The Substance of The Soul

Edit: I’m beating myself up after publishing this. It’s not that I don’t like the content, which was inspired by a conversation I had tonight with two new friends. The problem is, this is simply not the right form. There is a reason Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. I must work on my stories. This comparitively is masturbation. Pleasurable, but not fulfilling. Nonetheless, the following freewritten message written post haste is something worth reading. But it is a tiny star compared to the cosmos brewing within me. Time. Time.

I love nights spent in deep conversation, talking about things that matter. Substance. This is something most lives lack an adequate volume of. Instead they are filled with things that burn our time and waste our minds, and for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?

We live in a world of gains at the expense of the things that make us most human: love, relationships, a connection to something deeper; our entire inner lives are but an abyss. I am one who suspects we fear what’s beneath the surface. After all, the vast majority of our encounters with our soul tend to be painful experiences: breakups, loneliness, rebellion, pain, breakdowns. But these too are aspects of the soul, for no soul is purely calm and peaceful. Like the sea, the disturbances of the soul are found on it’s surface, and the calm rests far beneath, at a depth few reach. A human soul, when brought to light, shines brighter than a thousands suns. I see this light in the faces of babies, animals, and those in love. It’s light stifled by the thinking mind, and thus the souls of most adults have long been snuffed out. But the darkness need not be permanent, for this light may be rekindled. Art, music, dance – even great conversation; any form of honest self-expression brings soul to light.

As Voltaire’s Candide teaches us, we must cultivate our gardens. Only, like Candide, we abandon the garden of the soul in pursuit of our fortunes. And in our neverending pursuit of doing and being more we suffer the cost of our pursuits. Costs we never realize until it’s too late. When I have children, I want them to know they have the power to create themselves; to be rather than to become. To actualize the soul rather than the self.

I believe we are all creators. Only we have been taught to consume. Our values have been twisted by a society ruled by power, by a people obsessed with prestige. It’s the businesses of the world that conscript us from birth to make a living instead of making a life.

Nothing is sacred anymore. All that ever was has vanished under the tide of image, pulled by the endless greed of the ego. For in a modern society it is prefferable to be seen as smart rather than to think for onesself. So we let others define happiness and success for us, and we live according to benchmarks that ring true only in the light of day. Look at me, look at how good I am at life, the bourgeous seem to say.

Our egos and our personas are defined not by our souls but by the times we live in. The values of the human soul are timeless. The values of a society live and die with its people.

What are you giving this world? What are you giving the future. Is your life a good model for others? Do you want for your children what you have for yourself? Do you even want for yourself the life you have?

Modern life isn’t conducive to independent thought. The system is designed to create good workers not great thinkers. After all, good workers can buy good TVs, good cars, and all the other bullshit (aka eventual junk) we have been programmed to exchange our lives for.

I can’t change the world alone. But I believe together we can. If each of us lived a life true to the values of our souls, the world would be a beautiful place. This isn’t just about getting to paint, eat organic salads, and make love. This is about being part of a system that has enough money to feed starving children, real humans with real names. A system that places profits over people. A system that ignores the plight of 200,000 Koreans in concentration camps in order to maintain diplomacy with China for capitalist gains.

This system is fucked up. You are a part of it. Are you really going to let yourself be another brick in the wall? Is this all your life is worth?

These are just thoughts written on a Saturday night by a guy in a warm bed. But they are part of a human life, the life I am living. A life I want to use rather than be used. While society may call me a misanthrope, I don’t think it can ignore my voice. This is why I write. This is why my dreams of the self, replete with all the trimmings of a successful life, are secondary to the dreams of my soul – a soul that values inner peace, love, communion, family, truth, beauty, and goodness. A soul like any other.

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Wake Up With Your Dreams

N.G.U
Never Give Up
It warrants a seriousness – you see
You musn’t ever, ever give up on your dreams

For if you do dear child,
You will awake without them
And a day without,
Is spent in doubt
But a day with,
Is-a life well-lived
So to the wise,
These words I give:

Before each night’s sleep,
Stow dreams to keep
In your heart of hearts,
For a blessed start


Background

When I was seventeen years old I got my first tattoo: n.g.u (On my right inner-forearm). It’s an acronym for never give up; an oath of sorts, a vow of commitment to my hopes and dreams. Dreams I have at times forgotten, which is to say, dreams I have at times given up – for to forget, to go to sleep not relishing the dream in your heart, is to have given up.

Never give up; never forget; never let go of your dreams.

I hope you sleep with your dreams snug in your heart of hearts, and I hope you awake filled to the brim with excitement, eager to continue progressing ever forward on your journey.

Do not ever let yourself forget what makes you tick. For if you do, you won’t know why you’re getting up in the morning. And that’s a sad life – one I vow never to return to.

Journal: Green Pastures, and The Storybook

Below, at the bottom of this entry, is an entry I began writing before publishing, Past Reconciled: Future Reclaimed; however, it overlaps much of its predecessor in substance and feeling, and thus can be considered an accompaniment to the aforementioned.

Just in the five minutes I spent finishing the entry that follows, which we may call The Storybook, I felt the burden of shifting into too low a gear, having resolved and decided it’s time I look to the future and having lived today a bit lighter than the last now that I have reached this turning point from which I go forth – vowing not to turn back. Yes, I have ruminated on the past and chewed my cud in full. To do so further would make me sick, it would be to beat a dead horse. But I wouldn’t even beat a live horse.

I laugh, I feel light.

Today was a good day and every day is and has been for a long time. Long enough to remember everything but certainly not too long that I forget the time, not so long ago, when my past was an affliction. Bah! Past be done. Gone but not forgotten, yet not so close at hand by necessity that I need not remember it. Cud chewed. Nutrients gained. Soil fertile. Green pastures now call.

I guess I am a bit in shock though. My grace and good fortune stuns me. Even tonight a blessing found me as I spoke with a friend over coffee (this friend I unexpectedly ran into), and a gentleman, overhearing our conversation and a brief summary of my work, thereupon engaged me to meet with him this coming Thursday. Fortuitous indeed.

And now, preparing to rise from the sandy spot where I sit, I close my Sunday. I go home to a book and a cup of tea. Ha-ha. How nice my life.

I thus leave this entry below and release what has been, holding onto what has made me.

It will be a great week on the green pastures I now call home.

The Storybook

Note: I personally feel this entry is shit as far as writing quality goes, and for a variety of reasons it was difficult to write, but the beauty of editing your own blog is that you needn’t hem the rough edges of your work. For in this case, although the edges be rough and the sentences thick and obtuse, there is meaning enough (to me) to preserve it’s asymmetrical form. Not everything I write is going to flow but some rivers need to run, rough as they may be.  And maybe, these rivers need to run most.

Thirty years, and a storybook at that – of course no storybook being without its forests – so it is, I have met my fears and my hopes they did assail, but alas; like Jonah’s, my hopes did prevail.

I’ve been in love twice and my heart is still full of life enough to be charmed by Cupid’s arrow a third time, G-d willing.

This confidence I have in my heart is part of what carries me on; and this despite two major breakups: most recent (Eleven short months ago) with a girl I spent a thousand nights next to, and previous to that with a girl I shared many more but no less with.

Twice those nights ended and twice I was heartsick.

I spent a long time disappointed, a long time digging myself deeper and deeper, trying in vain to discover what lie under the sad thing. I, of course, never found it (The search itself being the sad thing), and my sorrow could have carried me all the way to the grave, there being no end to the sorrows of an angry heart.

And so it is: disappointment, adding to the weight of age as it does, often becomes a great ballast, pulling our hopes and dreams beneath the deepening sea of a reality we once floated upon – before the wrecks, before the storms, before we lost faith in what once propelled us.

And then, lacking fuel and muse for our dreams, we sink to the bottom of ourselves. And in the dark night of the soul we face one of life’s most important questions. But for many it’s a foregone conclusion: their heart can’t carry them on. So they cast off the weight of their dreams; their hopes sullied and soaked with disappointment, they blindly cleave at the withered branches of their hearts.

Thus the weary gardener, stuck by the thorns, prunes the roses in winter. And robbed of its promises, the light in his heart loses it’s muse and everything’s dimm’d forever.

And so it is, yearning for Sixpence he never sees the moon, and missing January he loses June.

This being sadly so, some, having shed their dreams, never surface from the dark night of the soul – and the question is answered without ever being considered.

The question, of course, being whether we might find something bigger, better, more exciting, more magical than the magic of the past that animated us and brought us to life. But when up goes down and pleasure becomes pain, we hold onto what ails us and in doing so we quit our grip from our dreams and we lost the buoyant optimism they gave us.

As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

This is our problem. It’s this failure to move beyond the past and evolve our reasons for living and getting up in the morning that brings on the ten years winter so many spend their thirties in.

So, you’ve lost your why. Welcome to the layer cake son.

Time to venture deeper, further, closer. Time to birth new dreams.

For the things that put life in your heart may die off – you musn’t die with them. But many do. Their glory of many lives stuck in a gone season; long after their dreams die, they live dead, killed off by the ghost of a reason no longer capable of animating them. As Ben Franklin wrote, “Some people die at twenty five and aren’t buried till seventy-five.”

Just as nature fixes biology at a certain point and we can no longer bear children, human nature and time compounded fixes our psychology so that beyond thirty few again birth dreams. This death of our ability to dream follows the death of our dreams. The dream of Love. The dream of success. The dream of happiness. These dreams are our myths. And as soon as they no longer ring true we either become enslaved to them or we lose faith entirely.

I’ve been there, the prisoner of dead dreams, but I’m back from the dead. And dead was I a very long time.

Many years ago love came along and it was more bright and beautiful and intoxicating than I had ever imagined a comfort could be. And I called love Daniella. So funny now seeing her name. Today it means no more to me than the name of G-d to an atheist. But back then, and for many years after, it meant love, and that love meant happiness.

This is the last time, save an autobiography one day, I will ever think of her as love. For when her love turned to ash Love did too. But that taste, the ashes of Love, stayed in my mouth for many years.

Even when fate delivered me a girl who was capable of being so much more to me, I held onto the old myth of Love and I made this other Goddess of Love a martyr and a bastard of my dead myth. Today I can see how cruelly and utterly wrong I was. Beyond stealing our joy, living a dead myth almost killed me, in many ways – and in many ways I was dead.

For if we don’t posess a living myth, the dead myth will ways posess us. And never before have these words rang truer:

“Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung

For what is a dead myth but a myth we have repressed and buried. The pain of living a dead myth, however, always finds its way to the surface. And until a new myth takes its place, we live the dead one.

For, if Daniella was love then how could Shannon ever be? If Daniella was happiness – how could I ever be anything but unhappy. I could not. I was miserable inside. And all that repressed misery made itself visible and palpable in a thousand-and-one-ways.

We must cultivate our garden. And our garden is the place where our myths we live. Our soul. This is the soil and the shaping force of our life story.

I no longer have to question the pain I went through, the pain and sorrows of a full life. For the man who questions his suffering has yet to find its worth in his myths.

And when he does find it, his pearl of great price, he returns to himself a great and wide piece of what he lost. For while no grown man has a tabula rasa, few do have a pure, unspoiled heart. This brightness of the soul, so often embodied in the youth – who carry it unknowingly – is recognized chiefly by those who in the hindsight of age can see what they once held.

This brightness – if revived and maintained – will be your greatest asset, allowing you to mature without the weight of aging and to live without the pain of dying. To do this, you need birth new dreams to replace the dead, lest they kill you. And in this, you will be be reborn.

Poetry: The War is Over

I was stopped short of the start by every worry that ever gripped my heart
Because there’s a kind of squeezing that made me sick,
But there were no days off

Just a weekend’s denial to bury the fear,
I kept it at bay long enough to keep running,
I ran towards the dream:
The dream that one day everything would be okay

But it’s tiring living in the spectrum between fear and assurance,
It’s emotionally taxing to support the war of feelings constantly fought amongst your thoughts
Because it pulls you back on forth on a ride you secretly wish would stop
So you sleep – you lie in darkness,
Anything to shut that part of yourself off

These invisible thieves of joy could never make sense of your feelings,
And you can never find meaning in the nauseous emptiness they leave
Because ancient animal instincts never learned to factor logic into fear and worry
So we’re drowning daily in a flood of chemicals that barely know the difference between run for your life and hurry

So I’m penning a letter to the part of me I used to think was real:

Dear false self,

To all the thoughts that hurt,
To all the feelings that were never a friend –
You never helped me,
You only brought me down in the end

So I’m asking,
Isn’t it time I stopped caring so much about what I think?
Isn’t it time I stopped caring so much about how I feel?

Isn’t it time I let my inner voice do the leading, instead of believing all that my ego wants me to think is real?

Because I’m learning that I’m not what I thought I was,
I’m not what I wanted other people to see;
I’m not what I was, should, or could ever be

I’m simply me

The boy who saw a life of possibility,
The boy who dreamed of being empowered and free
I’m the guy who fell in love, picked my heart back up, and put the song on repeat

It’s time I recognize there are parts of me that would kill me before I could ever manage to manage them
There are parts of me no drug can suppress, and for which even therapy will not put at rest

There are parts of me that will never be free as long as I take them seriously

There are parts of me that given my conscious attention would forever leave me in a state of needing to meditate
These parts have kept me on the run far longer than was ever fun

These parts, forever wanting to get lost,
No matter the pain, never mind the cost

These parts –
These pieces divided
They’ll never be satisfied and they’ll never be decided
They will always measure, always question, and always compare
And following them I’ll forever be waiting on the day when I can finally say I feel alive –
But they’ll never let me arrive

I can’t wait on the day any more

I can’t pretend my life isn’t underway
I can’t keep being creative with the math to say ‘my life’s just begun’

I can no longer dream of the day when my house feels like a home and my thoughts are my soul’s choosing alone
I can no longer wait on the day when my babe will be there for me and I can forgive myself completely

I can no longer be headed home
And this is not a practice run – there’s nothing beyond but the empty unknown

This is it
My running is done and it’s finally up to me,
Not the skin I’m in, nor the eyes through which I see

It’s not my job to set a heart right that will never be ready,
And it’s not my job to calm a mind that will never be steady

So I’m stepping into my soul and no longer vying for control of a body that’s less than I am
I’ve accepted that the deed will never be done and that someday will never come

This is the song of a soul awakening
This is the resignation that I’ll never find an equilibrium between my heart and my brain

This soul is taking the reins – and while it’s not immune – it’s capable of understanding pain (and it doesn’t create it’s own)

I’m no longer a lab rat, chasing equilibrium
My wings are no longer clipped and I’m no longer marooned in a mind that’s waiting on the ship to come in
I’m shedding my skin and answering the call of my pulse

My soul is calling the plays and the fear isn’t as bad as I thought
The war is no longer being fought and tonight I’m finally able to give my all

And I know that never again will my inner voice and my purpose be forlorn by a body so small

This is a song of a soul in control
This is the release of worldly pain
This is the declaration that my inner voice and my purpose are one in the same

The war is over
He is home now
He is free
I’m no longer chasing equilibrium now that my soul is in the driver’s seat

###

Poem inspired by the music of John C. Mayer