Saturday Stirrings

I tend to think that people fit into nice, neat categories. Whenever there’s a differentiation of traits, I attempt to determine my fit within the specified groupings. Whether it’s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator where I’m an INTP, or the Chinese Zodiac where I’m a Rabbit, or the other Zodiac where I’m a Sagittarius, or the four elements where I’m obviously an Air element, or politics where I’m probably a progressive. Or Hogwarts, where I’m kind of a Ravenclaw but settled for the more relaxed life of a Hufflepuff.

Even being from New England, I associate with its colonial, doggedly independent, and zealot-filled past. Speaking of which, Thanksgiving is soon upon us, a time when we celebrate a bunch of true-believers that left everything behind in order to worship the Almighty in their own way. A group so determined and trusting in God, that they arrived woefully unprepared for what was to come. This was not a hearty band of survivalists, but regular folk simply expecting things to work out for the best.

I think half died soon after arriving and the other half survived thanks to a native that returned to his homeland after being forcibly taken to England. Imagine arriving in the New World and some dude walks outta the woods speaking English and shows you how to procure food. And, there just happens to be an abandoned village in which you can live (the previous inhabitants died of disease). WTF?! That’s Providence for you (not the city, but God’s protective care). Interestingly though, Providence, Rhode Island was a city founded by an exile because the Puritans of Massachusetts were too puritanical.

The cook in my house isn’t a fan of turkey so we’re having roast-chicken and root-vegetables (carrot, corn, and waxy potato) instead. We’ll probably have some homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, butternut squash, and of course pies. Yes, many mini-pies, I believe we’re scheduled for apple, blueberry, strawberry, and toffee-pecan. I like this time of year. I’ve been listening to my Christmas-music playlist since mid-October.

I’ve noticed that I always write the strangest, most uncharacteristic things on Saturdays. It’s been happening since I started writing this blog many years ago. I don’t know what it is about Saturdays. My schedule isn’t really affected by the weekends, I’m just overtaken by a different muse. Well, here’s to Saturn’s day, a merry god ruling over a golden age of peace and effortless prosperity. And here’s to the week’s end when the cycle is soon to begin again — yet for now we rest.

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Final Push

An excerpt from the non-fictional tales of Snow Saga.

Standing in at four-foot tall, with a blade width of 21 inches, and an exceptionally light weight, the orange handled shovel could push snow better than any other shovel I had. But today he met his match. Plowing a rather light load, the blade caught underneath an icy shelf and just… just… cracked. The fatal fracture is near where the handle attaches to the blade.

The driveway was almost clear too. I finished with another, narrower shovel, but of course it took longer than it could have. What can you say about a shovel that did its job without complaint, that lifted loads way above its capacity, that moved more snow with a single swipe than any of its peers? Its life was a relatively short one, but this shovel did more than its share.

This shovel was a nameless workhorse. A trusted tool that came out whenever shallow snow needed plowing. It will be missed. For service above and beyond the call of duty, I salute you, dear orange-handled shovel. A prince among cleared porches, a valiant defender of blacktop, and a remover of the ceaseless snow — go now, to Shovelhalla, and feast upon white flakes forever.

Broken Shovel

Cool Lightning

Certain Uncertainty

Some people believe that life is pre-planned while others believe we make our own way through. These are opposing viewpoints and frankly I’m not sure which is right. In life though, I’ve found that when given two plausible answers, the truth is likely to be a combination of both.

But are both options plausible? Let’s think about it for a bit. If we believe life is pre-planned, then we believe that something beyond this realm already thought things through on our behalf, and now we’re just living out a script. If instead we believe we’re figuring-out our way through this world on our own, then it’s via practical application of skills — or wishes.

There is a large segment of the population that believes in wishing. It can be known as prayer or the “law of attraction” for instance. In my own dealings with life, I’ve certainly thought long and hard about certain things and received them, but then there’s the many things I haven’t received. And what is rarely discussed by these adherents: from where do our wishes originate, what inspires these thoughts in the first place?

As far as the practical application of skill goes, I know my talents have not been keeping me alive. I sit around most of the day thinking philosophical thoughts yet I’ve survived several decades with relative ease. Something outside of myself has ensured my continual existence, that’s a fact. Yet something tells me that I could derail my life if I really tried.

So what I’m sensing is that life certainly does plan our path to some extent. Just look at how we’re born within certain surroundings and influenced accordingly, plus we come pre-packed with all sorts of preferences that are difficult to ignore. Perhaps the wishes we want are just part of the pre-programming.

But do we personally bring fulfillment into being or does it manifest via external means? Perhaps wishers aren’t that far from the mark — perhaps we must trigger the manifestation of predetermined outcomes whenever we’re ready to receive, and we signal by some physical mechanism. Or if fulfillment is externally produced, they’ll arrive no matter what we do.

Perhaps fulfillment is purposefully delayed to induce a feeling of anticipation and heighten the drama. Life is a obviously a show of some sort — we’re consciousness, watchers within observing a character experiencing life. But what we can do is hope — hope is a belief in the ultimate fruition of our want. Whereas hopelessness can make us miserable.

The game therefore, is not in attaining what we want, but in maintaining anticipation and hope for what we want. To win we must hold steadfast to the belief that we will grasp the object of our desire despite doubt. External manifestation is beyond our immediate control, so only our thoughts surrounding such manifestation are within our power.

To summarize, our life appears preplanned to an extent, we can simply look at our innate preferences for proof. We can attempt to deny these preferences, but doing so will lead to severe discontent. We can also see that our survival skills, or lack thereof, are not what’s keeping us alive — we’re guided, our hand held. Unfulfilled desires seem to be the part of our preferences that are purposefully delayed for dramatic effect.

Although, what we receive tends to be the result of commingling imaginations. We’re regularly influenced by others — for instance we often want what’s popular. Circumstances are out of our control but we have hope. It doesn’t hurt to hope, in fact it feels pretty good — but despair does hurt, bringing dissatisfaction and suffering.

In the navigation of this world therefore, the practical application of skill has nothing to do with physical ability, it has to do with cultivating a mindset of unyielding hope. In that sense, perhaps wishers are merely misunderstood, they’re simply practicing hopefulness. And that’s why it seems such a futile practice to outsiders until its depths are understood.

To those of us with a pessimist’s mind it seems to make little sense, but beyond the superficial, we can understand it very well. Instead of anticipating the worst like we do, we must expect the best. Expectation is not something new for us, its just a rotation of focus, from negative to positive. And it’s not about receiving a particular outcome, but maintaining a belief about its benevolence.

Existence is not a physical challenge, it’s a mental one. The circumstances don’t matter, it’s all in the mindset. Obstacles regularly arrive and we overcome them with hope, by maintaining trust in the goodness of life. Stay in the car at all times, riding along the preset path. Laugh at and enjoy the surprises. Always seek to discern the goodness in life.

Time Portal

For some reason I just remembered the address of my previous blog. I tried looking before, but couldn’t find it and assumed it was deleted. But it’s there, about 200 posts primarily in 2002 but with a handful of posts going all the way up to 2009. Reading through it just now, I don’t like the tone or subject-matter.

The material is very evolution-centric, reminiscent of a militant-atheist type, and quite pessimistic. Humanity is characterized as a product of millions of years evolution, yet never truly progressing, as it’s comprised of highly irrational animals living in deeply flawed societies. It is most assuredly a negative critique of the human condition.

Underlying the writing seems to be a feeling of betrayal by humanity itself and the resulting isolation. I suppose it’s a disillusioned young man lashing out. He is confused and focusing on the worst of his surroundings. And while others are witless, he sees the harsh reality they refuse to acknowledge.

A decade after starting that blog I started this one. Current me has a broader perspective of the world — or so I believe. Who’s to say I won’t have a completely different viewpoint in another decade. I don’t like the certainty that younger me professed, he was so sure the world worked in a particular way, and so sure of its awfulness.

I don’t think he’d understand what I write about in this blog. He’d be dismissive of my hopefulness and call me naive. He’d scoff at my mention of spiritual matters. He’d see me as lost in a sea of irrationality. He’d think my happiness a delusion. To his mind, my words would be poison and I’d be nothing but a pied piper of poppycock.

He and I appear to exist on two different planes of perception. I wonder if there’s anything that could be said to alter such a dour attitude. Or must we simply ride it out until hitting a dead-end, reversing our direction. Or do we change by rote, relentless drilling of what we want to be. Or from exhaustion, finding serenity from uncertainty. Or does the page in our story simply turn.

Verbal Patisserie

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Daily Beacon.

Dear Rich, I’m not quite sure I appreciate some of the things you write about, in fact some these ideas just don’t suit me, should I cease and desist reading your content?

Dear Reader, I don’t like cheesecake. In fact I loathe its very existence. If it were called cream-cheese-pie I’d not mind its presence so much, but as it is now, I find it both distasteful and dishonest. I do not appreciate its cold creamy texture nor its pre-fabricated gram-cracker crust — and quite frankly, I don’t believe cheese of any sort belongs within a dessert (insert audible gasp here). I much prefer frosted flour-based cakes and fruit-based pies.

Yet you would think me foolish and overreactive if I were to walk out of a bakery just because it happened to serve “cheesecake” alongside chocolate cakes and apple pies. You’d say: Rich, just ignore the items that don’t suit your palate and simply partake of the delectables you do enjoy — stop being so petty.

So likewise, dear reader, I would council you with similar advice. Some of this content is just not meant for you while some is tailored specifically to your tastes. Pick and choose while digesting with a lighthearted attitude. I’m merely a baker of thoughts, distributing ideas of various shapes and styles.

If you’ve sampled a few and found nothing of interest, then of course, select another establishment that better suits your needs. But if you find a few tasty tidbits, then stick around and patiently appreciate whatever it is you do like.

Minding the Mind

There’s 3 weeks left in January, and you know what that means! It’s time to begin the January Mind Your Mind Challenge!!!. For only 12 minutes per day, for the rest of the month, we’re going to play a little game with our thoughts. Let the mind-games begin!

Sit cross-legged, either tuck your feet under your knees or place one foot on top of the opposite knee if you find a foot getting crushed. Lean forward a little and straighten your back, and lean back until upright and supported. Overlap your hands (palms facing up), while resting your forearms on your thighs. Tilt your head up, and bring it down until comfortable. Let your eyelids gently fall. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your nose. Inhale. Notice your tummy inflating and deflating.

Now when exhaling, say the word “om” silently within the head, pronouncing it in a relaxing way. Inhale. Exhale while mentally saying “om”. Keep doing this. Eventually you’ll notice that you’re thinking about something else and no longer saying “om”. Good job! Now repeat the pattern: inhale, exhale “om”, notice your wandering mind, inhale, exhale “om”. Eventually your mind will wander less, you’ll be inhaling, exhaling “om”, inhaling, exhaling “om”, for longer stretches at a time.

Practice this routine for 12 minutes per day. Consult a clock or timer to know when the time is up. If you get sleepy during your practice, try a different time of day — then settle on a time and stick with it. Maintain this practice for the rest of the month. Remember, this is just a friendly little game with the mind.

Bonus Feature: At some point during the challenge you might begin to notice yourself drifting — you’re no longer saying “om” but you’re not thinking either, it’ll seem like you’re somewhere beyond thought. You might notice a calm peacefulness, as if you’re away from the world floating into the infinite. This is the entranceway to tranquility — embrace it.

New Year’s Tech

When I was a little boy, a mother’s lap was the only car-seat a kid needed. Dictionaries were large books with finger tabs for quick access by letter. Encyclopedias were purchased at the supermarket, one book per week. We often browsed catalogs and filled-out order-forms that were mailed-in with personal checks — we received our packages at some indeterminate time in the future.

Fancy TVs had real wood cases surrounding the picture tube, they were thick and heavy. To change the channel we got up and turned a dial that clicked into place for each corresponding number, luckily there weren’t many channels to choose from. We watched TV shows at designated times. If we missed an episode we could catch it again in a rerun. With limited TVs, fighting or tantrums often controlled what was watched.

If we wanted to talk to a friend we called his house, asked his mom or dad if he was home, then talked until someone else needed the phone. A busy signal meant we kept calling over and over until whoever finally hung up. If events were cancelled, people would call around to let everyone know, some wouldn’t get the message and just show up, waiting for the party to begin.

If someone left the house, we typically wouldn’t hear from them until they got back home. Trends often traveled by cousins or clubs or camps. If we had questions about life we could ask a parent or sibling, our friends, or a teacher. If we needed a more extensive answer we could go to a library and browse through some books in the related category.

If we wanted to rant, we wrote cursive inside of notebooks that nobody read. If we were bored or lonely we had to make do. We had little to no contact with those outside of our immediate surroundings. Games typically required other participants. TV had limited programming and at times aired only reruns. Stores had limited hours and required transportation.

I appreciate the technological advances of today. When the Internet came into being it was like discovering a new world. Through the Internet I found companionship and purpose. I’ve spent about half my life within this virtual realm — exploring, observing, and interacting. It turns out that the next frontier wasn’t outer-space, but cyber-space — the world-wide interconnected consciousness of mankind. And through communication, we find unity. So it is with this thought that I welcome in the new year.