Desultory II

Without fail, when I say I am going to do something with this blog, I will fail to do it.  That’s not really true, but I do often suggest that I am going to do something here and not follow through.  I was otherwise occupied last week.  But, I have a couple of ideas for things to write about, so hopefully I’ll get in a couple of posts with real content here tomorrow and Saturday.

I decided the other day that I am going to actually take a stab at doing a podcast or YouTube channel.  I’ve thought about it for a while, and about a year ago really decided what I would want to do with it if I ever committed to it.  Surprise, it would look a lot like the sort of things that I write about here… sort of an intersection of politics, culture, faith, and philosophy.  I’d like to focus on the interplay between all of those things, as well as examine some specific aspects of them all.  Obviously I will be coming at it all from my own political, cultural, religious, and philosophical perspectives, but I also want to consider some things that I do not hold to as well.  Anyway, I picked up a pretty decent microphone, and I created a YouTube channel (nothing is there yet).  At first it’s going to be all audio and I’ll probably just cut together some images to talk over.  Once I’m comfortable with the voice aspect I might capture some video as well… almost certainly I’ll just be using my iPhone’s camera for that, as it should do the job well enough and anything better would be a bit pricey.

In any case, I am probably weeks away from actually posting something, but I plan to start recording audio (you know, as trial runs) tomorrow.  Tomorrow might literally be just reading through the blog post I write, or maybe just talking off the cuff about the same subject.  In any case, it will literally be just for me, as I won’t be posting it anywhere.

Soon though!

Oh, I guess I should update my feelings on being disconnected from Facebook.  It’s still pretty great!  I don’t miss it at all really.  There’s been a couple of times when not having it was slightly inconvenient because a link on google was leading me to someone’s Facebook page, or some app I was using wanted to log in to Facebook, but I really don’t miss being on  there.  This COULD last indefinitely, though whenever I decide that it will, I will probably briefly activate it to pull down all my pictures and whatnot on there.  I’ve found that life feels less contentious, and I’m not feeling that obligation to stream through that flood of information.  I guess the one thing that I have felt is a bit weird is whenever I come across something that I think is great (a video, or an article, or whatever), I haven’t really known what to do with it.  But I think that’s good.  I can share it directly with someone who I think will appreciate it, or I can just absorb it and use the information when interacting with someone, instead of just randomly shooting it out there and hoping that people “like” it.

Ok, that’s enough rambling.

Real post coming within the next 24 hours!

Desultory I

I haven’t taken the time the past couple of days to sit down and write, but I’ve been thinking of occasionally just blasting out a post of whatever random, disconnected thoughts pop into my head.  So that’s what this is the first of (that’s a roman numeral 1 up there, so be prepared for a II at some point).  This is unlikely to be the most profound thing you’ve ever read or that I’ve ever written, but, take it or leave it… like I always say, what I write here is primarily for me in any case.

Abstaining from Facebook is going pretty well.  I was surprised to realize that my previous break from it was over 2 years ago.  Didn’t seem like it had been so long.  That time for the first week or so I experienced strong urges to log in and would catch myself starting to type in the address or looking for the tab in my browser.  This time around I’ve barely thought about it.  That time I had planned on staying away from it for at least a month, and I think it had worked out to that almost exactly in practice.  This time, I have no planned timeframe, but it will almost certainly be longer than that.  Especially if I continue to not miss it.

The job search continues.  I’m trying to expand my options but my hopes continue to be with BSW.  It took a good while before I heard back from them the first time around, so I’m hoping that’s all that is happening this time…  I think I submitted my application about 3 weeks ago now.  There’s no way to know for sure for the time being.  Otherwise, I have a contingent job offer, but it’s going to take a while for that to go through, so I at least need something temporary in the interim.

I’ve gotten back into playing Final Fantasy XIV after a fairly extensive break.  I’m really enjoying it again, much more so then when I had decided I needed to get away from it for a while.  MMOs can sometimes start to feel like a chore rather than being fun, and when that happens, it’s best to step back.  Expansion is coming in just a few months and I’m excited for it.

I’m hoping to dedicate some more time to writing over the next couple of weeks.  I still haven’t done much work on the novel that I’m wanting to write.  It’s just a matter of setting the time aside.

Now that the weather has been really nice, and I think is going to consistently be getting nicer than it has been overall, I’m looking to do some more active things outdoors as well…  mainly going on some bike rides and running… maybe mix some hikes in there as well.  I’ve done a couple of bike rides already, and went for a run which was enough to realize I need to get my endurance up all over again.  Oh well.  It will come.

Going forward with this blog, I’m going to try to write 2-3 thought out topical posts per week, and 1-2 of these random thought posts to pad it out.  For the first couple months it’ll probably be on the lower side of those ranges.  But, I think it should be doable.

So… look forward to it!  Or don’t.  You know, whatever you want to do.

Transition

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.
-Isaac Asimov

“Transition isn’t pretty, but stagnation is hideous.”
-Nikki Rowe

“When our first parents were driven out of Paradise, Adam is believed to have remarked to Eve: “My dear, we live in an age of transition.””
-Dean William R. Inge

Many times in my life, I have found myself in states of massive transition.  I suspect that I have experienced more of them than most people my age, though, I would also wager there are many who have experienced more than me.  Unfortunately, the last couple times it has felt like my life has come to a screeching halt while the rest of the world moves on around me.  Suffice to say, it’s not a pleasurable state to be in.

I have definitely questioned a lot of the choices I’ve made, and I wonder how things would be different if I had decided different things, or if I had reacted to events differently.   I tend to think that I’d probably at least be in a more stable and established position if I had done so.  But really there’s no way to know what would have happened.  There are many people that I would never have met, and loads of experiences I would never have had.  I can’t help but come back to the Taoist parable that proclaims “Who knows what’s good and what’s bad?”  It may be pointless to even reflect upon, because at this stage, there’s no going back.

So again I am at this crossroads of trying to find somewhere I belong.  The most obvious aspect of this for anyone that I interact with is that of employment.  I need a job that pays decently and that is at least tolerable.  This one is probably also the simplest, while it’s taking long than I would have hoped, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until something works out.

Less obvious might be that I don’t really have a social group that I feel like I really belong in anymore.  Which isn’t to say that I don’t love and appreciate my friends here, it’s certainly not their fault that this is the case.  But I don’t have even one single (as in, not in a couple) friend here.  In the best of cases, it’s limiting.  This is where some of what I wrote about in my previous post comes in…  I need to be better at meeting people.  Even forging one connection with, say, another single dude, could help greatly in connecting with more people.  That said, I feel an itch to be elsewhere, which I suppose may or may not actually be scratched by actually being elsewhere.

All in all, I would say that at present I feel profoundly unfulfilled.  I have few local friendships, and virtually none of those are terribly active, I have no romantic prospects, ever since my contracted at BSW ended I’ve lacked fulfillment in a job as well, and now have plenty of time to think about all that lack of fulfillment.

I recently decided to start working on a novel.  It’s not a format that I’ve done very much writing in, but I want to give it a try at least.  It seems like a good creative outlet for me for the moment at least.  Hopefully it will provide at least a modicum of creative fulfillment once it really gets going.

Anyway, I have to figure things out and find my way to a point where I’m at least partially, and hopefully mostly, fulfilled.  It’ll probably take some time and some effort… but I’m sure I’ll get there.

Sorry for the depressing post, I promise it gets better from here!

There Isn’t Really A Word For It…

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
-Dr. Seuss

If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
-Timothy Ferriss

It’s insecurity that is always chasing you and standing in the way of your dreams.
-Vin Diesel

I think we all have blocks between us and the best version of ourselves, whether it’s shyness, insecurity, anxiety, whether it’s a physical block, and the story of a person overcoming that block to their best self. It’s truly inspiring because I think all of us are engaged in that every day.
-Tom Hooper

I spent a while trying to come up with a word to describe what this post is about for the title in order to keep with usual modus operandi of simple one word titles, but I really couldn’t think of or find one, so it’s two posts in a row with multiple word titles.

If you’re reading this, chances are you are familiar with the fact that I recently decided I was going to deactivate my Facebook account and take a break for awhile, and then enacted that deactivation just prior to posting this.  I didn’t want to post about any of the reasons why on Facebook, but if you bothered to come here perhaps you are interested, and even if you aren’t, I consider this blog to be more for myself than for any of the very small number of people who read it.  Truthfully there are a lot of reasons, but I am only going to talk about one of them, at least for this post.  You’re probably not going to see the connection to Facebook at least at first…  but maybe you will by the time I’m done trying to explain it, if we’re lucky.

I’ve never been what I would describe as a self-confident person.  I would say that most if not all of the negative aspects of me probably derive from that fact.  One of the most negative aspects of me, in my opinion, is that I am dreadfully terrible at meeting new people.  The main reason for that is that I am terribly uncomfortable around people when I don’t know how they are going to react to me.  And for some reason, I tend to believe that they are going to react negatively to me.  I’m sure this is probably rooted in some childhood experience and is a behavior I’ve never managed to unlearn, but I would really like to.  But more so, I want to reach a point where it doesn’t matter as much to me whether they like me or not.  Not feeling that need to be validated (or really I guess not feeling the need to not be invalidated) would take the pressure off of me when dealing with people I don’t know.  If I am dealing with just one new person, or just a few among a group of friends, I can handle it much better than I can when thrown into a large group of unknowns.

The problem mostly dissipates on the individual level as I get to know a person.  I feel like I can safely assume that once I know someone really well, I don’t need to worry about that anymore.  Although I can’t give voice to why I should be worrying about it in the first place… not being liked/validated by someone shouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  However, I often find myself moderating some of my thoughts around people who I know disagree with me about things because I have grown to like them, and I fear that they will not like me if I give voice to my contrary opinions.  This is one of the key areas where I feel like Facebook has been problematic for me.

Additionally, I think that for someone such as myself who struggles with many social situations, Facebook can become kind of a social crutch.  Although it might be more accurate to re-appropriate the immortal words of Mitch Hedberg and say that Facebook isn’t a crutch…  “a crutch helps you walk, [Facebook] is like a step I didn’t see.”  Facebook is all about the illusion of social connections and it makes you kind of sort of feel connected to people when you really aren’t.  That’s problematic for me.

Even as I write this, part of me feels that I shouldn’t post it.  Some part of my brain is telling me that I’m running the risk of being invalidated and that is something that should be avoided.  But that is why I need to post this.  Maybe someone will think it’s pathetic… I mean, hey, that’s cool, I actually think it’s kind of pathetic too.  Who goes through as much of life as I have and is still this bad at interacting with people?

If/When (I assume I probably will, but I’m not committed to the proposition) I return to Facebook, I want for 2 things to be true.  First, I don’t want it to be a social crutch any more, preventing me from obtaining and maintaining more real relationships.  Second, I want to no longer fear receiving invalidation or hope for validation based on whatever I decide to post.

So hopefully this is the start of a path to becoming a better human being.

There is no moral argument for Clinton/Trump

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
-H.L. Mencken

“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate-look to his character.”
-Noah Webster

“Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust must be men of unexceptionable characters.”
-Samuel Adams

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force…Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
-George Washington

“When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives.”
-Alasdair MacIntyre

I feel like I’ve seen only one thing when I’ve logged into Facebook for the past week:  Endless posts stating why one  of the major party candidates represents a superior moral choice over the other one.  I’ve even seen some headlines talking about making a moral case for either candidate.  The very idea is laughable to me.  You cannot possibly make a moral case for either of them.  After all, we are talking about voting for the most powerful government official in the country…  and when you vote someone into office, you are without question culpable for the things that politician does when they are put into office.  The excuse of “but it would have been worse if the other one was in there!” won’t absolve you of that culpability.

It’s telling when you find yourself in the position of defending a candidates’ grotesque remarks about women.  There were many things that Trump said during the campaign that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on, but at this point it’s pretty clear it’s not just that he’s an asshole, he’s a misogynist who also happens to be an asshole.  I still don’t believe he’s a racist, but he does lack empathy of any kind.  He is an authoritarian.  He is an enemy of free speech.  He advocates gun control based on the no fly list (a list that you can be put on without any kind of due process or recourse).  He’s a blowhard.  He’s a rich guy that pretends like he has the common man’s interest at heart, and he’ll say whatever he believes will help him get elected.

To the reluctant Trump supporters out there (which I believe is the vast majority of Trump supporters):  Whether you like it or not, a vote for Trump is an endorsement of all of that.  Voting for Trump is an endorsement of the idea that it’s either OK, or “not that bad”, for a guy to treat women, including perhaps your daughter, as a piece of meat, and talk about grabbing them by the pussy.  It’s an endorsement of the idea that one can act without empathy.  That voices of dissent should not be heard.  That government should be given more power.  That rights can be taken away from law-abiding citizens at the government’s whim without due process.   Even if you are correct, and Clinton represents something even worse, a vote for Trump is an endorsement of these ideas.

Glenn Beck’s recent statement that allowing Clinton to win by not voting for Trump is a moral, ethical choice (http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/10/10/glenn-beck-electing-hillary-clinton-moral-ethical-choice/) was one of the things that spurred me to write this.  He of course was misrepresented in that headline as saying that “electing Hillary Clinton” was an ethical choice…  he didn’t say that.  He said:

“If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it. At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”

I would add the converse, that “If the consequence of standing against Clinton and for principles is indeed the election of Donald Trump, so be it.  At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”

That aside, for exactly the reasons I outlined above, he is 100% correct in that statement.  Not voting for Trump is a moral, ethical choice.  Of course, to the partisan that refuses to acknowledge that the 2 party system is not mandatory, voting for anyone who is not Trump, or not voting at all, is akin to voting for Hillary.  And of course, the converse is also true when talking to the Clinton camp.  They would tell you that you are therefore morally culpable for what the other does, if elected.  Such a statement is illogical, ludicrous, and not worthy of any serious debate.  Not voting is a perfectly valid choice.  Voting for a candidate you believe in, whose character and ideas you can endorse, is the only POSSIBLE moral choice.

Now, Clinton supporters… especially you reluctant ones (which, again, I believe to be the majority), I hope that you aren’t feeling too high and mighty right now.  Clinton isn’t as rough around the edges as Trump is.  She carries herself better, and has a certain degree of class that Trump lacks…  but really that’s only because she’s been in the political game much longer than he has.

Clinton represents the height of government corruption.  You needn’t look any further than the recent Wikileaks releases to see why (but don’t worry, we will).  She privately (which is another way of saying “in actual fact, contrary to what she tells you”) opposes same-sex  marriage and gay rights.  She knows that a no-fly zone will result in the deaths of many Syrians, and she supports it anyway.  In addition to that, a no fly zone would likely initiate World War 3.  The Clinton Foundation has accepted money from the Saudis, despite her acknowledgement that the Saudis fund Isis.  (As a side note, Obama recently vetoed a bill to allow victim’s families from 9/11 sue the Saudis.  I’m pretty sure he was aware of this information too.)  She conspired with the DNC to undermine democracy within the democratic party and edge out Bernie Sanders.  She worked with the media (who many have LONG argued are largely in bed with the democratic party, and are now proven right beyond any doubt) to push Trump into the limelight to help ensure he would get the nomination.  I know you long ago convinced yourself they’re no big deals, but those emails of hers and Benghazi are both really big deals.  She most certainly did harass and verbally attack the victims of her husband’s sexual assaults.   This is without getting into anything where speculation is involved rather than hard facts… and yet you ask me how I can possibly think she’s not any better than Trump?

If you vote for Clinton because “at least she isn’t Trump”, you aren’t just voting against Trump.  You are endorsing each and every one of those ideas.  You will be morally culpable.  For a no fly zone that will kill Syrians and God knows how many people if it leads to a World War, for being in bed with the same people who fund Isis.  For undermining democratic processes.  And for attacking victims of sexual assault when it suits an end desirable to you.

You can tell yourself that you’re doing the best thing you can do by voting for a “lesser” evil.  But evil is evil, and voting for evil is an endorsement of evil.  It’s pretty clear that the only thing stopping a 3rd party from getting elected is the fact that so many people refuse to vote for a 3rd party because they are obsessed with voting for something slightly less evil.  Whichever of the major party candidates you support… deep down, you are reluctant to do so.  You’ve found yourself defending things that you would never defend in a friend or family member.

I can’t make you do anything, but I can beg you to follow your conscience and vote for someone who you can give your full endorsement to.  I’m not going to disown you if you vote for Clinton or Trump, but I cannot possibly understand why you would do so, and I 100% believe you are morally responsible for whatever the consequences are should the candidate you vote for gain office.

Tragedy

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals.”
-Ron Paul

“There is no path to peace, the path is peace.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh

What a week it has been.  What turmoil we face as a nation.

After two highly publicized shootings by police, I already was feeling compelled to write something about what was going on, and then there was the shooting in Dallas.  When a person dies there is no way to describe it other than as a tragedy.  Even when it is justified, but especially when it is not.  The jury is still out on whether the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were justified or not.  Perhaps neither was, perhaps both were, or perhaps only one.  From the knowledge I have gathered, I find it impossible to say in Alton Sterling’s case, and I am inclined to think that in the best case scenario, the situation with Philando Castile was a gross overreaction.  More facts will come to light as time goes on, and I hope that if either killing was not justified that those responsible will be justly punished.  But no matter what, both of those deaths are tragedies.

In contrast, it is quite clear that the killing of 5 Dallas police officers was unjustified.  These officers were not in any way responsible for the deaths of Alton Sterling or Philando Castile.  These men were doing their jobs, and protecting the protest of a group that frequently vilifies them.  The Dallas police department performed admirably in the situation thrust upon them, and to my mind every officer on duty acted heroically.  That we lost 5 brave officers to a coward with an axe to grind is a great tragedy.

How did we get here?  I think there’s a few reasons.  Bear with me, I’ll be addressing both issues of law enforcement and protest movements.

Police brutality is a problem in America.  Don’t react too quickly to this.  Most police officers are decent people who perform admirably.  Much of the time, even if an officer makes mistakes that cost an innocent person their life, the officer is still a decent person.  Obviously, there are outliers.  There are crooked cops, and racist cops, and just outright incompetent cops, but these are the minority.

It’s important to note that police brutality is not exclusive to black people.  Not accounting for justified vs. unjustified killings, 49% of people killed by police so far this year were white.  24% were black.  The remainder were some other race.  (source: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database)  Yes, statistically, 24% is higher than the relative population of blacks to whites.  However, statistically, black people tend to be involved in more crime and are therefore more likely to have encounters with police.  As I will get to soon, more encounters with police equates to more death at the hands of police (not because the officers are bad people, but because it creates unsafe situations for both the officer and the civilian).  Violent crime rates in 2012-2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, place white offenders of violent crime at 42.9%, and black offenders at 22.4%, which is not far off from the percentages of those killed by police.

It is my belief that most of the time (but not all of the time) when a person is killed by police, it is justified.  It is always a tragedy.  And much of the time, despite being justified, it is unnecessary.  To illustrate my point, let’s think about why police pulled over Philando Castile and had an interaction with him that resulted in his death.  It was a trivial matter, a broken tail light.  Because a person had a broken tail light, he was pulled over, and a situation was created that resulted in a man’s death.  Having nothing to go on other than a video of events happening after he was shot, it’s hard to know if a case can be made that the officer who shot him was justified in the decision.  However, regardless of if he was or not, if a traffic stop was never made, Philando Castile would be alive.    Interaction between police and civilians is inherently dangerous to both parties, and should be minimized.  There is no reason that an officer should need to pull over a driver for a broken tail light.  Safety issue?  Ok, send them a letter in the mail.  That sort of traffic stop is often used as an excuse to stop a car when the officer suspects they might find something else.  Drugs is a big issue.  Want to send police/civilian interactions way down (and stop a lot of the unjustified killings)?  End the drug war.

Obviously, I can’t say no police officer has ever killed a black man where he wouldn’t have killed a white man because he was racist.  But I don’t believe that it is a systemic problem.  Innocent people of all races are killed by police too frequently, and we need to do everything that we can to minimize that number without vilifying police officers who for the most part are doing the best they can at an extremely difficult job.

The organization Black Lives Matter is also problematic.  It is problematic for the same reason that the SJWs of the regressive left are problematic.  Under the guise of fighting racism, it segregates people into groups on the basis of race, or gender, or sexuality.

Specific activists within that community are a problem.  There are more than a few who have a clear hatred of white people.  It’s not hard to see why those people would spring up.  BLM demands that white people all admit that they are racist because, being white, they can’t help but be.  The ideology says that minorities cannot be racist, because they redefine racism to be something that only a person with “power” can be (as though all white people have great political and economic power, and no non-white person does).  When you tell someone that ALL white people are racist, and that blacks and minorities CAN’T be racist, then is it any surprise that you end up with a climate in which a black shooter kills 5 police officers and tells police that he wants to kill white people, especially white police officers?  This is the same group that chants anti-police rhetoric at their rallies.  This is the same group who interrupts and holds hostage events of even people who are ideologically on their side and demands that they be allowed to do whatever they want.

Other than private conversations with a few people, I have long been silent on how I feel about the Black Lives Matter movement.  It’s not that I don’t think black lives matter, it’s that the movement is irresponsible and often ideologically dangerous.  No, they did not encourage or condone the shooting last night, but they did, perhaps unknowingly, contribute to the climate that gave rise to it.

I love my black friends.  I would be devastated if any one of them were to die, especially if it was unjust.  But I cannot support that movement.  I will not ever admit to something that I am not (racist).  I will not agree that a minority cannot be racist (I’ve met some who are, and I’ve been hated by them on the basis of my race).

You can’t solve racism by dividing people up into groups based on their skin color.  You can’t do it by dictating that people who have white skin have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

Racism as an ideology will die out with time.  The best thing those of us who are not racist (the vast majority) can do, is to lead by example, and treat everyone as a fellow human, regardless of what they look like.

Every death is a tragedy, and every life matters.

Persistence

I am pretty good at being persistent with following my desires and ambitions for limited stints of time… which is a very positive sounding  way of saying that I am really bad at being persistent.

As an example, in a period of about 8 months I went from never having done much running (discounting another roughly year-long period where I did so regularly in college), to running my first 5K, and 10K, and half marathon, in marathon.  Then I slowly became less and less persistent, until I stopped running regularly and only did it sort of occasionally.

I have also gone through time periods where I have been really committed to writing, and time periods where, despite a desire to write things, I just don’t seem to be able to bring myself to do it.  It’s easy to simply decide that one doesn’t feel inspired… just as easy as it is to tell oneself that one doesn’t feel like running in fact.  To paraphrase some comedian who I’m too lazy to look up who it is right now…  It’s really hard to find the time to do something when you really don’t want to.

That may be a bit contradictory, but if it is, then it is.  I can’t say that I know the experience of other people, but I often find that I am in conflict with myself on any number of matters all the time.  In fact, that is part of why it is important that I spend time writing my thoughts down… If I don’t do so, then I am not going to work out my inner conflicts.

Yesterday I picked up a book entitled “A Writer’s Guide to Persistence”.  I am several chapters in, and it has been quite helpful to me thus far.  You see, if there is one thing that I know I need to develop if I really want to write, it is a consistent writing practice.  As it stands, I write when I feel inspired.  That might mean every day for a few weeks, and then maybe once or twice a month for a couple of months, or anywhere in between.  The reality is that not feeling inspired is just an excuse to not have to face the difficulty of really working things out.  It can also be a way of shielding myself from writing something that I think may elicit negative feedback, or simply to save myself from experiencing criticism because I am quite certain that much of what I have to offer is quite regular and boring and inconsequential.

I think that sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the things that we already know.  Often the way that I do that is to watch something that I find particularly inspiring, and so when I really don’t feel like I have anything worth saying to anyone, I watch my favorite movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  If that movie strikes such a chord with me, then there is at least one other person in the world who is also resonates with, and there are likely many others. If someone (Charlie Kaufman) can write from a place that resonates with me, surely I can write from a place that would resonate with him… which is not to compare my writing ability to his in any way, or to say that my voice would be exactly the same.  But, just feeling that some sort of potential is there is enough to inspire me to write SOMETHING, even if I know it’s probably not going to be as good.  Especially when I hear him say things that sound like he doubts his own abilities as much as I doubt my own.

The obvious truth that I manage to keep myself from grasping is that while in one sense my experience is unique, that does not mean it is not relatable.  While no one comes from the exact same set of experiences that I do, there are many who can relate to many or most of them, and would identify with my own struggles and pains and joys.  Therefore, there is someone out there that I have something to offer to, and so it seems to me that I should.

I am not sure how to ensure that I become persistent in my efforts to continue writing, other than to keep trying to be persistent, and whenever I fail to do so, simply try again… and so that is what I will do.  I know that I am better off writing than not writing, and so if I can let that be enough, perhaps I won’t even need to worry about whether or not anyone else thinks that what I have to say is worthwhile.

Humbleness

I liked starting with quotes so much I’m going to do it again.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

“Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.
With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the suffering that are going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

These thoughts come to me as a natural extension of what I was writing yesterday.  One of the more severe problems with progress that I see in the world is that people aren’t truly willing to listen to one another.  It happens on every side of every issue, and of course the reasons for it can vary.  Usually it has to do with assigning that person to a particular group, and categorizing them as an illusory “other”.  That group you have assigned them to is one to which you have already previously assigned some agenda or set of reasons for why they think that thing.  It doesn’t matter what they say, really.  YOU know better.  YOU know the reason why they really feel the way that they do.

It’s not something that I think we are particularly cognizant of.  It is a trap that is easy to fall into.  It is perhaps a byproduct of how busy we are in life… we want to lighten our load by categorizing people so we don’t have to deal with the effort of treating everyone as an individual, genuinely listening with presence and interest to what they have to say.  Even if we are certain that they are wrong.  Perhaps they are, but you will do no harm by genuinely listening and then offering your heartfelt response to what they actually said.  Besides, on any issue you should be willing to accept a small possibility, however unlikely, that you are mistaken, or at least that there might be some new aspect that you may learn from a person who sees it differently.

Another aspect of this superiority complex is when we come across someone who perhaps believes something that we used to believe but no longer do.  Or maybe they simply believe something based on what we see as faulty reasoning.  If only they understood it correctly, they would see how I am right.

This is something that I see constantly.  Among people I know, and among people I don’t.  And even though (unfortunately) I’ve most likely done it myself at some point… it drives me crazy when I see it.  It results in talking down to someone… or talking down about someone when they are not present.  Again, this sometimes is done to certain groups.  Among progressive Christians, it is something that commonly happens concerning those more traditional in their beliefs.  Perhaps those people are missing the point, but when we treat them with contempt by talking down to or about them, we are only furthering the divide and creating a barrier to enlightenment.

We should always start with the presupposition that we know nothing.  That which we think we know, we could easily be wrong about.  Things I once believed quite firmly, I now think are completely wrong.  In another 20 years, I may think those same things about what I believe now.  I cannot know for sure what is true, and so I should not treat with contempt someone who, it seems to me, is behind the curve.  For one, knowledge is not an all or nothing proposition.  It is quite possible that someone I disagree with on fundamentally everything could bring me some form of enlightenment on a particular idea or issue.  As the, perhaps archaic in the digital age saying goes, “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.  Even someone we cannot help but perceive as a “broken clock” has the capacity to teach us, and we should be humble enough to accept them as a potential teacher.

Credibility

Let’s kick things off with some quotes.

“Give up credibility today… it’s the only way forward.  Credibility is you trying to have power over other people.  And if you believe in what Jesus said …which I almost do… You can’t be trying to collect power over other people.  It’s not what He would have you do.” – David Bazan

“”If you meet the Buddha, slay him!”  One is tempted to say to the Christians, “If you meet the Christ, crucify him!”  Such injunctions are indeed jarring, even shocking, but they are advisedly and purposefully so.  For “doctrines” and “holy images” can become just an additional set of encumbrances that prevent one from the direct realization of what they were originally meant to convey.” – Ruben Habito

“I can tell you this, I’ve come to put less stock in what I say I believe. I feel like my affinity for whatever religious group or set of ideas is more provisional or relatively superficial than I might have previously thought.” – Aaron Weiss

 

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this that I am absolutely obsessed with theology, philosophy, and spirituality.  I’m quite certain that I am far from an expert in those matters, but it is something that I can’t get away from.  I talk about it with anyone that I can get to talk about it with me – I read about it at every chance I get – and I think about it all the time.

I first came across that David Bazan quote about a year ago.  I highly recommend checking out the video that it’s from, in which he talks with David Dark – check it out here.  It struck me as immediately interesting and challenging.  In the time since then, I have thought of it off and on, and it immediately came to light more recently when I started reading Ruben Habito’s book Living Zen, Loving God.  Here are a couple relevant passages that brought it to mind:

Such universal availability, the capacity of being all things to all, is only possible to fully emptied person, offering themselves totally without a taint of self-seeking or utilitarian motivation.  Such a person will be to others what they need him or her to be for them.

One who is fully emptied in Zen finds himself or herself in everything, literally, and is able to identify fully with everything, to be all things, and thus to act in total freedom, according to what the particular situation demands.  Such a one is no longer separated by the illusory barrier between himself and the “other.”

I am reminded of a prayer of Jesus, recorded in the Bible in John 17:21-24:

I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.  I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one.  I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one.  Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

While his prayer is immediately for those who believe in him, he also says he is praying for those who believe in him because of the words of those who believe – which seems to imply it is also for those who do not yet believe.  Perhaps it is a prayer for oneness for all of humanity, and further, oneness between God, Christ, and humanity.  This idea of oneness, and that there is no such thing as the other, is something that has fascinated me for a long time.  In the words of one of my favorite songs, written by Aaron Weiss

You think you’re you, you don’t know who you are – You’re not you, you’re everyone else.

Or as Ruben Habito puts it elsewhere in his book:

“What the world is, is what you are.”  This is to see things in a way that dissolves the opposition between Ourselves and the “world.”  The “world” is “what we are.”  The world is not something outside of us, something that we view as mere bystanders, lamenting its sorrows and evils.  No, what happens to the whole world as such is what happens to our very own True Selves.  The sickness of the world is our very own sickness.  This is the sickness of the bodhisattva; it is a sickness that is also the hope and salvation of all living beings.  In Christian terms it is the reality of the cross of Christ, the bearer of the sufferings of the world.

If you aren’t familiar with Buddhist terminology, don’t worry too much about what bodhisattva means… you can google it if you’re curious.

It is my feeling, my belief, that these things are literally true.  I am not me, and you are not you.  We are everyone else.  It seems a contradiction, because we know that the self exists, and yet at the same time, from my own experience, the connection between myself and everyone else cannot be denied.  Part of what I have found so fascinating in reading about Zen Buddhism is that it is absolutely full of contradiction.  And so is Christianity.  And I don’t think that is a problem with either of these belief systems.  Perhaps it proves that they are not credible – but credibility is not what either of them is really about.

The more that I study, and think, and learn, the more that I know that I can’t really know anything.  I can’t tell you what is true, because there’s really not any way for me to know what is true.  Is there an afterlife?  I don’t know (I hope so.)  Is there a God?  I don’t know (I think so, but if I’m honest I don’t think I really know exactly what “God” is.)

One of the things I  greatly appreciate about Aaron Weiss is his reluctance to speak with authority on matters such as this.  However, at the same time, it is frustrating to me, because his thoughts on these matters are perhaps those I want to hear most of all – knowing that he has no idea whether or not he is correct.  That is who I want to hear from.  That is why I want to continue to speak and write about these things.  Perhaps I should do so with an admonition: Always keep in mind when I say anything that I don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about.

Giving up credibility is hard.  It means always speaking the truth as you see it, not worrying about the consequences.  That is what I aspire to do.  Perhaps people will think me foolish, or simply wrong.  Both of those are things that I need to be OK with.  My desire to be seen as smart or correct is after all nothing more than a desire to hold sway over someone’s opinion: a desire for power over them.

Tomorrow I’m going to continue along this thought process, and bring in the concept of humbleness.

Inspiration

One of the downsides of working the job I was (not that I’m not grateful for my time there) was that it seemed to sap me of all inspiration of creativity.  For the past several months my imagination was so paralyzed I couldn’t even find the willpower to push out the occasional blog post.  And, as I have said here before, if I’m not posting blogs, then I’m not writing.  It’s not that I haven’t had the desire to write, it’s just that I’ve not felt able to write.  So the well has been dry for the last little while.  But you’re reading this now, and that means that I’m coming out of it.

Part of taking this trip back to Maryland was to try to recapture that.  I knew I needed a break if I was going to rekindle it.  Simply finding another job as fast as possible wasn’t going to fix anything.  After a week or so of just relaxing and meeting up with friends whenever they were available, I started doing some reading, and also watching some of my favorite movies, as well as some that I’ve been meaning to watch forever.  It’s amazing how much watching a really great movie makes one want to write.  Like many writers, I tend to be extremely critical of the things I write, but somehow despite that I still believe that somewhere inside me are great stories that people should hear.  Perhaps I believe they are there, I merely doubt my ability to convey them in a manner that anyone would be able to tolerate.  The one exception to that is with blogging.  Right or wrong, I consider blogging to be garbage writing, so I don’t really care what comes out except insofar as I’d like it to be understandable.  I mean, sure, I want you to like it… but it’s not like, some compulsive need.

I have a few ideas of writing projects and I’m going to start working on one of them today.  Since coming out to Los Angeles, I’ve been a bit lost and without direction.  It’s nice to have some direction again, and I’m going to be a bit more focused on the end goal this time around.  Part of the problem may have been that my goal at some point changed, and I don’t think I updated the plan to go along with it… simply “having a job” vs. “Not having a job” wasn’t enough.  That goal is to be a staff writer for a serialized show.  Since most of my writing projects have been features or shorts, it’s pretty important that I spend some time working on some good specs.  I still need to pick a few shows to do specs for, but a friend and I are planning on working on a spec for the renewed X-Files.  So I’ll be watching a lot of that in the very near future.

I’m glad I still have a week here to continue along in a pressure-less environment for just a bit longer, but I also feel like I’m ready to go back.