The MLK Memorial and Me

In February, I went to a conference in D.C. My wife came down to join me since I hadn’t been there before (update: wait, I have been there before, once as a young ‘un long ago, and another time for a brief few hours for a meeting. Forgive me, I have a really bad memory!), and we wanted to take the opportunity to explore. We don’t get out much, and I’ve barely seen much of my East Coast environs, barring last year’s visit to Philly. At the top of our list of things to see was the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. It was the newest memorial, and also slightly controversial.

As we approached the memorial, we read quotations from MLK’s speeches that are engraved along a wall that leads up to his statue. We then walked around the central monument, which depicts Martin Luther King with his arms crossed, embedded in a chunk of granite mountain that appears to have slid forward from its face (“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope”). His hands are sinewy and strong, veins bulging, and his eyes gaze stoically across the water. There is a sense of calm and might, but also a sense of tragedy. The somewhat unfinished look of the overall work contributes to this sense.

We took our obligatory picture of his statue, and then my wife asked if I could take her picture in front of one of the quotations we had passed earlier along the wall. “It reminds me of you,” she said, somewhat shyly. We walked back over and I took her picture in front of the quotation, which read

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their heads.”

I asked her why it made her think of me. She seemed to feel that the reason why I am a teacher and work hard every day aligned with that quotation. I couldn’t quite see myself in it, however, and told her so. I realized I seemed brusque, but I couldn’t think of a reason at that moment to explain why. This post is my explanation.

A little further down the wall, I saw another quotation that did speak to me and about what I am passionately committed to in my work everyday:

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalty must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

I took a picture of this one as well. We then walked away from the MLK memorial towards the Roosevelt memorial, which is a long, meandering wall and pathway of red stone with many niches and spaces for reflection along the way. Quotations from F.D.R. are sprinkled next to reflective pools, waterfalls, and scattered stones. But it was a quote from his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, in a little niche that reached out to me. In fact, it linked together in theme with the earlier quotation from MLK that had spoken to me:

“The structure of world peace can not be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation . . . It must be a peace that rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”

This theme of common purpose, of a struggle for a global, overarching vision through cooperative effort, is what drives me and motivates me to do the work that I do. I was flattered by my wife’s belief that I do what I do because of a passion for human rights, but when I read the quotation she linked to me, there was a cognitive dissonance I didn’t feel comfortable with. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but it seems to have to do with a sense of martyrdom (“I have the audacity to believe. . .”), a stance of personal virtue, nobility, and challenge, that I can’t quite identify with.

An almost messianic passion, in fact, is a trait of many that enter into teaching as a profession. It is common for teachers to speak of teaching as a sort of “calling,” as if they have been drawn into the vocation by some higher purpose. I am frequently talked to by others who are not teachers as if I have entered into a sainthood, and given the respect and sympathy attributed to a monk — that is, with an incredulous, I-would-never-do-that-myself-but-god-bless-you kind of attitude.

This has always rubbed me the wrong way. Teaching is a profession. It is a job. And yes, it is a tough one, and it is especially tough when teaching special education in a high needs school in an impoverished inner city area. But I went into this tough career not simply because I wanted to make my world a better place, but because I wanted — purely selfishly — to develop myself as a leader, to learn firsthand the ground level effects of policy decisions, and become a part of something much greater than myself. I have no illusions that I am changing the world simply because I may impact a few childrens’ lives in the confines of one classroom. This is important work and the impact on one child’s life cannot be diminished. But I believe strongly that the system within which I work impacts our nation’s future greatly, and that I can learn how to work together with others to change the world by altering components of the system we work and live within. Teachers, parents, children, policymakers, state legislatures, mayors, citizens, these are the people that collectively will change the world. We must learn to look beyond our individual selves and work towards a common, global purpose.

This is why the second quotation from MLK and Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotation spoke to me. I’d like to think that I as an individual can effect great change, but realistically speaking, I know that whatever impact I can have on my own is nothing in comparison to what we can achieve when we work together.

I Will Defer to Women

I, like probably a healthy contingent of folks out there, am self-centered, and thus largely perceive the world through a deluded lens of self-importance. Every now and then, however, I gain a sliver of insight beyond the immediate realm of the distance between my cheek and my nose.

I like to magnify the spare, menial bits of glory that I may happen to stumble into now and again and celebrate the small triumphs of character or will. But the reality is that on the whole, I am deeply flawed, as I believe most people really are, when their externally syndicated mantle is peeled away.

There’s one simple way for me to maintain my humility: to re-focus my attention on the fact that for every extra effort that I extend, there is a woman doing the same thing — while simultaneously raising a child (or children). And because she is thus additionally employed, chances are that I will receive some kind of external recognition or compensation for my effort, while she may not.

Which reminds me of a quote from Barbara Kingsolver in The Poisonwood Bible about how women “carry on.”

Given the choice between my ego and sense of self-importance or a reality check grounded in history, I will defer to women.

Equivocation

There is what is within. And then there is all that is without. However, in essence, the without is but a collection of other withins. So if I stepped out of myself, I would observe that what is within other people is proportionate to that which is within myself. Without–in all of this collection of withins–is an extroverted form of myself. Or an introverted form of the cosmos.

But to directly and immediately equate the two together would be a fallacy, because while at some ultimate level everything within and without harmonizes like a yolk harmonizes within an egg, they are not one and the same at any given moment in time. It is only when seen from a steadfast, timeless, eternal viewpoint that they pan out into one. If you flash framed the Now right now, then you would notice more the contrasts, the differences, the distinctiveness of all people from one another from different peoples in different times. The yolk would seem to be distinguished from the egg just as when you cut in half a hardboiled egg. You could pop it out as if it were a separate piece altogether.

As if the children were distinct from the adults, who are distinct from the old. As if the college students were distinct from the young professionals, as if distinct from high school students. As if the sun were distinct from the moon, and this solar system distinct from the milky way.

As if my thoughts and my feelings were distinct from your fingers. As if your eyes were distinct from the concrete, from the summer air, as if the currents carrying a Florida thunderstorm were distinct from the waves cutting at the Taiwanese shore. As if this breath, this moment, this pinnacle of your rushing heart was distinct from the world.

The Hollow Reed Goes to Court

I have defined myself by loneliness, a barrenness of expectancy. Any light that passes through me is not my own, I am a hollowness that is sounded by the passing breath of what the universe elects to bestow, just as it so readily and inevitably draws away, to leave me again enshrouded in silence, in the magnitude of a void that lies at the root of every being. For this solitude is not my own;  it is the very concavity of the universe, against whose form I am embedded within, a child pregnant with nothingness, like the deadened sacs of jellyfish that wash to shore, glancing in the moonlight like glass blown bubbles, a horrifically beautiful detachment of alien life forms deadened of meaning. The eye that views us wholly is not our own. It is in the distance of aqueous rock, beholden to a history that extends far beyond the parasitic need of life.

As I unravel from out of my comfortable discipline, from out of the mountainous wilderness of my solitude and into a daily existence that necessitates immediacy, haphazard intimacy, and action, I find myself flailing, looking to strike out again for the deep water, where life slows until it is still.

But I have made a choice. I have turned my back to the night and descended into the electrified city of the people, where we choose to listen to the music of our own crafting. My deepest self, rooted in empty blankness, must belatedly put on the masks of human aspiration and join in the ritual dances of the season. To become a proselytizer of the human future, laboring for fecundity. To have hope, to believe in a collective expansion of spirit, that what we take will be less than what we make.

The individual light within me has been lessened, intentionally, to make way for the lights of other people who will come with me. The one light that we shine can only be stronger, the one song that we sing can only be that much more steady, defined through the legislated breath of each other, not simply by the passing happenstance gift of the beyond.

Is and Should Be

Life is and should be hard. To compete for the sun, establish one’s space in which to grow, to harmonize with what already exists, and develop continuously for deeper rootedness is a struggle. To be able to propogate only love, without bitterness, without anger—this is the pinnacle of existence. How many people do you know, whether rich or poor, who can smile at any stranger and fill their momentary solitary space with light? It is rare indeed to be able to penetrate the inner sanctums of alien awareness. You think you got something? Whatever it is that you hold is a barrier to divinity. Your own mind. Your own body. Your own desire to be something greater than this situation in which you find yourself, to be someone better than the people you are surrounded with. This moment, this day, this everyday mundanity. You are of this. You are this, with no delineation, no distinction. This, you, bounded, distorted, disarrayed.

And then just when you despair: the light. The tomorrow making of vision. A higher-ness of determination. Your potential succor staggers your stasis into omega futurity. You are of what you are, bounded only by what you aren’t, which is ultimately or predeterminately of what you are.

Simply put, the light, the love, the making of our interrelated creation: this is exactly and precisely the manner and whey in which it should be. A separation of layers, a diminishing and ascending relation of solidity. As I shed my past, shed my reluctance to be more or less than my own imagining, I find out who I am meant to be. This parcel of exact and apportioned reckoning. This complex version of what is and always will be simple in a single vision.

Dirty Hands, Clean Mind

You’ve formulated these full, glossy lit pictures of perfection in your mind. You’ve established how you believe the world should be. You’ve determined how you want those you love to be. And now you find yourself putting up walls between yourself and reality, constantly on retreat, the ebbing colors of your idealism flowing into the eroding moat outside your acceptance. You hold on tight to your imagined versions of who you love, as they slip away invisibly from between your bestowed masks and costumes like a greased pig. You clutch at ghosts, you cherish empty husks, you bed with demons. You dig yourself in deeper, unaware of how alone you have become, how lonely, how lost, how stranded.

Those who love you become your enemies. They talk about you behind your back, unable to confront you with a reality that you can’t accept. There is no possibility of change, no potential for a different outcome, until you’ve come to the end of your own rope. Until you are ready to reach out from behind the walls of your idealism and step back into the world that exists beyond your limited desires. Until you drop your selfish ego and accept your diminutive status within the world. Until you drop the burden that you have created and free yourself to become involved.

To become involved in the nurturing and growing of living things, you must get dirty. You have to struggle, get down onto the ground on your hands and knees, work at the earth, sweat into your clothes. There is no easy way to create beauty that will survive apart from you.

There is nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, with being an idealist, with wanting the world to change, with being angry and bitter with the way things are. But if this idealism is preventing you from becoming effectively involved in your own life, then it is just as dangerous as greed, just as dark as blood shed by warfare. In order to act, a thousand other potentialities must be destroyed. The question is: is this action the right action? Is this involvement the right involvement? These are the things that frighten you. These are the things that hold you back. While your plants are withering. While reality grows ever more desperate, more detached, more inclined towards despair. The real question is not right or wrong; the real questions are: how selflessly can you act? How fully involved can you be?

If you can give yourself completely, then there are no questions.

Dirty your hands in the challenge of your world. It is best, of course, to think and choose the best course of action. But how many times have the options only become apparent after you have already committed yourself? In the streamline of successive moments, the right way will become manifest. You must believe this. You must have faith in what is beyond yourself of which you are but a part. You can’t out-think the physical manifestations of the universe. You can’t formulate a perfect philosophy to encompass each and every moment. You can only open yourself to learning, like a child. In response to reality, you will know what is the right way to act.

Open yourself to the suffering transparency of the light. Break down your walls to the invading hordes of the world.

It is only your mind that misleads you.

Organize Your Self

I grew up with my momma cleaning up most of my scattered detritus after me. I’ve never been a terribly messy person, but I certainly wasn’t clean either. I considered myself organized because I would make piles in terms of accessibility: the most recent thing that I had just used would be on top, so I would know where to find something I used frequently.

Since then I’ve learned how to maintain cleanliness and organization. Having girls as roommates for a couple of years has helped, as they would yell at me about being messy until I started cleaning up after myself. Then after working in the housekeeping department for a few years, I developed a higher level of personal standards of organization and cleanliness, because I had to tell other people how to clean, and not only how to clean well, but furthermore why they should want to clean well. I would generally approach this issue from a philosophical standpoint regarding the broader issue of why working hard and applying yourself fully to work–no matter the given task–is a definitive life-skill.

I’m going to take the argument for why working hard is an important capability for everyone to have and broaden that concept a little more to introduce the idea that how we think, act, and organize ourselves in our private lives is deeply and intimately related to how we develop and achieve our goals professionally. This might seem simple to you in concept, but in reality not many people really make that connection. So let me see what I can make of it.

Clean Up, Organize, and Maintain Your Life

Yeah, I know. This is sounding like a self-help, motivational thing all of a sudden. But sometimes hearing it from other people is refreshing, because I can tell ya, hearing it from myself is refreshing. Look, you need to clean up after yourself. And I’m not just talking about your dishes or your clothes. I’m talking about behind your couch, behind the toilet, underneath the sink, those boxes full of junk in the attic. Every inch of living space that you leave to fester unattended is representative of a space within yourself. If you have a tendency to hoard things and allow them to pile up until it overruns your living area, then guess what? Chances are quite good that you allow emotional baggage in your life, both professionally and personally, to build up until they affect and infect your everyday existence as well.

Obviously, there’s differing levels of maintenance required, dependent on high and low traffic areas. But it’s all ultimately part of a whole. You’ve got to get a handle on the whole thing in order to know that you are on top of it, and the only way you can do that is by starting now in tackling all the areas that you’ve been pushing away and allowing to sit unattended. Once you’ve done a “deep clean”, or “spring clean” or whatever you want to call it, then you can settle back into the daily routine of doing your dishes, picking up your clothes, vacuuming your carpet, etc, and simply doing semi-deeper cleans periodically. But every single space, outer and inner, top to bottom, must be accounted for if you want to get your life in order.

Don’t believe me? I don’t got no psychology degree, but I can tell you that cleaning (please only use non-toxic cleaners!) is indeed therapy. We reflect our living environments. There are some things that we can’t control, like the guy on the subway who curses us for no good reason, or the pinecone that fell on top of our head right as we walked underneath it. But in the areas of our lives that are under our control, it is imperative that we empower ourselves to organize and maintain those areas in order to allow ourselves to develop.

I’m not saying to be OCD about it. But I’m letting you know that allowing your baggage to build up and sit for years in a corner is equivalent to effectively blinding yourself to your own problems, even as they culminate to become a visible monster, visible to everyone except yourself.

This baggage, this junk, this dirt, mildew, mold, mice, and other assorted benefits of laxness will manifest itself in your life in terms of your relationships and work life as well. You will be the person who never moves upward in job responsibility, who never moves forward in a relationship. You will be the person who wants to ignore their own hand in their failure to achieve. You will be the person whose computer runs so slow that it’s basically an Apple IIe in boot time.

Present Yourself Well to Everyone

We like to think that when it comes to friends that we can let our guards down and just let it all hang out, without being judged or condemned. But in fact, it is often our friends that are our harshest critics–for the very reason that they have greater insight into our lives and how we live it. Unfortunately, our friends don’t often want to tell us straightforwardly their criticisms, and so we rarely get the feedback from the people that are best capable of giving us that feedback. Instead, we get that critical feedback from strangers or hostile acquaintances, and by then, we aren’t really positioned to listen to them.

It’s important that we present ourselves well to everyone, from strangers to family members. Everyone judges. It’s human nature. We aren’t saints–we use our brains and our eyeballs and we compare and contrast other people with ourselves. With friends and family members, we CAN let our guards down, and we know that we can always come back to open arms. But only to a certain point. You see, if you keep acting like an inconsiderate slob or snob around a loved one, at some point, they will get fed up with it. And no matter how much someone may like you for your wit and company, they will probably not recommend you to their employer when you are looking for a job if you walk around all day with the crack of your ass showing. You can’t take your friends and family for granted. In fact, you shouldn’t take anyone for granted. You should treat every single person in your day with the same respect. Because it all comes back to you.

And another point here is that appearance is related to integrity. That ties in with my overall theme, which is that your personal life ties in intimately with your professional life. The way you look, the way you talk, the way you think. How you lead your private life has repercussions on the way your interactions on the street and on the job go. Call it karma, call it do-unto-others-as-they-would-do-unto-you, call it what you like. Just recognize that everything you do is related to everyone else, and that people may not be able to see who you are in your fundamental being, being as it are that they are not saints, don’t really give a shit about you, and have enough to deal with in their own lives, BUT, even completely random strangers on the street get a vibe from you. People in your workplace get a feeling from the way you talk, the way you carry yourself. Your friends know you for certain qualities. Your family jokes about how you always did this and that as a tyke. Who you are and what you do are unimpeachably interrelated.

Take All Criticism Into Consideration

I kind of went into this point a little bit above when I talked about how even the closest of friends can be your harshest critics. But sometimes a complete stranger will criticize you. Sometimes it will be your boss at work. And you will want to say “fuck you” and disregard everything they said to you. And that’s completely understandable, and in certain situations, that is exactly what you should do. However, there are also many times when you should be listening. Criticism, especially when it occurs on the job, should be taken as constructive, even when it sounds harsh and demeaning. Some managers simply aren’t good people, aren’t good managers, and don’t know how to communicate well with different people. But they are trying to get something across. And sometimes your friends, family, and even complete strangers are as well.

Taking a criticism of yourself into consideration does not weaken you unless you feel that it is so valid that you can’t see any way of answering it. So you need to take it head on. Let yourself be challenged. Take every criticism as a lesson from a teacher, and see how you can use it to develop yourself and make yourself stronger.

It’s like on American Idol. Paula Abdul thinks she’s everyone’s friend. She’s not. Simon Cowell is the one to listen to. He is honest, to the point of being brutal. If you did a shitty job, he will tell you that you did a shitty job, while Paula blathers on about dreams and how wonderful you are. If the contestant listens to Paula, and shuts out Simon, then he/she is most likely just about to be voted off the show. Simon may be harsh, but he is attempting to provide constructive criticism that should be taken into consideration if the artist wants to develop and progress.

Sometimes people just don’t phrase it to you in the right ways so that it can slip in past your ego. So you need to just drop your ego sometimes and really listen to other people when they critique you. Let yourself be judged. Learning to wade through other people’s problems and picking out what is of use to you and what drags you down is how you grow. Often in the midst of the bricolage of someone elses’ jealousy, desire, rage, and anguish is a gem of constructive criticism that is waiting to be taken into your consideration and worked on.

Alright, so I think I am just about cleaned out on any further burning nuggets of wisdom that I feel the need to bestow on you right now. I’ll plop out any new ones as they come along. I’ve still got a lot of growing and learning to do myself, but I’ve been thinking about these particular things that I’ve learned as I’ve been coming up against extreme change in my life, both professionally, emotionally, spatially, and otherwise.

Dropping Out The Sky

Break in the Ice

Do you feel sometimes as though you were waiting to fly, and that you are simply awaiting the proper environment, the correct medium, the right chance, that somehow you will sense just as it occurs? And yet somehow this perfect runway never shows up—or maybe it even does, but the lighting just isn’t good enough so that you can recognize it, or people were getting in the way so you could never get up to speed, or . . . something. Something just is never right.

Well, the fact is that most of us need a good solid kick in the ass to go beyond what we are accustomed to. We can get used to anything, even getting abused on a daily basis, even mortar shell fragments whizzing by our ears, even junkies outside on our doorstep shooting up, even being the junkies ourselves, dependent on the next small change to get us to the next fix to get us by, just to get by. We need to be booted out of the nest to find ourselves falling, with only our god given instinct to save us from gravity. We need to be hurt, we need to be pushed, we need to be upset, we need to cry, we need to come to limits beyond ourselves and stand there in that cold and airless night and feel the vacuum beyond the impetus of everything that we thought held us into ourselves and understand just where we stand in the grand scheme of things. And realize that we are really nothing. And to realize that in the midst of this nothingness we act as anchors and stars to everything else that is also nothing. Like the cold stars in the dark sky, shining mindlessly through space to you to call to you in a language beyond understanding.

To fall from the nest, to be pushed into the wide open heartless sea, with nothing but yourself to save you. Your body knows what it needs to do. Your mind is there to revel in the mystery. Your spirit can only be drunk in the awareness of itself.

Everything in our lives acts to push us beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort zones, beyond our knowledge, beyond what feeds us, beyond what clothes us, beyond what defines us. So why fight this movement into the wide blue yonder? Delve, dive, fly, experience, hunger, desire, reach, pull, cry. The only thing holding us back is ourselves and our fear. Well, you’re always going to be scared. Every single time you have to leave what is known and what is safe and what is secure, every single time you will be scared. And every single time this fear and adrenaline will turn into exhilaration and bliss in a heartbeat once you have stepped out the door and onto the stage and into the light. This is what it is to have faith and surrender and to love. To let go of yourself to give yourself to something beyond yourself. To find yourself, to truly know yourself.

A kick in the arse. A drop in the water. A fall from heaven.

The Battle Between I and Them

The battle, it would seem, is between inner and outer realms. Those forces representing literality and appearances are constantly attempting to destroy the representatives of the heart of matters, the inner essences of things. Because the outer world is based upon order and structure. Whereas the inner can be explosive, creative chaos. The two worlds, of course, should not be and are not really at all diametrically opposed. The tricky matter of language and the way things appear is what leads to the warfare.

I once wrote to explore the beauty of language, the flow of words, the way a sentence could be so perfectly breathed, spaced, punctuated. I don’t write that way so much anymore, because at one point the sound and form of the words overcame their meaning.

I once was so self-conscious that I could never be myself before any stranger, let alone breathe properly in public spaces. I felt as though everything within me could be visibly seen, as though every pair of eyes was a judgment of my imperfect humanity.

Now, I don’t think so much of the ways other people look at me. I think of the way I look at them, if I am going to think about it at all. It is my mind itself which is the veil to understanding. Becoming, as a Zen Buddhist might say, of No Mind is the quickest path to joy. No mind, no judgment, no fear. Things are never simply the way they appear–they become the way in which they are received. I want to be the best Host to all good things in life–selfless, serving, supportive.

Self-help books these days all talk about boosting your self-esteem, building your self-image, assuaging your battered ego. I’m talking about throwing it all away. I’m talking about getting beyond yourself, because there’s something much greater. I’m talking about bridging the inner and outer worlds completely, such that the lie that there has ever been a Them and an I can be denied. We are all of one flame, and the ashes that fall in differing shades on the earth are nothing but something to contemplate, to say a few words over, and then to mix into a mulch from which living things will grow.

Fusion

Tree CloudYes, for even grudgingly the western world, even with its science and capitalism, must succumb to the biodiversity inevitable in cross-pollination of dilated perceptions. Minds are opening, even as quickly as commerce can flatten out spiritual planes. Yoga might be lucrative stretching for the masses, but for a few brightened minds it is a way to a deepening of life. The sounds of African djembes and talking drums mixed with electric guitars and drum kits might be old fusion tricks for the latest pop hit, but they also speak to the thirst for tradition to reinforce our future.
Fusion, mixing–the beauty that unfolds in the aftermath and sidestreets of war–the unforeseen sharing that occurs from struggles beyond the everyday, boundaries forcibly removed or erected, lines shifting what was once known into greyness, into in-between, into hyphenations of two seemingly disparate universes. Asian-American. Afro-cuban. Until differences are seen for what they are. Until separation is seen for what it is. Illusions of temporality. Circumstantial placement.
Like why do we get so attached to a baseball team, or to the name of a city we happened to be birthed in? Or to a country? To a college? To a football team of that college? Why do we choose to define ourselves so limitedly? We can mix and match ourselves dependent on what speaks to us. Who cares about if you are white or latino or if you are middle-class or ghetto, except those who would control us? You can be anything. You can be anything that is most true to yourself. The only limitations that exist are your own fears. Who can tell you what you are when no one knows themselves?

Every Thing

Every woman is your sister, your daughter, your mother, your friend, your nemesis.
Ever man is your brother, your son, your father, your friend, your nemesis.

How can such unseeming things be so deeply interwoven, complementing,
contrasting,
ever struggling,
strong?

Yet it is so, and you know it is so. It is so because everything which lives, and has passed, and is to come–one can’t exist without everything else, –all, all one, I and I, there are ten million ways to say this, and they will never mean a thing until you have seen it, the millions of eyes inhabiting your very deepest self–the millions of arms and mouths and skins that would seem to separate you from all the world–all working for you, through you, against you.

We put ourselves through such suffering to understand that we are not alone, have never been alone–in fact, we are struggling so hard just to be alone, just to pretend that we are alone, just to maintain these illusions every single day–and it takes a lot of work, a lot of selfishly inflicted pain. It’s somewhat ridiculous and overly dramatic, our daily attempts to convince ourselves and each other that we are isolated and innocent of what another may feel. All along knowing the pain we are causing in this continuation of detachment from ourselves and others.

But there is, everymoment, at all times, the possibility of moving beyond the bullshit onto the next level, and this is offered, everymoment, by love, by the selfless love offered by others, by the love found in giving yourself, by the love which always awaits just outside of the door you are so frightened of passing through. And when you pass through, you look into another’s eyes–you do not see a friend, an enemy, a lover, a sibling–you see yourself. And then you see that person for what they are:
Everything.

Embracework

I can be as lazy as the next motherfucker when there ain’t shit to do or if what I do don’t matter, but I’ve discovered the satisfaction in working hard when other people rely on me. The work itself is almost secondary, although physical labor does seem to be more fulfilling. Having evidence–a trail of effort viewed–is fulfilling–to see the fruit of toil, a growth from cultivated soil. Shoveling snow, screwing anchors into drywall, moving heavy things, organizing scattered objects into a functional shape, all things tending towards purpose.
Given a clear and achievable goal, I will work towards forging a bigger picture. The bigger picture is more important than excuses and conceits for the withholdance of myself. Beyond myself is the other, and the other is myself, only understood when served selflessly. If oneself is the other, than what lies in between? What is between is work. Work to lose one self to gain oneself.
Who is to say what one does is not good enough, or not doing anything for humanity, for the good of the world? If you can give yourself to your work, than it is good work.
The samurai of ancient Japan studied the art of serving selflessly. They gave all of themselves, all of their life, to the art and philosophy of war. One slice of an enlightened sword could unite heaven and earth. What bigger picture is there than this very moment? Complete dedication, utter devotion, to the now.
The life of a soldier is a destitute reality of the destruction of the natural world for the greed of shortsighted, manipulative men. But what is not seen by the outsider is the inner light carried by the soldier working selflessly to fulfill his given purpose. He has a function, a place in the bosom of the world. People want only to hear of war as terrible fear, senseless destruction. What civilians cannot understand is the sense of heightened clarity in the midst of battle, the purpose that carries him through terror and into tomorrow. He cannot go back home. He is a vehicle for forces well beyond control, yet these forces reside within his gut. It is not his function to question. He is empty for that which he serves.
Who am I to question his purpose and resolve? It is sad to be used for purposes that are not honorable. But the men who fulfill their tasks selflessly are blessed, even if it were to destroy whole worlds. They are blessed because they have found peace within themselves.
Whether you are an assassin or a gardener, an accountant or a nurse, you have a function, a purpose in the world. If all you do is work to make money, than you will never know what it is to live.
Living centered in the universe is to do what one must do. To act selflessly is to act beyond concepts of good and evil, right and wrong. It is simply to give all of oneself to one’s actions, completely. Because who knows if the drill will slip and the picture will be crooked? Who knows if the arrow will land in its target? We shit because we eat, and we eat because we desire to live. Every path re-affirms what has already come, and destroys a part of what could be, and creates a newness never before seen. Embrace it.

Puzzle

So you wonder just what is it that defines your world. Fragments of songs, advertisements, conversations, websites. What really separates you from the smelly old dude on the street who mumbles seemingly nonsensical bits of sentences strung from the nethersphere of thought like a tetherball of fear? He picks up things in the air like a radio on constant scan, having lost himself, having had his self submerged in definitions that he exists outside of and can never touch. What separates you, what distinguishes you, defines, denotes, demarcates? How are you different?–isn’t what you think makes you different (what you wear, what you think, what you eat), aren’t those things only the things that make you the same? Everything that would make you individual links you to a collective beehive of humanity.

Everyone always thinks they are alone, alone alone. So all of these lonely people sitting in their hotel rooms, in their offices, in their condos, on their balconies, boxed into little windows that shine buildinged and clustered into the night, sitting with their whiskeys, with their teas, their newspapers, their CDs, sitting feeling alone all together in the city. . . It boggles the mind, how disconnected we can be while living so close to one another. We look at each other and we see only ourselves.

What is the central underlying purpose to this madness of endlessly propogating humanity? You try so desperately to remain distinct, afraid of losing yourself, because you do not want to be like the crazy guy on the street, who talks to himself in fragments that he does not own. You are distinct, you are alone, you are afraid.

The hippies are rich. The dumb spoiled son finds Jesus and becomes President. Computers are no longer personal, they are interconnected, wireless, mobile. Intrapersonal. Our identities on-line, our identities at work, our identities with our family, our identities with ourselves. Why is what I deliberately project any less real than what I subconsciously manifest? We shuttle, we transgress, we dance.

Sacrifice Yourself for Your Life

Because you know that everything good that comes to you comes because there was something before that you gave away, or that you will need to give away in the future. Blessings never come without pain. And so every benediction of love that comes your way is edged with the awareness of suffering, because you know that behind every joy lies an incredible sadness, behind every connection lays emptiness. Without the oscillation of emotions, you can look out of a spaceship into the night of a half of the globe’s cities and view the connective star hustled patterns of human life and know of it’s beauty, and know the distance which gave to it form.
You can stand in the night of your particular backyard and look up at the indifferently humming stars and know of their intimate relation to you and all of your mundane personal intricacies.
Because you can not transcend, let’s set the romantics straight. But you can grasp the totality of what you are in any given moment. So strength, you see, is not achieving some climactic pinnacle of divinity in your life from which all other points thereafter and before will refer. Strength is the steady patient nurturing of every moment in your life, the bending, flowing, expanding strength of roots, the strength you find in plants when you can bend them endlessly but never break them. Sacrifice your desires, your expectations, every dream and ambition that you ever had for this person that you thought you knew so intimately. Sacrifice yourself so that you may live.

Rompiendo

Clouds on Inca Trail

Illusions built within the mind swaying, lulling ourselves into an incurable belief in infinity. There is within us an amazing capacity for suffering, for love. Intricately linked, there is no excluding either Huascarán or las pampas. It is not either one or the other. It is not life or death. It is all, every little thing carved from the void, separately pieced into a spiral necklace of the earth.
In our shame we are naked before the judgment of a god, the dreams covering our eyes lifted to reveal solely vulnerable soft skin, nothing more, nothing less. We are pathetically beautiful. When the illusions inevitably crumple the world sweeps within to pick apart the ruins of our hearts. We follow our inner narratives to the end, until we fall from beyond the edges of what we allow ourselves to imagine and inevitably hit the ground to return to the earth. Each time that we are broken a piece of light shines out from the space where we once were. How many times must we be broken before there is nothing left to break? You must be broken from your blindness to see. Broken again, again and again until there is nothing left of yourself to be taken or to be held. The world will carry away your pieces to build other dreams no longer yours.
What is it to dream? What is it to be awoken to another world in which the dream has no application?
What is it to love with one’s eyes wide open?
To live is to suffer. Anything else would be an illusion.

Nero’s Enlightenment


In this moment of conception the essence rings hollow. There is only what appears, and what appears is reflective of how much time you have put into losing yourself. So here you are forsaken of yourself, and here you are birthed, bloody, bathed in shadow light that falls from another begetting. For every life that lives there is another world that is shut out from the sun. So when you go forth, brother, to reclaim your beliefs, understand that there is no turning back from the wreckage of your misconceptions. There is only balance, and flow, and the knowledge of your capabilities. I don’t care how drunk you are. You can be whatever you imagine. The lines that are drawn in time trace our insecurities. The eternal everlasting infinite touch of intangibility will finger us all, and if we be given the grace to dance with it, than so shall we move, watched and written and never grasped. I hope for a time when nothing will move me except my love for everything.

Space

So let’s see: the self that one formulates in the silent quietude of one’s own mind, this self gets shattered in the utter misunderstanding that results in minor daily miscommunications. Even in the constant misgivings and insecurity that can abound in every action and word that I make, yet still my diminished, battered conception of self has more diminution to undergo. Because as long as there exists within my mind my notion of self, then there exists the theory of my detachment from the world.

I thought today of how our insecurities define us as individuals. How we deal with our knowledge of the disparity that exists between how we desire to ultimately present ourselves and how we are casually perceived. How whatever we may have prepared in advance never measures up to the piercing boundlessness of a moment.

Some of us attack ourselves before we have to defend. Some of us attack each other before they can attack us. Some of us are always defending ourselves from ourselves, from each other. Some of us are constantly hiding. Me, I am always shrouded within my defensible space, ready to close my heart to any flame too close. I am always trying to find my way to a position higher than those around me. I am always closed, always open, always never anything but an impressionable, non-retaining space. Within my mind, yes, there lurks and constantly looms the whisperings of difference, the droppings of demigod egos, the bastions against fear, inspired by fear, perpetuated by the fear of all others.

What do I believe about me, ultimately? I believe that I am a piece of god, a spark of an inner flame that fizzles back into outer nothing. What do I believe about you? I believe you contain the potential to guide me into the rainforest of the most potent hallucinogenic visions. What do I believe about humanity? That we are here for a reason, a reason beyond our petty reassurances, beyond our bloodiest threats, beyond our constantly conniving rationalizations.

There really is no logic to our movements. It is the mathematics of the happenstance, the formulas of the stricken, the logic of the blown. We move because we must. We love because we have love. We are because we is.

Economics of the Corazon

True riches, in any sense, are not a gift of happenstance. They are the accumulation that comes from the denial of waste. Gaining age is a lesson in economy. As youths we waste our energy, spitting it out like radiation, seeking immediate gratification. If we learn anything at all as we grow older and less prone to outbursts of hormonal activity, it is the conservation of our energy, putting our time and love into that which we know is worth the investment. We learn to act in interest of self-preservation, rather than self-destruction; in light of longevity, rather than fleeting release. We learn that the highest reward comes with patience, concentration, and a consistent, diligent trimming of personal desire. When we want nothing, only then are we ready to receive.

Contemplation Next To The Fire Drinking Wine

I
why are we withheld from the world? why are we frightened of each other? why is it that the one whom you greatest love brings you the most suffering? there are no answers to the wounds we take, and inflict. the only hope we have is to find a solitary peace–to discover wisdom and bear fruit and cause no more suffering to this world that tries continually to draw us into this chain of neverending violence.
II
after a while in life you come to realize that there are no expectations that can be met–and thus, you learn to let happen the things that will, and let what will not happen go. ah, yet still, how i clutch to my thoughts as if they might change anything, as if who i am devolves around an ingrown desire to center everyone else’s eyes upon me. how barren, how bereft must my heart get in order for me to love, to simply love? what does it take for me to reach across myself to find my way into understanding of another’s needs? how much must i break myself down, and let myself be broken, before i can share this light i feel with you?

nothing (to be understood)

personalities so explosive they can be broadcast via global satellite
speaker digitalized movies, leaving receptive peoples flattened in their
wake. individuals so gravity warping the masses get sucked in.
so in all this noise of projected desirous ego image, where do those with no
force of distinction get seen, heard, and felt? where do the in-betweens,
the not notably beautiful or distorted lives live?
i’m thinking of my thoughts, of all the bubbled worlds that burst against
the pane of my reality. i’ve been sitting in front of a blank computer
screen every night, struggling to collect the dots of my happiness. but
they are not worthy of being advertised. they are half-baked, they are
indifferently mundane, they are ungraspably cosmic, they are half-full, they
are half-empty.
sometimes i can relate to things so well i ignore them. until i look
closely at them, and listen, and discover the fissures in my understanding.
to craft a complete universe requires concentration; it needs persistence;
it takes daily struggle and hunger and work. i have been allowing myself to
become complacent. i am fattened on the silence of my soul’s music. it
drains to give. it hurts to change. i allow others to tell me how i feel,
and i allow my vision to become veiled in black and white, in a clarity
unearned, in a righteousness not believed. and i have laid me down and
closed mine eyes and prepared for death. and i have grown a craving larger
than my need. and i have let myself become possessed by ambition for fame,
desire for power, and fear of loss.
how can i ever treat another living creature as equal, when i want to be
better than them?
how can i ever love another human being, when i want to be loved by them?
how can i ever write to you?