Slow the f*ck down

Life sure is fast. 

I started writing this in January. I think it had something to do with cars speeding to places. Why? Because we’re always going. I’ve wrote a lot about time management, staying busy, etc. But what is the answer?

We work too much, to make just enough money to buy what we don’t need, and pay off the debts that we built up spending more than we had yesterday. We plan for more tomorrow, but don’t expect it to be enough because we’re not satisfied with what we have today, hoping that we’ll be satisfied with what we have tomorrow if only we can work hard enough today to make more than we did yesterday.

It’s f*#!ing exhausting. And we are exhausted. Collectively, we are done. You can tell when you look at us. We escape, rather than inhabit. We tune in, turn off – rather than unplug and be. But it’s coming. The change is coming, when we understand it’s not enough just to keep going – but rather that we must find ways of existing that aren’t so damn fast.

The Amy apologist

Last year I was in a production of Little Women, the musical with book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland, adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Admittedly, Alcott is an author I’ve never read (with Senior year English Lit possibly being an exception – I don’t recall), though her contemporaries and acquaintances I’m quite fond of – Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow. In the show I was Professor Bhaer.

There is a scene in the show where, after feeling left out by her sisters, Amy burns a story that Jo has been working on. Most people feel revulsion at the act, and Amy’s excuse that Jo has everything and she has nothing comes across as spoiled and bratty.

From my view, though, Amy is nearly a middle child, and shows very little talent of her own. The youngest (who later dies from illness) is loved by all and a budding pianist. Jo writes, and Meg is a proclaimed beauty. Amy therefor feels out-of-place in her own family and thus acts out. It isn’t right for her to do so, but it can be understood.

So, I was labelled an Amy apologist and have been trying to defend my stance for nearly a year. Then I saw a production of Little Women: The Musical just last month, and I thought Amy was a complete brat.

Pure Imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

-Einstein

Intelligence is the ability to see things as they are. Imagination allows you to see things as they could be. Is it necessary to see things as they could be?

When the bird sees the twig, does it consider the look of its nest? Or, does it just know? Perhaps that is for the ornithologist.

A better question for me would be, is there a purpose inherent in imagining? And, are some more predisposed to it than others?

Recently I was speaking with someone about their daughter dating an engineer. He wasn’t much for the sense of humor, which the daughter valued highly. The engineer is a practical, oftentimes formulaic person. His no-nonsense approach to life and love could be considered a hindrance in the dating realm.

However, his imagination could rival even the greatest artists. Engineers exceed their limits by knowing precisely what those limits are. Consider the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the skyscrapers of Balcom or Squire, or even the aqueducts of Rome. To see the lay of something so unique as to have never been invented before is the realm of imagination.

As Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka sang:
“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it.”

I wish the real world would just stop bothering me

Getting out into the world is a lot different now then it used to be. I think.

I didn’t really get out into the world much, until I reached adulthood. Sure, my family took me on vacation. I ran screaming from a log cabin (with no bathroom – it was housed in a communal facility down in a common area); went on cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico (and when I was a teenager, drank way too much); saw Niagara Falls (Canada side); and went fishing, clamming and crabbing in Long Island. I did some great family and travel stuff, but it didn’t prepare me for… well, adulthood.

There it is again. Adulting. Something that I think about now, in mid-thirties, much more than I did in my twenties. Life was going along swimmingly, at least until the year I turned 27.

That was the year of two car crashes, one causing anxiety attics that prevented me from driving for a time, and one taking a loved one and leaving me emotionally traumatized for many years. Six months after the second collision, a mysterious illness came on, and over four months I gradually lost mobility at an alarming rate.

January, the following year, it was diagnosed as RA. I drove my ex-girlfriend (very recently broken up) to Boston to live with family, and I returned to be laid off from my job.

I’d call that a low point in my life.

Picking myself up by the bootstraps (or, writing a couple of essays and going heavily into student loan debt), I enrolled in a Master’s program. The Doc put me on all kinds of meds, with some odd side-effects. (Drinking while on the medication resulted in extreme cases of aggression, where I thought it would be good to fight bars full of people. I also had liver enzyme issues, and was often pulled off and placed on new prescriptions.)

I’ve since forgotten what it was to feel in sound body, but at least I’ve not taken medications for over a year and still feel alright enough to move around. I travel now, not just the week-long vacations but month or more-long immersion. I love camping. And that moving around is bringing me to the question of what I should say no to.

Finding this bit of text in Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors led to this post, and I think I’ll be adapting it for my use:

“…the more clear I am about what my goals are, the more easily I can say no. I have a notebook into which I’ve recorded all sorts of goals, both big and small, over the last ten or so years. When I take the time to articulate what it is that I hope to achieve, it’s simple to refer to the list and see whether saying yes to an opportunity will take me toward or away from achieving that goal.”

-Samin Nosrat

Said another way, “Will this get me closer to my mountain?”

Back to nature

When did we develop such hubris as to tame Nature? To say that we knew best for our wild Mother?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the conveniences of modernity. But knowing that all of these are mere constructs of our claim of superiority over Nature, I feel that we are in for a cruel surprise when the forces we think we know show us their full potential.

We humans are still so new. So inexperienced. And yet we walk around so certain of ourselves. With all we know, are we any more fulfilled than the wolf, or the boar, or the elk?

The thing is, it’s not enough to know facts – if for these facts we sacrifice our animalistic aspects. We are smart. We are clever. But we are not the Ultimate Power. If we were, we wouldn’t stay locked inside what we view as a protective place (home, office, car, etc.), ensuring only what we let in could pass the threshold.

No Ultimate Power has ever feared an intruder. Only those with delusions of power. And being delusional is seemingly a very human device. For the wolf knows it is a wolf. The boar, that it is a boar. And the elk, an elk.

To tap into one’s humanity is to release the ego – this inflated sense of self that man has come to identify with. I’ve heard time and again that facing one’s own mortality is what teaches us to be alive. What it means to be.

Until we let down these walls of sense, and reconnect with the wild, natural world, all we can be are pretenders.

Enough

I think I’ve been fed up over the past couple of weeks. Busy, yes. But I come to the blog to put my thoughts out there. Unload them, give them away. Hopefully to help me deal with issues that I’ve been wrestling with over the past two or so years.

The past couple of weeks have seemed to be tough, though. Politics, gun violence, sexual predation revelations in Hollywood, government, and in a vast number of other places. And with that much negative juju, I’ve had to turn inward. Just for a bit, to recharge my batteries.

Some of that time has been spent in goal-planning. Some in quiet meditation, walking outside, forest bathing and basking in the sun. I’ve not read much over these last weeks, but I’ve re-explored my musical interests.

I think sometimes the spirit needs to be refreshed, and how it’s done can be different for everyone. There have been times when stress has overcome me. Not many. I usually walk through life relatively easy-going and stress free. But I recall an instance when I was coming home after a particularly long day at work, then an hour and a half in traffic. Upon walking in to my already messy house, I discovered that the dog had significantly contributed to the mess by the way doggies do. And I lost it.

I’ve since left that job, cut my commute, and moved out of that house. Some problems need not be exacerbated by continuing in their cycle.

Some problems, however, cannot be avoided. And thus a period of recharge is necessary.

Purpose, it’s that little flame…

We’re here to learn, and these lessons are predetermined. It’s up to us to work through the past karmic debt we carry. We are all connected, aspects of an eternal force, the Godhead, Universe, or Source. We carry with us the possibility for understanding and love.

The meaning of life is to experience. It’s the only rational purpose I can assign to the mystery of it all. Why we suffer, why we grieve, why we continue to love and give of ourselves. It’s a spiritual existence having a temporary physical one.

In that interconnectedness, we must understand that what we do to others is manifest in what will happen to us. Karma. The golden rule. These are the elements of all faiths that show us that behaving well, caring for each other, is a righteous path.

The belief that power over others will somehow fulfill us causes us to seek out status. Financial gains, palatial estates, the ability to hire and fire as we see fit. An ego-driven force that tarnishes our spiritual efforts. 

We are born with a pervasive want, or need, driving us towards some goal. As children, I believe, we have a better grasp of who we are and our place in the Universe. It’s as we age, and become educated, that the neuroses begin to develop. What if we’re not good enough? What if we don’t succeed?

Yet, if happiness can be found in a job well done, and a life well lived, than the other trappings and accoutrement are superfluous.