Zooming Out: Catching Up With Myself at 32

It’s time to zoom out. And so, I’ve come to write: where all my major honesty and resultant growth occurs; for without writing, I’d have no free will, no ability to edit the scripts running in my consciousness – scripts as in stories, and scripts as in programs, i.e., JavaScript.

And perhaps these metaphors feel palpable to me because I write fiction and I code, but I’ve definitely come to think of myself as a mind hacker – a title I covet because I think it’s my gift: I can change how people see things.

And that’s really one of the jobs of the artist – as Malcolm Gladwell so aptly defined it: art is using your humanity to create change in other people. 

And one thing I can confidently say for myself is that I am growing immensely in my humanity. In fact, I’ve never felt more humbled by life – and it’s all been the result of shifts in my perspective.

I’m not saying I can teach you something about life, but I can tell you about what it means to be human. And my whole life has been spent trying to make that duty [being human] easier – very often making it harder, but that’s life – that’s what it means to be human, to err.

I think human life is remarkable in the sense that it involves constant personal growth: you’re born one person, you die another. I used to think life was some series of stages, and I think this is because society views it this way: adolescence, youth, adulthood, old age. But life isn’t that simple, it’s not automatic: we age, yes – but whether we grow fully is up to us.

Jung’s Four Stages of Life Development, which follow, presents some interesting paradigms for growth, aging, and maturity, particularly in the youth and middle life stages:

Childhood: (birth to puberty)
Childhood has two substages. The archaic stage is characterized by sporadic consciousness, while the monarchic stage represents the beginning of logical and abstract thinking. The ego starts to develop.

Youth: (puberty until 35 – 40)
Maturing sexuality, growing consciousness, and a realization that the carefree days of childhood are gone forever. People strive to gain independence, find a mate, and raise a family.

Middle Life: (40-60) The realization that you will not live forever creates tension. If you desperately try to cling to youth, you will fail in the process of self-realization. Jung believed that in midlife, one confronts one’s shadow. Religiosity may increase during this period, according to Jung.

Old Age: (60 and over) Consciousness is reduced. Jung thought that death is the ultimate goal of life. By realizing this, people will not face death with fear, but with a hope for rebirth.

I feel that, in looking at these criterion, I’ve just now reached youth at 32, having spent so long operating more from the childhood, and, more recently, the middle life stages; however, regardless of where you might appraise yourself across this list, it’s doubtless something capable of provoking some valuable self-examination (Unfortunately, being human entails dealing with some absolutely shit base code).

Another great lens for self-examination are the Big Five Personality Factors (Traits):

Openness to experience: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has. It is also described as the extent to which a person is imaginative or independent, and depicts a personal preference for a variety of activities over a strict routine. High openness can be perceived as unpredictability or lack of focus. Moreover, individuals with high openness are said to pursue self-actualization specifically by seeking out intense, euphoric experiences, such as skydiving, living abroad, gambling, et cetera. Conversely, those with low openness seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance, and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven—sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret and contextualize the openness factor.

Conscientiousness: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. High conscientiousness is often perceived as stubbornness and obsession. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability.

Extraversion: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness. High extraversion is often perceived as attention-seeking, and domineering. Low extraversion causes a reserved, reflective personality, which can be perceived as aloof or self-absorbed.

Agreeableness: (friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. It is also a measure of one’s trusting and helpful nature, and whether a person is generally well-tempered or not. High agreeableness is often seen as naive or submissive. Low agreeableness personalities are often competitive or challenging people, which can be seen as argumentative or untrustworthy.

Neuroticism: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control and is sometimes referred to by its low pole, “emotional stability”. A high need for stability manifests as a stable and calm personality, but can be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned. A low need for stability causes a reactive and excitable personality, often very dynamic individuals, but they can be perceived as unstable or insecure. 

Here, I can identify that I need to work on my conscientiousness – being less careless and more dutiful / organized, productive – and I need to work on my neuroticism – increasing my emotional stability by zooming out and experiencing negative emotions with ease, rather than reeling in that sick, uneasy feeling I get – the one that led me to smoke four dabs of Yoda OG shatter before I wrote this: a virtuous, sacred act in comparison to my years of problematic drinking in a failed effort to quell the same feelings (Each to their own). That said, Cannabis is a psychedelic and I am a big proponent of the therapuetic and psycho-shamanic value of psychedelics.

Again, I’m a mind hacker. That’s the beauty of having a mind: you can change it.

A large part of my being is rooted in the futurist paradigm of consciousness as a computer. And this by no means speaks to the viability of the idea, but, rather, to the validity of it: consciousness as a computer is a valuable paradigm, one that today enables me to live with a greater degree of stoicism, mindfulness, and ultimately, inner peace.

I am beginning to understand who I am and grow into my potential as a result of having adopted a growth mindset, which, coupled with ideas from people more intelligent than I, have allowed me to change myself in really positive ways – and in doing this work, in facing life honestly, bravely, strongly, I’ve opened up to life in really beautiful, empowering, freeing ways. And I’ve discovered that I’m actually much more than I ever thought I was, and – at the same time – I’m everything I knew I was all along (Good person, writer, romantic), BUT: I’m also everything my ego feared I was (Petty, temperamental, self-destructive). And knowing that, knowing my blind spots and weaknesses, is just as essential.

Look, I must admit, I do not like large parts of who I was in my twenties. And that’s a good thing.

When I was proud of myself I was an asshole. Increased humility and self-knowledge have made me a kinder, more human person.

It’s also made life much easier for me. Things are probably better than they have ever been; I’m getting my shit together, so to speak.

Today, I woke up in a beautiful home in the mountains and wrote fiction, working on what will become my first published novel.

This writing shit is real, is happening.

I’m also in a stable, loving relationship with a beautiful, evolving woman, who is in every way committed to growing with me and doing life properly so that none of it is wasted in negative feeling; however, as we have learned together, negative feelings will make or break you: it is how you choose to deal with them; every emotional reaction to an outside event being a choice.

Will you react with grace, tolerance, fairness and equanimity, or will your lower, base animal consciousness rule you?

It is all your choice.

I am choosing to zoom out from the outside events, realizing that the inside events are far more worth my attention and energies, for it is the inner life – our spiritual needs – that must be met above all – lest we ignore them until our shadow is so overgrown that it takes over, as is the case for anyone that knows what it is to be their own worst enemy.

Two years ago,  I turned thirty and thought I knew what it was to be a man – as if I could suddenly encapsulate and know my twenties with a sudden new wisdom; it wasn’t like that. I wasn’t done clinging to youth, fucking it up for myself.

Over the course of the next two years, from 30-32, I would:

  • Meet Sarah and fell in love
  • Move to the mountains
  • Wake to news of my Dad’s death
  • Start two failed businesses
  • Get major wintertime cabin fever
  • Punch my fist through a bedroom door
  • Hit relationship bottom, nearly saying goodbye, before months later when we would become stronger than ever
  • Face a lot more of my shadow, including my twenties, honestly
  • Have that birthday where I woke up and suddenly felt old AF
  • Switch from being a dysfunctional drinker to a very functional stoner
  • Transform from insomniac to early morning happy bed head
  • Release my childhood resentments toward my parents
  • Outgrow my attachments to past girlfriends
  • Accept my mortality, seeing that much of my young life is gone
  • Commit to my dreams as a serious fucking writer (By writing fiction every damn beautiful morning)
  • Go from unsure about my future to decided

And what’s as much, if not more than these things, is that I changed, I grew, I matured.

The events are not different, I am.

Because that’s what counts: who we are, how we see things. This is what makes all the difference between heaven and hell.

Its all in your fucking head. Only, you’re swallowed up, caught in a tidal wave called zeitgeist, so that you never live life deciding every day is going to be the best day of your life – because you’re just like, “Meh”.

And if you are there, I really hope you will open up to the richness of your inner life, which is nothing short of a wellspring for goodness.

My goals this year are centered around opening up to my inner life: the cohesion of soul, spirit, mind, and body; I’m not so much interested in new experiences as I am in experiencing the same things in brand new ways, because ultimately, consciousness is within us – we merely project it onto the outer world – but few people ever discern between inner truth and outer experience, the latter being illusory or what the Vedas refer to as Maya.

From Wiki:

The term Maya has been translated as ‘illusion,’ but then it does not concern normal illusion. Here ‘illusion’ does not mean that the world is not real and simply a figment of the human imagination. Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.

And:

The Vedas cannot show you Brahman, you are That already. They can only help to take away the veil that hides truth from our eyes. The cessation of ignorance can only come when I know that God and I are one; in other words, identify yourself with Atman, not with human limitations. The idea that we are bound is only an illusion [Maya]. Freedom is inseparable from the nature of the Atman. This is ever pure, ever perfect, ever unchangeable.

— Adi Shankara’s commentary on Fourth Vyasa Sutra, Swami Vivekananda

Liberating our emotional bodies  from the outer world is the essence of the philosophy of detachment, which is “freedom from desire and consequently from suffering” – attachment being seen as a main cause of suffering in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Jainism. While I’m not much for isms, I’ll take spiritual paradigms built on philosophies of the mind over blind religious dogma any day of the week. I mean, who wants to learn more about how perfect Jesus was when the Hindus have Vairagya and Moksha?

Clearly I am on my journey and continuing to learn more about myself and the world, but I am deeply grateful to finally be able to understand that the gap between dreams and reality must either close or pass, for we only have so much time. This is no pressure, but is instead a truth I now understand, and one that drives me, pushes me to follow my heart, asking myself, what matters? What counts?

The answer, of course, always being: here, now.

I’m just now learning what that is; I used to think it was all just, “meh”, but then I realized it was just me.

One Imperfect Hero

I seek the center of myself,
To live the song I am with clarity -That peaceful, healthful joy
Here, a new paradigm,
Let lay cornerstone to my beliefs:
I, one imperfect hero,
Male,
Lusts and ambitions too,
Sleep contentedly
For by fortune’s grace,
At one and thirty years, my soul is yet bouyant, airy, clean,
My past at rest,
For there really was no other way
So I live as if I had never relinquished my cares,
That I was always this best friend to myself,
And nevermore have to fear a coming hour, day, nor year,
Being whole,
The hero I sought for myself as a child. 

Note: I came across this tonight while going through a few recent drafts, and while it’s not my favorite poem, it speaks to self-acceptance, love. That said, the world needs more generosity in its art. 

This Lovely, Sacred Road

Without faith,
We find ourselves
Again and again,
Always forgetting what’s mortal –
We living, breathing, hoping beings
Artists and lovers, who
Having examined the world,
Declared it gross, inhumane
Rather insane really –
All this chasing
Greed, separation, ego,
That veil of worth,
Hardly worth defending
Inane inward judgments, reflected back
And fear, because you can’t run a society unless the people in it are afraid
But we’d all love something unlike this society entirely –
Only, we’d never know what it is
So we call this fucking scummy, capitalistic shit happiness,
Each of us taking life on the chin,
Again and again,
Never really living
But dying all the time,
Treating one another with suspicion at best,
Few of us ever owning up to our lives,
Or the one side taking us over,
Light or Dark – but rarely whole
Shades of something,
But never committed,
That puer provisional life,
When,
If,
And of course, existential dread,
Because smart, and fucking A –
Have you seen Christian Middle America?
Seen some on Fox, at a neighbors,
And all over this fucking white mountain town,
Its residents, particularly the aged,
All so smug, so decided –
But that’s besides the point
I’m halfway through life – 31
And this shit has been for far too long,
Not fun,
And sometimes, really ugly –
That hole I punched in the door haunts,
And bill-collectors lurk, haunting too
But I DGAF because I can’t afford to –
And thus isn’t a declaration of anything,
A blame on relationship –
All women who have loved me deserve sainthood –
But, rather, this is just a human being,
And perhaps an intelligent one,
Declaring that I have too much soul for Atheism,
Too much destructive foolheartedness,
Too much childhood grief,
For disbelief
Because I need something to pray to,
An energy field to commune with,
Something to make me moral, good
Better, at least, than my sins
Those marks I miss,
The lowering of consciousness
The denial of my status as a mind
Because I am capable of breaking my own heart,
Letting myself down entirely
But that’s not all that’s inside of me
I just need the light to see
To be me,
In a world gone mad
Families all sad
Self-loathing moms and dads
Cads,
Players,
Runners,
Fakers – oh and of course “haters”
Because you are so, like, important bro
Yeah, fuck those haters
Fuck Bitches Get Money
And Cash me Oussside
That’s rich –
These fucking baboons: humans
Religions and wars and never really knowing anyone other than those who approve of you
And divorce too,
The new death and taxes
But she and I are just orphans,
Still fight like cats and dogs,
Still cogs, grinding and churning,
In the chaos of this violent, sick machine
All of us neglecting the human,
In favor of some invisible archetype that moves America –
Some fucking young, rich, white asshole couple,
Persons we wouldn’t like but want to be like
And I hated when my parents said we were rich,
But there exists no poverty in my soul other than want,
Comparison –
Whiter teeth, nicer muscles, fewer wrinkles,
Harder, bigger erections,
So we can fuck the illusion of who we are into someone else,
Look at my worth, oh fuck, I’m gonna cum
But even I jerked off to a young french maid today,
Had sex three times today,
Needed to cleanse my mind of all the dust –
Watching my neighbor die,
Pills and late stage alcoholism,
Grown children he doesn’t know,
And at the end of the month,
Out of meds, no more Norcos,
Forced to turn to street drugs –
No religion,
No love,
No warm, sticky, juicy ass –
Fuck me you little maid,
Smoothie shop girl,
Petshop girl,
Yeah, I have crushes
But then I don’t follow those illusions down
Because they are shattered –
I am such a fucking human,
I like to smoke pot
When I drink, I drink too much
Then we both wake up sorry –
But there are no kids yet –
I’m barely even a fit parent for my own inner child
Fucking A,
I never knew how hard it was,
Just to genuinely like yourself
Just for two people with genuine, abiding love for one another to make it work
To withdraw your projections,
And see through your own masks,
And to proclaim your sorrows, your sweet sorrows, pains, for all to see
Asking, society, please support me –
Wanting nothing but to be an artist,
In a day and age,
When part-time, minimum wages,
Aren’t even livable –
And fuck the working class anyway,
You secure, self-righteous assholes!
Conscripting us all to it
And I haven’t seen the inside of the best buy in eons
Could barely afford ikea food –
Excluded by virtue of poverty from a lot of even just like basic friendships –
And why? Because I am a motherfucking writer
But it’s not as simple as just:
Accept poverty, take stupid job, tiny apartment, write
Life is complex,
“My whole youth was sharper than cleats”
And
I’ve had three failed businesses in the last year
Life didn’t get easy,
But there is no escaping me
The fact that I cannot live without god
Am unable to even be a decent, functioning human
And it’s not for rules,
Guilt never worked on me –
I am entirely ineligible for the Judeo-Christian gods –
Fox news watchers,
The lot of them
But I believe in a sentient, conscious energy,
And just for fun,
Let’s throw in my DMT fairy godmother of the soul watching over me –
My religion
A Gay movie of the week (No prejudi)
And me, wanting to feel
FAB, great
or, at least, loved
By myself,
Those I admire,
Not forgotten by the universe,
The one soul,
Reduced to life as pleasure in a hell
All because we are too fucking scared,
Afraid to decide,
Once and For All
Who we are –
Our relation to the big bang
Accepting that the world will turn on,
Largely ignorant, perhaps forever
Because humans are intrinsically plugged in, connected
Not to one another but to this fairly shitty matrix,
The degrading, decaying pull of economic demands –
But who the fuck can own the energy,
The land,
The airwaves,
Your loyalty
Your days and your life,
Just to shit in a toilet everyone else shits on,
All shitting, corporate persons, millionaires too
Just on nicer toilets than you,
And perhaps, not having to hold it in,
While the next person, whom you do not like,
Shits
And is probably in an unsatisfying relationship,
Or just life as a whole;
Person, please rate your experience of life:
‘Um, well, it has its moments’
And tell us:
What do you do for fun on your planet:
‘Get drunk, fuck,’
‘Pretend we aren’t all shitting on the same toilet’
Or, you are likely completely content –
Your car,
House,
Clothes,
The person you fuck,
Toilet you shit on
All some extension and advertisement of your success;
For society loves nothing more than the smells of youth, and beauty,
Consumerist as fuck
And we’re all conscripted
Because we weren’t born in a village;
In the fucking US of A,
You better figure the fuck out what you’re gonna do,
Just to keep the lights on,
Human sustenance being the chief concern of our day,
Not art,
Not love,
Not the transcendent richness of inner landscape; soul
Nah fam: wifi
You gotta have wifi
How else to jerk off,
Be entertained;
Hell, the world will not even provide you with basic thermodynamic regulation;
Shelter is insanely fucking expensive;
Income despairity is real;
Life is an overgrown high school,
Our president a fucking jerk off, ass hat
Oh, and pardon me if you disagree with that,
Yeah, he is a real noble man, sure
And the most popular guy in highschool was a specimen of human dignity too;
But life is lived like that;
Even quantifiable in social capital,
Likes, follows
What the fuck is this world even;
Get me out of USA;
Great country but also really fucking fucked;
The American being firstly, king jerk off;
Because morals are dead but religion somehow still thrives;
Fucking gutless, poor following bastards;
But it’s all in the name of god lol
Spare me the rod of clergy,
The doctrine of judgment;
I’d prefer wholeness,
My own religion;
With some super dope, poly threesomes
And art, sex, music being the chief forms of worship;
For my religion offers no personal god;
Just the all;
The field;
And not that verbal taint cunt brand of:
“Pure Potentiality”;
But something like that of an ideal village;
Inclusive yet respectful of human folly;
Working to reduce suffering in each individual;
Having Com-Passion;
With pain,
Thinking about health, food, shelter,
Before national fervor;
I’ve nothing but pity for those immigrants;
Their countries more torn, ravaged by dogma than our own;
But it’s all wretch and no vomit;
Because culture is a machine
The grinding, gnashing teeth;
Obsession with celebrity over virtue;
Not morals but virtue;
The ironic confession of a hedonistic, repressive collective
Vegas, baby, Vegas
Life: Get fucked like you want while pretending you care about other things;
But I go all too easy to nihilism;
Man, that savage beast with a noble soul:
Least moral of all animals
Mortal and obsessed with trivialities;
Blind to all realities but our own;
When we just want what we want:
Universe: let me write
Girlfriend: be sweet, nurturing, love
Family: thanks for accepting me,
No thanks for having left me to break this chain on my own;
Life is tough, this we know;
And I want to feel connected to something outside of this carnal carnival;
Something beyond;
Love beauty truth;
For I have suffered too much in not following the dictates of the soul entirely;
Now it declares:
Feed thy spirit, most noble poet;
Taste the fruits – yet
Follow a code;
Live with dignity,
Coloring beyond the lines;
But walking one,
Not breaking rules,
No harm, no malice, no bad “isms”
Where is that universal moral code;
Ethics speak to this;
But ethicists know they only observe,
Witnessing the carnival:
And all I want is her love;
My love;
Health;
Writing;
Peace,
A calm, serene soul;
A life before I am old,
And something more to behold,
Than my lonely juxtaposition before this absurd, mad, lost world
In my next life,
I want to live in a universe of my own making;
A world that protects my illusions;
In this Maya, this curious, callous thing,
The one that ate my dad and is eating my neighbor;
The nightmare of a faithless life;
And not simply a yes answer to the question of a personal god
But a working relationship with a transformational energy,
With religion as the myth for interpreting this relationship,
Albeit gone terribly wrong;
For when the Curate does not curate,
The souls of the parish die on the vine;
And I can no longer live without the divine;
The ever present energy for good:
Love –
Only love requires faith, hope,
Charity even – the com-passion with suffering
For life is tough,
And the tangibles of this plane simply aren’t enough;
So let’s figure this out –
Our prime task as humans consisting in the discovery and founding of our own religions;
The inner myths we need to make sense of this thing;
For I am no king,
Just me,
Person who doesn’t want to suffer;
Person who loathes religion and needs god,
The divine substance,
Love;
For nothing else will ever make sense of this crazy, fucked up world;
So find your god,
And if she doesn’t exist:
Invent her;
Because you need the connection to a force;
Something greater than your own illusions of importance;
You ungrateful, scared little man;
Taking the love for granted you do;
You must plant that love;
Cultivate it;
And nurture the light;
For life is a difficult test;
But it needn’t all be a fight,
A struggle,
A long-road, running from loneliness;
That barren city in your soul,
Which begs for trust
Begs to be walked, hand in hand with your Beloved
The lonely shores of dreams,
Begging you to exit your head;
For they are all places in the heart,
Begging to be tread;
And yes, life is a scary, I know
But to live through the heart,
This is to know:
What you are;
Who you are;
And possibly, why you are here;
And the godless alternative is hell,
The separation from light;
The metaphor for that never ending noche negra de su alma,
Cuando todo esta mal y feo
Pero, you have this other option,
This lovely, sacred road
It only requires you think with heart and live with soul,
Releasing yourself from the prison of ego,
And living, Connected to the all, as much as anyone else,
And comforted by a field,
That is yourself,
Here and there too;
But never fearing,
For you are awake to all the divine in you,
And you can feel that life has meaning, purpose, sense, passion, love, spirit –
And no matter how far you feel from this,
You’re always right there,
Near it,
Centered,
Calm,
Serene,
Loved.