Self Examination

Socrates is credited with saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  This may seem extreme, and there is another side to the coin; one can spend too much of his or her life examining him or herself and never get to be the person all of that examination was meant to facilitate.  Having mentioned the other side of the coin, let’s flip back over and talk about self examination.

Christ taught that, before becoming concerned with the speck in another’s eye, we should take out the plank in our own, that we may see clearly to help the other remove the speck.

Rumi puts forth a similar challenge,

“Blessed is one who sees his weakness,
and blessed is one who, when he sees a flaw in
someone else, takes responsibility for it.
Because, half of any person
is wrong and weak and off the path.”

Many of us have a tendency, sometimes, to focus on the faults of others that infringe on our constant, mindless self-indulgence.  We are not so quick to confront our own fears and weaknesses; if we could learn to be so rigorous in examining ourselves, I don’t doubt we’d be much more gentle and kind toward others we find stumbling as we know we have.

If we can learn that we’re all viewing each other through smudged, cracked, and discolored lenses, we can seek to remove our worn-out prescriptions, or at least to acknowledge that we may have a speck or two in our eye as well.

This isn’t what I meant to write about, beginning with Socrates’s quote.  I meant to encourage you to take account of your life: what you have experienced, who you have been taught by, what you have learned, where you intend to go, who you want to be.  My parents have told me, “You can’t just skate through life,” but the reality is, you can.  You can live each day, developing rhythms and going through motions and never really, truly think about where you want to go.  This is something that interested parties will exploit.

Just because you may not be asleep, plugged into a giant Matrix machine, doesn’t mean the current state of the world isn’t using your complacency and flow of cash to sustain itself and prevent progress.

To tie it all together, for whoever out there may be reading this, or maybe it’ll just be me, this is a journey to take together.  I will examine myself, and I’ll trust you to take your own account, but we’ll walk together.  You keep telling me your hopes and fears and I’ll tell you that you will succeed, and we’ll both cry the specks out of our eyes.

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Become The Night

The time has come-
You must leave the normalcy of your home.
Open the door and step into the night.
Feel the winter air dissolve your
skin as you surrender to the dark.
Let the sound of the breeze through the dead
leaves above draw you in.
Leave the frailty of your frame
and become the night.
Meld with the moon and see the tops of
clouds illuminated by your shining eyes.
Pass beyond the tops of distant mountains
and feel the Earth lie still underneath your hands.
Be the still silence that is forever,
the Silence that formed you in itself.

12.19.2014

Rumi: There’s Nothing Ahead

Lovers think they’re looking for each other,
but there’s only one search: wandering
this world is wandering that,
both inside one
transparent sky. In here there is
no dogma and no heresy.

The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said
or did about the future. Forget the future.
I’d worship someone who could do that.

On the way you may want to look back, or not.
But if you can say, There’s nothing ahead,
there will be nothing there.
Stretch your arms
and take hold of the cloth of your clothes
with both hands. The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don’t have both,
you don’t belong with us.
When one of us gets lost,
is not here, he must be inside us. There’s no
place like that anywhere in the world.

-Rumi

When Doing As You Please Doesn’t Please You Anymore

I don’t want to write this.

I suppose it would be more accurate to say, “I don’t feel like writing this,” because sometimes I want things in my life that I don’t feel like doing or achieving. So as I write, I am getting over the lethargy that would have held me paralyzed in the ridiculous limbo of not knowing what I want [to do] in the moment. It’s fairly frustrating to be in that place.

When all I can manage to do is what I feel like doing in the moment, there is a sense of freedom that, when the curtain peels back, is revealed to be a false. Listening to my laziness, irritation, and fear (among other feelings), I realize that these things don’t want what I want. So I’m going to end this post with this…

Laziness, I do not belong to you, and I have things I want to accomplish.
Irritation, I don’t want to hear it, because I have kindness to share.
Fear, you will not choke the life out of me – I will overcome you time and again.

A Bumblebee’s Final Moments

I watched a bumblebee struggle for some of its last moments today.

It seemed as if she (I checked the internet to verify the little creature’s sex for purposes of narration) had run out of the energy required for flying; she was still trying to make it across the driveway on foot.  I stepped inside for a moment, and when I returned, I saw a bird quickly fly away from where I had just seen the bee.  Checking to see if my new acquaintance had just been eaten, I found her lying on her back, legs and stinger frantically moving.  I could not tell if she was trying to defend or right herself, but I am fairly certain the struggle I was witnessing was to stay alive for whatever purpose was ingrained in her mind (or genes).

Death was imminent in this moment.  I questioned the struggle with reason; if the bee is dead in two minutes either way, why does it matter for her to defend herself?  Does she know she is going to die?  Is she in pain?  Conventional wisdom says that if an animal is mortally wounded and in pain, to “put it out of its misery.”

I felt that ending this bumblebee’s perceived physical life, however humane the method, would cheapen its experience of death – that my intervention was unwarranted, no matter the impending result of this moment. This moment was sacred, and I did not want to impose man’s self-entitled authority in applying his pseudo-knowledge toward improving creation and diluting the honesty of life.  The earth has had enough of that.

She’s dead now.  Whatever that means.  As is the inevitable end (so we’ve come to expect) for all of us, whatever life force existed in that body is gone – and the body will soon be gone.  Unless something supernatural happens, each one of us has to face the veil of life’s end.  We will struggle and feel pain in this life, and our last struggle will end in surrender.  I feel the conviction to confront this moment in an honest and authentic way, as it is our last experience before we finally pass into the unknown.

There is freedom in surrender, even in the presence of pain.
I do not know where she has gone, but that bumblebee put up a rowdy fight for life today.

صلى الله عليه لها

The Real Life

There is some really interesting information at fightthenewdrug.org that likens the viewing of pornography to drug use and its addictive repercussions. Porn is similar to many drugs in the stimulative effect of releasing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine that bring pleasure to the body and form “reward pathways.” This can lead to not only addiction, but the brain’s desensitization toward the natural flow of these pleasure-stimulating neurotransmitters in everyday experiences: feeling the wind on your face, kissing your spouse, the thrill of sports, etc. Basically, overexposure to sexual content dulls your experience of the rest of the world (in the neurologically formative teenage years, this effect can be especially potent, solidifying patterns of behavior that reinforce pleasure).

I typically try to keep my distance from unnecessary extremes, but I have been pondering the way other activities might affect our ability to enjoy our life experiences fully. Watching movies, for example, can be a sort of action porn, and social media can provide us with a sort of relationship porn; both giving us hyper-real images and expressions of life, whether gunfights between giant alien robots or filtered images of sunlight pouring in from behind a lot of attractive people wearing trendy clothes pretending to laugh so they look like they’re having such amazing fun doing whatever normal thing everyone else does (I may have some feelings attached to this).

Life is meant to be enjoyed for what it is, and too often, we live consumed in the mental fantasy world of images and video. There might be great value in cutting back on our consumption of social media, movies, video games, pornography, and maybe sports on television (how does physical activity become something that encourages us to sit on our asses to watch while we eat cheese puffs and buffalo wings?). Like Tyler says in Fight Club, “After you’ve been to fight club, watching football on television is watching pornography when you could be having great sex.”

lazy eye tea drinkin'
This is a mostly irrelevant picture of me drinking tea or something.

So here’s some ideas…

Stop watching porn and think about what you really want from sex in your life and the way you want your brain to function. Do the research too; I encourage that.
Limit your consumption of social media so you can live your own life and enjoy your own experiences. Not everything has to have an Instagram post to catalog it. Practice enjoying simple moments for what they are to you and the people you share them with. You’ll honestly probably have better things to share then.
Think about the effect that movies have on you and your perception of life, be they hyper-idealized romances or hyper-real giant robot battles with giant aliens (or whatever it is that giant robots are fighting these days).

Like one of my professors used to say, and probably still says, “Garbage in, garbage out,” (though out of context); we have to pay attention to the things we put in our bodies and minds if we want to be healthy and live in a fully operational and enjoyable way. We also need to stop gorging ourselves with so much imagery and information and make room for some much-needed rest in our bodies, minds, and souls.

So like they said in the 90s… Keep it real y’all.