A scratchbook for my thoughts on the meandering paths of life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Duty and Meaning

Today I'm thinking about duty. What is my duty? In order to fulfill myself as a human being, must I not understand my duty?

In this sense, you could replace the word "duty" with "meaning" and it would sound the same. But "meaning" is a philosophical concept that refers to some kind of internal understanding of things, while "duty" is less an understanding and more the actions one takes to move one's life in a chosen direction. This chosen direction, based on our sense of duty, is, in its essence, driven and shaped by our sense of meaning.

So I don't feel I can speak of duty without at least implying the fundamental questions of meaning (who am I? why am I  here? etc.).

There are different levels of duty. First is my duty to my body and maintaining my life. Though competing for the natural number one is my duty to my son. I must care and provide for both and seek to enable the happiness of both. There is family and there are friends. We are all familiar with these.

But are there not higher duties? What about my duty to humanity? If I am here for a reason, is it not my duty to pursue the realization of that reason? Might I even go so far as to say that, if I believe that I do indeed have a duty to humanity, that all selfish pursuits are in conflict with my duty?

In fact I do think that. But other principles of life must soften this approach so that I look for a middle way. I cannot disregard all selfish pursuits. If I could, most likely I would already be fully attuned to my duty and my meaning and would not need to be writing this. Furthermore, I am selfish and anything I pursue in accordance with my sense of duty to humanity will necessarily also serve me. But there is nothing unusual about the struggle to maintain humility in the face of achievements. It is just another pair of opposites, whose intimate relationship with each other form the opposite edges of the one path on which every human must walk in his endeavor to be more, to serve humanity and not himself, to become a moving force that participates in creating the flowing river of human evolution.

So quite expectedly, as I started by connecting duty and meaning, my train of thought leads to the obvious conclusion: My truest duty is to realize that which I truly believe.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Light permeates us. Light is one expression of the essence of all things. I radiate light. All beings radiate light. Richard Bach, in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, wrote that more important than having faith was having imagination. Imagination is a catalyst for all things. Imagination calls forth reality. When you imagine light radiating through you you bring that light forth.

We are not empty vessels and therefore our light tends to become obscured. Spiritual light, unlike every day light, however, permeates all things. It can be obscured only when that which is permeated rejects the light, creating areas of darkness. We reject the light with shame, anger and coldness. We forget that our essence is light. We accept dark things as our lot. We may even feel more comfortable in the dark. We may be so convinced of the beliefs permeating our darknesses that we become ashamed of light, of shining. "How can I shine when I am so worthless?" and "I'm so unhappy with the way things are, I absolutely will not be happy!". While we usually do not actually think such thoughts, such stories dwell in our world of feeling, guiding our attitudes.

Imagining light radiating through you brings forth that light. Light seeps into the dark areas. Light radiates out of you. Light radiates into you.

Imagining light radiating through other beings brings forth that light. Light surrounds them. Light seeps through the cracks in their disbeliefs. Light beckons to them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


What is happiness?

Is it moments of gladness, where warmth flows through you, when things are going well? Is it what you feel in response to a true smile? Is it the satisfaction at a great accomplishment?
Is it an attitude towards the world and life in which you look at it all through a smile? In which you expect good and look for good in everyone, smile at what comes and try to let it pass through you when it is unpleasant?
Is it seeing what you have created around yourself and feeling content and satisfied? Seeing that it is beautiful and good.

Is it, indeed, a feeling? Momentary or enduring, strong or stable?

I've generally thought so. But in the face of encroaching hardship, of years of confusion and struggle, I am thinking again.
If when hardship comes, you lose faith, then what was your faith worth to begin with? If you expect pleasant because you feel you deserve it, but you get painful and feel you do not deserve it, and you lose faith... well perhaps it's understandable. Because words like "understandable" and "human" are our ways of sugar-coating weakness. But that is not faith.

Then again, I'm not exactly religious. What is faith to me?
I'd like to think that it is, actually, more to me than it is to many religious people. For them faith is a word, faith is canonized, institutionalized, expected, assumed as the result of following a preset course.
Those of us who have no religion must define faith for ourselves, fill it with our own life, feed it with meaning.

So for me, life without faith is a very sad life. And my faith has waned weak over the last decade or so. And so, when darkness looms ahead, I must reassess. To finally abandon my faith, or rekindle it with all the zeal I can muster?

But I had not intended to talk about faith. Do I think that faith is the seed of happiness?
But I do think that happiness is a feeling. And I think, in spite of a slightly buddhist tendency, that it is important. And there is nothing wrong in seeking it in accomplishments, in beauty, in love. But being human means reaching further when these are lacking. And further is further inside. And further inside is towards God. Because when accomplishments fail, when beauty falters, when love does not abound, we must still seek happiness. Faith is the way. Or at least one start. You must redefine your attitude. You must look with the eyes of the child, without prejudice. What is beauty? Aren't so many small things also accomplishments? Isn't love everywhere, in every cell and every atom of every thing we perceive?

Human always compares. Are my accomplishments great enough? Is my child as beautiful as theirs? Do they love me as they used to? Do I love them enough? But to really be happy perhaps you must stop comparing. Look at the world and see it anew. Recreate yourself here and now. Light abounds. Miracles abound. Love abounds. You shun it with your mind because you have convinced yourself of what you want. You look ahead and seek your goal with the power of your will.

But when life pulls the floor out from under you the goal may become unreachable. And you can either mourn the failure or you can embrace what life has given you instead. You must have faith for that. Faith that living the present to the fullest and embracing the truth will enrich you, will take you where you need to go. Faith in God or life is like trust in a person. When you trust a person you can lean on them, you can relax with them and be more of who you are. When you have faith you can believe in the present, you can open to it, flow into it, let it flow into you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freedom and Humor

What is freedom? How can freedom be attained in a world we have woven around ourselves? Each thread we have sewn ourselves. Everything you look at around you you must accept is a reflection of yourself. Everything in your life you must accept responsibility for. You can talk to a psychologist and they can help you blame your parents for everything. And you might believe it. But in the end it doesn't really matter. They are not responsible. Only you are.

But if I have myself created everything around me, how can I find freedom in it? Must I walk away from everything? Leave everything and start again? I've been told that travelling is a great, freeing experience. You start each day anew, from scratch, and rediscover yourself. You shed, each day, the past. You meet people who do not know you, and you have a chance to constantly reinvent yourself.

And I would love to do that, but I don't want to throw everything away. And leaving is just not always an option. And when you know that freedom is a state of the heart, then the thought of leaving everything feels a bit like cheating. Not that there's anything wrong with a little cheating. God will not throw you out. It's not a game of blackjack.

But you know that everything you see around you, everything you have created, everything you are responsible for you, is transient. It is not so different now than it was when you were a child. Only when you were a child your mind was flexible, your heart was innocent. You did not think you were anything, you just lived. Now you think you know who you are. "I am like this" and "this is the way I am". Which, of course, is rubbish. We all know that, even though so many of us say that. It sounds good.

But really I think the problem is that we stand too close. If you have ever painted or sculpted, you know that you have to keep stepping back. Because you keep losing perspective. Sometimes even stepping back is not enough, you have to leave and come back another time.

It's the same with our lives. We naturally tend to go on vacations, because we know we need to step back. And when we come back things usually look fresher, crisper. Sometimes it's depressing to come back. It's not a sculpture. If you fuck it up you can't just chuck it out and start over. So sometimes it's depressing to come back.

But the path to freedom is in the non-attachment. I won't recite the four noble truths and I'm not saying you have to meditate. But you have to remember your life is small. You have to remember that you are a guest in this world and in your life. It definitely matters. You know that because it often hurts. But it is, first and foremost, an experience. Don't shrink in it. Don't become small looking at the smallness you have created. Don't become small when people talk you down. Watch Man On the Moon. Expand. Laugh about it. Humor is so underestimated. Humor is the releaser from attachment. Humor breaks the bonds, humor is a step back, humor puts things in perspective. Humor makes you less important. Humor removes you from the center of the world.

Laugh about yourself. You're just like all the others. You may feel different and you surely are. But you suffer just like the next person. You make the same mistakes. They may think you're great or you're awful, but they are only judging themselves, because they are no different. Our hearts tug on the same weave. Our minds pull thoughts out of the same ether. Our bodies are built from the same dust.

Free yourself from self-importance. Self importance in a world with billions of people - in which you can never be the best at anything and even if you happen to be, then you're still horrible at so many other things compared to others - is funny. So have a laugh at your own expense. You're not THAT important. 

Monday, March 19, 2012


We are constantly creating ourselves. Our "selves" are, in fact, merely the result of the act of this creation -  ephemeral, transient things that we all believe in based on what we have created around us.

The trouble is, we so easily forget that this self is never solidified. Because it seems to solidify. As time goes on it seems we are more and more sure of who we are. In fact, we only truly know who we "are" when we know what we want and when we create what we want. In this way, we resemble more and more, as times goes on, who we are, because as our creation continues over the time of our existence, it has no choice but to reflect us.

So while there is not, in fact, a "me", there is an evolving entity that grows more and more to reflect my will. My will is expressed in everything I think, feel and do, in every choice I make. And as my will expresses itself, reality and personality meet and intertwine to create an individual with a particular life, with particular habits, with a particular perspective.

This may help us. It may help us when we wish to walk further along the way on which we are walking. Because momentum exists in all things. Every choice we make creates a momentum for another, similar choice. In this way the world and the individual conspire to bring forth a singular human expression. It may be ugly or beautiful or plain. And we have shared in its creation every step of the way.

But when we are not content with our path, the laws of nature thwart us. Our past choices stand before us, our creation - our life - does not easily let us off the path. Or we stumble from path to path, searching for a way that speaks to us.

And so sometimes it is useful to remember, again, that there is no us. This "me" that appears to be me, is only the sum total of my past choices, grown in and through the earth of my life. So break free of your attachment to this "you", forget the path you are on or the trail from which you came. Close your eyes a little and walk blindly. Walk to the summit of your heart. No one knows who you are, not even you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've talked so much about changing in my life. For those who struggle with their internal world, talking about change is an addictive fantasy. It's a lullaby we sing to ourselves to help us sleep through this world. Talking about change is the opposite of change. Change is man's ultimate effort. Change never "happens", not unless you are one of those who have already done all the work in a previous life, but that is another topic altogether. To normal people, change does not "happen", and there is absolutely no sense waiting for it. Waiting for change is like waiting for yourself to arrive at your destination while standing in place.

But changing is not like walking to your destination. Change is when your destination cannot be walked to, climbed to, swam to, or flown to. If you still find the way to come nearer to it, then you are on that path called change. All of which is to say that change is not easy. Most people never change. They "grow", yes. They mature, they gain insight, they take responsibility. That, too, is change. And that, too, is not easy. I respect all those who succeed in embarking on this process. This process of letting childish things shrink in importance, of finding joy and pleasure in the fruits of work and responsibility.

I am one of those standing on the shore of childish things, looking at the ferry to responsibility, with a ticket in my hand, but unable to embark. Every step I take in this journey seems to yield more difficulty. Where is the joy in it?

And yet that is exactly the ruse of talking about change. This so-called "journey" is no journey at all. It is not change. How do you step on the ferry and let the rope holding to the shore fall loose? There is no step you can take, no decision you can make, that takes you from the shore to the ferry. There is only the non-step, the non-decision that is the highest human power, yet the most subtle and difficult. You must let go. Because, as we all know, there is no journey, no shore, no ferry, and no change. You are already where you want to be, you just have to stop holding yourself back.

But letting go, how utterly not easy it is. How utterly against everything we believe and think. How convincing are the ever-moving patterns of our thoughts and feelings. We cannot ignore the feelings. The anxiety, the fear, the worry, the hurt. We cannot let go because letting go does not make them less. Actually, it seems to make them grow. When we let go they start seeping through the thinning walls of our defenses. The fear grows, the hurt is closer to the surface.

My experience of trying to let go is of an endless expanding and shrinking movement. You shrink until you realize you have lost touch with your world. Then you recall that the world is beautiful and you start to let go. The light begins to suffuse you, you expand. But the expansion brings new experiences, and the experiences slowly flood your soul. Until you lose touch with that expanding movement and begin to lose the sense of how you came to where you are and why. Or you do not even notice but the growing energy of the expansion subtly begins flowing into the old patterns. It is natural. It's natural to not change. It's the ubiquitous human weakness. It's not cynical.

The naturalness of not changing stands in conflict to the deep human drive to open, expand, grow. It is the same conflict that exists in science between entropy and evolution. On the one hand, science claims that, undisturbed, all things tend to gradually slip toward a grey uniformity. On the other hand it tells us that life evolved from a uniform uncomplex state, and continues to evolve in complete contradiction to the law of entropy. How can this be?

Life is the force that moves the underlying, uniform force towards complexity. Where life disappears, complexity returns to uniformity. The human body grows dynamically to adulthood. As life weakens, it slowly begins to whither. With death, it decays and returns to dust. This struggle exists in our soul as well. We must fight to grow. If we do not fight, we return to the uniform grayness of our souls.

Fighting in the soul, however, is nothing like we see on TV. "Fighting for peace" is a paradox. But truth in words can only be expressed in paradoxes.

And that's enough axioms for today. To be continued.