Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Well I guess I'll start by saying I don't really know what to expect from this blog or what it's actually going to be. It might be kind of counterproductive to start a new blog without any real purpose or focus but then again maybe it's better that way; maybe it will free me to open up in a way that the constraints of focus and purpose don't allow. I've always done this sort of thing on my typewriter as more of an exercise in writing simply to write (and also because I love the feeling of writing on my typewriter and the sound and motion of it) but it occurs to me that that's kind of a waste of paper (although there aren't very many uses I have for my typewriter that aren't a waste of paper) so I decided to start a blog to serve as sort of a mental, spiritual, and emotional trash compactor--although not so much a compactor considering the aim is to feed it every day, sort of like a house pet, so more of a house pet meets trash compactor; although pets can often make useful trash compactors as well. As you can see, my brain twists and loops and dives and pivots and jukes and banks quite effortlessly so for those who can keep up (and I mean that to patronize myself, not you) then you should be in for an interesting ride.

I'm not exactly sure how to begin our time together, there are a few things I could go into and I'm not sure which is most fitting to open with...I guess I'll open with a parable I wrote the other day after attending my Buddhist Reflections group at my "church" (which is a Unitarian Universalist congregation, hence the quotes around "church"...more on that in the coming days). It was my first attempt at parable so bear with me...

The Book

A man sat beside me, reading from a book. He finished the book and handed it to me. "When you finish," he said, "give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." I opened the book and found that the first page was blank. I turned the page and the second page was also blank. And the third and the fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on. I said to the man: "Sir, there are no words in this book." He smiled. "When you finish, give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." He walked off. I looked at each page of that book from every angle and under every light over the following seven days. No words appeared. Finally I closed the book for the last time and declared (silently) that it had taught me absolutely nothing. Then, as a young woman approached and sat down next to me, I realized that I was done and handed it to her. "When you finish," I said, "give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." She flipped through the pages and said: "Sir, there are no words in this book." I smiled. "When you finish, give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." I walked off.

Now I feel like it might be detrimental to the piece itself to explain the idea behind it so I guess I'll just warn those who don't want to know the meaning and would rather figure it out (or assign their own meaning) for themselves to not read the following paragraph...

[SPOILERS]What this refers or at least alludes to is some of the views of Siddhartha (the Buddha) I read in Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" that resonated deeply with me. I also happened to have read this quote in the Buddhist Reflection group earlier in the evening in which I wrote this piece and so I'll share it with you now...this is Siddhartha speaking to Gotama, the Illustrious One, the Buddha (different Buddha but still Buddha):

"Not for one moment did I doubt that you were the Buddha, that you have reached the highest goal which so many thousands of Brahmins and Brahmins' sons are striving to reach. You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment. The teachings of the enlightened Buddha embrace much, they teach much--how to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But there is one thing that this clear, worthy instruction does not contain; it does not contain the secret of what the Illustrious One himself experienced--he alone among hundreds of thousands."

Kinda says it all doesn't it? What a perfect metaphor or mantra for life itself! I've come to realize this truth more than ever in the last year or so of my life, in the midst of my quarter life crisis and my time with my wonderful therapist, Dr. David Valiente, to whom I owe so VERY much. No one can tell you what to do, how to live, who you are. You have to figure it out all on your own or not at all. Sure, people can lead you to water but no one can make you drink. If you want to do well in school, no one can make you focus and apply yourself, you have to want to for reasons that are entirely your own. If you want to figure out what you should do with your life, don't ask your parents or your high school guidance counselor or your college advisor, ask your heart and your mind (I mean that rhetorically, of course, you certainly should ask these people for input but more as a means of having a discussion on the topic that will force you to dig the answers out from inside you).

And by the way, if I might digress for a second, I'd like to mention how utterly insane I think it is that the majority of human beings are made to decide on a major (and essentially a career path) at the tender age of 18-20. Maybe I'm just weird (ok, I am) but, in my experience, the choosing of a major is a massively complex thing with many factors and variables to consider. I myself have jumped (mostly in my mind rather than in the university computers) from English to Creative Writing to Philosophy to Psychology to Computer Science to Mathematics to Political Science and then back around the circle again, making numerous stops at each track of study but never for very long (and also a short stop at culinary school). I still don't know for sure which one I'm going to settle on (and I'm 25 years old...25 and haven't even finished my Associate's degree yet!); writing is my passion and mastering the English language is one of my main aspirations along with teaching English or Creative Writing; Philosophy is something I'm hugely interested in and I've taken a pretty good number of courses that would count toward a B.A. in Philosophy and while it does get tedious at times, I'd love to finish that degree (Philosophy degrees are vastly underrated in terms of their usefulness); I've been told by several people that I would make a terrific Psychiatrist because I'm compassionate, a great listener, and very astute; I've always been really good with computers, they're something that I thoroughly enjoy working with, and there's buttloads of money to be made in the Integrated Technologies field; I've always been really good at Math too and I'm pretty sure there are a lot of opportunities in that field as well though I don't know exactly what they are; and of course politics is a big passion of mine and it's a dream of mine to try to make progressive changes to the system and the world we live in. But anyway, you see my point. Look at all that stuff! You're telling me an 18-20 year old is prepared to consider all those things and make an educated decision about what he/she wants to do with her/his life?

But I digress. I guess if I were to bring this whole clusterfuck in for a landing, my conclusion would come in the form of a quote from a Bright Eyes song called "Don't Know When But a Day Is Gonna Come":

"And now I've read some books and have grown quite brave.
If I could just speak up I think I would say
that there is no truth.
There is only you
and what you make the truth."

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