Sunday, December 12, 2010

Learning to Love This World.

Oh, man. This post is a rambler, and it's fairly.. deep, for lack of a better word. Musings on Christmas, fear, spirituality, the Self, time, death, capitalism, Wikileaks, the circle of life and even more, are all found within. This is from my journal that I've been adding to all day. If you're reading this, I apologize for the conflicting styles. It's basically a stream-of-consciousness exercise, so it repeats in places and may run on a bit. It's also large, because I wanted to work through my thought process as much as I could. Normally, I don't post my journal here 'cause I like to keep that stuff to myself, but I had a good time working through all this and I like to share the more interesting thoughts that grace my buzzing mind. This is a bit of a vain thing to do, though, as I contradict the idea that my words and thoughts can teach anyone anything later on in this post, but hey, that's fine! It may get preachy in places, but keep in mind that I'm guilty of every sin that I call out.

This whole thing has been primarily inspired by two books. The first is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and it's a fictional novel about the life of Buddha. I loved it. The second book that helped to inspire this post is The Way of the Wizard by Deepak Chopra, awesomely given to me by a constant source of inspiration, my friend Grace. So, without further adieu, I'm just going to jump into this:

Siddhartha ends up sympathetic to the trials and tribulations of man.
I don’t think I’m there yet.
I get aggravated with people,
Even with myself,
When they get preoccupied in their lives,
When they feel that the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
I suppose I hold that in contempt a bit
Because we all get too wrapped up in all of our petty problems.
But these problems are all they know.
Even with my momentary serenity,
I have problems with my bleeding heart liberal.
I want everyone to know how tragic life can be for everyone else
But then again,
Maybe it’s not tragic.
I suppose people who were born into developing countries
Or in really awful conditions
Chose to do that because they needed to learn whatever lessons they needed to in that particular situation.
Those of us outside it,
Me especially,
Are simply passing judgment.
I want to put these people up on a pedestal in an attempt to shake the people in the West from their complacency
And their consumerism
Which is making everyones’ lives worse.
The people in the developing world are slaves to our needs
As they’re stuck making our products and destroying their land for pennies
While we’re slaves to our desires and our marketing and our lifestyles.
No one’s really happy.
Really poor people just want food, water and shelter
And for their kids to have a better life than what they were born into.
People in the middle class are miserable because they want more.
We aspire to be rich,
Or to have this thing and that thing,
Or this experience and that experience.
And not that I know,
But I’m sure the rich aren’t happy, either.
Bernie Madoff’s son just killed himself yesterday
And the only reason I bring that up is because his family was massively rich.
They got that way from essentially fucking people over out of greed.
Everyone aspires to have the lifestyle of the super-rich
To have enough money to live carefree,
But money never really allows us to live carefree.
We’re left wanting more of it
Or we’re left scared that we’re going to lose it.
I’ve known for a while that the pursuit of riches and money, aka greed,
Is just another form of fear,
And anyone who lives their life dominated by a fear never ends up happy.
Anyone who tries to amass unnecessary amounts of wealth most likely isn’t happy.
I don’t think this means I should embrace being an ascetic,
But I do believe that pursing money for the wrong reasons will only end up in disaster.
I really would like to have enough money so that I could give bunches of it away on kiva.
But then again,
My stupid inner bleeding heart liberal judgements come out again.
Who's to say that those people need my help?
Though I suppose if they're signed up to that site, they certainly want it!
Like I said, though,
I put these people up on a pedestal,
When many of them would just want to have a lifestyle similar to mine
And here I am bitching about how bad it is.
But I suppose that’s just the thing,
No one is happy where they are and we all want more
Or at least some massive change.

Do those in power have an interest in keeping all of us unhappy and unfulfilled?
I think so.
It’s not like I’m talking about anything new or novel here.
I’m pretty sure this exactly what Jesus was talking about
And yet here in America,
We celebrate his birth by buying shit!
How ridiculous.
Some guy in a beard ran around talking about how the poor are closer to god than the rich
And yet his birth represents the biggest rush of capitalism throughout the year.
Man, that’s gotta be the most ridiculous piece of irony in the history of irony.
The key to our salvation,
At least according to Jesus,
Involves us renouncing our greed and fear
And yet we spend his supposed birthday indulging in our greed and fear by keeping this gear that exploits the poor turning.
Those in power tend to be the ones who exploit fear the most.
Just look at what’s going on with Wikieaks right now;
A mass of previously classified information gets released and it sends the powerful of the world into a fear-crazed tizzy about even more protection and security
Simply because the words they wrote are being read by everyone.
I do believe that those in power,
And not just governments,
I’m primarily speaking of the lords of capitalism,
Want us to remain unfulfilled.
How else could they convince us to buy so much crap?
So much of our marketing presents our products to us as the answer to further fulfillment or happiness,
Or the answer to a problem,
And after living with the product for a year,
How much of that fulfillment remains
And how much of that problem is left unsolved?

Ok, so back to Siddhartha.
Here are some quotes that I thought were especially poignant in the last chapter:

“[the world] is perfect at every moment; every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people -- eternal life (116).”

I like this one because it essentially means that everything that’s currently occurring, no matter how awful it is, has purpose and positivity and goodness in it. This was something that I wrestled with when reading Conversations with God, and I’d rather not revisit the ridiculously long thought process that occurred after, but I’m glad that I still understand it and agree with it. It’s just so damned difficult to keep in mind when going through something that sucks so bad!

“I learned that through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to love learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it (116).”

Ugh, ain’t this one a bitch? To truly love all the heartache, the pain, the shittiness of life and the bad stuff that always happens feels like it requires the patience and mindset of a saint. I know from my experience that I always think to remember this lesson during bad times, but it’s so difficult. However, thinking it and doing it are two different things. I think I just need more practice. HOWEVER, UNIVERSE.. that does not mean that I want life to get even worse than it is right now to test this hypothesis! Balls! Balls..

“...what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another (117).”

“...teachings are of no use to me; they have no hardness, no softness, nor colors, no corners, no smell, no taste -- they have nothing but words. Perhaps that is what prevents ou from finding peace, perhaps there are too many words, for even salvation and virtue. Samsara and Nirvana [illusion and truth] are only words, Govinda. Nirvana is not a thing; there is only the word Nirvana (118).”

For all the reading I do on spirituality and the different traditions I’m interested in (Taoism, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Alchemy, crazy other stuff), it’s all semi-pointless. One of the thoughts I thought (or felt, I suppose), was that everyone finds happiness in their own way. We’re all here to experience life differently and it’s incredibly naive of me to believe that if I follow a certain teacher’s words exactly that I’ll find my answers. I’ll only find his (or hers, of course). Everyone needs to make their own path and learn the lessons they need to learn on their own.

The biggest point of Siddhartha seems to be about Unity and how important that is, and I believe that word nicely captures most of what I’ve already written about. We’re all in this together. We all have pieces of everything else in us and vice versa. My body is simply a collection of random atoms and molecules and so is everything else. We’re all just stardust. I remember hearing “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” a lot in Catholic school and I think most kids understand the meaning of it. When we die, we simply become dirt. Simple as that. But the simplicity of the phase denies the complexity of the process. We’re just renting the molecules we use to propel our bodies around this Earth and before we rented these specific molecules, something else rented them for the exact same purpose. For instance, the soup that I had for lunch today had lots of vegetables in it. Let’s take the green beans, for example. The plant rented its molecules to grow and thrive until it was put into my soup where I ate it and now my body will use those same atoms and molecules to keep going. The plant had to be fertilized in order to grow, so the cow that pooped out the fertilizer is part of this chain, too. And when I end up dying, something else is going to rent my molecules, too. I think that’s a really humbling idea and that’s why when I die, I want to be buried somewhere remote without any sort of crazy poisonous fluid in me so that my molecules can turn into a tree that will live for a hundred years and spread its leaves all over. How awesome is that? Yes, I got that idea from The Fountain, thank you very much.

Now, I’m sure anyone that can read this understands this process, but the question is do we feel it? I don’t think many of us do. The first time I did was a few years ago and because of this wonderful idea, my attitude (even though it’s straining lately) is incessantly optimistic and bouncy. Where do I get all of my energy from and why am I usually so damned happy when I hang out with people? Mostly because I really do understand and feel this concept.

So after finishing Siddhartha,
I’ve come to believe that my mission is to learn to love the world.
The way that it is structured,
Its rules,
Its mistakes,
Its follies
And all the potentially terrible things that are occurring every moment.
Just as it is now
Because god knows it’s not perfect.

After finishing the book,
I picked up my old journal from 2007
And I appear to still be struggling with the same concepts.
I understand lots of stuff,
But I have a hard time applying most of it
And ensuring that I follow what I think in these moments of inspiration.
How frustrating!

I then read some of The Way of the Wizard.
Apparently wizards like Merlin are thought to live life backwards through time
And Arthur asked why they do this and what benefits could possibly come from it.
So Merlin ordered Arthur to dig a huge ditch and then fill it all back in.
Merlin asked him what he thought of the task,
Arthur felt that it was “pointless.”
Merlin then said, “Exactly, and so is most human effort. But the pointlessness isn’t discovered until too late, after the work has been done. If you lived backward in time, you would have seen such ditch digging as pointless and not begun in the first place (42).”
Hello the past 4 months of my life!
Over 100 resumes sent out and an overwhelming feeling that the entire effort was incredibly pointless.

Everyone is too obsessed with the trappings of the body
And what occurs to us while we’re stuck in it;
Most people believe that we move into some kind of afterlife once we die
And yet we can’t seem to translate that idea into every day life,
Maybe because we don’t have much proof.
But as I was thinking in bed last night,
If we had tangible proof of the afterlife
And how great it supposedly is,
What’s to stop us all from committing mass suicide to move onto the next step because so many of us are so unhappy in this one?
I think we’re shielded from the afterlife so much just because of that reason.

As I was saying,
People are so obsessed with this life and their problems within it.
One thing I always tell people (and myself) is that the pain we’re experiencing today will be gone in 30 years,
So why stress over it now?
Think back even 10 years.
I’ll use me as an example.
I was 17 and in my senior year of high school
And my biggest concerns were getting into college and how awesome my fishnets and leather pants were.
Those worries seem so innocuous to me now
And I’m sure the worries that stress me out now
Will seem innocuous to 37 year old Ed.
Putting more focus on this thought,
I can see exactly how the path that I’ve followed my entire life has led me to this exact moment,
And how even the most dire of times simply led me to the most amazing experience of my life.
I’ve spoken about it a lot,
But the years before grad school were filled with constant disappointment and heartache.
Now, though,
I can see that if everything had worked out really easily right away,
And I had gotten into school for photography in Savannah,
I would’ve missed out on the best experience of my life.
All that bad stuff held a purpose
And was just potential amazingness before it turned into amazingness.

We’ll all move past what we’re experiencing
And it’ll be replaced with new pains and new joys
And all of those will be replaced, too.
So why bother focusing on all the negative stuff that holds us back?
Why not just embrace all the good stuff and not worry about the rest?
It’s so hard because we’re stuck in this illusion of time,
And it seems to be that moving past this illusion
And understanding it constantly,
Every moment of every day,
Is the key to actual happiness.
So I suppose that is moving backwards in time.
Not focusing on the future necessarily,
But realizing that once we get so far into the future,
All of today,
Which will then be the long forgotten past,
Won’t matter too much to us then.
I just need to project my thoughts really far ahead in time again.
I’ve done this before,
It’s just stupidly difficult to keep focused.

“Cutting the timeless into little pieces creates time, and that is still our tendency (43).”

I did an exercise from Way of the Wizard that involved my writing down my fears in an endless stream for 5 minutes while trying to concentrate on my breathing.
I kept noticing that I was forgetting to breathe correctly,
But I think it was successful!
My writing started off small and focused
And by the end if it,
It was flowy, large and maddening.
I started off each line with “I am afraid of” and then followed it with whatever.
So here’s what I’m afraid of:

Zombies, Angels [I dunno why this came up second, but I thought it was interesting. Maybe ‘cause I don’t really understand them or what their existence could mean], demonic possession, losing control, becoming attached to possessions again, opening up, not succeeding, not finding love, losing my inner voice, not doing this right, being passed by, not completing what I’m meant to, this not working, dying and finding out that there’s nothing after, not being able to inspire again, getting too close to people, never hearing from Jason again, never forming meaningful connections with people, never moving past fear, not being able to finish this or do it right [I had to change pages and this was the first on the next sheet of paper, which interrupted my flow of consciousness a bit], not being able to read this after, not finding a job, getting stuck again, repeating my past mistakes, letting Jason back in.

And that’s it.
I don’t think it really got all that deep
Or maybe I just don’t have all that many fears.
After doing this and reading it through,
I’m at peace with a lot of them because with the idea that time can heal everything,
Most, if not all, of my fears are entirely irrational.

All of this was written throughout the day as I was experiencing it,
Which I think is both helpful to me in the moment
And useful later.
I’ve got a bad habit of forgetting these important thoughts when it comes time to write here at night.
But I think I do feel this whole Unity thing right now.
It’s calming.
My problem is taking this feeling and applying it outside of this moment.
I’ve been thinking about this lately
And my brain seems pretty focused and in the moment when I’m with people.
My thoughts only drift off to ridiculousness when I’m on my own,
Especially when driving.
Getting it to shut the fuck up has always been my biggest problem.
And now,
After all this deep wisdom crap,
I’ve given myself a headache!

Obviously, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately,
And I feel that if I can learn to love the world that I’m currently experiencing,
This bland, drab, colorless world currently stuck in the grip of winter,
My most hated of seasons,
I find happiness anywhere.
The picture at the beginning of the most isn’t beautiful,
It’s of nothing noteworthy.
It’s not the Great Wall of China,
It’s not a wonderful leaf
Or a hilarious memory from my travels.
It’s simply a view of my street from a window going upstairs
Taken before another storm is supposed to hit.
The true beauty of this picture, though,
Comes from all the thoughts, feelings and emotions inside each one of those houses.
All the smiles,
The great animals,
The memories
And the colorful interiors within
Bely the dreary exterior appearances.

So if I can learn to love this world
Exactly as it is
And not constantly compare it to some blissful world as I think it should be,
I will find some sort of inner peace that I feel is missing.

Phew, I’m exhausted and my head is spinning.
Time to give it a rest for a bit!