The Tao of Choice

I’m about a month out from a breakup. It didn’t end well. I’m also a good month out from failing a national martial arts exam. The results of the exam were subjective at best, but it still stings. My expectations, hopes, or ideals for both circumstances were shut down and it sucks. I handled it well at first, but I was simply in a kind of denial.

I’ve had horrible gut-wrenching spells of missing that person. I kept thinking, as the brain does, about all the positive things that we experienced leaving little room for the “reasons” behind us splitting up. I’ve been battling loneliness like never before. Compounded with this failed-test experience, I’m just asking to be buried under layers of sand.

I’ve been suspended in lethargy. It’s not quite depression. It’s not quite anxiety. It’s numbness. It’s indifference mixed a shot of self-deprecating ambivalence. In this state you feel more like you’re just existing and not living. Everything feels incidental and without purpose. You’re plagued with onset short-sightedness, reduced to only meet your base creature needs.

And I know, I’m grateful. I get it. I live in one of the most leveraged societies in the world. I can sit in this coffee shop and sip and type without the fear of bombs. From a practical perspective, I am privileged to have grown up int he Western world. I’m aware of this. Does knowing this aid to lessen the impact of my recent circumstance? Not really. Pain is pain regardless of context.

Sometimes we choose the pain, and sometimes the pain chooses us. If you distill this idea, then you’ve reduced it to choice. How appropriate an idea for autonomous free-willed humans? Stay with me.   

If happiness is a choice, then so is misery and vice-versa. Plain and simple. Yes, start to internalize that notion. Scrutinize it. Turn it on its own head. Any way you look at it, approaching it with a kind of with practical dualism (the unity of opposites) is likely the best way to understand it — and is therefore the quickest path to find resolve on the matter.

Drop a stone into a still pond. We see the ripples, but are often ignorant as to why we see them. It is the space between the ripples: the troughs, the rifts, the indented voids that makes the miniature waves possible. This is Yin and Yang in its true essence and application. But don’t be mistaken, these dark and light forces aren’t perpetually opposed to one another; there interrelated, interdependent, and complimentary.

If both of these circumstances had hands, then I’ve allowed them to press my head below water. Without knowing it, I’ve allowed them to control me. They are Yang, advancing and pushing. All I need to do is decide to be Yin, to accept, yield, and redirect their force. My head will get above water. I will breathe in life again.

Nov 1st: The Growth Loop

Suffering or love reveal the PROBLEM.

The problem requires SOLVING.

Solving requires ASKING.

Asking requires COURAGE.

Courage requires BELIEF.

Belief requires TRUST.

Trust requires TRUTH.

Truth reveals the SUFFERING or LOVE needed to heal and restore.

REPEAT. AND GROW.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Little Something-Something on TRUST

For the first time, in some time (if ever, really) I’ve come to loosely experience what trust looks like — looks and feels like. 

It feels like a true connection. Perhaps that’s what’s intended biologically in order to sustain relationships and, in turn, secure the survival of a species. Perhaps. And by true, I mean something unquestioned, clear, and done with absolute intent. It’s a kind of contract I suppose. In the business world you’ll hear things like “this relationship is purely transactional” versus that of “personal” relationship. Something transactional gives way to dry, unemotional compromise whereas something personal gives way to unhinged collaboration.

We certainly build value around trust. Maybe because we know what it is to have trust compromised. It’s a classic case of not knowing the real value of something until it’s gone; this is a widespread sentiment that’s often, and unfortunately, taken for granted. Our propensity to establish trust, to give and maintain value to someone or something is clearly innate. We’re wired to construct value that’s held together by trust.

Think of someone, maybe yourself, who is scared to death of intimacy. Not just sexual intimacy, although that could be the case as well. I mean real, raw emotional closeness only made possible by transparency and trust. If you find that you or another person resists (key word) then that is a clear sign of abused trust.

To not trust is to resist; to resist is to prevent growth and understanding.

Poetry: Bedtime Lament

A night with no sleep all

retch, no vomit no

slip to surreal no

plummet to the base that began with a

dive from atop the waterfall; no

rope-slung descent to the

peaceful black abyss whose

depth is dignified by never being 

questioned. No

immersion no welcomed

drowning grip on the collar 

bone as fingernails scrape 

deep for purchase. Pull

close my curtain, I am ready. 

Bestow slumber’s crown; let me 

rule well till morning’s

abdication.

Poetry: I Should Probably Pray More

Jesus leaves voice mails.

It’s never rushed; it’s a calm and assertive baritone

that runs exactly one minute long every morning.

He must know that I’m a morning person.

 

Jesus leaves voice mails.

I usually check them in private

and will often pretend to be talking to another person when listening;

but I still hear every word over my own voice,

the complete thoughts and perfect word selection.

 

I swear I see him reclining in an oil painting

hand pressed to his ear looking mildly perturbed

that I haven’t picked up again.

 

And when he’s finished his message he turns to an apostle,

shrugs his shoulders, then signals the waiter for more bread.

Notes to My Daughter: “The Value of Friendship”

C.S. Lewis beautifully characterizes the beginning of friendship in this phrase: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” You see? You genuinely connect with another once you’ve discovered that parts, the not the whole of their story, is similar to yours. In fact I’m convinced that if we dig deep enough with most people, who are willing to share and open up, you may find that you have more in common than presumed with a first impression. The idea to connect with someone by way of a shared experience. Why does this work? The key word here is “connect”. Humans, even at a cellular level, are built for connection. Our unconscious desire is to be in concert with others; to be in a tribe. Know this: We all want to be loved and understood and this is best done in the context of friendship. The Greek’s concept for friendship is known as Philia. “Admiration” falls under that definition as well, which is important to note as it leads me to explain how we can create enemies.

From time to time, you’ve likely heard me use this playful expression “There’s a sweet and sour side to everything.” For example if you find yourself becoming jealous of someone, even slightly, this could be the “sour” affect of your initial thoughts. The inverse of this, the “sweet” aspect of this sensation, is admiration. If you find you’re jealous of someone, there’s a good likelihood that you have something in common with that person. This person could be a friend. If you proceed to allow jealousy or envy permeate your perception of this person, then you’ll begin to create a kind of enemy or antagonist. You’ll forever create them to be a thing that has something you want. In the process you lose yourself, leaving yourself susceptible to worry, anxiety, and possibly depression. Consider this notion that what we desire most is always just out of reach. So then, close the distance. Turn those sour feelings into sweet feelings. Approach this person with an open mind and learn about their story. Come along side them in relational equity. If they reciprocate your admirations, then you may just have a friend. If they don’t, then be quick to accept that your stories don’t entirely harmonize and that’s okay. Every need is not a call.

There’s a friend for everybody. I believe that there’s a match for each of us. I suggest that you keep a small, manageable group of close friends. There are things you can share with them that you may never share with your family and this is a good thing. Look for friends who have a “growth mindset”, whose essential virtues are rooted in honesty and truth. These will be friends for life.

Something to keep in mind:

*To make a friend, be a friend.

Notes to My Daughter: “What Fear Really Means”

Dear Z,

You’ll find that people’s behavior is often (if not always) an extension of what they fear most. What they most love and what they’re most afraid of stems from their fears.

Whatever you fear is your master. You will be subject to the whims of your fear if you don’t learn how to master it. It will otherwise remain in mastery of what you think, say, and do. You will never quite feel like yourself as long as something or someone else dictates these things. For some people, addiction is their master. That becomes the center of their life and thus informs them on a daily basis. What informs you forms you, so always be (even daily) conscious of what and where your center is. There are things in this world (and perhaps another world) that seek to take your center. If you have a sturdy center, then you have balance, a quiet confidence, and a mind like a mirror (I’ll expand on that notion later); the things (mostly people) that need a center will seek to take yours before realizing that they have one of their own. 

Fear can stifle and fear can inspire. It can be the heavy hand that keeps your head below water. It’s that powerful. You should think better to respect it. Think of it as a wave. A wave sets up and then it crashes. Our egos stand in front the wave and challenge it, to see if it can actually knock us down. This is folly. Even if you withstand the wave’s crash, what have you actually proved? For a fleeting moment you might feel empowered, but again, this will pass and you would’ve missed the whole point. How many more hits can you take before you become like one of the grains of sand you stand on? They were once rocks, much larger than you, and have been reduced and stifled to a part of a part of a particle. Respect the wave in its wild nature and spirit. Master the wave by becoming it. Ride it. It’s power becomes your power, your inspiration, that’s never ending.

Let love be what informs you. Receive it, so you can give it and vice-versa. The world is in desperate need of more and more love. It’s an endless commodity. You’ll never run out. It will allow you to face the most daunting waves that may even block out the sun. Have courage to stand beneath it, run towards it, match it’s flow, and ride it till it resolves.

Goodness is Growth

The service of the self has no real meaning without the service to others. It’s not so unlike why we understand what a crooked line looks like; because we have a standard of what a straight line looks like. To know one, we must know the other. To serve ourselves is ‘good’, but it is only ‘good’ when it is a response to serving others. Let’s break it down.

Real Meaning: Meaning that is depicted of a deeper, unalterable truth.

Good: I equate goodness to growth. The things you give your time and energy to either make you more, keep you the same, or make you less. Goodness is an agent for growth.

To give goodness, you must also receive it and so on; it’s the iron that perpetually sharpens iron. Goodness is an endless commodity. Goodness is ultimately informed by love and love is what makes up the very fabric of life and existence. To participate in the giving and receiving process awakens the inner life, the life of the spirit. 

When we’re roused from our sleep, we don’t first open our eyes. There’s a preproduction of shuffling or moving a bit in our beds. We’re certainly conscious, but at times we’re slow to fully accept the transition from a passive to active state. The daily practice of enacted goodness activates the spirit, awakens it from its state of indifference or passivity. It’s awoken when you serve yourself, i.e. when you’re kind to yourself and healthily steward over the things your body and mind needs. I suggest that it’s fully alive when it comes into contact with other spirits that aim to promote goodness, and therefore promote growth.

Partisan, non-partisan, theist or atheist — I think most can agree that life in general drives us up and out of the nursery and into growth. If we’re not growing, then what are we doing?

If I’ve decided I’ve learned enough, then I’ve decided that my daughter has learned enough. Thinking you heard and know it all is a referendum on you and your decisions may very well stifle those around you.

Goodness comes in the smallest gesture. Goodness comes in grand gesture. Allow it to come through some way; it’s all accounted for.