Going where they will, spinning their webs however they desire,
Unconcerned with whether it's design pleases someone else. 
Sometimes they get squashed or eaten before their time:
At least they lived a life of freedom,
Lived a life that was true. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Stargazing

Spending this weekend out in the wilderness of Grand Teton National Park for my cousins wedding was exactly the shot in the arm we needed. You cannot escape the beauty (although I can't think of a reason you would want to). As I said yesterday, it puts things in perspective and is humbling. At the same time it's also incredibly inspiring adding mass to the values we are building for our lives. Every experience creates a hunger for more of the same. It's like peering at a black hole and then going a little closer to visit. Eventually you will get so close that the experience and you are inextricable. 

Every step away from the festering blight of suburbia brings me more in touch with who I am and what is important. I hadn't seen many of my family members in attendance in at least 5 years, some as long as 12 years. Three years ago seems like a totally different lifetime since I was nearly a completely different person in almost every way possible. Being able to interact with these wonderful people as a free individual was amazing and as we all were gathered in a circle dancing at the end of the night I thought "if there was a heaven, I think it would be just like this". 

After we said our goodbyes and retired to our campsite, we dragged our sleeping bags outside to gaze up at the incredible display of the universe. Looking at the Milky Way and the innumerable stars I didn't feel small or weak, but instead was filled with a desire to explore. We spend way too much time with our eyes glued to screens or absorbed in the daily grind that we have ceased to look up at where we came from. I told my girlfriend "if there was a real Star Trek, I would sign up". Imagining all the possibilities out there inspires me to do whatever I can do to learn and explore. After seeing several shooting stars and something I'll never be able to explain, we headed to bed filled with excitement for the future but also sadness that it had to end for the moment. 

Walking away from religion and a belief in a supreme God, I've come to a point where the only two things that bear significance and merit are relationships and respect and understanding of the universe. Everything else is vanity at best. Find a connection to people and places that mean something to you and let the mass of memories grow drawing you closer and closer to the point where it consumes and embraces you.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Camping Misadventures

A mountain to the south patched in snow rose out of the mist and clouds, illuminated by the rising sun. The sky transitioned from light blue near the mountain to dark blue directly over head. As I looked up, a half moon was bidding goodbye. It was the perfect scene to snap me out of the bullshit. Last night was frustrating! My partner and I flew out to Wyoming for a cousins wedding yesterday afternoon and didn't land and acquire our rental car till nearly midnight in our body clocks time zone. The campground was an hour away down unlit two lane roads with copious warning signs to beware of wild life. When we stepped out of the airport, it dawned on us that we may have mispacked for the local climate. It also suddenly occurred to us that, we didn't have anything to sleep in at our tent site. 

You're probably thinking "what idiot goes camping and doesn't bring anything?" And I would respond "well said". The only excuse I have is that we have been trying to work and move this last month and it just fell through the cracks. The hour drive from Jackson Hole to Colter Bay provided a decent wind up in the stress department; would they have any blankets available or were we going to freeze? When we finally check in it took 20 minutes of circling around the unlit roads till we located our semi permanent tent where we found only thin foam mattresses covered in that plastic that soaks in the cold. I made a fire and we huddled up together hoping we would make it. 

Curled up with my love listening to the fire crackle while rain beat down on the canvas roof was rather magical but a few hours later it was too cold and we spent the rest of the night sleeping in our rental car with it running. Needless to say I was a little grumpy, very tired and moderately sore as I stared at the mountain watching the sun rise. Looking for some perspective on the situation, I considered this mountain - it had been there for thousands of years if not millions. On top of its age, it is massive in comparison to me and I thought "who am I to be complaining about anything? What right do I have in the face of something that has withstood adversity for so long?" It was kind of like the mountain quietly said "fuck you dude". I got the message - begrudgingly, at first. Perspective is what we need to be at peace in our lives. We focus on tiny little aspects that aren't the way we want them to be while ignoring the bigger picture and how we fit into it. I am a speck of matter, a fragment of consciousness seeking to find my place. While we were on a rafting trip last night down the Snake River, our guide Will told us several stories about the area particularly about several notable people who pioneered this area. Whether the story was mostly fiction or all true, I learned a valuable lesson from the life of John Colter. Colter was the foremost mountain man of his time even at 20 years of age. After trekking through much of this northwest region for a decade, John decided to head back to civilization for a bit. Despite surviving the harsh elements and a harrowing experience with the Blackfoot tribe, he died at 32 because he didn't have the anti-bodies to deal with the bacteria floating around in the general population. When you try to be something other than who you are, it may kill you. Find your place and then enjoy it.

Post script: Despite having a rough first night, our flight into Jackson Hole was delightful due to conversing with the woman at the end of our row. We were able to get some sleeping bags from the general store which was imperative since it ended up getting down to 30 degrees last night. They say the mountains are actually magnets that will draw you back and I can feel the pull already. Before going to sleep in our brand new sleeping bags last night we gazed at the stars for a while. It's one of those scenes where you have to tear yourself away because it is so awesome and vast that you don't want to turn your back on it. We are all star dust looking up into the scroll of our history. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections

The past few weeks have been a blur of work, moving, getting a new puppy and stressing a lot about everything. Looking through pictures to find a few to print for the kids room, I encountered the last 12 years of my life: something I've tried to let fade into a blur. I don't want to delete things my children may want to see but I hate what my life used to be. There was one photo in that struck me in particular: my 21st birthday. The person in that picture looks so different than what I see today that I can't believe it was me - I looked like I was 16. I had already been married a little over a month and in my mind I was an adult. I was supposed to be once I was on my own right? My parents locked up all the tools to be independent as if one day I would be ready to handle it. When a nebulous time was reached, they would hand me the key of permission and suddenly I would know how to be this person called adult. Don't get me wrong, I handled myself with restraint leading most people to think I was mature, but it's like having an shiny robot with no programming. 

Unfortunately I got the sense that my parents were never going to think I was ready and decided to try and prove them wrong. How long was I supposed to wait to be allowed to be my own person? When I popped the top with a crow bar I found I had opened Pandora's box but was convinced that somehow it would all work out. I mean it had to. I was told I knew the tools for God to bless me and I would be damned if I didn't try to make it work. 

Helping my girlfriend pack to move, I saw things I know she has saved from different memories in her life - experiences that I will never have. It made me sad and angry because I felt robbed among other things. Reviewing the pictures helped me see how far I've come, and that despite everything, I'm way closer to being myself than I ever have been and I let a lot of the anger go. It's useless to be upset over something outside of my control. I can't go back and change the past but the future is still moldable. You don't cry over spilled milk when you are lactose intolerant. 

Sweeping a floor the other day gave me what I feel is an apt analogy for life. There was just a dusting covering the ground from some cuts of plywood I had been making earlier. I always find it to be more tedious to try and clean when something isn't super dirty because you feel like you aren't accomplishing much. As I swept, I eventually made little piles and noticed that in a fraction of the time came together into one big pile. Daily life may seem like drudgery but if you are making an effort towards a focus, all the little things you pursue will eventually and quite suddenly build into something substantial. 

Around the time of the move, several things seemed to blow up at once and I wasn't sure if I could handle it. I told a friend yesterday that I feel like life kicks us when we are down so that we can realize the things we think are a big deal rarely are. Coming from a religious environment where everything is scrutinized and judged, it's easy to get your focus and confidence thrown off by the exhaustion of all the perceived pressures. But eventually, hopefully, you learn more clearly what really matters and focus on that dropping the weights you don't need to carry. I'm currently at a crossroads in my "career" trying to figure out how to step from where I am now into what I will be. The path isn't always laid out but focus is like a homing beacon that I believe will always lead us where we need to be eventually. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Growing Pains

Last night my oldest daughter complained that her ankle was hurting despite not doing anything to injure it. I began explaining about growing pains when mid lecture, a thought materialized: the struggles we go through in life are growing pains. Now we can't avoid physical growing pains but when they are circumstantial emotional/psychological, we feel like we can find a solution or at least take a pain killer for it. Most folks assume that because their physical body has grown past a certain age, they are adults but that's erroneous. While it is a fact that your brain changes a few times during your life and supposedly locks in around 30, you can still be a mental child until you die.

Growing sucks. It's work; it hurts at times and usually, the pain doesn't feel like it's connected to anything happening. Kids don't realize they have grown unless they make marks on the doorway to compare against. Whenever I get discouraged, I look at where I have come from and as a friend quoted the other day "I'm not where I was so I will not always be where I am". 

I think life is a process of trying to attain maturity. Not maturity in the "I'm old and have no fun" sense but more of a clear vision of yourself and the universe. When you know who you are and live it, it is empowering. You know that no matter what happens in life you will be fine. That is because you understand what you do and do not have control over and set your expectations accordingly. 

Being you isn't an occupation, it's an idea that shapes your world. I realized that I've been trying to figure out how to make money with the talents I feel are expressions of my personality however, that is a backwards way of thinking. This is what keeps people from self discovery because they say "when I save up enough money" or "get the kids out of the house" etc as if suddenly the stars will align. Sure there are things that could make it easier but do you want to wait that long chomping at the bit? Many times people fritter away their entire lives waiting for that opportune moment to start actually living only to have it elude them.

I don't write on this page with the hope to make money and now, I'm throwing away the notion that anything I am should have to make money. Usually it's a natural result of being your best self but not always and that's due to a world you can't control possibly misunderstanding you. I will continue to pursue what fascinates me and that will shape my life in certain ways. Values are not goals. A goal is an achievement, a value is a lifestyle. I enjoy watching TV shows and movies, but not more than I value time with my partner, children and myself. I value writing and conducting my own scientific experiments more than spending money at the bar. There are others but just those two values determine much of how I will live my life in the time outside of work. Sure, if I had a ton of money and ample time, I would love to go to the movies and out to eat all the time, but those are just accessories to what the core idea and values of who I am. 

The key to growing is knowing what weights to carry and having endurance. Typically you think "the bigger the muscle the stronger it is" but that's not necessarily true with human hearts. If you have an enlarged heart it means that it's developed more muscle mass which shrinks the ventricles and actually reduces the pumping capacity. Psychologically many people, myself included, are the hardest working lazy people you'll meet. We just want to get the difficult task or circumstance over with as quickly as possible so we throw ourselves at it like a Tasmanian devil. I am usually told by people I work with to "chill out. You work too hard". Instead of just carrying a couple bags of groceries from the car, I'll grab every single one and struggle some because I don't want to make two trips. The problem is that this is the equivalent of lifting lots of weight and low reps to get bulging biceps. Instead of building cardiovascular endurance, I've built strength and get tired quickly both physical and mentally. 

The stuff in life that hurts us, stresses us, angers us are just growing pains. Many times things seem to get harder the more you grow and mature but really it's just adding a little more weight once you have built up endurance where you could do those reps into infinity. Each obstacle that has been thrown at me inciting a freak out has turned out to be something I can handle (though it's hard work). All that is required is to "just keep swimming". Life isn't a race, its a tiny portion of an endless journey. What are your values? Find a way to alter your life to make it so.  Otherwise it's not a value, it's just an idea you are too lazy or apathetic to grab and make your own. 

*an important note: part of growing requires learning what weight is your responsibility to carry. So many of our problems are cause because we carry weight that isn't ours or shirk weight that is.*

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Control Issues

Deep down, I think everyone wants to feel in control - to feel powerful. We live in a world that is out of balance leaving us struggling  as we try to overcome the entropy. I saw a quote the other day "some women find nudity empowering, others find modesty empowering. It's not our job to tell them which is right for them." Most of us have traumatic experiences to some degree of severity in our childhoods that we carry with us: indelible reminders of our lack of control.
Very few of us take the best possible path towards finding peace in the chaos but the important thing is to keep moving and learning from the mistakes and the wins. Some choose drugs to dull the anguish or give themselves a chemical feeling of wellness and power. Others blank it out with alcohol. Some use sex as a drug and a tool to manipulate others to achieve dominance. If you boil it all down though, I believe it's just people trying to cope with feeling insignificant and vulnerable in the world.

Anger comes from two things (as far as I can tell): when you feel like something isn't going your way, or when you see injustice (which is sort of a subset of the first category). I was angry with someone recently and my girlfriend pointed out that I did a great job in the discussion till one point when suddenly, I sounded like a child. After pondering my thoughts for a few minutes, I realized that I had felt like this person was trying to say they had control of my life. I've been able to calm down about it because I've realized that everyone has control. As I've quoted before, Jack Sparrow says it best "there's only two things that matter, what a man can do, and what a man can't do." In essence he is saying "everyone can do what they want but there are consequences. Consider the consequences before you act." 

Unfortunately, I didn't think about all the consequences of my actions when I was younger because I didn't think I had any other options. We like to complain and whine about how we are so exploited by big corporations, the government etc, but the truth is to a large extent, we don't want to deal with the consequences of changing our bit of reality or possibly we don't see the options. It's probably inconvenient, possibly dangerous and maybe even illegal but if you want change, you have to change first. (For the record, when I say illegal, I'm not taking about shooting up police stations, but things like smoking pot or living off the grid in states where it's against the law). 

A character in Jurassic World said "you can't be truly happy until you realize that you aren't in control". It's a paradox. While realizing and accepting your lack of control, you gain a feeling of power. What happens is you adjust your expectations and instead of trying to control the vast world around you, you focus on controlling your reactions and choices which is a battle you can win. The only way to help bring more balance to the world is for each of us to do find peace in ourselves, accepting the consequences or fruit of our actions. We won't be able to have leaders who are level headed, good, honest people if they are corrupted by need. It's pretty hard to buy someone who doesn't have a desire to be "somebody" or "live the life". Not saying it's bad to be rich or famous but if that is your goal in life, you are probably in for a lot of unhappiness. Trying to bend the world to your whims in an effort to feel valuable in society is about as effective as trying to bail a leaking submarine. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Living Your Truth

My girlfriend bought the box set of the TV series Felicity and asked if I would watch it with her. This morning as we hit the second episode, it struck a nerve. The scene was where Felicity tells her mother that she had enjoyed eating a burger by herself on a Tuesday. Every Tuesday Felicity and her mother would have lunch and while she wasn't trying to say she had hated all those lunches, she was trying to tell her parents that it felt good to be growing up. This of course didn't translate to her mother who instantly felt rejected because the truth was the lunches were more for her than her daughter. Many parents have kids to fill a need in their hearts which is a terrible reason to have a child. However, most people don't realize that and are just trying to do the best they know how. The scene about Tuesday lunch was my childhood x 1000 partially because it was inescapable being in proximity to my mother 24/7 but also because she felt rejected by a lot - particularly me.

I was angry sitting there watching this play out on the screen. I wanted to keep being angry because it felt like it justified my struggle against being a fucked up human. I've known I had a lot of stuff to deal with but at the same time I've constantly doubted myself thinking I am just sensitive and blew it out of proportion. On top of everything else, I was harped on for being angry as a child as if there was something wrong with me. 

Anger is not something I find pleasant to sit in for long anymore so I resorted to my drug - thinking. I thought about my parents and how they were doing the best they knew how, or possibly they knew better but this was the best they dared to do. When you say "they did the best they knew how" it's a half truth. We are all confronted at various times with better ways to live. The problem is that we discount them out of pride which comes out of fear. And there in lies the problem with much humanity: we see truth and know it's there but we are too afraid to live it. 

That's probably why so many people hate themselves; they can't block out that image of who they know they are but they are too afraid to take steps toward it. I was criticized, disciplined etc for just being me. I've always been curious, asked a million questions, and tried to be optimistic but for a long time I became too scared to be myself. There are always options out there but most people don't dare to do better because what if they are wrong? What if it makes life more difficult? While I'm not gay, I think I can relate to the feeling of being something people don't like or approve of. It's not like I had a coming out of the closet experience but more like I've just been slowly peeling off the clay they tried to use to make me into their image. It's not all gone but the relief of not being suffocated by a facade is immense as I expect it is when someone comes out. 

We don't need to be more honest with ourselves, we need to have bigger hearts with more courage. If you believe your life could be more you and that doesn't involve taking advantage of someone else, then get a breath of fresh air and live the honesty that you feel looking in the mirror. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Particular Perspective

Let's say for the sake of argument that everyone's consciousness is a single atom. No two atoms can share the same space; if they are forced to, the results are explosive. Your atom / personality / consciousness cannot ever be the exact same as someone else's because you will always have a different perspective or vantage point in space and time. 

We are highly evolved, intricate robots each with a different set of variables constantly being programmed through the sensory information taken in. Our reality is shaped by what we are taught as children and while that can change over time, our perception constantly shapes how we view the world and move through it. Individuality isn't because some god decided to make you a certain way. You are just a statistical possibility that has power over the choices it makes. That doesn't mean you are any less special, in fact I find it kind of cool to think of of myself as an equation that is constantly being changed. 

Life is simply a series of events providing opportunities where we make choices. Each choice is adding a different variable to the equation that is your life opening up a completely new set of possibilities. It's kind of like a choose your own adventure book. Just like the book though, there are endings that you don't have control over despite the pages you flipped to. We only have control over the choices we make but the outcome is rarely determined by one individual. Trying to control your entire life is about as ludicrous as trying to drink the ocean. 

This isn't to say that we should give up on trying to understand each other, quite the contrary. While we cannot share the exact same eyes as someone else, we can step back and remember that "we are all the same, but we're different. But in the sense that we're all different, we're the same." That little quote, while a bit of nonsense is the truth. If we could quit trying to make people just like us and listen to others perspectives, we might get along a whole lot better.

You might say "their perspective is wrong" but it's what they have seen from their vantage point. It doesn't mean you have to accept what they believe but understand that you don't understand their life because you haven't lived it. People get hung up on "the truth", constantly trying to hem it in with a formula or religious revelation. Here's the thing, no matter where you are looking at something from, you cannot be certain it is the proper angle. The only thing that is so ubiquitous, infinite and pure that it can be viewed the same no matter where you reside in space is love. 

Love is a force that transcends time or distance. It's qualities are undeniable: love is patient, love is kind, love is not proud, etc. Romance and sex have been trivialized because to have real love requires selflessness that still has boundaries. Which seems confusing because if you are selfless, doesn't that mean you have no boundaries? It's really only one boundary - don't ever let someone try to make you something you're not. You aren't someone's excuse for their problems or the source of another's happiness. Selflessness is the quality that holds the autonomy of another higher than its own desires. Where do things like murder, rape and theft come from? The perpetrator putting what they want above the consent of the victim. 

So for the sake of argument, step back from your one little atom and visualize a sea of atoms that you are bobbing about in. We're all the same deep down, we just have very different variables that have influenced our lives. There is one plane we could all meet on though with a common perspective. Spanning language and cultural barriers, love needs no explanation, only acceptance. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Posturing

I've had back and neck problems my entire life and until a week ago, I always had just attributed it to the fact that I was constantly stressed out. My girlfriend has told me that I look like a raptor which I just laughed about but then I started to notice it in photos. Trying to help me alleviate the pain, she found some information related to "Upper Cross syndrome" on the internet that suggested a few things, one of which was to "keep your head up so your neck muscles aren't constantly trying to hold it up as it leans forward." It made sense so I started being conscious of where I kept my head.

At first it was difficult but slowly got easier and then one day it clicked - Keeping my head up is uncomfortable to me mentally. I have this posture because it's a reflection of how I feel on the inside. I am slightly above average in height and until recently I didn't have a shred of confidence. I didn't want to look the world in the eye because I was nothing so I hung my head forward. Now that I feel like I can visualize the mental me, I totally see a connection. As I've been "holding my head up", I've felt less stress and way less affected by stuff around me. Today I was put in a job I'm not fond of and someone was a dick to me (wether they meant to be or not) in front of a bunch of people but it didn't really bother me like it would have in the past. Every time I was tempted to get stressed out I could feel my body start to mirror the emotions and so I fought it by visualizing how I should look and then following suit physically.

I know this probably sounds like a bunch of new age hippie horse shit, but I really believe that our bodies are a direct reflection of our minds. That isn't to say you aren't born with a certain set of genetic handicaps but the most beautiful people are the ones who radiate it from the inside. They are attractive because they possess a confidence that can only be had when you accept yourself. Posturing is usually used as a pejorative, however, I think it has a positive side. Science has shown that if you change your posture and do what they call "power poses", it not only affects how other people perceive you, but also how you see yourself.

What does your mental person look like? Can you even picture that? Most of us don't want to really see ourselves because we don't like what we'd see. The thing is that what you see is transformable. Starting might be as simple as picking your head up or just dropping the baggage you've been holding on to in your head.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flags on the Play

Earlier today I saw a post displaying the confederate flag with the caption "if this flag offends you, you need a history lesson." Not wanting to jump the gun, I inquired as to what the history lesson was. This link was shared which explains how "the civil war wasn't about slavery", how "the confederate flag wasn't flown on slave ships" etc. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the information but regardless, when I finished reading over the statements on the page I thought "and this proves?"

See regardless of what the flag may have represented to some in the past and what it still may represent to some now, to most of the world, it is a symbol of something negative and repressive. Many people are going to cry "I'm not racist and you're trying to take away part of my heritage". I have a question - is your need to identify with a culture more important than your concern for the social problems America is embroiled in? This isn't arguing over something like who has the best tap water - a bloody war was fought and that flag, regardless of what your interpretations of the events is, the majority of people find it hateful.

Pride makes us want to brag about the group we feel most connected to but pride at it's root is a superiority complex derived from feeling inferior. This kind of mentality causes division and sparks the same kind of need for an identity from the people you are putting down compounding the issue. No one wants to feel less than others so what do a lot of people do when they are insecure? Overcompensate. Does where I grew up make a difference on who I am? Definitely, however, I'm no better than anyone else and I feel it would be arrogant to go around bragging "American by birth, (state I grew up in) by the grace of god." What kind of message does that send except "I'm better than everyone who isn't like me". Nowhere is perfect but one of the first steps to becoming more evolved as a society is to quit separating ourselves through holding on to pride.

When I was first trying to figure out who I was as a 20 something, many people called me "Irish" because of my hair and last name. The truth is for a while I encouraged it because everyone thinks the Irish are badass and great drinkers. Mostly though, I wanted a new identity as I tried to figure out life 3000 miles away from what I had grown up with. As I've started to appreciate who I am as an individual, I've started just going by my name (which is another story in itself). I'm only a quarter Irish at best with a good bit of Italian and Polish thrown in the mix as well so bragging on Irish heritage is kind of absurd. I hate the term "citizen of the world" because it just sounds smarmy to me but I like the idea behind it. Like those who serve the faceless god, I am just a man and it does not matter where I have come from unless I choose to make it matter.

Do you really need to belong to something so desperately that it trumps how it makes a large portion of your country feel? I'm grateful that I have many freedoms and luxuries being born in America but to be prideful about something I had no control over is ignorant at best. A lot of us need to drop a flag of some kind and just be people if we want to heal.

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Things have power because we give it to them - money would be a great example. Much of our reality, if not all, is a placebo effect. Regardless of what good things something like a confederate flag may mean to you, it means hate to most people that see it. Those ideas are what they have seen perpetrated in conjunction with it. 

When you argue over something like this you are more or less saying "this idea I hold onto is more important than your hurt". Do you really care more about a flag than someone who is genuinely hurt coming from generations of abuse? Telling someone who has been abused "I'm sorry but you just need an education" doesn't work. If every person in a police uniform treated you poorly, you would distrust the uniform because it is a symbol of something bad. Why do we make a lot of bad guys in movies nazis or communists? Because those symbols carry with them an ideal that is widely known and reviled. You don't have to explain anything about them. 

Most symbols are not original but derived from something else that was previously innocuous. Someone could be pointing out that the swastika used to mean something about puppies before Hitler took it over. Definitions of words change transitioning over time. The slang word Nimrod comes from Buggs Bunny always calling Elmer Fudd a "nimrod". People took this to mean "idiot, dumbass etc" because that's what Elmer is. Nimrod however, was the name of a "mighty hunter" in the bible. Buggs is just using the word sarcastically but because no one knew the context, the word derived a new meaning which is unlikely to change for a while if ever. 

If we don't start putting acknowledging and treating our countries problems over our own personal desires, then it very well may be an American flag in movies of the future - a symbol of a people who cared more about being right (because it wouldn't admit when it was wrong) that it collapsed under the sheer weight of its own selfish appetite. What a bunch of Nimrods.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dreaming of Your Life


Much to my disappointment, I'm about to leave Berline in a few hours. We will board a train to the airport, ride a tiny plane to Iceland and then spend several more hours on the exact same plane to DC only to have to drive 11 more hours to get back home. Thinking about leaving and the uncomfortable travel ahead bummed me out. As we walked along the Berlin Wall yesterday, this statement caught my eye putting things in perspective: "Right now, Someone is dreaming of living your life." I thought it especially poignant considering where this quote was displayed - a wall where people could see into others lives but not experience. I'm sure there were at least a few West Berliners back before the wall fell who, at least temporarily, lost sight of how good they had it in comparison to their Eastern counterparts. We think our lives are tough because we have to experience some discomfort or pain when most of the time it's not really that bad. I don't mean to down play anyone's heart aches or trials but it could almost always be way worse. 

Social media has exacerbated this flaw of discontentment in human nature where, as my new friend Will succinctly stated, "we compare everyone's highlight reel to our behind the scenes." Instead of sowing seeds of jealousy and discontentment by comparing our lives to others, we should be inspired by what we see in others (no matter how skewed of a perspective it may be) while remaining grateful as we focus on what we do have. 

We've had an amazing trip which has expanded my understanding of the world a little further and I am incredibly grateful to have been afforded this opportunity. I may need a few aspirin for my aching muscles when I lay down in my own bed later tonight but it's nothing in comparison to what I have gained. 

America - The Asshole

I know everyone is talking about the shooter in Charlelston so I won't beat a dead horse too much but I have a couple things to say. The news of the tragedy reached me while on vacation in Berlin and made me incredibly sad and also very embarrassed to be an American. We all aren't like that asshole (actually too nice of a word for such a fiend) but at the same time I feel a level of culpability regardless. As a nation we have perpetrated centuries of injustice against people who have done nothing to deserve it and it makes me furious. Being in Germany I have seen how it's have been humbled by their past regardless of whether or not they were connected to the atrocities perpetrated by their countrymen in the past. It is almost illegal to be proud to be German like we are "proud to be an American" because of what that conveys. They do not want to repeat their past and simply are just people trying to live together. 

Be mad at me, but I'm not proud to be an American, especially when we have shitheads do things like shoot innocent people just because they have a different skin color. I'm not proud of the fact that we have bombed other countries to hell under the pretense of freedom when in reality it is for the monetary gain of some elites. I'm not proud of how much we consume at the expense of poor workers in countries like China. I could go on, the list is long. I'm really not proud to be an American.

Does that mean I hate America? No, but I am ashamed at what we are, at what we continue to be. Shut the fuck up with your pride and try on a dose of humility. We don't have a lot of things right in the U.S. and the actions of this one man and all the police brutality that has come to light recently prove that. As a nation we need to get off our high horse and onto our knees to beg forgiveness from all those we have wronged. We need to realize that like Jon Snow, "we know nothing".  You think that owning a gun makes you free? Fuck off. Owning your own brain makes you free and at present, most people's brains are controlled by the media and their lack of experience with other cultures and ideas.

For all those who have suffered at the hands of America and his prideful ideology - I am completely and utterly sorry. It breaks my heart to see what we have done and continue to do. I call America "him" instead of the traditional "her" because I don't think that a lady would act this way. Only an arrogant man treats others with such disregard and inhumanity. 

For what little it's worth, I'm ashamed for all of us. 

I'm sorry. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prague

We decided to cram a little side stop to Prague into our trip and had the good fortune of being accompanied by our friends from Berlin. They have a car so we were able to drive the 4 hours instead of taking the bus which was fortunate. I fell asleep for most of the drive because I wasn't feeling the greatest and missed much of the countryside but did get to experience the thrills of flying down the Audubon at around 180 KPH. After finally figuring out how to get into the apartment we had rented, we set out to walk around the city for a bit without a plan in mind. My first impressions were "holy crap there are a lot of wires over head for street cars" and "this city is really clean".

There are workers going around with little brooms and dust pans cleaning the sidewalks constantly keeping the city looking quite fresh. We walked along the river for a bit stopping to get a spicy sausage from a street vendor and continued to the Charles bridge across the river from Prague 2 to Prague 1 / 6. I don't know the names of most of what we saw because we didn't plan it out, we just walked and let the wind take us where it would. 

The bridge was jam packed with tourists and lots of people selling trinkets which isn't exactly my scene but there were two guys playing classical music on a couple accordions - an incongruity from what I expect out of an accordion but very beautiful. On the other side of the bridge we saw the spires of Prague Castle in the distance and decided to try and find it. It's claimed to be the biggest castle in the world however, it's not a traditional castle in the medieval sense but more of a compound. To get up to where the castle is, you have to climb a ton of stairs but you are rewarded with an amazing view of the city so it's totally worth it. 


While we were resting at the top, my girlfriend struck up a conversation with a brother and sister who had stopped as well overhearing them talk about an art installation of giant babies with barcodes for faces. They were from America and have been traveling all around Europe for the past few weeks. Since we were all going to check out the castle, we ended up walking together and hanging out for the rest of the day which was a nice surprise. 

Inside the "castle" is a massive church that is quite beautiful though I have little use for what goes on inside it. Note: don't wear a hat inside or some douche will tell you indignantly "this is a church" while a security guard rushes over to you insisting you take it off. 








Our new friends told us about a brewery up the hill a little ways that has a beer that is, or at least the original recipe was, brewed by monks. After hiking up all the stairs, beer sounded amazing to everyone so we sallied forth to find it. Also hungry, we stopped before getting to the brewery (unsure if they sold food as well) and ate dinner at Velká Klášterní Restaurace where I had the best pizza of my life. After dinner we found Klasterni Pivovar (the brewery) around the corner and had several beers, talking till the place closed. Another note: They do actually sell food as well and I ordered bread sticks off the menu thinking it would be like Olive Garden. Instead the waiter brought a sealed package of little dried sticks similar to what they give kids in school but this was lacking the little spot of nasty cheese. I asked if we could just get a basket of bread instead which was much more to my liking. 

It was about an hour walk back down the hill to our respective temporary homes and it was getting dark so we hurried that direction. Back at the bottom of the hill across the street from the bridge are numerous shops so we grabbed a popular Czech desert which consists of a tube of fried dough about 2.5" in diameter with chocolate smeared on the inside. It's a bit bizarre but tastes pretty good! As we walked a little further we ran into 4 young people sitting on the street playing popular American music on 3 guitars and one tambourine. When we reached the intersection to go our separate ways, someone said "well do you want to grab one more beer?" We all laughed and said "what the hell, why not!" That's something I love some much about this world, you can meet complete strangers and quickly become friends if you allow yourself to. 

Around the corner, a small bar called the Red Room where beers are dirt cheap - like $4 for 6 pints, called our names. There was live music (of course American songs) and we had a couple more beers and then went to bed. One of the guys who got up to play a song said "I can play a Bon Jovi song, or I can play something cool" which cracked me up. A table full of Swedes went nuts at the mention of Bon Jovi so we all got to listen to Wanted Dead or Alive but I didn't mind because as anyone who knows me can attest, I like shitty music. Despite leaving America to see Europe it was fun to have a bit of home wherever we went since western music is rather ubiquitous. 

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Today we mostly wandered around again visiting the main square which was crowded with tourists with their infernal selfie sticks but the buildings and statues were cool.





Later we stopped by a big library that my girlfriend was dying to see and then went out on the river in a paddle boat for about an hour ending the night playing cards and drinking beer back in our apt. 


Prague is definitely a beautiful city that is full of history but it's also filled with tourists and all the crap that comes with that. There are entire streets with only souvenir shops all selling nearly identical shit and some of the employees are really freaking annoying. This one chick followed me around telling me how much stuff I was looking at was despite the fact that it all had price tags. I would never want to live here but it's definitely a place to check out if you are traveling through Europe especially if you love old buildings and history.