life

We’re In the Monkey Cage -Jerry Seinfeld

SMART PHONES CAUSING SEPARATION FROM FAMILY AND SOCIAL ...

Yes folks, the zoo is open.  Spending our time eyeing strangers over the rims of our iPhones with speculative if not skeptical eyes.  And if that is not enough the cameras, on the phones and on every corner, will do it for us.  Stay on the path and don’t feed the animals.
The glass walls are cleaned every once in a while and no one seems to know who the zookeepers are.  Nevertheless, the food keeps coming and the cages are cleaned; we are happy and content…so they say.  And the next installment is just down the way.
Far back in our memories we seem to remember a different way of living;  I remember when everyone went out to shop, and I’m told that at some point you had to grow your own food.  These narratives of neverland must be mythical.  We’re told what to buy.  Take a left by the palm tree and notice the Orangatangs.
Don’t mind the forlorn looks on the faces; they’re happy as clams.  Just remind them with a peanut how good they’ve got it!  The four walls?  That’s just for safety, both theirs and yours.  Look at their funny butts; let’s post that! And for our next visit we can just catch them if you look hard enough: the majestic cats of the jungle.  I promise they’re in there!  And if you’ll follow me, I’ve got just the place for you.

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Pick Your Paths Carefully

How to Choose Between Two Paths in Life | JP Morgan Creating

Some may remember a series of books by Carlos Castenada written in the seventies about a “real, spiritual”** adventure taken by Mr. Castenada, soon afterwards debunked.  In these books the concept of human battles was presented; battles against fear, power, clarity and finally old age.

Fear is the first of the four battles that we must, as individuals and societies, overcome.  While fear is evolutionarily founded on the overwhelming desire to survive, in the context of our modern lives it often misinforms us given our homogeneous societies, given the social pressures that we all endure: mind your parents, go to school, get married, have kids, and retire.  Fear, I have found, often leads many people down paths that they never wanted, that they never desired and stunts intellectual growth.  In short, most of our fear is disconnected from its evolutionary roots of survival and has become a road block to personal growth.

Once we realize that fear is sometimes founded, but more often not founded in reality, we recognize the power that the realization offers us.  Power comes in many forms, one of the more common forms is money.  With money comes security and with security comes the illusion of power.  Our happiness, our contentedness, our self becomes defined by the power that we hold as all important and they (in turn) become dependent on the power that we believe we have.  Soon enough the slave becomes the master.

Our happiness, our contentedness and our security safely put in their virtuous places we are enlightened to the fact that our lives are short and perhaps insignificant in the grande scheme of things.  Perhaps we recognize that independence is based upon understanding and curiosity and that it is these concepts that lead us to the ever illusive peace and contentedness that seems to elude so many.  The universe opens up, we achieve Nirvana, we find god(s); we are clear about our place and purpose in the universe.  And then we are old.

Our bodies let is down when our minds should be at their best.  Aches and pains sneak up on us as we watch the universe expand beyond our comprehension.  We have lived enough years to realize the regrets that we fought so hard not to have, and now some changes, some things, are outside of our grasp.  Our clarity drives these truths home, and we watch as our happiness is now in danger.

It is at this point that we must make our choice, according to Castenada: to jump into the abyss leaving all we know behind, or to fade toward the light and into the oblivion of the masses.  The one leads to loneliness, and the other leads to loss of self; and it is at this point that we face our old enemy fear again and the journey begins again.  Pick your paths carefully and fight like a Viking.

**I believe this phrase to be oxymoronic.

 

The Unattainable 

Looking at a mountain and slowly crawling up its magnificient facade by eye; the peak, so far up, and smiling down, from its precipice in the sky; seems to smile and smirk as if to say there is no way you will come to me.
And as you ready yourself, taking long breaths and feeling the tingle in your gut; you busy yourself with tools and toys and thoughts of what you must; the answer, you realize and come to know, is in your thoughts and not what you see.

 
The journey begins one step at a time, one foot, one stone, one rock; you begin the climb and see the sights that the trees down below have blocked; the climb is steep and the rocks are loose and the peak continues to smile.
The days go by, the tiredness heavy, and newness has worn off; your muscles sore, and so alone but the voices in your head they scoff; the morning comes and the pain is fierce, but ahead mile after mile, after mile.

 
Until one day, all hope is gone, the peak it snears and screams; the pain is numb, the cold is deep, and misery is in your dreams; you walk again, your bones are brittle, your desire is all but erased.
Dumb and blind, careless and lost, your adventure is no more; no more pain can cause you harm, there is no voice to implore; but at the top, you’ve made your goal! And now a smile comes across your face.

 
At the peak you sit and eat, and hope and power you feel; the sun shines down and the rocks are warm, your fate it has been sealed; you have conquered your fear and made better your life; explained the unexplainable.
Looking down, the trail is known, and the miles they melt away; you’ve not met your match, you’ve accomplished much no matter what others say; all are proven wrong, and you are honestly proud to have attained the unattainable.

It’s Just a Feeling

There is a place for that feeling that we get, our gut feeling, without explanation, about places, people, and decisions.  Sometimes that feeling is a warm and tingly sensation in the stomach and sometimes that feeling is a knot.  Somehow (it seems) our body is reacting to thoughts that we might not realize that we have; somehow are emotion is a road sign to an unknown understanding.

Perhaps this unconscious intelligence has just been blinded by a society that is motivated not by curiosity but by consumerism?  Maybe it takes time to realize, to listen, that how we feel is sometimes linked to what we do.  David Hume famously stated that reason is the slave of the passions.

Do not get me wrong: logical reasoning and rationale must be the foundation; we cannot lie to ourselves and equate our emotions with intelligence.  However, we are human and we must accept the bastard child, emotion.  Reigned in and controlled it will steer us toward what we truly want, ironically.

Think about it: the dreams that we pursue are not rational when we envision them but must be rationally pursued to make them a reality.  So, it seems, that we have a choice: 1) to sleep and perchance to dream, or 2) To dream and perchance to act.  It’s just a feeling after all, but feelings count when we choose to listen carefully.

 

A Two-For!

change-fishWords
In this day and age of endless internet banter it seems that language has been lost. Discussion, too, has taken a blow. We no longer communicate but rather yell our opinions at each other, and of course those opinions are beyond respute. We have answers to questions we do not understand; we have solutions to problems we do not know exist; we speak without understanding the power of words.

Terms either go to the wayside or are used as swords of offensiveness or defensiveness; either way we “are right” when we often do not understand the concepts of words like “right” and “wrong”. Being “politically correct” or simply being empathetic and kind; being “offensive” or simply being “truthful”. Gone are the days, it seems, of being expected to live up to the standards that we create: only need to speak because that is often the only thing we can do.

We use words as weapons and forget the firepower that make language important in the first place: concepts, propositions. We shortcut language without a thought to what that shortcut does to the actual meaning behind words. Without a thought we attack each other. Afterall, they’re only words.

When Things Take a Turn

I recently sold the property that we intended to start our farm on. Oddly enough it was not a difficult decision. The difficulty, as perhaps it always does, lay in the logistics (the work) of actually moving. Even in the short time we were at the place, material and tools pile up. It takes a lot to be self-sufficient.
So, into storage went my workshop and onto my neighbor’s (Neighbor Bob) property went the hens, my tractor and a few other large implements. While our decision to move on from our newly acquired place seems irrational to many I would argue that it would be insane to stretch your hand out to catch a dream and settle.
To expect something you know will not work to get better is to guarantee failure. And so, things take a turn. The work was unrelenting and the limbo that it puts a want-to-be farmer like myself in is almost as stressful as the move itself. But, when things take a turn there is not other option than to enjoy the scenery.
I will not explain that such decisions are easy or that they are the best for everyone, but often times the truth is obvious and that makes the answer even more obvious.
My advice to anyone finding themselves in a situation that is not conducive to their happiness is to remember that change brings new options, many of which were either not noticed or not available. When things take a turn sometimes the best bet is to ride the storm and other times it is to abandon ship. But, the most important aspect of change to remember is that life is short and change, no matter what turn it takes, is inevitable.

Here’s Knowing You!

Pork and Belly 2

 

It was a good day yesterday. Pork and Belly, our pigs, are hanging in the garage and the job of butchery begins tomorrow. We have four sides to get through and the process will be a learning situation. The process of raising, slaughtering and butchering your own meat is (as the words used to describe the process) a somewhat violent process towards the end but I choose to broaden my perspective and see the beauty in the cycle of life.

Pork and Belly were happy right up to the end. Sniffing at the barrel of the pistol that was about to end his life, Pork was at ease and full of trust; never stressed and never felt a thing. As I took a minute or two to calm my nerves, holding the pistol and watched as he poked at it innocently. I describe this not to disgust or dismay, but to remind us all (including me) that death is not the important thing: life is.

While it is true that Pork and Belly trusted me and I broke that trust, it is also true that I built that trust by giving them the best life that I could. Their life was full of rutting around, eating acorns, pats and scratches and a warm bed of hay every night. There lives were good by any standard and it is that life that I am proud of.

This is a process that I believe is necessary if we insist upon eating meat. It affords us the understanding that by eating we take something of great value, something that we must come to appreciate as we cannot bring it back: a living, breathing, and thinking entity. I do not thank a god or gods for their lives. I am thankful that I have been given the chance to look at life straight in the eye; all the blood and beauty of it. It only gives me a greater appreciation of the food that I eat, and the animals’ lives that I take in order to do just that.

Raise a glass with me to Pork and Belly
Good pigs they were, and good food they are!

Pain

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This week I have had that old and misunderstood teacher, pain, in my life.  This time it came in the form of an old piece of oak and a table saw.  As good teachers ought to, pain pointed out my stupidity but did so not in a condescending way; my lesson was learned in a split second and by my own hand.  I have no excuse, which was the lesson taught.

I have all of my fingers and they all will work normally but for the time being I have thirteen stitches in two of them (nine in my index an four in my thumb).  I took the test and failed.  However, failure is as it always is, a chance to learn.  My Renshi, pain, has not let me down and I have learned; if only I can remember when the lesson is finished.

A teacher and a student are one in the same, but a teacher sometimes needs a reminder that they are a student as well.  I’m not sure what lesson Master Pain has learned.  My lesson has been one of trust: do not do it with machinery and wood!  I have an old adage: comfort is your enemy, and there is another one: familiarity is a teacher of men.

My lesson is all bandaged up now and the learning process has started.  Flashbacks of my lesson continue, I cringe, and I type with eight fingers for the time being but the lesson came at a cheap cost.  Pain is unforgiving, straightforward, and honest as all good teachers should be.  And I am thankful as all understanding students come to be.

MISTAKES, MISGIVINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS: II

face roadmap

Motivated by sheer will and some curiosity mixed with a dose of virtue and the endless misunderstanding of truth the path became home. The roots he had dug up so many times, he carried in his bag which was by now old and worn by the mistakes that he’d made. And it was with these misgivings that the man turned around and considered his past for the first time in his life.

Never noticing it before, it was nevertheless worn from wear. Like a shiny piece of metal washed many times and never found, it was clean…almost luxuriously so. The past mirrored the man as he looked into it’s shiny, blank sheen; not so much did it offer up memories, but misgivings as to what could have been compared to what had been.

The past, he found, was not full of memories, but of imaginative vagueness and ample insecurities.
“What if…”
“If only…”
“Had I only known…”
The sentences formed in his head and his imagination finished them thoroughly and almost automatically. It was as if he had no control over his past.
“But it is mine,” he thought.
“This is my past!”

However, the metal simply stood its ground; the past would have none of his illusions. Stamped in metal by his own meanderings the man realized he no longer owned what he had done, what he had been.

Looking around for an explanation, there was none.
Searching for answers to the puzzle that the past posed, he found none.
“There must be, though; the past is mine. IT’S MINE!!”

But the metal dripped in apathy as the man slowly realized that it was only the tears and he put the past back into his pocket.

Rituals

coffee pic

There are rituals that we all seem to abide by often without knowing it.  These rituals seem so inconspicuous when we are alone but when guests come, or when they are otherwise interrupted, they show themselves in unusual ways.  If we work away from the home we tend to enjoy the workplace just a little more; or when we work at home we notice the rituals and how they are being poked at, if just a little.

This is nothing against the guests in our houses; they are welcome and enjoyed.  But the little rituals in our lives are, well, just a little put out.  If you have pets, especially a dog, you probably notice this.  However, when our own rituals must be put on hold, the dog’s perspective doesn’t seem that strange.  We, like our pets, live by rituals.

The ritual itself doesn’t really matter, it is not the ritual act that counts.  Rather it is the act of having a ritual that seems important.  We do things in a certain way, at a certain time.  Personally,  I notice this when my early morning coffee ritual is changed (read “interrupted”).  Coffee itself is a ritual, not just the need and desire for caffeine.  Coffee in the morning and a beer (or two) at night are explicit rituals, but what about those small, inane rituals that our lives are filled up with?

We do not notice the small moments in our lives when we are in the middle of living them.  It is only when we are reminded of them that they matter.  Perhaps rituals are not unlike our past: they are made and then remembered?  Perhaps Hume and other philosophers are right when they state that we are nothing but a collection of memories?  This may be the case, but if so then the memories themselves are rituals incognito.

Busy

busy-quote

In September, work changes from input to output; that is, canning starts and thoughts of “processing” any animals, the euphemism for killing and cutting up animals, starts sneaking in.  Winter work plans are on the back burner; the shop needs a cleaning, planting winter rye and watching the hens scratch it up.  Trying to get the newly cut oak posts in the ground (around the garden to keep the hens out) while the ground is still able to be dug in.

Fall kale and beets planted and the greenhouse is closed at night.  The trees are turning and as the leaves think about falling, thoughts of last minute winterization roll around in the head.  The fall, for some reason, seems to be the starting point when some assess the year past and compare it to the year to come.  This comparison is important and painful all at the same time.  What we did wrong and what we can do better; the time we wasted and the time coming to make it up.

We stay busy; we are busy and we will be busy.  It really doesn’t matter what we do but it seems that a lot of us do.  I wonder…what is the comparison in our busy lives?  Were we busy last year?  Should we be busier next year?  Does being busy make us better or just tired?  Are we busy working or just busy being busy?  There is one other thing that we should compare: time, and how much of it we have used and how much of it we might have left.

But none of this matters to the trees that turn, the canning that continues, and garden that continues growing.  Time will churn and we will be busy turning the crank.