Sour, Sweet, Salty

What can I say: I’m good. 

I used to write with another muse in mind – I used to live that way: constantly hoping to live up to some arbitrary measure; always insufficient for my estimations of myself, and always short of her’s. 

Only, today, now, I dissappoint no one; for this is who I am, and I am loved for it – by myself and by the one I love in turn. 

But it was not love that saved me, it was me – my desire for my own [love], which I earned, and which in turn earned me another’s. 

But this is not a love song; this is my life. 

The cowboy poet, finding his way home, dreaming of horses and a tree lined drive where I will lay me down beside the one I dream with. 

This is our fairytale. 

And we have fun in our happiness.

You see, neither of us pretend nor try to be anything we are not. In fact, I’d venture to say we like ourselves pretty damn genuinely. 

We’ve been reading Ricketts’ and Steinbeck’s prosaic and philosophy laden Log From The Sea of Cortez together lately, and in it Ed Ricketts describes a donkey whom he discovers doesn’t directly dislike him so much as he [the donkey] suffers from “…a sour eye for the world”. And so it is, most opinions of us – including our own – stem from our sour eye for the world, and thus we are condemned by the very thing which might free us: our perception. 

I think for a long time I felt that projection was always something that was inside out, meaning my perception of myself as something that reflected outward, but I don’t think so anymore. The donkey with the sour eye for the world has begged the question for me of whether the view of the self or the view of the world is a greater influence on ones perception – and I argue the latter, for it was only when I saw through the veil of perception that I was able to form a healthy inner reality (Or disposition if you will), and a true liking of myself. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to burn the world down and sow these wild oats from time to time, but greener pastures call. 

And I’ve come a long way from sowing the seeds of my own destruction – from seeing through that sour eye I once thought normal. 

But today I know that it takes a long time to become the one. 

And I’m not trying to escape who I am any longer. 

Took me thirty years to accept myself. 

Wish that were a joke but I fear some never do: stuck behind sour eyes, few seem to see the sweetness of life. 

And it is sweet. 

So don’t be so sour. 

For it’s all over one day. 

And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see that someday isn’t what it used to be.

And then, and only then, the sour will fade into the past, and the salty will be seen for what it is, and the sweet – oh the sweet – what it may be and what it is: only the heart knows these things. 

Just remember that sour eyes, as the sweet do, have a way of meeting. And even the sweetest eyes can become sour in the eyes of the beholder. So look neither without nor within, but in your own heart. And perhaps it is then, that we may finally see into the heart of another. 

Real Life Inspiration: Ed Ricketts

I heard an anecdote recently in relation to John Steinbeck (Prayerhand-6god-emoji) guy pal (And total bad ass) Ed Ricketts (Add another prayerhand-6god-emoji).

EFRicketts_42

Ricketts, photo taken aged 43 in 1939.

Ed Ricketts is a man whom I deeply admire. He was, like all the people I admire, a stark individual.

“His mind had no horizons,” as Steinbeck wrote of him, or rather, as “Doc”, the Ricketts inspired beer-loving bohemian science-philosopher who cut himself out of the granite-like sardine-packing population of “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches.”

Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.

Perhaps one of the coolest who ever lived. Ricketts is most definitely one of my “spiritual grandfathers”. In fact, he inspired another spiritual grandfather of mine: the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.

And if you get that reference, you might actually be kind of cool too.

If you didn’t, hold on tight.

So, the anecdote with Ricketts is that he basically learned how to like himself through others. He got the idea that if other people could like Ed, then Ed could like Ed.

So he did.

And from the myriad legacy he left, we can only surmise that his comfort in his own skin made it very easy for others to like him. And I can surmise this, because I know the opposite to also be true: having experienced how discomfort in one’s skin ultimately manifests itself in ways that strangely serve to push others away.

I actually, as a treat, just found the Ricketts anecdote, which is from perhaps the man who knew best knew Ed: Steinbeck.

The story is quoted verbatim from the philosophy laden ‘The Log of The Sea of Cortez’, Steinbeck’s 1940 month long inward journey with Ed, then aged 44, to the Mexican sea of the same name:

Once Ed said to me, “For a very long time I didn’t like myself.” It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. “It was a very difficult time,” he said, “and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually,” he said, “I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right.” This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person “Ed” as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.

So, Ed is helping me like myself in the very same way that I can like an admire my friends – only, I get to be less critical of myself now. haha

Sadly, Ed died too young. But he made sure to live before he did. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You’ve really inspired me Ed.

Thank You.

This past weekend I was up in Monterey (Guest of a girl I have been trying to date), and seeing the life-sized versions of Ed’s lab and some of his things, just really made me feel blessed. I’m just grateful to have found people I can admire and look up to in the ways that they too once looked up to their own little ambitious and upstart part of themselves.

Because I really am. I’m looking up to things that feel true in myself.

And it’s really nice. It’s nice to finally be at home with myself, where there are no horizons.

horizons

“His mind had no horizons.”

Care of The Soul: A Recipe

I’ve been blessed, but this is gifted: I gave it to myself.

It’s a simple recipe, centuries old – timeless really:

I am on a blanket, under the stars, with a candlelit lantern, and a cup of homemade chai tea.

Mexican Blanket: $20.00
Chai Tea: $0.35
Stanley insulated thermos: $30.00
Lantern & candle: $4.50 (flea mkt)

Inner Peace: Priceless.

This is what life is about. Inner peace.

Inner peace is not something you are blessed with (I tried that recipe the first thirty years of my life). No, inner peace is a gift, it’s something you give yourself. And you must; it’s your G-d given right to be happy.

Do you think hapiness something other than inner peace? Pity you if you do, for I’ve already tried that recipe too.

On this blanket, writing this, the breeze playing with my face; I could do this everynight, and I practically do.

I’m grateful to Thomas Moore for connecting a lot of Jungian dots for me. His book, Care of The Soul, has been a great asset in my life. Prior, I had made progress towards consciously caring for my soul, but after his book found me, caring for my soul became my paramount duty. A duty that has given me deep and lasting fulfillment. As a matter of chance, I also happened to read Walden at the same time, which only added to my understanding of Moore’s work. Thoreau certainly cared for his soul with the dedication of a true master.

I am far from Walden Pond, but my view shares a watery reflection. And here, following Thoreau, I experience the simple beauty of life. (Although he might pass on the extravagance of my stevia sweeted tea).

This is how life is meant to be lived: simply and naturally. It is insane we confine ourselves within doors so resolutely. Those crazy misanthropes: the Eustace Conways, the Christopher McCandlesses; the Thoreaus, they are the normal ones. It’s the rest of the world, in their walled in castles; they are the very form of crazy, neurotic, anti-social type that they deem an outcast.

The outcast is merely a shadow figure, someone to pile the the scorn of their buried envy on. Don’t believe me? Buy a blanket, brew some tea, go drink it out of doors on a starry night and tell me otherwise. This is living.

Only, we’ve been sold a house with a living-room full of nice furniture so we can deposit ourselves repeatedly to stare into an electronic box until we die.

The American dream: sitting in your castle watching your box. I’m laughing but, I tell you, this stuff is stranger than fiction.

Yes, I am happy. And sure, I live in a box too. But mine is near the sea, my backyard the very form of nature and the place I deposit myself to stare out and look at the real world. Here I peacefully contemplate life, occassionally looking down into the box phone, I now type this on.

What amazes me, however, is that I’m the only one out here doing this. This despite the fact that behind me, thousands of residents in tall condominium buildings live, none ever opting for an evening spent in fresh air.

Not to say they never get out, but for me, I pretty much have to. It’s my black rock.

In the distance, the bleating siren of an ambulance reminds me that I’ll be living in LA again soon, apart from nature I enjoy at present.

It’s this bittersweet note that prompts me to walk home. On the way I see my neighbors having drinks with their friends in a house so brightly lit that I am disturbed by it’s synthetic luster.

Back in my castle, I lie in bed, the glow of my salt lamp maintaining some semblance of the organic, which I value so deeply.

Returning to my thoughts on LA, I am coming to see that I will need to find a place with either a rooftop terrace or a yard, for sitting on a blanket in LA, outdoors at ground level, is not reccomended. I love the city of angels for many reasons – it’s natural wonders aren’t among them. Sure there is Runyon and Santa Monica’s beaches, but neither offer me the sanctuary I have now; however, I do intend to recreate this sanctum using the recipe above. After all, this blanket is going to last for a long, long time.

On Religion as a Bridge to The Soul

“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”

– Joseph Campbell


Reflecting, as I often do, I can today see how spiritually and psychologically unhealthy I was in a time now gone. How fortunate was I for the adversity that delivered me to a place dark enough to find hope.

I’m reminded of the Latin root of the word adversity: adverture; meaning: to turn towards. For it is only when we face what ails us that we may grow beyond it.

Adversity is not transcended or surmounted but moved through like a dark mountain pass. Denial, avoidance, repression, self-deception – these only ground us in the uncomfortable place, fating our gaze upon the mount; for whether we choose to recognize the splinter in our eye or not, it is there, showing itself in the myriad of complexes and ways a human being can choose to suffer and hate.

However, those dealt adversity often create problems rather than face what they feel they cannot; and often, the struggles a person faces are engendered as outlets for pains they find inadmissable – pains lost in the chasm between the mind and the spirit.

As a result of this gulf in the heart, man is cut him off from his inner world. Diagnosing the ills of the soul is then seen as a mental problem, addressable only through therapy or self-help. There do, however, exist other doctors for the soul, we just don’t believe in them anymore.

The priest and the church once provided a doorway to the inner world and the sanctum through which a man could live life connected to his soul through a higher power; however, the institution of religion is growingly dismissed as nothing more than a dogmatic farce, instituted to control the ignorant populous. Unfortunately, it happens to be an effective one.

The name of G-d has been wielded to enshroud evil in the name of good since biblical times, but the cost of blood spilled and enemies born under the auspices of religion has been the destruction of a bridge to the sacred for many. Unable to perceive the inherent good of something so historically detrimental to man, we’ve chosen rationality in favor of an evil we no longer wish to tolerate in the 21st century. And rightly so.

However, in recognizing the evils of religion in it’s ability to inspire ignorance – as seen in wars and the beliefs that so doggedly divide the human tribe – we are quick to dismiss it in its entirety. As a result of this turning away from G-d, we are shunning something, which, at the personal level, has enabled man to better face his inner battles since before the wheel.

It’s logical to buy into the intelligent argument posited by Carl Sagan that primitive humans invented Gods so we could explain the unexplainable, things which science has now given cause to (think lighting and famine); however, such an argument dismisses the value of intangibles like hope – the only thing a man with nothing left has.

Beyond hope, ritualistic tools such as prayer and worship of the sacred provide humans with an active and cathartic relationship with the soul, which we may call G-d.

How few of us dialogue with the inner world, which as modern psychology has discovered (the subconscious and unconscious) so greatly influences our thoughts and behaviors.

I’m merely thinking aloud here, sitting on the sand at night typing this on my phone, but on my own journey I’ve found spiritual health and as a result I am happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been. My adversities are no longer a cancer, setting wildfire to my life, but, rather, they are the weeds that show me the root issues I need to attend to in order to grow so that I might maintain wholeness in the face of the constant change of life.

Carl Jung believed that there was no neurosis that could not be cured by adopting a religious outlook on life. I too share this belief. And I worry that, regardless of its timeless effectiveness, this solution may be growing increasingly inaccessible as religion’s validity in the collective consciousness continues to decline.

I worry because I think that – again echoing Jung – man needs religion. At least, to achieve the unshakable inner peace I have today, I know I do.

I’m not advising you to look to religion for your soul to be saved, but I am asking that you consider the spiritual as a means of rescuing your soul from exile – for to live cut off from the soul is to live deaf to an inner voice that’s begging to be heard – often in the most painful and eventually effective of ways; however, some may have to wait until hope is all they have left.

It’s not by coincidence that I used to pray only when things got terribly bad or that things no longer get terribly bad. I ascribe this power to the soul as much as to a G-d. To me they are one in the same, the bridge leading to eachother.