Idealism and a puppy

On Friday I bought a puppy. It was a early birthday gift to my wife. I had person after person warn me about the life shift that would come from being a dog owner. The moving from personal freedom to having something to be responsible for.  

And I shrugged it all off. It’s a puppy, I thought, how hard could it actually be?

But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. And my ability to just act on an idea and run with it has been stifled by ankle biting, pissing, and wire chewing.  

What is the truth we shy away from with idealism? Because whenever something is seen through the lens of the ideal, it isn’t seen through the lens of reality. And therefore, it can never actually be the ideal. Because ideals are best possible realities. Which is a state nothing can live in all of the time. 

Shedding the blinders of the ideal can often be the place where reality can speak. And learning the tenor of difficulty and frustration paved the way for hearing the tenor of the good and the beautiful.  

 

IMG_1591.JPG

You are a cast iron skillet

My wife and I received a cast iron skillet for Christmas from her sister.

We love it.

The sizzle and crackle of vegetables on it is a sure sign that you’re  cooking  . Just last night we threw on some peppers, onions, brussel sprouts, and green beans. Then topped it off with some 21 seasoning salute from Trader Joe’s and we were LOVING LIFE. 

But what’s especially interesting about a cast iron skillet is that the taste you get from it isn’t just the taste you’re currently consuming. It’s that taste, but also all the tastes from meals past. Cast iron skillet hold onto what they’ve held and let the remnants of meals past influence meals of the present. 

So you, me, and all of us - we’re really just a bunch of cast iron skillets.  

We hold onto those things that happened to us however many years ago. The hard things, the beautiful things, the things inbetween. We carry them. And they impact the reality we experience every day, whether we know it or not. What we are cooking is enhanced by the flavors of times past. Each moment rolls itself into the next.  

This is freeing or frightening. But the beauty of it all is that we get to pick which of those trajectories to follow. And at the end of the day, I think all of us have the end goal of pursuing what tastes good.  

You Are 60% Banana

When was the last time you ate a banana? You and that banana you consumed share 60% of the same DNA.  

Think on that for a second.  

Only 40% of your essence is unique from that yellow fruit you pair with peanut butter on your toast.  

Think of someone that you hit it off with 60% of the time. They probably aren’t your best friend but you don’t dred being around them. 60% is a fairly sufficient number for bonding and common ground. There’s quite a tangible amount of crossover when there’s 60% commonality.

And yet, even with how much more similiar we are to our neighbors than we are bananas, we’re still assholes to people.

Is not you essence significantly more than 60% similar to someone you find frustrating or irritating or unlike you? The answer is yes. Because, as I’ll repeat over and over because it’s mind mindending, 60% is the commonality between you and a banana  

We as humans are, in the large scheme of things, ridicously alike. And yet we are very acquainted with polarization.  

Why? 

What is the motivation we all tap into that encourages discovering differences over commonalities? 

we have tides

I have a friend who is a singer / songwriter and he has a song with the lyrics, 

"You pull like the moon on my tide."

I always found this to be a beautiful expression of how someone can interact with the love strings of ones heart. But the other day I read something that expanded the idea of us and tides and how intimately the two things are tied.

The circulatory system, the veins and arteries and basic rivers in which our blood flows through, are the pathways to a mirroring of an incredibly mystic nature. They are the pathways to our tides. Our blood goes in and out of our heart. Rhythmic. Pulsating. It happens like clockwork. Until, of course, it doesn't. 

Humans have long been mesmerized by the ocean. We stand on its shores in complete awe of vastness and the unknown. But the ocean is also a mirror to the reality going on within us. Just as a wave breaks at our feet, our blood pumps to all of our extremities. And just as it returns out to sea, our blood returns back to our heart.

You have a tide. We are the tide. We are an ebb and flow of give and take give and take ...

Give and take. 

This isn't just true in a blood and ocean sense, this is also what you do when you breathe, you empty and receive. You give and you take. 

So for someone or something to pull like a moon on our tide means they pull on us like the orchestrator of all we do and all we are. They intersect with our most innate nature. And we aren' the same.

As true as this might be romantically, it is also true in an experiential sense. What are those moments, those divine or transcendent or mystical moments, in which something pulled upon your tide like the moon? It shifted your paradigm? It awoke in you a new rhythm?

Discover those things. Share them. They are what keep hope alive.

slower

Some days we need the quiet undertones of nothingness to slither their way to the surface. And once there, let them take over.

As we fall backwards onto the cushion in rest.  

what are our tools?

Maslow said something to the effect of,

”If your only tool is a key, you’ll go around thinking all doors are locked.” 

In a similar vein - if your only tool is a prayer that gets people to some other place after this life, you’ll go around attempting to make everyone believe this life isn’t all that great.  

or

If your only tool is the stats and evidence to reduce this worlds reality to chance and facts and figures, you’ll go around making everyone believe the world can really just be reduced to happenstance.

Maybe the only tool with a use in every situation is Love. A tool based on the absence of ego and the prideful self, and the presence of unity and oneness.

That’s a key that fits into every keyhole.  

We all have beliefs. But at what point do our beliefs become our tools that we go around trying to use in every situation we encounter?  

the air we breathe

Every day you breathe in 438 cubic feet of air. Which, to give a visual because air is so intangible for our mind, is about the size of 3200 gallons of liquid. 

So in that sense, you breathe about 3200 milk cartons of air per day.  

Thats a lot of air. But just as we take it in, we also give it out. We consume more air than probably anything else we consume during our lives, but we also give back just as much as we take.  

Our relationship with air is one of equilibrium.  

Whereas our relationship with nearly everything else is out of balance. We have too much ______ and not enough ______. 

Life often seems to be a whirlwind of imbalance, injustice, inequality. Except with the thing sustaining your life every waking second you spend here.

The air in your lungs.

Everyone on earth, regardless of race, orientation, class, is given a fair share of air to breathe  

It’s no wonder then that the Hebrew people had the word for air and wind be the same word they attributed to the spirit of the Divine. This word is ruach. They saw spirit in the same intangible and mystical way as one encounters air.

It is everywhere, being consumed in every moment, and is equally accessible for everyone. And it’s all those things regardless of religion, political affiliation, or any other thing we use to set parameters. 

Air and Divine encounter is a breath. A give and a take. In us just as we are in it. It’s all around us. And accessible and a part of all.  

marching

Marching is a visual showing of a collective conciousness. A physical manifestation of a shared belief.

MLK day is a day of marching. A day where the collective consciousness of equity, justice, and freedom become manifested in mass groups. 

You get a good idea of what you are marching to by the make up of the people you walk beside.  

three miles per hour

We tend to walk at 3mph. It’s the ideal speed. Slow enough to recognize subtleties, fast enough to continue to make progress.

It’s equilibrium.

Not disatteched Walden pond.

Not disattached climbing of the corporate ladder.

It’s just 3mph.  

At what pace have you been walking lately?  

the saints of godlessness

I was listening to a podcast the other day with poet Christian Liman. Liman had a southern baptist upbringing. In his late teens / early twenties he left the faith altogether for a form of agnosticism. In his late thirties, he returned back to it. Not back to a doctrine / rule based faith.

But something new. Something fresh. Something open. 

He had a quote in the show that went something a bit like this, 

“I’m convinced that the same God who calls me to sing of God in one moment calls me to sing of godlessness in another. I’m of the belief that God calls some people to unbelief so faith can take new forms.”

Last year I was able to get to know the singer / songwriter Bryan John Appleby. I brought him to Whitworth in the Fall for a show and then he came back to play a backyard house show in the Spring. Both times he crashed at my place and him, a few buddies, and I stayed up late drinking beers and chatting about all the big questions metaphysical questions of the world. 

Bryan’s music, especially his early stuff, wrestled a lot with unbelief. He grew up a Christian but felt like he needed to leave that framework behind. His art was what allowed him to put into words why and also gave him a release point. 

One of the nights we were kicking it in the backyard, I asked Bryan about a song called The Silent Shepherd. He grinned. He told me that that song was the place him and I had both been in our lives. The place where we were frustrated and agitated about our lack of faith or buy-in to the “Sunday school” esque God. The place of feeling like you’ve grown beyond the dominant consciousness of your faith and don’t know if there’s room for you in it anymore. 

“Mike, that was the point I left the faith I had been raised with and the point you discovered some more open / mystic version of that same faith. We both reacted the same, but ended up in different camps.” 

It was beautiful to think about.

But after listening to Wiman’s interview, I don’t think Bryan and I are in different camps at all. I think Bryan was called to sing of godlessness. And because of that, he’s helped me - and many others I’m sure - keep soldiering ahead. He has caused rethinking. The acceptance of doubt. And the recognition that the old way of thinking about God has to keep expanding.

seeking and finding

An ideological system that tells you over and over again how deprived and insufficient you are does a good job at making you think you are depraved and insufficient. 

An ideological system that tells you over and over again how loved you are does a good job at allowing you to feel loved and, in turn, share love. 

What you seek, you will find.  

all you have is new and now

If you think about it, every moment is new. The only thing you encounter is new-ness. You can’t live in any moment but the moment of the now. The here. The this place.

Outside of the new / now is the past and the future. And your body, your neurons, you heart beat - they don’t exist there.  

They exist here.  

In this place of newness.  

In the place of now.  

So you are never stuck in what you’ve been or who they say you are to be. You, in every moment you’ll have from now until the very millisecond you die, have the ability to start something different than what you have happened to be living in.

Every moment is a new place to start.  

Gain / Is

Sometimes we become so anxious to gain - wealth, status, etc. - that we forget to acknowledge what actually is. 

 

What exists in this moment that reflects a part of the lack that you believe you have? 

A Bit like a horcrux

I never caught onto the Harry Potter craze. Which is a shame. Because they are amazing. I’m just realizing all this now.  

My wife loved the books and the movies. She was the first to read and watch each as they became available. So over the past few weeks when we have a free evening, we’ll sit down and watch a movie from the series. We’ve been going in order and just finished The Half Blood Prince last night.  

In The Half Blood Prince I learned about horcruxes. For well versed Harry Potter fans, this will seem a bit meager a definition, but as I understand it, horcruxes are items that contain a part of someone’s soul. Things like a diary or ring contain a part of the whole of a wizard and the only way you can achieve putting a part of you into one is through murdering someone. And the reason for creating such things is because you can never actually die until any horcrux containing a part of you is also destroyed.

Which got me thinking - although not done via murder, we all place our identity in things that carry on past our own lives.

It’s our work.

Our legacy.

What we chose to align with larger than ourselves.

And the idea of having that be a ring or a diary like it is in Harry Potter seems a rather weak option. Because there are themes we can give our souls to that will never die.

Like love or evil. Hope or despair.

Each one of these opposites are doors we chose to enter through via conscious choice. And who we are, when given to one of these overarching themes of the universe, will never die.

We will become like a drop of water in a river. Entering into the flow of something far beyond our simple existence. And in turn, we’ll step into the eternal. Which eternal life is your life in-line with?

Transfusing Ideologies

 

I heard a story about a doctor who gave weekly blood transfusions to a Rabbi who had an illness. Week by week the Rabbi had her blood replaced by multiple donors. After several months, she was healed. Upon completion, the doctor, an atheist, told her that as often as he could, he replaced her blood with the blood of people of other religions. Hindus, Buddhist, Christians, etc. And, along with people of other faith practices, he said he had put in her the blood of atheists “like himself.” The doctor held the belief that spiritual truth is a battle of ideology. He was curious to see how the Rabbi would take the knowledge that her new life was a byproduct found through the life force of world views different than hers. Much to his surprise, she found the act comical and a bit beautiful. She replied in a way that spoke to both the literal and metaphorical natures of his act,

“I like what I have received”

So many of the walls we chose to build up between what is okay to receive as truth and what is not actually can stifle us from life itself. And often times, the life that we let reside within can be killing us unless it becomes opened up to outside sources. The world, with all its billions of perspectives, is not a place to build walls. But a place to explore and become in awe at by the overwhelming abundance of life pulsating from all things. 

Story by Aimee Bender and can be read here - 

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/111828/the-doctor-and-the-rabbi?all=1 

live first, read second

In my experience of Christianity there has been a lot of emphasis on the mind and not of the senses. Our flesh has been seen as evil and a hinderance to a soul that longs to be joined back with God. There are a number of pieces to this that are, at best, head-scratch worthy. My emphasis on the word back in regard to the state of our soul and the Divine being one. 

It seems that to a lot of people within the scope of Christian thought, our body is the hinderance to the Divine. But didn't the Divine chose to come in the form of a body? 

Could it be that we've had it wrong the whole time? Maybe salvation is a very bodily thing. A rebirth of the senses. One that help get those five vehicles of knowledge in line with the Divinity all around.

Us Christian's have been very quick to reference a verse in order to make a point, but very slow to make a point based on what our touch, smell, taste, hearing, or sight point to. We enjoy relying on our mind more than our senses. 

But when us Christian's talk about how quickly we can be deceived when wandering from the path of scripture - the path of a book that needs to interact with the mind in order to result in some type of meaning - something seems to be off.

Here's why.

I am a borderline hypochondriac. I convince myself that I am sick or have something wrong with my body in some form or another every week. The vehicle causing such commotion within me is not what my senses are objectively telling me - it's how my mind interprets those things. My mind takes an objective sensory experience and turns it into the most negative possibility. The mind is the manipultor. Our senses are incredibly trust worthy. In this situation, they are doing nothing but encountering with some true nature of reality.

Combine sight and touch when petting a cat and I know I'm petting a cat. Be left in the dark while petting a cat and my mind could wander to some very different places and assumptions as to what it is my hand is touching. The mind assumes, the senses tell.

And that's why reading scripture before actually living your life, encountering the world, and going free into the light of all things is a rather deceptive task. Because you are manipulating yourself into assumptions before interaction. And thy are likely assumptions handed down to you, not the ones you might reach on your own.

There's no wrong interpretation when you encounter the world through the non-deception of your senses. 

I'm of the belief that a lot of Christian's need to cleanse themselves of the Bible in order to actually read the Bible. Because it's at the place of personal sensory interaction of the world that we begin to see the Bible as writing based on the same thing we've just done. Encountering the world, and discovering the Divine. 

The natural way

While driving today I was listening to a podcast on how disconnected we humans have become from the earth. Especially the humans like myself living in an urban setting. Walking on pavement over dirt nearly all the time. You’ve probably heard such critiques before.

The podcast talked about the natural way of things - cycles of seasons, solstices, etc - being the things that ultimately are the metaphors all spiritual stories point to.

They are always looking back to the earth. The earth is where they and we start.  

This is impossible to argue against. Life springs up from the ground. It’s all from the ground up. That’s how trees begin, how formation happens. As I listened to this, it all rang true.  

As all this was muddling over in my mind, overhead a flock of birds flew in a v southward. The same thing they’ve been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. They get it. They understand the core basis of all metaphor. Following the flow of the seasons. Their mind is there. 

What are they seeing? How am I blind? What’s there in the obvious that has become cloaked with distraction? Because the unique thing about humans is that we can take the patterns of seasons and make them into metaphors yielding meaning. But sometimes I worry I’ve developed so much that I may be becoming blind to even things such as that. 

The bayou

Spotify introduced me to a song called The Bayou last week and I can’t stop listening to it. I don’t know why. There’s nothing particularly monumental about the song. It’s just a woman singing about a bayou with some guitar in the background.

From what I can tell it’s a story of becoming unstuck. Of getting out of something that is detrimental to you. The bayou is both a place of escape and a place needing to be escaped from.

What’s interesting is the actual stagnant like nature of bayou’s. They are typically characterized as slow moving streams. But unlike most normal streams, bayou’s don’t have a predictable current. Their current switches back and forth on a whim. If it’s flowing north to south one day, a bayou could just as easily float south to north the next.  

Unlike the water of a river like the Columbia or Mississippi that’s always in line with a trajectory, the water of a bayou could end up in the same mile length of a stream for years on years on years. Going back and forth with the current. Stuck.

This current shift is caused by something known as brackish water. Which is water that has some salt water, but not as much as the ocean. And some fresh water, but not as much as a typical lake. It’s caught somewhere between. 

So the water in a bayou is the classic case of an identity crisis. It’s stuck yet it flows and it’s not quite salt yet not quite fresh. It water but it doesn’t meet any of the actions or qualities of the water we think of.

But the interesting part about all this is the abundance of life present in such places. Brackish water is the perfect condition for fish, shrimp, crawfish, and all types of animals. It’s the only conditions where they can survive.  

Life can seem slow. Like we are bouncing back and forth and never making progress. Like we are tainted. It can take on a lot of the characteristics of a bayou, quite frankly. But what is it in those seasons that finds a way to thrive? Because there has to be something.

Life in these periods does not have the conditions we’re used to at all. It’s uncomfortable and seems stagnant. But if the life of a bayou is any indication, such conditions might be perfect for some type of life. We just need to work on developing the fresh eyes to discover it.

Polka dots

There's a plant whose leaves are polka dot.

So many uniform disruptions to the green.

Each dot is a grayish blue

Making the green less prideful in its depth.

I know people

Myself included at times

Who could use a polka dot or two.

Not flaws

But balance

To recognize the beauty in the things we'd at first

Wish weren't tied to our identity.

FullSizeRender.jpg