The number one imperative is change. In order to change, I have to see change itself differently. Change is not just seeking novelty. Change is disrupting the flow of information in my brain and making it move differently. Change could be pausing and focusing on a single thing for a much longer period of time, or picking a select series of topics to connect together thematically.
Change is listening for things that I might have rejected from having been out in this world for too long. Change is shifting my focus away from the things that my culture tells me are relEt, and putting my focus on what I believe is relEt. Change is being fearless about this.
Change is getting organized and clean where I’ve been chaotic and messy, and the vice versa of this–where I’ve become too buttoned-down and straight-laced, I explore my freedom.
Maybe the most important thing to understand is that I don’t need to have my own personal grand unified theory of how the universe works, or doesn’t work. It could be that part of this change is retraining myself to focus completely on what is happening inside me and immediately outside me in my environment–the here and now. What is happening in places around the world is beyond my control.
I imagine for a moment that every time I send my thoughts out to some other time and place, I am unavoidably breaking off a piece of myself and attempting to make my identity resonate with that other time, place or entity. Because I am not God, this is an impossible proposition, and want that spiritually sends me off balance, away from my center of gravity.
I have yet to spend too many days of my life (starting from about the age of twelve) where I am perfectly capable of relinquishing all control of myself and my situation, to truly let go and let God, as they say. I am still scheming somewhere in the back of my mind about how I could possibly start up a new business and take back control of my future so that I will become extremely wealthy and have homes in Manhattan and downtown San Francisco. This is vanity. This is an illusion perpetrated by the devil. I don’t want a false sense of being in control of something that I am not. I don’t want to reject abundance and wealth and blessings, if they are from the Lord, but I don’t ever want to accept them if they are from the devil. And, they will be from the devil if they are completely wrought of my own accord, without any input from the Lord, and no thanks to be given to Him later.
The Lord has given me a great gift of being able to exercise my intelligence, and meditate on the profound nature of Creation, the complexity of the life forces that flow undetected by science through our universe, a flow that we are all caught up in like fish in a stream. He hasn’t requested that I try to prove the existence of it to you, so why would I bother to–either you are aware of it as well, as your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, or you aren’t.
The fact that I am allowed to live on this earth in a time and place of peace–my little corner of the world and Time is mostly safe and free from the chaotic, warring forces of the evils of selfishness, fear and misunderstanding of humanity–this shouldn’t go unnoticed by me. So what if the things I write will not be proclaimed by a petty, temporally brief collection of humanity (that is divorced from God) as being of substance and value for a literary canon or primary body of philosophical texts? My head and heart are with the anonymous working people whose heads and hearts are full of love for their God and their families, who do not care about becoming billionaires, who do not lust after mammon, who do not seek immortality by way of having men perpetuate their names for centuries to come.
My mind easily wanders with a will to distraction.
It’s almost like I can’t be happy unless I’m distracted. If someone isn’t purposefully distracting me, I will go and seek distraction.
What is happening: when I try to consolidate my mind and spirit and heart, and focus inwardly and be quiet and seek the Lord, I mistake letting go for falling asleep or falling into the Void.
Be active with the mind, but do not cling to it with an unyielding grip. You are like the planets, constantly falling, but still within the Sun’s grasp. Be a joyful, loving man.
I woke up too many mornings and rejected all that was good around me, refusing to see even a single one of my blessings. I was full of a self-righteous anger and entitlement that demanded of the universe to pluck me up out of my surroundings and drop me into something better. I was among the 10% most wealthy people on the planet, but this wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be among the 1%.
I sought to blame everyone around me for my condition. I wouldn’t accept responsibility for my actions. Maybe I would pay lip service to some of the bad choices I’d made, but I refused to believe that the way I’d conducted my affairs in the past had led directly to my present state. I refused to acknowledge that I possessed so much more than I ever deserved. If God was truly in the business of handing out karmha tit-for-tat, then I would deserve to be suffering the torments of hell for at least a thousand years, for the way I’d roughly used my privilege and gifts.
I did all I could to continue to push the blame of why I lived where I lived and held the profession I did on other people. It was always the fault of my parents for the way they raised me, or my older brothers for the bad influence they exerted on me, or my particular culture for its anti-intellectualism and tendency to praise those who became famous through little or no effort, or the small-town culture my parents dropped me into at the age of six, for its own particular brand of anti-intellectualism and praise of the rough-hewn man who eschews book learning.
I wanted to blame my DNA, my environment, my parents, my teachers, my siblings, my friends, my pets (who held me back from getting to travel more and live where I wanted to), my girlfriends, my bosses, my wife…if only I’d been surrounded by more understanding, brighter people who were all eager to mentor me and hold up my creativity as the true beacon for all things forward-looking, why I would have been as successful as Zuckerberg or Jobs or Gates.
I came to recognize when I was whining and angry too much about too many things, but I only recognized that people around me didn’t want to hear about it. This just made me angrier, because in my own righteous indignation, I felt like the outside world needed to hear the most about how unfairly I’d been treated by every living thing that had ever come in contact with me.
I talked a good talk about self responsibility, but wanted to make a show of it. I wrote about it endlessly in my graphomaniac’s way, journaling my accounts of raking myself over the coals for having been so foolish, stupid, ignorant–I assumed the mantle of a faux self responsibility where I endlessly trashed my past self and mocked him mercilessly without seeing any of the good I’d accomplished.
I talked the good talk of self repsonsibility to others so I could get their heads to nod in approval, and that made me feel good, but I didn’t start practicing or actually believing the words that I was saying.
When I woke up one morning completely relieved of my last full-time professional role, and put upon my shoulders the complete responsibility of having to find my own freelance work, I woke up a lost and empty soul. I had nothing to fuel or motivate me, because what had been motivating me all those years was simply a credo of “I’ll show them” every time I left a relationship or place of employment behind. It was easy to find all of the things the new company or lover was doing wrong and begin again to assemble all of the reasons why the other person or people were responsible for me not becoming more successful.
When I woke up that morning with absolutely nobody to blame but myself, I was terrified. I tried to fall back on my list of past individuals and explain that it was each and every one of them contributing to my inability to get started–to get started finding the new opportunities for freelance work and reaching out to those businesses, to get started on my new novel, to get started cleaning up the house and cleaning up my soul.
Since I couldn’t trick my mind into believing that I could blame them anymore, I just lay around in bed for days on end, hoping that the Lord would just magically come and inject a lightning shot of inspiration and motivation into me, and then I started blaming the Lord for why I couldn’t get myself moving.
I continued to go and find anything and everything to distract me. Any news story was as good as the next. It became more important to worry about what was happening in other countries and what people in wealthy, affluent circles were doing. It was more important to obsess over whether or not the world was going to remain a tolerable place to raise a child. I found myself dutifully going out online and getting caught up in the problems of Ferguson and wondering who had taken the ice bucket challenge most recently. Things that will no doubt be forgotten in a few years, and our kids will ask us: what was Ferguson, what was an ice bucket challenge, who was Miley Cyrus? But, I immersed myself in it, because it was a way to feel like I was part of the bigger, grander world of things happening out there–things being visibly made to happen by very important people–of whom I could be one, if only…
And then, I woke up this morning, and realized just how absurd my brain had gotten. That I was running and hiding from God. I was trying to escape and avoid responsibility. I was perpetuating a childish notion of creating an Other of some kind so that the Other became solely responsible for my failure to achieve whatever I’d told someone I was going to achieve.
Before I could begin to do anything at all, I had to spend some time getting myself cleaned up, and staying focused on myself in a positive, true way. There is the self-focus of narcisissm and self indulgence, which is really just self destruction masked as a false self love, and then there is self-focus where one is brutally honest with one’s self without being cruel. One doesn’t let a minute slip by where one allows a celebrity to become more powerful and worthy of one’s attention. It’s like if you drove an economical car, but kept your eyes on all of the muscle or luxury cars on the road at all times, and never maintained your car or washed it, and then when you finally went to trade in your car for a nicer one, the offer was negligible due to the condition of your car, and you bitched and pissed and moaned, and mostly blamed the people who made the car, sold you the car and any mechanic who ever worked on the car.
I am not truly paying attention to myself, I am simply using myself like an unwanted vehicle that I hope one day I will get to trade in for a nicer one. I am not doing simple physical exercises in the morning to maintain myself, instead, I go on the occasional exercise regime binge, which lasts no more than a few months. I am not paying attention to the quality of my thoughts, instead, I am wishing and hoping for a more intelligent brain that I can use to learn advanced math and become a celebrated genius. I am always looking over my shoulder at other people, and asking “how on earth did he or she get what she got? or, sometimes more cruelly, thank God I’m not that poor SOB.”
I pride myself on being a practical, down-to-earth fellow when dreaming up solutions to solve all of the world’s problems–if given the chance, I would be the uber-technocrat in the room, leaving all politics at the door and rolling up my sleeves to simply look at what the consequences would be of implementing any proposed idea. But, in my own life, I am still a grand schemer, dreamer, fantasizer, and maker of hopelessly impossible worlds for my future, reincarnated self to inhabit. I couldn’t tell you the last time I consistently kept to any sort of reading, writing, exercise or housework program that wasn’t at least in part motivated by an outside Other–the dream of being “discovered” or the fear of someone yelling at me or rejecting me. The most consistent thing I’ve kept to has been my professional work, and that’s only out of fear of not being able to draw a paycheck. I have rarely been motivated to come into work and do great work out of a burning, internal desire to improve myself steadily and surely to the point where I developed my skills into a truly evolving career.
I’ve thought about change so much these past several weeks. I’ve laid around in bed, hoping that Jesus would just come down and zap me with a change lightning rod so that I would wake up and start doing something really wonderful. But, I’ve failed to implement any change-making processes in my life that were less magical and more practical–like, forcing myself to wake up at 5:30 instead of 6:30 every morning, going for a quick run with the dog, writing, meditating, reading–forcing myself to stay with a program.
I don’t propose that I’m that different than a lot of people, but I do think that some of my reactions to my common, human weaknesses have been less than kind to myself. I’ve continued to believe in magic instead of solid, hard work that is repeated at my own instigation and solely motivated by me, rather than motivated by some misguided need to impress others and get them to comment on and like what I’m doing.