This piece was inspired by a conversation with a friend. It seems like we are both looking for the same thing, and interested in some type of coping mechanism to help deal with the world. But we both tend to lean too heavily towards fantasy and reality (respectively) to make sense of the world. So, I think it’s always important to have people in your life who see the world differently because then it helps keep our world view less biased and more balanced.
Are you more of a dreamer or realist? Let me know below! Enjoy.
I’m looking for magic, but don’t know where to find it.
Magic? As in an illusion? If you’re looking for fantasy, then you can always create it. But choosing fantasy over reality is tragic; it’s like praising a picture of a sunset, rather than ever experiencing it yourself on a beach with crashing waves within earshot, or from a mountaintop with the brushing wind. Or even outside your own house underneath the tree. Fantasy is created from what we know, and what we know is limited. But what you’re asking for is something new, right? Does that make sense?
I wasn’t looking for logic in the first place, so I’m not sure why you’re explaining it to me with reason?
Ah this is true. Perhaps there was a lesson for me as well; you’ve taught me the importance of listening. In my eagerness of helping to ease this tension of yours, I didn’t realize that you already told me you didn’t need my help. But now it seems that it wouldn’t be what you’d want. Complacency has already become a part of your identity, and the answer to most questions is often, in one way or another: more discomfort. A discomfort caused by casting away what you already know.
Most great stories have something in common: a relatable main character. And with the main character, the more characteristics we see of ourselves in them, the more invested we become in their story. Their journey becomes our own. Throughout their story, we become inspired, depressed, trapped, liberated–everything they experience–as our own experience. In our own lives, we might gain strength to proceed forward from whatever is holding us back. This is one of the reasons why flawed protagonists tend to be more interesting: because they need to overcome obstacles like us in order to succeed. In this sense, a great protagonist becomes a supporting character in our own life that encourages us to keep going. A good protagonist becomes a great supporting character when we learn from them, because we are the main character in our own lives. Perhaps one of the goals then, is to live in such a way that we inspire others by realizing ourselves.
There is a saying: “How can you enjoy my tea when your cup is already full?”
It’s difficult getting to know someone if we avoid interacting with them because of an assumption or–alternatively–talk to them only to make them fit into our preconceived notions. Every once in a while, we might be absolutely right about someone. But more than often, I’ve been surprised at how wrong I’ve been about people; to the point of embarrassment. This is one of the reasons why I try to talk with as many people as possible (when appropriate). You don’t have to be as extreme as me though, it’s more important to remember that it’s easy to be wrong even about the people closest to us; imagine how often we can be wrong about people of an even greater degree of separation? Try and see how much you can prove yourself wrong, and start dialogue with others.
To taste all the teas and experience the flavors, but first we must empty our own cup of notions.
Today I found a tree that looked like a painting. Everything about it had a story, from the trail of ants navigating the chipped bark to the bees pollinating the flowers. Underneath the soil, there was plenty happening with micro-organisms. If we look at something long enough, we can begin to see how it is connected to everything. But the moment we start comparing the beauty of this tree to other more magnificent ones, we stop looking deeper and focus more on distinction rather than similarity. The same is true about ourselves when we begin comparing ourselves with the success and stories of others. As Theodore Roosevelt once famously said:
Honestly expressing yourself…it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool…or I can make all kind of phony things, you see what I mean, blinded by it or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…now that, my friend, is very hard to do. –Bruce Lee
Is it exhausting to express ourselves? It is for me when I try to censor myself.
There are many steps between feeling an emotion and how we express it.
Taking an emotion that changes so constantly and trying to snapshot it with words, colors and/or music is already difficult enough.
Further processing how we feel into a socially acceptable package, and diluting the language to avoid offending others is tiring; and a disrespect to ourselves.
Say what you want and deal with the consequences. The truth will either strengthen meaningful relationships, or weaken superficial ones.
We are not living if we are not polarizing, embarrassing, exciting–anything. Don’t be a living corpse because you stopped expressing honestly.
Adventure is all around us, but the courage to go out on them is not.
New adventures means willing to look like a fool and having people make fun of us, because we’re doing things for the first time and voluntarily introducing stress into our lives. Who would want any of that?
Yet, adventure is the very thing we crave when we become accustomed to the monotonous repetition of our daily lives. On the other hand, those of us who live a life of frequent stimulation and movement fantasize about having a simple, predictable life that can be more easily managed and anticipated; because eventually, we become tired of searching for that next new thing, relationship or place.
The world is only as vast as our mind can envision. If we are prisoners of the past and future, we will seldom be allowed to exist in the present. We will always search to recreate nostalgia, or we will continue to move our anxieties into a future where we imagine a “better tomorrow.”
The real courage is to be here and now, to not compare ourselves to others; that way, we can achieve a level of freedom that others only dream about. To achieve that freedom, we must be willing to be misunderstood by the people we love who are prisoners to the opinions of others.
Their limitations are their own, we can only inspire others by achieving our own freedom.
-Getting an adrenaline shot administered by a trained healthcare professional
-Checking your voicemail
-Sharing a vlog, writing or art online
-Sharing deep feelings with a partner or friend
-Attempting to befriend someone new
-Driving home in traffic with the “low gas” light on
-Having a conversation with your parents or loved ones, explaining that even though you love them, they or their guilt no longer have power over you because there is no net positive that comes from controlling people with guilt. And also that what they feel about you is more a projection of themselves onto you, versus your own true worth because you are still uncovering and building your own life.
One of the earliest and most important things I’ve learned (and often forget) from martial arts is that even if we block the first attack, we’ll still get hit if we don’t move out of the way. This principle is true when dealing with the excessive negativity of others; maybe we’ll be able to counter a few negative comments with some positive ones, but if we don’t make it a point to move on from either the conversation or person, the unrelenting attacks will start to damage us.
The only way someone can make us stand there and take an emotional beating is if we are convinced by guilt to deserve it. No one is truly qualified to be the judge of another person, and are fully responsible for only ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Redeem yourself if you fucked up, but don’t just submit. Get moving.
Hello friends, and thanks for joining me today. This week, I wanted to do a breakdown on an excerpt from Swami Vivekananda. Alan Watts would often reference The Upanishads and Vivekananda when talking about the non-dualism of the universe and aspects of Eastern philosophy that the texts influenced (i.e. Buddhism, Jainism, etc). I won’t be going into Vivekananda’s biography or significance much here, but I wanted to break down an excerpt from one of his teachings that has helped me to understand myself better. I hope you find the following helpful as well:
“But the last and greatest counsel is that you need not weep at all. You need not go through all these ceremonies, and need not take any notice of how to regain your empire, because you never lost it. Why should you go seek for what you never lost? You are pure already, you are free already. If you think you are free, free you are this moment, and if you think you are bound, bound you will be.” –Vivekananda
Caterpillars & Butterflies
There are many people today who miss and grieve their younger days being gone. But according to Vivekananda, the best advice is that we shouldn’t be sad over losing ourselves, especially if we’ve never lost it. For some of us, “younger us” felt like a different person who was happier and more full-of-life, compared to the “older us” who feel isolated and damaged by traumatic life experiences. We are miserable over losing this energetic and better part of ourselves, but the thing we fail to see is that we are still one and the same person. We haven’t lost ourselves, because we are still here!
For example, when we look at a butterfly we often don’t imagine the caterpillar from where the butterfly came; it is still the same organism at a different point in its experience. You could say that the butterfly was always in the caterpillar, and/or that the caterpillar is always within the butterfly because we could not have one without the other. Similarly, parts of our life experiences makes up one entire life. There is no need to be saddened over the person we once used to be, for that same person is still within us– there is no need for sadness.
Sometimes, we’ll do creative and silly things to regain that person (or nostalgic experience) back, and call them “rituals.” Many of us have a morning or evening “ritual” that we feel will give us some control over the day, not realizing that our perspective is truly the control over everything. When we look back at ancient cultures, we laugh at their primitive traditions because now we can see the futility of what they were doing. Every Ancient culture had something strange, and we look at them as crazy because they were attempting to influence uncontrollable things like the weather and cosmos with rituals. This is what the Ancient Aztecs did, when they sacrificed living people for a bountiful harvest. This is what the Ancient Polynesians did, when they would cannibalize their enemies to gain their power. But even though we’ve come a long way from using physical barbarism to influence the unknown, it is the same fear of the unknown that drives us to be attached to form and routine today–now in an effort to control our brains. Today, we commit the worst mental barbarism with psychoanalysis, medication and expensive self-care and gurus. Perhaps future generations will look at what we are doing today with the same disbelief as we do of our ancestors today.
The Empire Of You
Many traditional philosophers would reference “empires” in their work because many of them would work as royal advisers to Kings and Queens. Sometimes, the rulers would be philosophers themselves, people like Marcus Aurelius or Emperor Asoka. These scholars were learning how to govern themselves so that, by extension, they could rule their empire just as effectively. While we do not have rulers and empires today, if we look at the word “empire” as our own personal life, we can begin to build, improve and manage different aspects of ourselves to engineer a better life. How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world.
Is life truly so painful, that many of us seek to be sedated with things like food, music, poetry, alcohol and drugs? What about life makes it so painful, that escaping it seems like bliss? I wish I knew. Yet we pursue our poisons in excess until they kill us: our love of food becomes heart disease and diabetes, our love of alcohol becomes failed organs and relationships, our love of drugs dulls our awareness and make terrible things seem okay. And what about poetry and books, where we live the memories of the authors instead of creating our own? We need higher and higher doses for the same escape each time.
Is reality really too much information to take in? So overstimulating, that we need to dull our senses to enjoy the beauty of it in small pieces? Perhaps there is no escape from making the choice of which poison we choose to escape the normal discomfort of reality. It’s much easier to create our own world which makes us ignorant of everything around us.
Just like how when we look at a rose, we ignore everything around it in order to focus on the Christmas of its red petals and green leaves, the thorns and its fragrance. It seems like the flower itself has a universe of its own that becomes more apparent when we ignore our own. Maybe we are looking for our own roses.