Eternally Encroaching

This is probably going to end up being more of a “random musings” type of post, but I wanted to get these thoughts out of my system. As I was perpetuating the mindlessly scrolling culture of social media yesterday, I ran across an interesting article. Apparently the Joe Rogan podcast will be moving exclusively to Spotify. Now, I am not a HUGE fan of this dude, but I’ve found several of his guests to be interesting. But more importantly, this got me thinking about the creative industry online as a whole, specifically podcasting and blogging.

I started blogging when I was around 13. The online world was different back then, a little less monetized and systemic, and definitely more genuine. There was more of a focus on the individual experience, and that was expressed in the variety of creative mediums available. That technically still exists today, but the underlying reality is different. Everything has become more focused and tailored. The algorithm rules now, and content is being crafted to cater to that. Once independent productions are now being enticed by platform exclusivity, thus selling their soul and freedom.

Something was lost as the internet matured. I remember when I first started out writing and being inspired by the plethora of unique and interesting blogs on the net. Chronicles of people’s lives, their ideas, their adventures, all recorded for the simple act of expression instead of financial gain. While everyone is on lockdown, I think the changes of online culture are easier to perceive. With more spaces of time to pass, we naturally gravitate toward the endless streams of media on our devices for entertainment.

So much of that media has been distilled into bite-sized snippets of instant gratification. The cynic in me recognizes it as a dopamine market, preying on the baser and easily manipulated nature of people. The encroachment of greed has touched many previous bastions of creative freedom. YouTube is an especially poignant example. While one could point out that the vast increase in online content is good for consumers, I disagree when most of it has been cheapened in the process. Authenticity is what I feel missing today. The catering to social trends and algorithms in order to simply reach more viewers has left a valuable part of the human experience in the dust.

There is a fundamental unhealthiness underlying the online economy and greater culture, and even a serious risk to the wellbeing of consumers. Not to mention the fact that data harvesting by big companies is a legitimate concern for privacy and anonymity. I can only hope that small time creators can continue to find the will to persist amidst the eternally encroaching greed that follows mass consumption. The near future is worrisome to me, but the impermanence of any system or paradigm provides hope that things will eventually change.

Musings on Acceptance

As an INFJ, I often feel trapped in life by obligations. There is a constant battle inside of me between what I want to do and what will please others. Upon verbalizing this struggle, I am often told to simply ignore what others want and start following my own heart. But the simplicity of this advice doesn’t save it from being fundamentally wrong in my case. If I hypothetically abandoned my responsibilities and took off to pursue my own spontaneous desires, I would find myself immersed in guilt and constantly worried about the expectations I was failing to meet. The paralysis of this anxiety would keep me from doing what I love.

What is the solution? Should I give in to the extreme pursuit of people-pleasing just to feel like I am worthy? Or should I abandon my obligation to others and immerse myself in purely personal endeavors? The likely answer is to find balance, which is a fleeting force in my life. This somewhat crazed over-analysis will probably lead to someone telling me that I am taking myself too seriously again. They are partly right for volleying such a criticism. I tend to overthink more than is healthy. I am driven to “think up” the perfect solutions for my plights. I understand the futility of this process, yet unhealthy mental habits can be irrational.

Ultimately, I realize that there is no easy solution for the suffering we face in life. The irrational nature of much of the pain we endure only proves this reality. In the realm of our mind, it’s easy to dwell amongst idealized constructs and solutions. It’s second-nature to imagine the clean and perfect version of a scenario. However, there is a discrepancy between the reality in our mind and the one around us. This cognitive dissonance marks the commencement of suffering. In actuality, life is messy. Imperfection and failure are inevitabilities.

All of this tells me that on some level, I will never be able to please everyone. It’s an even laughable prospect now. There will always be a small part of me that feels stretched, or pressured by outside obligations. This is life, and my grace in the face of such shortcomings influences my ability to be happy. Accepting imperfection and the promise of future suffering enables me to find the ever-elusive balance I need to be at peace. I hope that anyone who relates to this plight can find some shred of understanding in my shared insights.

Coffee & Contemplation: The Importance of Friendship

Note: Publishing work from my past is quickly becoming a series of sorts. There are so many pieces I’ve written that haven’t seen the light of day since Writer’s Workshop back in high school. Sharing them here seems like a cheat way to keep up with regular posts, but it’s also a little cathartic. I get to look back on how I’ve changed over the years, for better or worse. I get to reacquaint myself with an optimism and hopefulness I might have lost. This next piece highlights an appreciation for camaraderie I wish I could still embody. I also express my hedonistic and everlasting love for coffee, which thankfully has not changed. Let’s do this!

I have always been fond the coffeeshop atmosphere. A proud addict of the caffeinated drink myself, I am often found lingering in these havens of ripe conversation and artsy individuals. Today I am a part of this greater experience once again, with a double-shot espresso in hand and an ear toward the people around me. Listening in on various conversations but never truly committing is my speciality, for I am an observer. Today I bear witness to the remarkable manifestation of friendship among a group of fellow students who I am lucky enough to call my friends. These individuals have inspired me with their kindness and unwavering sincerity.

I believe that one never truly appreciates something they hold dear until it is gone. This is the most troubling form of ignorance, and we all suffer from it. In turn, one of the great aspirations of life must be to learn to incorporate gratitude in our perspective and appreciate the blessings we take for granted. Such blessings include our friends, or the people in our lives we trust with our uninhibited selves.

I’ve begun to realize the inherent nature of friendship. Making friends is not merely a search for another individual you can relate to, but the spontaneous “coming together” of two souls, each walking the path of existence. I don’t think we can control who befriends us. It merely happens. Increasingly I find myself drawn to the metaphor of leaves dancing in the wind to describe life. A leaf has no navigational capabilities, and so it is propelled into the great oblivion, careening throughout space and time and bumping into its brethren along the way. Many friends are made, and some are even lost.

The ultimate lessons come from our friends, for they are the very pinnacle of teachers. They gift us with love and kindness. They nurture our hearts and cultivate our spirits. They shed light when darkness falls and the path before us becomes murky. These are our true friends, the ones we never lose. A true friend is one who imprints a piece of their heart in another’s soul. Life throws us all into a mess of blessings and curses. It is our job to disentangle and learn from each. Our friends are here to teach us the way.

And so my day at the coffeeshop comes to a close. I glance at the kind folk around me and think about how truly lucky I am to enjoy such decent company. I stand up and push my chair in, taking care not to trod on anyone’s book bag. I throw my empty paper cup into the garbage and exit the shop, surrounded by a troop of comrades who have unknowingly imprinted my life with the simple yet profound lesson of appreciation.

The Significance of Names

Note: Here is another interesting piece written back in high school. I stumbled upon it amidst my insightful yet often cringeworthy delve into lost writings. There is a chance it was never finished, so I simply confined it to my forgetful, mental to-do list. Nevertheless, it marked my discovery of “Om,” the sacred mantra of Brahman in the Hindu religion. It would be a disservice to my younger self not to share. Shall we begin?

A mere name is sometimes capable of expressing deeper meaning, implying something of greater importance, and instilling a value previously overlooked. They are symbols in their own right, tools used by the workers of language to shed light on otherwise unspoken subjects. In ancient times, names were thought to hold extraordinary power and even to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person. The power of names was also applied to deities and has endured in religious tradition for centuries.

I have always found a mantra-like power resonating from particularly powerful names. Sound currents and profound words can be used to strongly influence the mind and spirit. They have the potential of bringing a certain harmony to life and even inviting a tide of sometimes much needed optimism. Thoroughly understanding the power of names can both enrich and enlighten one’s consciousness.

A name that has particularly impacted me is Om (or Aum), a sacred utterance often found in Sanskrit mantras. With a meaning suggestive of a deity, it actually implies a primordial vibration from which the universe was originally created. Om is the eternal beauty and sustenance found in all aspects of reality. It is the order of the cosmos, and going one step further, is reality itself.

Om is comprised of three sounds, of which a distinct meaning can be super imposed upon each. The first sound “A” stands for the entire physical world we can experience. The reality we perceive through our senses is most attributed to this sound. The second sound “U” stands for the world of thought, as opposed to physical reality. This includes the imagination, dreams, and abstract thinking. The third and final sound is “M,” the unmanifest condition. According to the Vedas, what could be found before and after creation is the meaning of the sound of “M.” It is the unified state of the cosmos, the great fabric of which everything else is a part of.

In essence, Om is the composition of all there is. It is what existed before, it is what exists now, and it is what will exist later. Words may only be a conglomeration of letters, strung together in a particular order to imply a sense of meaning. But like Om, those words may harbor a message from a deeper, more inexplicable state of being.

Journaling Update

Back in February I wrote a post detailing my plans to take up the arduous yet cathartic task of journaling. I am here to say that for the most part, this goal has been met with success. Sure, there were some missed days and uncompleted entries. But this was something I kept at in hopes of instilling discipline and a better state of flow in my life. I was surprised to discover that once my pen hit paper (or in this case pencil hit iPad), I enjoyed the process immensely. Knowing that I would be my own audience gave me an unbridled sense of freedom. There are things I etched down in journals that I never would have had the courage to blog about.

So here I am to say that this is an endeavor I am going to keep up, making it a permanent ritual in my life. Journaling has helped me dispel many of the half-baked musings and anxieties that haunt my mind at the end of each day. Everything in my head is nebulous—an interconnected web that solidifies near my point of focus and fades away into ambiguity at the periphery. This area of inexactness is what causes the greatest source of stress in my life. Having a regular outlet to pen down this junk gives me focus and perspective. Really, it’s a tool that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, but especially those with a chaotic mind such as mine.

All of the magic happens on my iPad with a trusty Apple Pencil. In the beginning I considered using an old-fashioned composition notebook to scrawl my scratchings. There is nothing more grounding and conducive to the ever elusive “flow state” than hand writing your notes. And the tangibility of a notebook devoted to a single purpose has its charm. Yet I am an ardent lover of convenient and intuitive technology, so my iPad is now fulfilling an unforeseen destiny. My journals are cloud synced, locked by facial recognition, and ready to peruse at a moment’s notice on ALL of my devices. Not that I do so, of course, which leads to my next point.

I generally don’t like looking back on my past journals. This flies in the face of my expectations, which were conditioned by my love for rereading old blog entries. But what I decide to pen down at the end of each day, for my own eyes, is an altogether different beast than the articles I craft for an audience. The words are rougher, the ideas rawer, and my integrity fully intact. I am not presenting myself, if you will. I have true freedom to be as messy, honest, and insecure as I please. Such is the beauty of having a personal journal. But generally speaking, looking back reopens a can of worms that I have already sealed shut. There is no need to stuff back into my head the anxieties I have already dispelled. This brings to mind an image of Dumbledore pulling strands of memory out of his head and into his pensieve.

This does not mean I find looking back totally useless. I have a plan at the end of each year to read through all of my entries. I can see how much I’ve grown and changed throughout the months. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get this kind of perspective. The second part of my plan is to write a “year in review” post detailing my highlights and conclusions. And finally, I will permanently delete all of my journals to make a fresh start for the new year. Out with the old, and in with the new. I am always looking for a new self-improvement project. This little experiment has turned into something I wish to make a solid fixture in my life. Healthy habits and rituals are a proper step in getting back on my feet and climbing out of this pit of purposelessness.

Conversation with a Friend

Sometimes the greatest of insights arise at the most unexpected of times. Good conversation can be the perfect lubricant to get ideas flowing and those mental gears turning. With permission, I’ve shared an existential concern of one of my dear friends below. The universe has decided to use my head as a data dump again, so I’ve also shared my thoughts on the matter.

Friend: I don’t know — I just feel like I don’t know what road to take, because all I truly want to be is happy. I know it seems selfish, but I just truly want that. I want to be at peace and happy with everything that I am and everything that surrounds me, and I don’t know how to go about it. I see a few roads to take, but I feel like the road I’m taking will sooner or later kill me. I’ll reach a point of complete burn out, and I don’t want that. I just want to truly rest and find a way to do what I love — to hope that doesn’t take away all of my energy.

Me: The answer that I’ve come to, after all of my soul-searching and pondering, is that there is no right answer. There is no single path that will navigate you around all of the suffering, conflict, and confusion that life has to offer. One has to wonder if it is an almost necessary experience to doubt yourself, burn out, and question if you are doing the right thing. Sooner or later, every life path will kill you.

Look around and tell me if you see a single soul who has reached a state of true peace and happiness. If you say yes, I will tell you to delve deeper — beneath the surface — where you will undoubtedly uncover their very real and present fears and insecurities. We have a habit of portraying our successes without the context of our failures. The two go hand-in-hand.

The best advice I can give is to let go of expectations and any semblance of control you think you have over life. You are too intelligent to believe the lie that is a comprehensible order to the universe for long. It is too vast, varied, and twisted for any one of us to discern a “right” answer. Trying to find definitive clarity amidst the chaos is like trying to catch air with your bare hands. It’s all relative.

The answer is everything; it cannot be distilled into a statement, direction, or philosophy to live by. Simply let go, and allow the tidal forces of energy to carry you toward the nonexistent destination. To be carried without resistance is to live. 🌹

A Journal Entry

I’ve decided to embark on a sort of experimental journey. Too often than not, my writing is hindered by an obsession for quality and unattainable perfection. This does nothing but keep me from publishing as much as I should, and it ingrains my practice with an overall sense of dissatisfaction. I need this to change for both professional and psychological reasons. I need to be able to remove the friction I feel when trying to put my thoughts on paper. This crusade for sculpting perfect sentences with perfect vocabulary is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees.

I started writing because I could paint an overall picture of what my imagination or subconscious was conjuring. Getting lost in the specifics of verbiage and technicality is a complete block for the state of “flow” I am trying to achieve. In Jungian terms, this would be due to an over-reliance on Ti, or introverted thinking. As this function happens to be tertiary in my cognitive stack, it is not quite the healthiest mindset for my personality type. Instead, I need to be engaging my auxiliary Fe, or extroverted feeling, to achieve the cathartic momentum and “flow” I am striving for.

The beautiful thing about writing is the infinite paths I can take to reach a conclusion. There is no black and white, or right and wrong. This gorgeous variability I experience is based in the extroverted feeling nature of my expression. Of course, this is all within the context of my dominant function, introverted intuition. But this deep dive into psychological types is leading us astray from the point of this entry.

To put it concisely, I need to stop being such a perfectionist with my work. I need to incorporate a more stream-of-consciousness style of writing. By starting regular journal entries where I let loose my spontaneity, I hope to become a better creator — one that is much more in touch with his intuition/feelings and less overwhelmed by the chaos of his mind. Wish me luck on this journey into unknown waters. I don’t know what to expect with this experiment, and neither should you.

Note: This idea came to me after being inspired by one of my favorite MBTI related sites, Stellar Maze. The specific article is geared toward how INFJs can activate their auxiliary Fe. I have linked it here.

Story Beginnings: The Concave

I flew high in the night, the wings of my soul perturbing the very aether that kept them aloft. Soaring above an icy expanse, my awareness flirted with oblivion, yet was held fixed by an ethereal river of light that I do not think mortal eyes could behold. Onward this great rush of luminosity propelled me, across vast and barren stretches of land. I was caught in the toroidal currents of the sphere and moving toward destiny with great haste.

The northern curtain greeted my passing with elegant sublimity. Folds and ripples of indiscernible scale graced the night sky. This was where the heavens were reflected upon the Earth. This was where the spiritual danced with the temporal. I was naught but a wisp in the air compared to this grandeur, yet inherently connected to the spirit it bore. Beyond these far reaches I did traverse.

As the firmament depressed and curved inward, my awareness sank into a vortex of light. In that far, northern apex of the world lay a forgotten portal. An entrance to the cradle of life, out of which poured the forebears of mankind. Currents of fire twisted around like a chain, propelling my existence deep into the womb of the Earth. There was no discerning the passage of time, as all humanly measurements were lost in this ascended state.

A line of red appeared where horizons met, quickly filling out into a dim star as I was swept forth. Centered in my sight, this dull, smoky brother of our sun was both the source and destination of the current. Maintaining an inward approach, I then witnessed the inside curvature of the firmament. Far below, across, and all around stretched lands of plenty. I was at the doorstep of destiny — a child of the great smoky god returned home.

Note: As with many of my imaginings, I can provide no backstory here. This was written with the intention of being somewhat obscure, based upon the recent images and ideas welling in my subconscious. Inspiration was derived from the works of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the adventures of Olaf Jansen, presented as a true account by Willis George Emerson.

Death: A Reality Check

I present a short musing that marks my hopefully triumphant return from the annals of writer’s block and apathy. It’s been too long since I’ve felt proud of a single sentence in anything I’ve written, including this. But how can I better perfect myself without even trying? Anyway, I digress. It’s time to purge this nihilism from my system.

The briefness of life is akin to a single breath of air. An inhale, an exhale, and then it’s over. The effects and memory of our meager existence in the universe are left to disperse and decay. I realize that I will not be upon this earth forever, for in fact my essence is as transitory as weather in the midwest. *chuckle* In this existence, my body is merely a shell that I must maintain in order to continue experiencing the perception of this particular state of reality. But this is a highly metaphysical, somewhat dry perspective.  

The simple, unalterable, absolute truth is that I’m going to die. 

I’m going to be rendered obsolete, wiped clean from the collective body of society, and ultimately eliminated from the engorged pool of humanity. It’s a frightening thought, but one I’m learning to embrace. Because embracing the inevitable is the best reality check. It frames your existence within a new context. It teaches you to see the aspects of life that matter on a true and profound scale. It unveils how many years you’ve wasted on trivial pursuits of material intention. But most importantly, it’s humbling as hell.

To cope with the realization of my looming annihilation, I have searched for a greater purpose. As if in rebellion against the void, I’ve analyzed the patterns of causes and effects underlying every event, looking for some meaning. This has led to a greater awareness of actions and reactions on both a micro (personal) and macro (universal) scale. Perceiving the inherent interconnectedness of everything and everyone, with no exceptions, has not been a forthcoming achievement. I realize that my way of thinking and priorities in life are not in line with convention, which has culminated in a self-centered yearning to be understood that I struggle to overcome. It’s spiritually inhibiting.

Liberation from spiritual death is understanding that the distinction between your individuality and the rest of the universe is not absolute. At best, it’s an illusion crafted by the limited awareness and material grip of this state of reality. The intrinsic and interconnected nature of life proves that we can not exist without sending ripples of effects out into the universe. And we are most certainly not immune to being affected by the ripples around us. It is indeed a metaphysical ocean we live in, and an unstoppable force that binds us all.

I meditate on this realization when the absurdity of existence takes its toll. What lies after death may not be possible to know with certainty. It may not even be within my capabilities, for all the speculating books and Sanskrit translations I’ve slogged through. But it’s my newfound understanding that this knowledge isn’t necessary. Realizing how inherently interwoven I am with the workings of the universe gives me a place and a calling. Spirituality frames the narrow truths of nihilism within a grander, far nobler context of divine purpose.

Death is but one side of the great balancing act of the universe. The story is so much larger than any individual soul. By striving to develop a perception of our interconnectedness, we can be inspired to live in a state of unconditional compassion, liberated understanding, and servitude toward our fellow man.

Story Beginnings: The Beast

There was something not quite right about the way his eyes bored into mine. Like a feral animal, I felt him watching my every move with primal intensity. I wanted to flee back into the woods, to immerse myself in their security and camouflage. But something held me in place. A rigidity took hold of my body. I was paralyzed with some mental fixation with this beast.

With sudden ferocity, the creature leaped in my direction. A monstrous roar ripped out from the depths of his body and I felt his teeth at my throat. I was on the ground, no longer immobile, but thrashing to free myself from this fatal embrace. My mind, my consciousness, remained detached from the events.

As my body endured the ripping, the shredding, and the unfathomable pain, my awareness rose high into the night. I looked down upon the horrific scene of my death, not quite grasping the reality of this moment. My temporal existence was no more. I had been freed from this accursed life, albeit not in the intended way…

Note: This is a new category of writing I am considering on posting periodically. Throughout the week, I often jot down short stories that have sprung to mind or been inspired through a dream. There is no backstory, and these stories will probably forever go unfinished. But I will share them here in hopes that someone can use the inspiration to fuel their own imaginings.