Inevitability

The smell of rain permeates the air as I kick at the dust on the side of an old country road. I see where the early drops have already fallen, leaving specks of slightly darkened soil. A man sits on the curb across from where I’m standing, looking at the rusted heap of metal that was previously a bike. I can see his age in the wrinkles of his hands and the riddled liver spots adorning his lined face. I can feel the age of his soul in the bright understanding and gentle humor of the situation in his eyes. The raindrops fall with increasing intensity as I stand and observe. The dust on my shoes is wiped away and I feel the matted hair sticking to my brow. I have an umbrella in my hands, and I raise it up to shield myself. The mechanism sticks and I struggle to pull it open as a gust overtakes me.  The old man looks to the heavens pensively as if thanking the clouds for their life-giving gift.

Without even a glance to the ruined bike, he stands to his feet with more balance than I would expect. Embracing the inevitability of the situation, he raises his arms to better feel the rain. He remains there, enjoying the forces that which he cannot control and finds peace in the moment. I look to him curiously and cease my struggles with the ill-fated umbrella. I let it fall to the ground and look up, feeling each drop caress my cheeks and run down my arms in gentle rivulets. I give in to the unchangeable tidal forces of all that is, and effectively, to the forces in my life that are better accepted than opposed. And in that moment, I am the world.

In life, we will confront obstacles. They will be seemingly unmovable, impermeable obtrusions that bring about stress and dissatisfaction. A perfect situation is all we can hope for, yet perfection is a level that will never be achieved. Circumstances will always be riddled with inadequacies and tidbits that are less than desirable. It is the inherent nature of mankind to oppose the forces in life that we cannot control. It is the nature of humanity to fear that which does not fall into our dominion. In other words, shit happens. It’s going to hurt, and possibly alter your life, but it’s going to happen nevertheless. Life is multi-faceted, meaning that nothing we encounter is ever simple, black, or white. This is the nature of suffering, the immutable strife we incur internally.

Amidst this conscious strife, there is a beauty and bliss in simply accepting the shit life throws in our direction. This does not mean we couldn’t or shouldn’t alter our circumstances for the better, but sometimes the option doesn’t exist. Sometimes the best we can do is realize that suffering is an integral part of the journey. Suffering is an inherent aspect of our spiritual growing up, you could say. Like the old man who embraced the rain because he was unable to escape it, so should we embrace the hard times that persist outside our control. Within this acceptance, we will find an unexpected bliss. I guess what I’m trying to impart is that sometimes it’s foolish to resist the winds of life.

Sometimes it’s best to fly alongside.

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Special thanks to my friend Topher Otake for inspiring me.

Farewell to Writer’s Workshop

A farewell is constructed for a dual purpose: reminiscing on what’s behind and painting an image of what lies ahead. It signifies more than closure—It breathes life into a new beginning. My fellow writers, comrades, and life-wanderers, I come before you today in spirit, in joy, and in gratitude for your contribution to my future. From the beginning of our journey, I’ve seen you all as more than classmates. I’ve seen you as brothers and sisters. Something curious about writing is the honesty it demands; the authenticity it sucks from our faculties. I’ve seen this from all of you: that sheer truth between the letters on the page. It creates a bond that can only be called spiritual. It’s understanding. It’s compassion. But more than anything, it’s acceptance for each other’s individual experiences and emotions. Thank you for being my friends.

To honor the beginning after the end, I come before you today as a reminder for what life is really all about. We are not merely humans having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, living a human experience. There is more to life than the pursuit of a superficial lifestyle. This class, with my friends, is proof of that. Ambition is not a vice, but it should be forged with our spiritual future in mind, not only materialistic goals. Experiences like this class build the foundation of inspiration and motivation that allows us to pursue life creatively and passionately. It allows us to commune with the muses, and feel for ourselves the undiscovered country within life. As I say my adieu, I leave intending to inspire you, my friends, to pursue the future that matters most.

Embark.

The Secret Truth

Amidst the facade and fictional overlay of the world, there is an underlying truth. This is not a reference to the validity of factual knowledge, but more so to the truth in perception. What is the true nature of all that is? We ask these questions in every waking moment of our lives, but normally not through conscious methods. We question subconsciously. We are unaware seekers, eternally blinded by the fog of ignorance, yet still questioning what we perceive in some deeper facet of our minds. There is an aspect of humanity’s primal nature rooted in the bliss of ignorance: the conditioning of our minds on the basis of prior bias and prejudice. Environmental factors, over a period of time, result in a developing pattern of thought that tends to stick with us for life. This pattern is the epitome of ego. It leads us into an existence founded in ignorance.

The struggle between the security of ignorance and the piercing clarity of truth is well documented. Humanity is not entirely oblivious to it’s superficial perception of reality, even though most do not choose to acknowledge it. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” a few subjects are chained where all they can see are shadows of real objects on the wall in front of them. Their backs are to the entrance of the cave, and so the subjects did not know of anything more ingrained in truth than the faux images. They were ignorant of the honest reality of the world.

This struggle is again expressed in a modern film, “The Truman Show.” The lead character, Truman, is the star of a television show that he believes is the real world. His family, friends, and any other humans he interacts with are merely actors. His hometown, Seahaven, is only a giant set. Truman believes everything is real while his actions are unknowingly being broadcasted to the entire nation. The movie introduces Truman at a time when he is only beginning to realize there is something not right or authentic about his life. The film documents Truman’s ascension into the real world and into knowledge similar to that of Plato’s cave dwellers.

“We accept the reality of the world in which we are presented.” This quote emanated from the directer of “The Truman Show.” Truman Burbank lived his life in a television show since birth, knowing no other reality. Acceptance of the world as he saw it was ingrained in his mentality. He firmly believed that the lifestyle he was living was normal. In Plato”s “Allegory of the Cave” the subjects in the cave watched the shadows believing they were completely founded in truth. The actors Truman grew to love and trust are metaphors for the shadows the subjects in the cave accepted as real. There were times when Truman was informed he was living a life of lies in a television show, but he was unable to understand them in his ignorance. Similarly, when a subject in the cave was told that more to life existed than the cave itself, he could not believe it, proving that ignorance is blinding. It was not until he witnessed the true reality or world for himself that his eyes were opened. This struggle and eventual realization is synonymous with that of Truman’s.

In the film, the viewers of “The Truman Show” religiously watch the events in Truman’s life, basing their own lives around his decisions and actions. Like Truman, they are controlled by the puppeteers, or directors, of the show. Once Truman escaped into the true world, the viewers found other shows to watch. It can be said that people in a media-driven society are prisoners like those in Plato’s cave. We watch television as they watch the shadows of the puppets, and base our lives around such. For example, commercials espouse certain products, advertising them profusely. We give in to this pressure and purchase them accordingly, only reinforcing the metaphorical prison we all are enchained in.

Plato would agree that both his “Allegory of the Cave” and “The Truman Show” are merely paradigms of an overall human condition. We all are slaves to ignorance and a limited perception of “what is.” Each of us believes in a monochrome reality, one in which our vision of the world is truth, and anything else is in opposition to that viewpoint. Like the prisoners in the cave, we cannot see the truth, and therefore we cannot fathom the existence of it. This inhibition can be transcended, but only through courage and introspection. The truth is paramount, but unless the ignorance of accumulated conditioning and a superficial perception are overcome, we will forever be blind to the beauty of what truly “is.”

Wake up. The truth is within you.

Shades of Gray

You are the captain of a ship that has sunk. There are thirty people trying to stay afloat on a lifeboat, which is only meant to hold twenty. It will sink momentarily, unless something is done. There are two distinct choices: Since the boat will need rowed to shore, you could throw the ten weakest people overboard, thereby ensuring the safety of at least some lives. Or, you could allow everyone to stay, sinking the boat, and most likely dooming everyone aboard. What do you do?

…..

Morality and ethics are far from absolute. For each individual, the bridge between right and wrong is different. In some cases, the contrasts are only marginally at odds, although others can be more drastic in their differences. There is an aspect of the human psyche that is prone to viewing reality in black and white. This dualistic world view separates life into two distinct categories: right and wrong, moral and immoral, or good and bad.  

Not every dilemma has an answer. There may never be a perfect solution for each intricate equation we face in life. The assumption that there can only be two choices is inherently flawed. For the sake of delving into the philosophical realm of ethics, legalism and rigid boxes are fine and dandy. Nevertheless, I must disagree that this is a realistic or practical outlook. In many circumstances, it is never easy to analyze or pinpoint the “right” path to take. Of course, there are still times when a moral choice is clearly black or white, but one must realize that this outlook doesn’t apply to every situation.

In the end, it must be understood that moral dilemmas in life cannot always be answered by adhering to a civic code. We must follow our conscience, and judge dilemmas based on circumstances rather than how they apply to a strict ideology. Our intuition should be a great asset in these situations. Sometimes, all we see is the black or white, when truly, the matter is only painted in shades of gray.

Forgotten

I’ve always found it intriguing how a single perspective can become the dominate way of viewing reality. No matter how flawed the outlook, we can become blinded. Eventually we become puppets to the vision, and we lose sight of any alternative. The possibility of stepping back and seeing the bigger picture becomes null.

Every kernel of time harbors an infinite amount of possibilities and events. Each second bears witness to the indefinite and the undefinable. We often forget here on Earth that our lives and experiences only comprise an infinitesimally small fraction of the totality.

Time is relative. The reality in which our consciousness resides is certainly not the bigger picture. It is an extremely limited viewpoint that forms the basis of all suffering. It is a rampant addiction to personalizing all of the pain we endure in life. If such a perspective becomes ingrained at an early age, is there any means of transcendence?

There are moments when something akin to an epiphany intrudes upon the cacophony of our flawed reality. There are moments when we are overcome by an intuition or inspiration that renders our critical conscience useless. We become vessels of the deepest creative powers. These moments constitute true beauty. The incessant drone of that voice in our heads is halted, even if it is only for a moment. Within that single second, the truth becomes apparent. The empty expanse of the page behind the text is revealed.

We perceive ourselves in these momentary glimpses, but is is inherently not our Self that we encounter. We are encountering the crystal depths below the surface of a turbulent sea. This epiphany opens our hearts and minds to the undefinable depths that constitute our true being.

In that single second we see the bigger picture. We understand the futility of maintaining our flawed perspective. In that single blink of an eye, the truth is apparent. And like the sun obscured on a cloudy day, it’s over. And then we forget.

Transience

Dusk was settling in and the fireflies began illuminating our vista with intermittent rhythm. I grasp tightly to the aged, shriveled hand nestled in mine and project our souls into the surrounding dance of light. Mindless, unconcerned, and only existent in a reverie of love, we dance; my Miriam and I. Hearts colliding and minds twirling, our projected essences mingle into one. Our earthly shackles have fallen away: the world weariness and diminishing life that constitutes old age. I look into my beloved’s eyes and find, in this moment, recognition. Recognition and Love.

The receding light of day is a reminder of life’s transitory nature. Our bodies wither, ambition dulls, and eventually our minds fade, similarly to the waning strength of the sun. Returning to earth and the wooden rocker on my front patio, I glance over at Miriam’s flower bed nestled against an old magnolia. The forget-me-nots have been invaded by weeds and neglected by their normally devout caretaker. They were her children, the product of her love and nurturing. Now they had been forgotten, wilting and choked with crabgrass.

My thoughts linger on death, the unavoidable destination people shy away from. When a loved one exits this reality and begins the great adventure, why do we mourn? Is it love? Attachment? We can reason and say that dying is a process of nature and something we should cherish as a facet of life itself. But why do we feel a heartache and grief that keeps us awake at night? Why do our hands shake with sadness when we lift a pencil to write? My darling Miriam is physically sound. Her bodily strength ebbs just as surely as mine, however the degradation of her memories—her heart— is a painful realization greater than death itself.

Twilight deepens and the fiery insects emerge in abundance. Long shadows adorn the lawn, stretching to the front steps like fingers probing for a thing almost lost. The day was over, and the sun diminished. Knowing it was time to retire for the night, I clamber to my feet. I offer my hand to Miriam, our eyes meeting in the twinkling light of fireflies. In that moment, I realize some part of her has finally passed on. Confusion and bewilderment replace the recognition I searched for earlier. A lone tear trails down my old face as I understand. Even love can die.

Note: Researchers have discovered that emotions outlast memories. Victims of severe Alzheimer’s are still capable of increased happiness when meeting friends or family. If you are loved one of such individuals, please know that you DO have an effect. Your affection WILL make a difference. And most importantly, love CAN transcend impermanence.

Under the Cedar Tree

I was surrounded by a thicket so dense I could almost feel the rhythmic throbbing of hearts in every tree. The needles beneath my feet padded every footstep, and my tread was silent. I could hear the birds chirping their songs of joy and sweet content, careening through the skies like angels patrolling the heavens. Dawning bright and glorious, sunlight crept through the branches. I reveled in these sporadic windows of light and warmth. I felt the thrum of life in every direction, and it was invigorating. Good morning Serenity, I thought to myself.

There was a friend hiding somewhere in this forest of cedar trees. My friend and your friend; a friend to us all.  Sometimes I could hear her calling from a limb above my head. Or maybe she was whispering from just behind my back. Every time I looked up or turned around, her kind cajoling ceased to invite me. Her presence wavered in and out of my consciousness elusively, like a guttering candle in the wind. I danced on the threshold of frustration, and somehow I felt that this would be the greatest impediment to my quest. Most could never find their friend in the forest. Some searched, but always in the wrong direction. This friend did not like to hide, for it was not her nature. The wanderers of the forest had merely forgotten how to look.

My passage through the thicket was halted when I met a wounded tree in my path. This broad cedar bore an impressive girth and towered above its neighbors. How lucky I was to witness this goliath; still a King of the Wood however marred his flesh had become. I gazed upon a charcoal wound spanning the diameter of his trunk, stretching from the base to several feet above my head. The King had been a victim of fire, in similarity to how the wanderers had been victimized by life. I had garnered many scars of my own throughout this search for a friend. The forest had dealt its blow in numerous ways, and I grew wary of the endless suffering. Deciding to break from the pain and momentarily renounce my title of seeker, I sat down beneath the cedar tree. Crossing my legs, I thought: There is no place like here and now. 

A lesson can be found within the needles and bark of trees, like the one I was leaning my back upon at that moment. These envoys of wisdom toil with the natural forces of the greater wood, collecting garish wounds in the process. However, they do not suffer from such adornments. The King at my back lived on, healing ever so slowly with lasting remnants of his scar. Yet he did not fight back, for all trees know that scars are inevitable. This unconditional acceptance was captivating and held me in sway. This compliance with the whimsical and unpredictable nature of life was compelling. In an act of capitulation, I turned inwards and yielded to the throes of existence. It was then that I found my friend. She had never been hiding, but merely resting below the surface of where I chose to search. My quest to seek the hand I wished to hold was over, and it ended under the cedar tree.

Hope is a Fickle Thing

The total obliteration of hope within the human consciousness is an uncommon occurrence. There is a strength of will and mental fortitude within the human psyche that keeps our soul and very spirit on top of its game. The nearly indomitable belief that a better outcome is always possible can be likened to faith in the most powerful of senses. However, hope can still be trampled and forgotten, or merely overridden by a plethora of fear and depression.

In this sense, the realization of hope can be quite fickle. It is usually present within our hearts, although humanity has a way of forgetting their most beautiful mutual characteristics. When we are placed in a situation of extreme stress and anxiety, a certain blindness can overcome our good sense. We succumb to the tyranny of emotional turmoil and lose faith and conviction. But hope in the deeper sense is usually present, although sometimes it takes the likeness of a gem buried beneath the rubble.

I’ve noticed an intriguing paradox concerning the concept of hope. One can deny the impetus of this force, and even believe, in all honesty, that its practical uses are few and far between. However, this cannot stop an individual from hoping entirely. We all wish for better times and a brighter future, even when the fruits and bounty of life are served to us on a gold platter. The choice between faith and action is not a necessary decision, no matter the rhetoric some may jaunt.

Hope and faith, in actuality, are the result of positive action. This equation cannot be lived in a one-sided manner. Hope stems from action, and this action, in turn, produces a new infusion of hope. Faith alone may guide us in times of strife and confusion, for it is the fire within us that dreams of what could be; the passionate desire for an idealistic outcome. Yet, this expectation and feeling of desire for a certain thing to happen must be acted upon.

Indeed, hope is a fickle thing, but fickle in the sense that it is always in the process of burial and renewal. We all have that flicker of something beautiful within us; that core of innate longing for an outcome that goes beyond mere survival. A very testament to the will of humanity, hope is our light. It is the mutual drive that propels our society, consciousness, and dreams ever forward.

“To Thine Own Self Be True”

Relationships are often the focus of emotional speculation and sometimes, unfortunately, derogatory criticism. It it my opinion that this outlook stems from a misunderstanding of the mysterious phenomenon called love and an often one-sided view of relationships in general.

In order to develop the correct understanding of love, one must first dissolve any preconceived notion they might have developed from a worldly source, namely the media and the cultural leaders we call celebrities. Secondly, one must understand the three fundamental components of any true relationship. They are also relevant in the context of friendships.

The most vital component of any relationship is sincerity. One must e completely honest to their partner, but to an even greater extent, themselves. Truth of heart, truth of mind, and truth of character comprise the fundamental pillars of this concept.

Integrity is an often overlooked attribute in the development of relationships. Everyone follows their own moral code; a set of ethical standards. Admittedly, this code can vary drastically depending on the individual, however it is there, all the same. Integrity is the willingness of one to adhere to their own conscience.

The final aspect of an enduring relationship is compassion, an almost indescribable force that seems completely at odds with human nature. Love is founded in the deepest compassion. It is the understanding and caring tenderness that occurs in those completely speechless moments of devotion and spiritual attraction, regardless of superficial factors including personal identity.

You can sum up these components in a simple commandment: Be true. You deserve your honesty as much as anyone else, whether applied to friendships, or a deeper relationship. Cultivating your inner characteristics results in a more powerful outward experience. Too many times have I witnessed individuals falling away from each other because of superficial discrepancies, which are only existent as an effect of inner turbulence and misunderstanding. I have come to the realization that ignorance of the true nature of love often predates the collapse of relationships. My message to anyone, whatever form of relationship you may in, is to find a cure for your ignorance. Take those necessary steps to understand. And most importantly, Be true.

Heroic Humanity

Looking at humanity from a detached point of view can be enlightening, yet quite frankly, confusing. At first glance, we seem to be a selfish and fairly materialistic folk. Consider our vain treatment of appearance and the standards of society we deem so important to adhere to. How about our ineptitude in liking someone for who they are, rather than how they compare to us? Some would consider this human nature, with anything greater being a true anomaly. While I am still a dreamer, one who hopes and believes in a better future, it can be difficult to ignore the grim aspects of humanity.

Despite our seemingly inherent egotistical tendencies, there is a deeper character in most humans. This character finds expression in the facets of life that often go unmentioned or undiscussed. This is heroism, an utterly selfless act of compassion that defies our normal self-preservationist mind frame. It is completely voluntary, often involving a particular risk, and is carried out without need for material gain or recompense. Being a hero is more than doing your duty, or following through with something you have been charged to do. Being a hero is about acting without hesitation or fear for your own safety.

The very basis of heroic humanity is founded in altruism. This principle can become a belief or practice, one of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Coupled with courage and decisiveness, heroism becomes a true possibility. My goal in life is to be a hero, both in the official and unofficial senses. My goal is to inspire, love, and protect those I care about, as well as to do something truly remarkable for a complete stranger on a daily basis.

Humans are capable of suffering, both enduring and inflicting. We are capable of truly horrendous wars, murder, genocide, and hurt. We are unforgiving when it comes to defending belief and tradition. Despite our total lack of appreciation for our shared humanity, we are always in some form of conflict, either internal or external.

Yet, we are also capable of so much more. We can coexist if we find common ground. We can discover what it means to be a hero, and live our lives in betterment of our brothers and sisters around us. It stands evident that there is something within our hearts, something nameless and profound, that has the potential of uniting us in a brotherhood of humanity. This phenomenon is called love; the very clay of creation. From the words of John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

Be a hero.