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.