Culture Snap 2K17

Realize the core fear in life is terror,
Know thyself and build security from there;
Some people catch vibes from the air
Fox News has my neighbors scared
They pray to Jesus to keep Jesus (hey-zus) outta here,
They don’t realize real-lies 
Call it “fake news” – it’s tele-vised (Orwell!)
That’s the pot calling the kettle;
That’s how people became chattel,
Fascist playbook 101
Control their values and you’ve won:
So insecure we voted a chump ,
Who hates Mexicans and women –
Telling-lies-to-your-vision (ON TV!)
How did they vote for this machine?
Half of em on SSDI 
Thinking the dems weren’t on their side,
Because we don’t see Muslims and hide;
This zeitgeist isn’t normal;
This work life it’ll own you –
This youth – they’ll control you
(instagram!)
Most people worship the ruling classes;
How do you be a person and like the masses?
All loving pics of the fattest asses 
Biased and blind to their own assets –
This shit is insane: it’s insecure
Judging ourselves in how others appear;
Forgetting we all once came here,
Hoping to find freedom from fear
And now we’re just like, let’s get a beer;
Come on bro, there’s no sluts here 
Using each other and loving things;
Most people are not very human beings, 
But I believe, there is a plan 
So I’ll be me be-cause I can 
I am not here to conform;
I don’t fuck with the norm –
I am here to do art;
Get high and pull it apart 
(Culture!)

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Little Thing, Whom I Love

Tonight, I found the door down,
Which leans against the deck,
Where a gate ought go –
And so, bent to lift it,
Dragging the wooden thing up across the deck – wait – the mouse!
He’s –
This little waif under the door,
He’s on his side, writhing slow
I’ve hurt him – no!!
He must have been sleeping, hiding
I’ve hurt him – dragging the door
He is laying there, on his little gray side, a tiny mouse
I turn to Sarah,
She sees –
“What do we do?”
“I can kill him with a large rock,” I say,
But I can’t, I only say I can;
Though, I decide I will if I must..
He is writhing – not a minute has passed
He is on his little gray side,
Breaking my heart, dying –
And so, I grab the door and sweep him gently with it,
Off the deck,
Onto the wild forest floor
The door returned to its post,
The mouse, somewhere in the dark
Waiting for the circle of life –
We go inside, quiet, sullen
I grab my phone and write this poem,
Until the words: “…on his little gray side”, when I just can’t anymore;
I must:
‘Sarah leash the dogs’
“They call me skull crusher,” I quip in a Randy Savage voice to the anxiety inside me
Flannel on,
Light on,
I round the house –
Sarah near, dogs sniffing for a place to go
I shine my light there – I see,
He is as peacefully dead as dead is –
“He’s dead,” I call to Sarah,
Letting out a sigh 20 minutes old,
Staring at this little thing, whom I love.

The Tao of Anxiety: Changing my Relationship to Life with Rollo May

I don’t write for artistic purposes, nor do I write for pleasure, or even to be a writer: I write to live.

It’s not that I’d go insane without writing – my life would just fall apart

I must write to understand myself, my life. The two of which I find more and more entangled as I grow older.

As I’m fond of saying lately, “Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.” 

Life is, indeed, one-hundred-percent psychological. 

In a sense, I am here to re-program myself. My brain is the hardware and the software, and – amazingly – the one rewrites the other (In the form of new neural synapses or connections [synaptogenesis and synaptoplasticity]). 

Neuroplasticity – the ability for our brains to physically change – presents, to me, the strongest argument for free-will; I am only as hard wired as I choose to remain. 

The overreaching goal of my life is the actualization or fullfiment of my potential. My younger, more naive goals of happiness and inner peace simply cannot exist without my own growth, fulfillment, and development. 

Happiness and inner peace are products: reaching my potential is the process by which those objectives are achieved; however, happiness and inner peace are not goals in themselves, but are, instead, the feelings you experience when you achieve your authentic goals – aka, becoming yourself. 

In the words of existential psychologist and humanist Rollo May:

“Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.”

That said, irrespective of motive, goals are not as simple as plan, do, profit. There are a myriad of factors at play from self-esteem and health (physical and mental), to self-handicapping and motivational theories (Not to mention environmental and social factors, i.e., opportunity) – all of which can make our break our potentials. 

As any adult short of the current first family knows – nothing comes easy. But, still, we want what we want and we aren’t going to give up, so we have to discover a way

What excites me right now, as far as my own way, are the discoveries I am making in relation to my own mind. In short, I’m coming to discover that my anxieties are an integral part of my journey, my path. These [anxieties] are what push me to want better for myself; although, I have not always held this viewpoint. 

For most all my life, anxiety has been the same crippling, uncomfortable, destructive, and unpleasant force it can be for anyone. 

My perspective began to shift, however, when a friend said this to me: 

“I don’t believe we would do well if we weren’t hard on ourselves. We need those selfish insecurities to feel like there’s more we could accomplish.”

This clicked for me (Anxiety can be healthy too!) and sent me further down the rabbit hole, arriving at these words from Rollo May: 

“Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.” 

Rollo May’s work deals largely with anxiety, May himself stating that, “The constructive way of dealing with anxiety in this sense consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a ‘teacher,’ to borrow Kirkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.”

Further, from May, “..conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.”

And:

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure. In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as a human being.”

In a sense, May presents anxiety as an invaluable ally rather than the inescapable foe it is for many, if not most. 

Pause and read that again. 

The paradigm of anxiety as teacher is nothing short of a game changer. That’s why I’m writing this. 

I’m all about flipping the script in my head. But it’s not enough to merely understand – as with any valuable paradigm – it must be lived (e.g., optimism); i,e., in order to view anxiety as a teacher, I need to be able to let it guide me. 

To do this, I have come up with an intuitive concept for integrating anxiety into my directing consciousness, which is the true purpose of my writing tonight. Allow me to arrive there. 

Heretofore, my relationship with anxiety has been a largely unconscious one. 

I suspect that, like most people, anxiety has pressed down upon me like a weight, or, rather, it has risen up from my unconscious mind, my conscious mind treating it like an unwelcome guest, an interloper to my happiness, much in the same way I might view fatigue or irritability – an annoyance at best and crippling at worst. 

I’ve spent days in bed, countless nights up – entire seasons of my life hiding from myself – the world – all in the name of running from anxiety. Let’s not forget the self-destruction that naturally arises from turning away from life so neurotically. 

As Rollo May writes on the consequences of a life without growth, in Man’s Search For Himself (1953):

“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”

Of course, in order to grow toward something – in order to turn away from the destructive despair of stagnation – we must turn towards the obstacles and face the anxiety naturally present in such growth. 

This is the exact awareness I am coming to: the fact that my anxiety is exactly what I need to feel – and that I’ll find the courage to grow in facing it, directly, head on. 

My previous theory on anxiety was essentially that the amygdala – the fear center of the brain – was largely responsible for it, and that part of the brain [the amygdala] being so primitive, so archaic, so reptilian, meant that the anxiety was merely an unfortunate feeling I, as a human, was destined to endure; although, I decided that I could – through sheer power of will – avoid the destructive activities, and – I could – with enough healthy sex and top shelf cannabis – counter the anxiety. 

Not an entirely unhappy or unlivable life – nor likely a unique strategy among my generation – but by no means an entirely secure, calm, grounded, and growth-oriented way to live, which is precisely what I want at thirty-two. 

I want to fall asleep with the softest of pillows, which is a clean conscience – and I want to awake with the same peace, renewed from the past day’s toil and excited about the day ahead, and in order to do that, I need to be free from what has prevented that: anxiety: fear. These are antithetical to the freedom I seek. 

Freedom, as May suggests in the following passage, from an essay of the same title, requires objective consciousness of oneself:

Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. Freedom is the other side of consciousness of self; if we were not able to be aware of ourselves, we would be pushed along by instinct or the automatic march of history, like bees or mastodons. But by our power to be conscious of ourselves, we can call to mind how we acted yesterday or last month, and by learning from these actions we can influence, even if ever so little, how we act today. And we can picture in imagination some situation tomorrow – say a dinner date, or an appointment for a job, or a Board of Directors meeting – and by turning over in fantasy different alternatives for acting, we can pick the one which will do best for us.

Consciousness of self gives us the power to stand outside the rigid chain of stimulus and response, to pause, and by this pause to throw some weight on either side, to cast some decision about what the response will be.

That consciousness of self and freedom go together is shown in the fact that the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is unfree. That is to say, the more he is controlled by inhibitions, repressions, childhood conditionings which he has consciously “forgotten” but which still drive him unconsciously, the more he is pushed by forces over which he has no control. When persons first come for psychotherapeutic help, for example, they generally complain that they are “driven” in any number of ways; they have sudden anxieties or fears or are blocked in studying or working without any appropriate reason, They are unfree – that is, bound and pushed by unconscious patterns.

As the person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choices and his freedom proportionately increase. Freedom is cumulative; one choice made with an element of freedom makes greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circumference of the circle of one’s self.

Further, in the same essay:

Freedom does not come automatically; it is achieved. And it is not gained at a single bound; it must be achieved each day. As Goethe forcefully expresses the ultimate lesson learned by Faust:

“Yes! to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
The last result of wisdom stamps it true:
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.”

And it is this daily conquering my freedom and existence that requires me to face my anxieties with courage rather than avoidance.

On courage and freedom, May writes:

“Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.”

“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

Of course, I already know what it is to conform – at least, to as great of an extent as I ever will; what I am concerned with today is being my own man, my own person. 

In the words of Rollo May:

“One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we are forced to become aware of ourselves.”

To become aware of myself – to become myself – I have to meet my anxiety rather than run from it. Acting upon rather than against it; welcoming it rather than dreading it. 

I have to bring my anxieties directly to my prefrontal cortex, from the unconscious to the conscious acting part of myself, where I make decisions and where I can choose who I am and what my values are [footnote 1].

To do this, I’m making a list tomorrow of all my anxieties. From this list I’ll be creating goals designed to specially address them. 

This is the third revolution of my model for goal planning and prioritiztion. The first was attempting to set goals based on my values, which I began doing at twenty-four. The second model for my goal planning and prioritization was interesting and valuable, but perhaps not entirely well-suited for an artist, who probably experiences more anxiety than anyone (save the neurotic), on acccount of their being so poor suited for any life but their own. 

I’ve come to learn recently that anxiety is perhaps the most valuable aspect of our intuitive voice, telling us exactly what we are uncomfortable with and where we need to act. The problem with anxiety is when we let it control us. I’m reminded of the sage quote, the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Perhaps so too is anxiety. The challenge is for us to distinguish the rational anxiety from the irrational. Be rational and logical in your anxiety. Healthy anxiety is rational. But anxiety is a part of life. What I’m attempting to do is to work with mine to my advantage. Heaven knows its crushed me for long enough. 

Because in the end, anxiety drives us all regardless – it’s just a matter of whether that force [anxiety] is constructive or destructive: the choice is ours, only, most of us never learn that, but – if we did – if we knew the true value in learning from and facing anxiety, I think many of us would live differently. 

The obstacle is the way – I finally understand it: I have to turn toward my anxieties – my fears. And they won’t go away until – and unless – I slay them: these are my dragons. 

And Joseph Campbell’s words have never rang truer:

The treasure you seek lies in the cave you fear to enter. 

##

p.s. Having written this – having read this – I am so happy because I know I am going to face life, face fear, in a whole new way. And I’m ready for it. I made it here for this.

p.p.s I finally understand a John Mayer lyric from The Heart of Life, which I have always loved:

“Fear is a friend whose misunderstood.”

p.p.p.s Another thing I really appreciate about Rollo May (Aside from his insights into anxiety and his contributions to existential psychology.) are his humanist views. 

From a 1978 interview with Paychology Today, originally published on cassette:

One final question Dr May. Lets prognosticate if we may about the future. As we approach the end of the 20th century, what do you see happening. Will anxiety continue to escalate, will there be greater and greater numbers of people who face anxiety daily or will we learn to deal with our anxiety and manage it more constructively?

Well I think the latter. Certainly I think we’re in for hard times for a while yet, but then I think we must have some kind of new renaissance, some kind of new birth of a society that will have equality for women and a society that will have equality for races of whatever colour. Now the new renaissance will not be based upon the myths and symbols of the renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries but rather it will be based upon new symbols, the symbol of one world, the symbol of planetism, the symbol of interrelationship of the various countries in the world. This has to be understood politically. And I think we are being pushed towards this by the historical developments that are a great problem to us like Oil. We’re all going to be short of energy products in the next 15 or 20 years and we’ll just have to reorganise our world as a greater community a more constructive community that we have in the past. Now I look forward to that, and I look forward to the anxiety being used constructively as it will need to be if we’re to be reborn or even if it was to survive. Otherwise I think I think we are in for an even greater new and general holocaust.

Footnote 1:

“A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.” – Rollo May

This is directly from the Rollo May wiki, which I suggest you read. 

And two more from there, because, fuck it – they’re great:

“The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have.”

“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”

Note: many of these quotes do not have sources. That’s because this is my personal blog and I’m a straight up intellectual gangster. For a source, try google… I’m sure you’ve searched for worse things in your life. 

If you enjoyed this, Subscribe to my new entries here. You may also follow me on Facebook or insta @lawrencevblack. 

The Cassette Tape

When I was young, I had a cassette tape of harbor and ocean sounds:
25 years later and I remembered it tonight

Also, memories of my father,
From eyes I had not seen through in as many years;
And I miss him:
Charasmatic animal / child he was.

Warm and safe at 32,
Tonight,
I see him with a love I have never felt
And I know that I have subtracted the hate I bore when I wanted to kill him, at 13.

No, I do not hate my father;
My Father, who carried these genes –
And not just mine, but something rawer and closer to the bone:
Generations, poverty
Alchoholics; sad stories;
Humans, people, hoping things
And me at thirteen,
Wishing I could blast a shotgun through the wall –
My reasons were manifold.

And now, my temple, my cathedral,
My spiritual homeland and my bedrock,
Is a bedroom in an apartment, one room from where my father slept,
When he was not passed out,
On the couch,
Snoring like a goddamned bear –
The sound coming through the wall,
How it disturbed me…

And so I played the cassette tape
Of the harbor and the ocean and the fog-horn,
And I fell asleep to the sounds my father taught me to love.

And now, tonight, I remember this all,
And I see my life like a movie,
And I rewind the tape, play it back in my head,
And from that bedroom,
When I go back there,
Everything makes sense,
And I’m sad my father’s dead

But back then, it wasn’t just a tape in my head,
“My whole youth was sharper than cleats”
But now, I made it
And I see my own Moonlight,
Play in my head,
And I’m a good man,
And I’m not scared.

One Belief to Change Everything, or Not

I have not published anything here in near a month, but a lot can happen in a month – a lot can happen in a day; your days can have significance. This is true (Along with everything else you believe). 

I believe I’m fortunate beyond measure. Where there is love there is life – I have love: abundant, sweet, free, generous love. And it’s the love I have for myself that counts most and makes the rest possible. My heart is a magic kitchen; I am an alchemist; I turn shit into gold. I don’t even want to die anymore

Thirty-two is a very good year: there are no limosines but the perfumed hair comes undone and my heart beats for it. I am a man. No Christian. I am a man. A human, and I think humanness is something we must aspire to. 

But, in order to be human, we have to be whole – imperfect – and I am not talking about accepting flaws, but, rather, acknowledging our status as complex biological and psychological entities. This means listening to our bodies as much as our hearts, and – if we are brave enough – serving both without betraying one. 

That’s the thing about life: it isn’t so much important to be true to ourselves as it is to not betray ourselves. Sometimes, we make mistakes, and that’s a part of life, but I don’t want to live in the shade of the freeway, forever a pretender, trying to buy my own happiness till I die. That would be a betrayal of who I am, as would be a cookie cutter anything – or anything that resembled a normal life at all. I didn’t make it through what I’ve made it through to be bored and unhappy. Ha. 

Hell nah. To quote it for the billionth time, I would rather be whole than good (Jung). I would rather live a life  according to the dictates of my own soul than follow arbitrary mores. My own values are what count. There are many a moralist whom I would not dare break bread with. But this is life, and they fucking love Donald Trump. That’s just the world we live in. Sorry kids, but life is a macrocosm of high school. Most people still playing a game called “who’s coolest” – of course, in the adult world, we call these people boring, unimaginative, and unoriginal, which is precisely what most people are. I really do wish there were more humans I wanted to hug, but like the homie James Comey, I don’t play that. Me no conversate with the fakes

Water, however, finds its own level – as do persons. I refer here not to class, status, race or religion, but values. Unfortunately, however, xenophobia is very real in America. So is Fox News.  

But I promise you, the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps not in number – or even power – but, as far as the stuff that makes life worth living goes [love], there is plenty of it. And when you have those good people in your life, stick to them like glue – and when you meet other good people, stick to them too. 

If you are not the social type, I understand. My late twenties did a lot to incline me toward introversion, but still, sociometer theory is well and true, and being likable goes a long way toward being happy.  Being happy, of course, making you likable. 

Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. I love Lawrence Black. I love my life. 

This same life, I made a hell of at times. That’s the thing about being an alchemist – that’s the thing about perspective – you can turn shit to gold but you can also turn gold to shit. Humans are lenses. Paradise and hell, and all between – you can experience it. This we call thought. Feeling. Being. 

But few of us question it. Only, when we do – and we do discover that – gah! – we don’t fully like ourselves – this is precisely when we outgrow it. Most ideas the unconscious mind holds, which hold us in turn, are absurdly illogical. How many times have you learned something about yourself that you let go of upon discovering? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to see the error of my ways – and just the coming to truth with myself about it was enough to resolve the matter – even if it had personally gripped me for years. Realizations, therapy, mistakes, life: it takes a long time to learn about yourself. But the more you do, oh how life gets better. 

I’d keep going, but I’d like to return a few messages before bed. And I think I’ll come back here soon. I’ve got more to say. That’s for fucksure. 

My unassailable, unimpeachable confidence is almost diametrically opposed to the fact that life is delicate and I will die, but why not be strong? Far better to trust life, to trust yourself. As I wrote long ago, society is a mirror no person finds themselves likable in. Be secure. That’s my advice. And the only way to be secure is to look within. Because that’s the only way you’ll ever change. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing you’re not happy. 

Lastly, is like to say something about optimism. I brought a book from Urban Outfitters late last year called You Can Be an Optimist, and while the book taught me a lot (Specifically on optimism and locus of control) – what really hit me was a thought I had while driving the other day: optimism is nothing more than the genuine belief that things will work out – and that one belief changes everything. 

After all, whose side are you on? 

5/26/17: The Days Count

With all I have before me as a person and a writer, and as fast as the years go: the days count. Indeed; however, they only count as much as I make them. 

I am very disinterested in the kind of life that feels like Groundhog Day: work, eat, shit, sleep – maybe something, alcohol, some such empty escape to comfort me; that life doesn’t interest me at all. 

What interests me is: t.a., t.o.f., h.h., t.s., b.d., lvls; that’s my future – that’s my life – that’s what’s happening. All else is pretty insignificant. 

I only want to live days that progress me further toward the above. 

Which, of course, is not simple – life takes work – I tried the poor writer thing: Maslow was on to something with that hierarchy of needs, let me tell you. 

I’ve been living in the mountains near a year, supporting myself, Sarah, and our two dogs. Rent here is not far from the city, but you get a lot more. We’ve got a great place on the edge of the forest, and it’s been a transformational time up here for us. 

The amazing thing today, is that I have never known what I’ve wanted more; I’ve never been clearer about who I am and what I want out of life. That’s a pretty significant thing. Some will never quite arrive there. I think for me, for a long time, I was afraid of admitting a lot of things to myself – including what I really wanted from life. 2017 is the year I took the mask off. Wolf Waldo Black. 

But even with all the wonderful things in my life, I can still be melancholy. 

There was a long period of my adult life wherein alcohol was my chief source of satisfaction and excitement. That really sapped the quest of life from me, and the absence of alcohol in my life today has opened up quite a beautiful vacuum in me.

I’m ready for great, wonderful, exciting things – but it is so easy to forget those in the mundane; and so, I come here to write them, to remind myself. 

Because I’m truly ready for life to surpass my wildest imagination, which it has, in many ways, but I’m finally really getting a kick out of being me, and just the fact that I’ve gotten this far, leads me to believe I’ll make it all the way. 
 

My Inbox, Mine

Email is an albatross,
A constant weight about the necks of billions,
Bringing heads down dutifully,
To check it, forever –
Without ever a Sabbath, except maybe Christmas –
Email is a part of the daily human condition,
For most everyone now,
And it blows.

But maybe your inbox, like your life, differs from mine;
In my inbox, work communications are constant,
Fix this, and, what is the status of that?
And today, a notice from my web host of costly overages on my server,
And once, from an ex, an email about someone famous who OD’d, saying it reminded them of me – #whattheactualfuck –
But it’s mostly just meaningless interruptions from the meaningless data manipulations my work tasks me with,
And constant deadlines –
As if missing them will be the end of me:
I fucking loathe email. 

But maybe, like Mondays,
My problem with email is really just a reflection of my life –
Emails from Simon and Schuster being, of course, prefferable to emails from my current contacts, whom I work for, hourly,
Always via email –
And if it’s not email, it is Slack or Basecamp, which both ping me via email anyhow,
But I’m tired of being fucking pinged!
I am tired of my inbox being a receptacle for shit!
Things I care nothing for;
For I know damn-well, email could be different than this.

But until then,
Until I give the world better reason to email me than these bills,
I will check it, dutifully, constantly, loathingly –
But not forever. 

Email being, just one more aspect of the human condition my art is to deliver me from,
Email being, after all,
Just another choice:

Our helplessness, learned –
Our anxiety ours,
My inbox, mine.

post script:

And to Tarran:

A reply yet awaits,
Sitting neglected in my drafts for months,
Reminding me, painfully:
My inbox, mine.

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.