I See Human Beings

My apologies.  I know I’m taking a risk here, but I posted this the other day and then I took it down.  I’m torn.  I want to leave the past in the past and so I thought I’d put it out there and let it go, but then I thought, by putting it out there, it regains energy.  I had a great conversation with a wise person, who told me its okay to put it out there, let it go, and be done with it.  So, here it is again.  I will not take it down. Namaste.  

Charles Bukowski once said, “I walked around the block twice, passed 200 people and failed to see a human being.”

The block I grew up on was pretty bad.  I walked around it countless times.  I witnessed and experienced things I shouldn’t have at an early age.  At any age, really.  I greeted the prostitutes on the corner as I walked by, witnessed horrible violence and incredible kindness.  A bloody lifeless body on my sidewalk and a two-year old boy innocently playing with a toy truck.  I went to sleep to the cacophony of gun shots, sirens, the elevated train, people yelling and screaming, and … a dog barking.  You get used it.

I learned street diplomacy in my single digits, got into and out of violent confrontations and maintained a delicate relationship between decent people and the criminal element.

Mentally, physically, and psychologically processing that stuff has its effects.  For so many, the atmosphere becomes them and I completely understand.  The pressure to align with this group or that group, because standing alone is dangerous.  So is aligning with a group.  Catch 22.  What does it mean to be a man?  As a young teenager, successfully navigating that atmosphere was next to impossible.

Due to the surrounding violence, my dad enrolled me in martial arts when I was twelve.  Real martial arts.  Not kiddie karate.  Blood, pain, injury, and a bit of Zen.  I could have gotten three of those on the streets at no cost.  Actually, I did.  Something I asked my dad was … “Can’t we just move, instead?”  But that wasn’t in the cards.

That neighborhood heightened my sense of awareness and information processing speed.  My decision making skills are quick and quite decisive.  I learned to read situations, verbal exchanges, tone, demeanor, mood, movement, and things that just don’t feel right. I don’t recommend it.

And the martial arts?  That militaristic dojo taught me how to embrace the suck, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and focus.  It helped me to see myself.  And because of that, it helped me to see the human beings.

Back to the Bukowski quote.  I saw the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful on that block.  I saw the humans.  All of them.  A person.  A life.  I think that’s what helped me navigate those streets.  I genuinely saw the person and they saw that I saw them and so … they saw me.  Some didn’t, no matter what.  That’s just the way it goes and that relationship got handled differently.

Whatever, whenever, and wherever the block; literal or metaphorical, seeing the human beings helps a lot.  It can hurt sometimes too.  But, the alternative is just going through the motions.  No feeling to it.  No soul.

I know what Bukowski was trying to say and I get it.  Life, atmosphere, circumstances, and shitty people can cause us to lose our faith in fellow humans; jaded, frustrated, guarded, and disheartened.  It happens and we all have our days, but we can’t live there.  That would be a miserable existence.  No joy.  No peace.

I see human beings, but I first had to truly see myself.

Photo by Fredy Martinez on Unsplash 

Trust: What’s the Matter?

Trust is not something that can be earned.  It is only given or lost.

In the movie, A League of Their Own, there’s a scene at the train station where Jon Lovitz is waiting for two dairy farm workers, played by Gina Davis and Lori Petty, to get on the train.  They’re reluctant to board and so Lovitz’s character says, “See, the way it works is, the train moves, not the station.”

The train moves, not the station!  That one gets me every time.

It kind of works the same way with trust, if trust is the train and the person is the station.  The train can only be let go (given) to go where it has the potential to go.  That’s what its built to do.

Maybe the train goes off the rails.  Maybe it breaks down.  Maybe.  But, mostly it takes everyone where they need to go.  To do that, it must be let go from the station.  Trust must be given.

If the train had to be inspected, over and over again; checked and re-checked as if having to prove its worthiness and never actually let go from the station, because no matter what it does while sitting there ever earns actual trust, it goes nowhere and does no one any good.  And the train deteriorates.

The train would never be able to become what it needs to be, do what it was meant to do, without being given trust.  It can’t prove a damn thing sitting at the station, one way or the other.

When someone says, “you have to earn my trust”, it means they don’t trust you.  It does.  I mean you either do or you don’t and if we haven’t “earned” it yet (as if it would happen sometime in the future), it doesn’t exist now.  So, no trust.

We either give someone our trust or we don’t and if we don’t, we don’t trust them.  It’s just the way the math works.  And that’s okay, depending on the circumstances.  There are things to consider, of course.  But that train (employee, partner, spouse, friend, etc) will never perform at its greatest potential if not trusted to leave the station.

Like most things, we can’t give trust if we don’t have it.  If we don’t trust ourselves, how can we trust others?  We can’t give something we don’t have.  Maybe we need to be honest with ourselves.  If someone broke our trust, it hurts; emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically, and even financially.  But, that was that person, not everyone else.  And when someone breaks our trust, especially in the worst ways, the real damage is on them.  I know it doesn’t seem that way and maybe they don’t even feel it.  But, their soul does.  It’s just a bad train.

And let’s not confuse trust for competency.  That train will not take me to the door step of my destination.  It doesn’t do that.  My trust is that it will do what it does; stay on the rails and take me to my destination station.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I’ll need an Uber to take me from the station and hmm, let’s see; get into a stranger’s personal car …

But we do it every day, don’t we?  It’s a matter of trust.  Trust that is given.

Photo by gavin_s_wilson on Instagram.

Wabi Sabi

Pure driven snow looks almost perfect, but with one set of footprints, it becomes a story; something more.  The snow is no longer “perfect”, but somehow it’s even better.

The darkness is appreciated for the light.  The good is better, because of a touch of bad.  The blank canvas becomes art with the first splatter of paint.  That scar, dent, wrinkle, hardship, worn and weathered, driven off the lot, dog-eared imperfection illuminates the beauty.

Basically, wabi sabi means it’s perfect, because it’s a little fucked up.

We’ve been through some shit, which can make us more attractive.  Or … less.  Some of us let the scratches become our story, rather than enrich it and that’s a real shame.  Some have gotten hit pretty hard.  Knocked down.  Several times.  And we need to process through that.  Not an easy thing.  But, we can’t get stuck in the sorrow, pain, and scars.

I hear The Doors in the background, “… no time to wallow in the mire.”

Staying in the mire is neglect of the self.  Don’t mistake neglect for imperfection.  It’s simply neglect and there’s no beauty in that.  Care is the opposite of neglect.  If we take care in the face of tribulation and because of it, well … it can be a beautiful thing.  Not in spite of it though.  Spite comes from and fuels anger, resentment, and darkness.  The results of spite are quite different than those of benevolence.

Like Zen, Wabi Sabi encourages us to celebrate the way things are, rather than how they should be.  Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is not reality.  It’s a miserable fantasyland, because we never allow ourselves to be content in what truly is.

To clarify, being content is not about sitting in the mud and saying “fuck it” with a fake smile on our face.  It’s about being happy in our pursuit.

“Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” – Richard Powell

Yes … authenticity.  Because beauty is in the imperfections.

Photo by Manish Kumar on Unsplash

I AM

“I am not what I think I am.

I am not what you think I am.

I am what I think you think I am.” – Thomas Cooley.

For our reality to exist, it has to be perceived from the self, through another’s perception of the self. So, for me to be as I am, I am as I think you see me.

There can be no concept of a “Me” or “I”, without others. There’d be no point. The definition of an individual wouldn’t exist if there was only one.  And the perception of others as we perceive them to be, makes us real.

What I think you think I am, influences my way of being to some extent.

“But, I don’t care what they think.”  The fact that we’ve acknowledged that there’s a “they” means they’ve experience us in some way and have formed some kind of opinion or judgement or mentally put us into some category.  And, whether we’d like to admit it or not, it does affect us.

We are social animals and our brains are wired as such.  Our thoughts, actions, reactions, attitude, confidence or lack thereof, happiness, anger, sadness, and even our health can be affected by society’s perception of us, whether it’s conscious or subconscious.

Our parents, relatives, siblings, friends, teachers, strangers, significant other, boss, co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances have all influenced our persona and character.  It continues throughout life.  Even what we think they think of us, which could be totally wrong, influences us.

We’re so weird.

As Sadhguru said, “The first and foremost success is to not be a slave to anyone’s idea.”  Shed the insecurities and be comfortable with whom we are.  The world wants our true self, not some version of what we think it wants.  What do YOU want?  Be that.  However, this is not a license to be an asshole.

Not every song is a hit and not everyone likes the hit song.  It’s okay.  We don’t coerce people into buying tickets and force them to attend the concert that is us.  No; we play our music for those who want to experience it.  And we’re accepting and comfortable with those who don’t.

At the end of the “day”, we sleep with our own soul.  It’s comforting to know that it is truly ours and not someone’s altered version of whom they think we are or should be.  It’s not absolute and never 100% and that’s a good thing; you know … if we want to interact and relate with other humans, that is.

And, by the way; I am what I think you think I am.  I am no yogi.

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

This is Us

The chance of you, me, or anyone ever being born and existing as we are, is one in four-quadrillion.  In simple mathematical terms, that means zero.  A zero chance, so the fact that we’re here means we won the biggest and most impossible lottery ever and we didn’t even buy a ticket.

However, … our importance is greatly over-imagined.  Wait … what?!

Our home; this earth is but a speck of dust in a universe so vast, it’s unimaginable.  Carl Sagan’s observation about this “Pale Blue Dot” we live on, provides some perspective.

He says, “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

We’re so intelligent and advanced with our technology, but we’re not very smart, when it comes to what really matters.

We commit gross atrocities against each other in the name of politics, religious beliefs, race, national origin and so on.  Some individuals and groups are affected so much that they’ll kill other humans and feel righteous about it as if they’re on the “good side”.  So much misery and darkness inside an improbable being on a speck of dust.

Hate, division, and racism is big business and the purveyors of this poison have a wider and deeper reach than ever.  It’s sick, twisted, and quite evil.  All forms of media selling us on how we should feel, why we should be angry, and what side to be on and whom to be against.  Telling us that we should be offended, ashamed, mad, repressed, or whatever else rows the oars of their massive ship.

My favorite sitcom used to be a place I could go for a healthy laugh.  Not anymore.  Now there’s a message and an agenda.  I thought this was a comedy?  I really liked that show.  I used to enjoy your talent, your music, your jokes, and/or your writing, but now its tainted with preachy manipulation.  And for that reason, I’m out.

Politicians, news media outlets of all genres, network television programs, movies and the actors who play in them, stand-up comedians, leaders, musical groups and individual singers, churches of all kinds on one side or another, newspapers, Universities and their staff, authors, social media, and … well, almost everywhere.

What ever happened to entertainment?  What happened to the “news”?  What happened to … us?

This planet is roughly 4.5 billion years old.  Us humans; a tiny, tiny fraction of that.  Somewhere around 200,000 years with civilization of any form having only been around for about 6,000.  That’s nothing.  When we’re gone; when this pale blue dot is gone, the universe will still be.

Our significance is minuscule in the grand scheme of things, yet our ego is immense.  Such an advanced species and yet, so greatly flawed.  There’s so much that we can’t truly know, yet we pretend we do.  “We believe that what we know is true and if you don’t agree, you’re wrong!”  Our party against yours, this religion against that one, and that “race” against another.

By the way, there’s only one race of humans, so we need to get our head out of our asses on that one.  Different colors, shapes, sizes, and sexes, but we are all the same animal.  Some are smart and some are quite stupid.  Some are good and some are bad.  Some have class, while others are classless.  Some are assholes while others are just very cool peeps.  Some cling to excuses, while others find solutions.  Some are lazy and some work hard to improve life on this speck of dust.  Some are selfish, while others do their best to help humanity as a whole.  Most of us are a mix of all of those things along a sliding grayscale.  And … we come in all colors.  Same race though.

We will never be perfect.  The mathematics make that an impossibility.  There will always be war, hate, division, atrocities, tragedies, and evil.  And there will always be peace, love, union, kindness, miracles, and good.  We will never have world peace, but there is peace on earth.  At this time however, the balance seems to be way off.  We are giving the negative all our energy and of course it’s spreading and perpetuating.  We need to quit feeding it.

We’re all on this dot together; 7.5 billion of us, yet alone in the cold, vast darkness of space.  It’s an incredible existence and I am grateful to be a part of it, however small.

Cheers.

Photo by Voyager 1.  Earth, from 3.7 Billion Miles.

 

 

Don’t Move Mountains

Hawaii, 1983: The small community of Royal Gardens had sixteen homes destroyed by Mount Kilauea’s eruption and lava flow.  Royal Gardens no longer exists.  Only the mountain.

After destroying more homes in other communities, as well as the town of Kalapana, the lava flow shifted out to sea.  But, in April of 1990, lava poured out of the mountain for almost a year, burying the town in 85 feet of volcanic rock.  Kalapana is gone.  The mountain is alive and well.

Crazy enough, a small subdivision they named “Kalapana Gardens” was erected on top of the old Kalapana.  But, in 2011, Mount Kilauea destroyed a home in that neighborhood as well.

Some people don’t believe in mountains.

For two years, I lived in an apartment just on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains.  A beautiful area in upstate Pennsylvania.  But, in the winter, the sun would set below the mountain in the late afternoon and it was like someone flipped off the light switch.  I like the night, but at 4:30?

Before that, I grew up in inner-city Philadelphia.  Quite arguably, the worst neighborhood in the whole city and if you were observant, you could see it was going in the wrong direction.  The glacier was breaking off and it was falling fast.  Some neighbors were in denial.  Some wanted to stay and fight, while others were just stubborn.

Some people want to move mountains.

At the beach, we set up our blanket, a cooler, a speaker, and maybe an umbrella.  This is our spot.  Then, the first strong wave of the incoming tide touches our blanket.

We can’t move oceans.

The Mountain always wins, as well it should and for reasons we may not be able to understand, nor should we.  Metaphorically and/or literally speaking, the “mountain” is neither for us, nor is it against us.  It just is.  Fighting against it, ignoring its power, or denying the inevitable, is quite foolish.

We can embrace its existence or we can climb it, go around it, and move away from it, but we can’t move it.  A life of trying is a miserable, losing endeavor.

Don’t move mountains.  Move.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Conversational Cannonball

Conversational Cannonball

Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”

True.  But …

I was at a party recently and someone asked how my kids were doing.  I’ll only say this; their journey, how they’re navigating it, and all their accomplishments are pretty impressive.  I’ll leave it at that.

But, sometimes we get caught up in the moment and splash their achievements all over the other person.  And, that’s what I did.  Ever notice when one person splashes, the other person tends to one-up you with their splashing?  It’s a reflex and both of us end up with our eyes stinging.  When she began to respond with how well her kids were doing, I realized I’ve gotten us both all wet.

In fact, I probably misinterpreted the depth of her question to begin with.  I overestimated her interest.  Maybe, I overlooked it completely.  Maybe pride pushed me in.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to swim quite yet and it all took me by surprise.  Her too, for that matter.  It happens to all of us on occasion.

Ego and pride play their parts, but a little goes a long way.  It’s why we take showers, wear nice clothes, accomplish things, and care how we’re perceived and received by the world.  But, there’s a threshold.  Cross it and we’ve gone from interesting to “Get me the hell out of this pool”.

When someone asks us, “Hey, how’s it going?”  The most widely accepted social reply is, “Pretty good; thanks.  How are you doing?”  They respond and we go about our day.  It’s a greeting, not an interrogation.

I should have said, “Oh, they’re doing great; thanks.  And yours?”  If she responded with, “Really good; thanks”, that would also be the end of the encounter.  Perfectly acceptable and understandable.  Or, the conversation gracefully makes its way to deeper waters.

Shallow, surface level conversation in perpetuity makes me want to get out and towel off.  I swim much better below the surface than on it.  I thrive there, but a cannonball is too much, too soon, and way too splashy.

Anyways, before we splash our achievements, adventures, and awesome exploits on someone who isn’t ready to get all wet, we should probably test the waters first.  Just because they asked, “How’s the water”, doesn’t mean they want to be violently thrown in.

By the way; how are you doing?

Photo by Eleanor Carter on Unsplash