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. 🌹

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.

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.

Friendship

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 actions and appreciate the blessings we take for granted. Such blessings include our friends, the people in our lives that we could say anything to without fear or inhibition.

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.

Unfortunately, the fact that our friends influence the course of our future to an astounding degree is often overlooked. It is nearly impossible for one to live without being positively or adversely affected by our comrades. As we fly along, bumping into each other, our course is permanently affected. Those moments with the people we hold some degree of affection for shape our character and the path we are destined to traverse. If this realization was universal and acknowledged to a greater degree, we would look upon the people in our lives with a newly discovered value and respect.

The ultimate lesson comes 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 one’s we never lose, the shapers of ‘who we are,’ and  the ones who manage to leave a permanent imprint on our hearts, for better or worse.

Taking your friends for granted is one way of suffering. I challenge you to transcend this oversight and bestow those people who make a difference in your life with the respect they deserve.

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.

Interview with Linnéa Janus Sjögren

I would like to thank my dear friend, Linnéa Janus Sjögren for a truly enlightening interview. I’ve expanded my journalistic inquiries of authors to any individual that manages to inspire me in some way or another. Today I am sharing a dialogue between one such person, a character that I’ve been honored to communicate with in a soul-to-soul manner. The authenticity of this dear friend is evident in every word. She accepts herself and cherishes both the flaws and kernels of beauty each human is endowed with. I find myself rapt in awe and filled with admiration by this complex, engaging, and ultimately impassioned muse.

Ty: Your current abode lies in Sweden, but have you lived there your entire life? And if so, how has the culture made you who you are today?

Linnéa: I am born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve moved within the city limits and within Sweden’s boundaries. A few years ago I moved to Finland. I stayed there for about a year and a half, and then I returned back home to Sweden.

I’ve lived in all kinds of places. I grew up in a small town with deep social-economical cracks. Something that’s become more and more noticed in the Swedish society today. Though few people will acknowledge that. I’ve spent time with people from all social casts, and  it has all left me with imprints. In the long run, my moving around within Stockholm, has left me with more impacts than living abroad.

I’ve learned more from people around me, than from the culture in itself. Unless you would count music, music has always had a big impact and been very important. The different musical cultures have molded me more than social-economic cultures.

I’ve wandered from pop, to punk and rock, to industrial, synth and goth, in to metal and down to the underground sub-genres. This is where a lot of inspiration and comfort has been found. Time to heal and to feel. Music has always been more important than where I’ve lived. Everything that’s been a psychical change is jumbled and mixed up, while the music makes a soft, easy to follow, wave.

Ty: From our various conversations, It’s obvious that you are an incredibly soulful and spiritual individual. Has this always been the case? What factors in your life have contributed to the broader view of reality you express so well?

Linnéa: I don’t see myself as soulful or spiritual, but it might be that I am. Mostly I’ve always walked my own path in life. Observing and learning wherever I’ve needed to. Every time I’ve tried to walk to the beat of someone else’s drum it’s always ended in misery and pain. Though I’ve learned a lot from it, I wouldn’t recommend it. I make my own happiness, though it took me a few years to figure it out.

Growing up I was very focused on trying to “fit in”, I tried to be as normal as possible. I will admit that it was a poor idea, and something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

But there are many factors, not many of them beautiful. First of I was bullied for a long time in school. It was a hard life at home with my mom having it very hard economically and having mental issues she needed to work out. This made my first 18 years  very dark, and I had the blackest of black depressions. Around the time I was 18, cynical, and mentally buried in the feelings of worthlessness, I met someone very special. He put books by Richard Bach in my hands and brought me to his healer. I’d gone through many kinds of abuse, mental and physical by this time and had started looking into Zen meditation, I was tired of being broken and had somewhere along the way realized that only I could make myself whole. But it helped a bit on the way, and made me feel a bit less useless. It gave me a sense of self again. I got to grow, and I found myself re-connecting to life. I had stood still for so long that I thought I was a lost cause.

So I mediated, and I read. I went back to finish High School and get my grades, so maybe one days I can get into university. Of course not without some setbacks along the way. It was a hard road to walk, with work on the side and bad choices in relationships. But it’s the only way to grow as a person, through trials of various kinds. I’ve always had to struggle with one thing or the other, mostly it’s been the economic perspective. I’ve never seen any real value in money, and it’s given me many difficulties along the way, but not any that can’t be solved. So in a way, I’ve always lived smack down in the middle of reality, working to stand up on my own two legs at the same time as I’ve tried to figure out my life.

This is my reality, and I get to see the full spectrum of it.

Ty: I’ve always believed that raw knowledge can be transcended by personal experience: the ability and conditions necessary to develop wisdom. Where do your priorities in life lie in regards to these two methods of personal betterment?

Linnéa: I always work to become a better me. But I don’t believe in wisdom. It may sound odd since the definition of wisdom is to learn from ones experience. However, it feels so very misguided to me. For me it’s all about moving forward, learning and transcend through my highest right. I will never base an active decision on anything else than that. I question everything, to see if my answers change, how I change, and how the world around me change.

Of course, once can transcend through experience, but I don’t believe in that kind if experience without pains and trials. To really ascend into a better self, one needs to be able to merge the spiritual and the physical into a balance. It can never be two separate worlds. Knowledge in any form, comes through questioning. And mostly, I question myself, my choices, and what I do. If I don’t, when who will?

Ty: Falling in love is both the most complicated and simple of phenomenons in the universe. You are an open polyamorist, and this subject is unique for someone who has the amazing ability to be romantically involved with more than one person. Has accepting this facet of your personality liberated you from the pain of any possible hurdles along the way? In your opinion, is love most powerful when kept between two individuals, or shared openly as something all of humanity can partake in?

Linnéa: I don’t think it’s unique in any way really. Many people love selfishly, they keep it to themselves and with it comes jealousy, fear and confusion. Something that, in itself, is the opposite of love.  I could be romantically involved with more than one person, if I wished. however, I don’t, and I’m not. I chose a monogamous relationship, To share my most intimate with one person. And though I can fall in love with others, it is something I can choose to either act upon or not. I preferably choose not to, because I know there is naught much to miss, except the thrill of the first moments with someone new, and in the long run I don’t find it very fascinating.

However, it has changed a lot for me, to accept this part of me. I heard many times that my love was fleeting and that I didn’t know how it was to really feel for another person, while today I’d say that it’s a very wrong assumption. On the contrary, I get to feel deep, amazing, feelings for more than one person – it’s a different aspect of love, and somehow I believe it’s richer, than the simple one love. Most importantly, I feel free in my way of loving people. I can love freely in a new way, knowing it’s just part of me.

Of course it doesn’t liberate me from possible pains and heartaches. But it’s taught me a lot about jealousy and how to handle that aspects that can come from all kinds of directions.

I think love is always powerful, no matter how it’s shared. But it will always give back more then more you share it. Though it ought not to be too confused with sex. To share love freely, it has to be empathic, caring, and respectful. It’s never about the sexual aspect of a relationship.

Ty: Sexuality and orientation is a precarious subject for many, yet you manage to embrace yours with a grace that I deeply admire. Concluding this insightful interview, could you explain to our audience the importance of accepting one’s true nature, and not only being honest to others, but honest to oneself?

Linnéa: It is important to accept oneself, fully and entirely – that includes all those pesky details and flaws we see in ourselves, inwards and out. In a society where people strive to find “perfection” they often lose sight of what perfection is. Nature is perfection, perfection is a growing and changing state of mind, something under constant development. Life is perfect, with all its hardships and challenges. You are perfect, as long as you strive to ascend into your next self. But as soon as you stand dormant, perfection cease, because you have now stopped moving forward.

When realizing you are perfect just the way you are, a new kind of honesty will find its way to your heart. For you have accepted all that you are, thus opening yourself up to see your own inner diamond, your core, your soul.

With transcendence comes understanding, and with understanding comes humility. Within humility there is a honesty hard to find elsewhere. Through it you’ll find yourself a new honest nature, with yourself and the people around you.

It’s important, because it’s about taking care of yourself. For when you can really take care of yourself, from the inside and out, you can take care of those closest to your heart. the trick is always to care for yourself first, because if you’re not whole – you can’t possibly give support to those around you. It might sound counterproductive, but it’s really the only way to grow and keep moving forward. Because you won’t develop as long as you linger on your old scars, and tear then open. You won’t heal unless you allow yourself to do it, and you won’t ascend unless you heal. Love will heal, but you need to find that love towards yourself within you, before you can find love outside. Only you can heal yourself, and only you can accept yourself, your love towards yourself will always be the greatest one you’ll ever find.

In short: Find your highest truth, your highest self. Live by it, and you will notice a difference.

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I hope you enjoyed this interview and appreciate the new direction I’m focusing my eyes on. In the future, you can expect to see more inquiries with freethinking individuals. Everyone has an ability to break the mold in some way or another. True strength lies in the fearless: those who understand the importance of individuality and thinking for oneself. We should all take to heart the importance of being authentically unique, realizing that we can change the world with our mind and then choosing to do so. It’s the sincerest gift we can share with humanity.

If you are interested in learning more about Linnéa Janus Sjögren, check out her insightful blog, Dreamscapes.

Crisp, Ty (2013) Interview with Linnéa Janus Sjögren

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.

The Greater Man

A cascade of leaves erratically flies in a gust of wind. Competing forces pull to and fro, sending them in wayward directions. Unplanned, spontaneous, and totally free. Traveling somewhere we can never guess, they present a paradigm of life. In essence, we are all merely leaves, being carried throughout existence by an unseen and greater hand. We all ride the wind, and we all are traversing the same path, with only minor deviations. This force is powerful enough to carry the multitude of our spirits. There is always a breeze somewhere in the world, and this gives insight into the persistency of life itself.

An old man once told me that life is both more and less than we can possibly imagine. We carry out our existence, seemingly with a plethora of complications. Thinking, analyzing, judging, and toiling our minds away. We create an identity for ourselves, a mass of labels and materialistic stickers, and decide we are only going to view the world through a biased lens. We are preconditioned from childhood with a sense of “self” that allows us to judge situations and people on a personal level, and react in the best means of promoting self-preservation. This way of going about life can be useful as a tool, but not as the perfect means of understanding reality.

Sometimes, humans are capable of losing touch with the fundamental aspects of life. Sometimes, we fail to grasp the true essence of what it means to be living, breathing, and experiencing the awe of simple existence. Remember, we are all embodiments of impermanence, such as the leaves the fly together in a gust of wind. Sometimes we place too much emphasis on the time we are alive and forget that the universe still persists after we are long gone. Death before death is the true purpose of our existence. To abolish our simple and flawed perception of a personal life, and to realize the much greater picture is the ultimate goal.

In a sense, the Eastern sages were correct; we are all interconnected, we are One. Even if humanity is not linked by some cosmic, mystical force, we are linked by the everyday moments of life.  Everything we do and everything we say has an impact on countless individuals around us. Our words and actions have an altering effect on the proceedings to come, and our future can change drastically because of it. This broader outlook of cause and effect relationships is vital if we are to transcend egotism and experience reality in its true, unfiltered state.

Our goal in life is to live with integrity. To walk, talk, breathe, and create in utter honesty of our true being. Understanding the greater relationships in life allow one to be true to themselves, and the people they care about. We all have a greater man inside, and he has never abandoned us, regardless of the insanity we are capable of. This man is not your identity, but your state of being, for identity is an exterior construct. Through this state, we are capable of reveling in the awe of riding the wind. We are capable of appreciating the unsolved mysteries of the universe and knowing what true love really means. My final question: have you found YOUR greater man?