Munich

I wake up to the sound of wheels screeching against hardwood floors. As I force my blood shot eyes open, I realize that this morning my consciousness was finding my body thrown across the couch of a dear friend. As I tried assembling the missing pieces of how I got here, I rise like the dead and see that his four year old son has extended his parade of plastic cars and trains from his bedroom to the living room. Cars are aligned  as if in a parking lot, arranged by some category only he knows. Train tracks are elaborately constructed, weaving in and out, over and under through the halls.

As he sees me, he instantly drops everything he has painstakingly orchestrated with attentive detail and runs up to me with his arms outstretched as if to take flight. Calling out my name, he flies into the open skies of my arms. As I lift him up his tiny limbs find their way around my neck and he brushes his face against mine. I recall this with such detail only because of how moved I was by his selfless gesture of acknowledgement and the sheer amount of innocence found in such a small frame. It was the embrace of a child loved and devotedly attended to.

Probably awoken by the same clamor of toys and makeshift sound effects as I was; one by one my friends wake up. In spite of the sandman’s signature still evident in our baggy eyes, we are all smiling. Recollecting the events of the previous evening to the best of our ability. Laughing at the drunken antics that found us somewhere acting strange in the familiar streets of downtown, howling down the boulevards.

It’s early morning on a Sunday. And here, in this house, is our church. Our congregation revolves around a bottle of champagne and the smell of fresh meat over a fire. Mimosa’s are poured. Heads grow lighter. Hearts grow fonder.

I observe the scene with loving detail. Couples kiss and smile with glistening lips. The smell of coffee permeates the atmosphere, lined with the smoky aroma of a freshly cooked breakfast. Empty stomachs turn and speak out in hunger as empty glasses are refilled by heavy hands. The child asks his father to read for him and he does so. Story after story. Book after book the child thrusts upon him. His insatiable hunger for love and attention happily met without malice or mockery. Only loving words imparted to innocent ears.

I turn my attention to another of my friends as she stands behind her fires attending to our meal. I admire her in her selfless and unsolicited desire to feed and nurture those she cares for. No one asked her for this. No one expected it. She just did it because that’s what she does. And in that maternal gleam that found her, busy round the fire, you could tell it purchased her some sort of happiness, knowing that she was attending to those she loves.

Standing back in my corner, I record all this to store away as a precious memory. This scenery that should feel so familiar to most, is foreign to me. Surrounded by my friends, their laughter, and the comforting pressure found in that loving atmosphere I think to myself,

“So, this is what a family feels like.”

___________________________________________________________

Tonight I found myself accompanying a great friend who’d invited me to visit his parent’s home. I know his family. I know them to be hardworking, loving, and some of the most genuine human beings I have ever met. I can recall when I first met them a few years ago how taken aback I was by the level of affection this family showed one and another. For me, it was almost inconceivable. I didn’t think people could act in such fashion. Always hugging and rejoicing in each others company, as if they had been separated from each other for years. To this day I am still not used to it. I can only smile as I am happily and willingly pulled into that orbit they spin around.

I walk in to that house that feels so much like a home. That is to say, it is a home where you just know that people live here. Not the sterile and unwelcoming environment that envelops so many modern homes nowadays. Uninhabited, untouched, unspoiled and preserved. No. People live here and the people that do are happy. I believe that our atmospheres as people can paint the walls we live around. This house was painted, layer after layer, with a loving commitment to the term ‘Family’.

As my friend runs into the house, I see his father faithfully attending to his guitar in one of those rare occasions where he takes the time to enjoy the comforts he has worked so hard to afford for him and his family. I watch as my friend embraces his Dad and kisses him. “My Son!”, his father exclaims. Completely overjoyed at the sight of his boy he no longer gets to see daily. My friend tells me in light of this fact, his father texts him everyday. Asking him how he is and how much he misses him. Never failing to mention he loves him. I am at a loss for any real sort of reply when he tells me this, for again coming from the life I knew, I can’t comprehend it. I can only nod. If it’s envy, if it’s just me being happy for my friend who has a father so dedicated to his son, I couldn’t tell you.

His father then turns to me, and as we form our own embrace, he says the same thing, “My Son!”

I am caught off guard, but I do my best not to show it. I only hug him back and shake his calloused hand.  His father has become an object of admiration for me. He works twelve hour days, rarely taking any time for himself. When I see him, he is nothing short of the center of attention. Reigning in the affections of everyone in the room with unbridled charisma and charm. I have yet to see him without a smile. Stretching his impressive mustache from ear to ear. I never see one ounce of exhaustion that should be evident on his face from the labor he commits himself to to care for his family. As if the doorway to his home magically strips him of all the weariness the world imparts to him as he steps into that comforting and warm place.

I am greeted with a plate full of chocolate chip cookies sat right in front of me. As I begin stuffing my face his mother walks into the living room. Again; here we have a beautiful creature bound to the idea of affection and that it should be faithfully administered as much as possible. She opens her arms to me, and once again I hear, “My Son!” With a mouthful of her delicious cooking, it’s all I can say how grateful I am and how delicious her food is.

Once again, I am in the audience of a happy scene of family members laughing and regaling in their stories. Hot chocolate is brought out and all I can do is sit back, shut up and enjoy this moment. I lost count of how many cookies I ate around seven.

But these people, these strange and wonderful people, they herald me as their son and they know almost nothing about me. I am at a loss for words at the kindness this family has shown this stray over the years. But, they have made the mistake of feeding me. Now I am just going to keep coming back.

As we leave, moved beyond words at the sincerity of affections bestowed upon me, I can only tell my friend how lucky he is to have this. With genuine honesty, he answers, “I know”.

And as I drove back for the first time in my life I became genuinely thankful for the life I have had. All that I endured, all that I went without, all that I suffered and all that I never came to hold…I am now moved beyond my capacity for explanation when I experience that which I so yearn to feel. Love. Belonging. Acceptance. I can appreciate the seemingly insignificant, that which is taken so much for granted by those born into it, for it is not without significance to those not accustomed to it. I have evolved. Been given new eyes to see. Now, I can see beauty in the invisible.

It’s the first drop of water that hit’s a dying man’s parched throat.

The moment you awaken after being lost in a coma.

The desperate gasp of breath you fight to take as your head rises from the sea that sought to drown you.

That moment where you realize how badly you need all of this that you take so much for granted to continue to live.

“I am so glad I found this. I am so glad I did.”

-HOWl

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The One in the All

Since abandoning my pursuits of finding some truth in religion I have tried to find something else to believe in. For a man without beliefs is a man sailing a foreign sea without a compass nor a star to guide him through the unpredictable waters of the world. Without our own individual levels of moralities or thoughts of consequence, our own convictions to hold us true to whom we have come to accept as ourselves, what then are the vessels that will carry us through life?

So, left with only the convictions and moral compass I have come to use to guide myself and a willing mind to expand in the pursuit of some greater understanding, I started researching different philosophies from authors I have come to admire such as the Nobel prize winner, Albert Camus. Camus was a believer in a structure of philosophy that has come to be known as Absurdism, which is defined as the psychical and literary doctrine that human beings live in essential isolation in a meaningless and irrational world. In this state of philosophy, “the Absurd” is the conflict that exists when the basic urges that drive humans to seek any substance or value in the meaning life are met with the inability to find any such thing. That life, in all it’s chaotic grandeur, is so far beyond our capacity to reason, for it is without reason; that finding any sort of purpose or meaning within the grand scheme of the universe will ultimately end in failure. For the universe in and of itself is without meaning in terms of evolutionists theories that all life and matter as we know it are simply the result of a sub particle heated expansion that resulted in the creation of life as we have come to understand it.

Before I picked up the book (A Happy Death by Albert Camus) that led me by the hand of my insatiable curiosity, I had started writing a rant directed at those who were so blinded by their notions of misplaced self-importance, that I desired desperately to put their egos in proper perspective.

You are but one human animal in over six billion. You are an organism whose prime directive and ultimate design is simply to pass on your genetic structure to the next generation. You inhabit the third rock from the sun that exists in a chaotic and self destructing, yet still ever evolving galaxy that spins within a seemingly endless and infinitely expanding universe. But what is at the center of this beautifully horrific and spectacular universe?

NOT. YOU.

So in that current borderline misanthropic mindset the theories of life and it’s absurdities rang true to me…to a point. In comparison to the immensity of the universe as we have so far been able to perceive it, would you count your existences as meaningless?  The rationalism found in this train of thought would leave you to believe this to be so, when you place your time line next to the vast complexities of what we know as the time span of the universe, which I personally find (regardless of whatever tools we have conjured up) to be immeasurable. This is a theory that exists when you take away the human experience. And it is quite the task to even begin to try and understand these theories when you substitute the equation that is your own consciousness and very purpose of existence.

To the average man, he exists because simply, he exists. There is no other reason for him to ponder anything else, for he believes in what he sees. He thinks, therefore, he is. But how can we even begin to think this way? That we are without significance. It is maddening! As I tried to even grasp these concepts my ego and sense of self couldn’t allow me to come to the place of belief that my life would be forever without meaning. No matter how big a scar I carved into this planet I have been born to. To even conceptualize a reality without our consciousness being in existence is a crime against our own consciousness of self.

These schools of thought seemed so implausible to me. Yes, when you break down anything to it’s basic components, we find how those things come to be. Birth is simply a chemical reaction resulting in a physical reaction. Not to be mistaken as a miracle of life that spurs the existence of our very species. A rainbow is simply a reflection of light in water droplets. Not to be seen as a beautiful spectrum of colors splashed across the horizon after a storm. In breaking down life to the bare minimal and scientific definitions, we strip away all the magic our own individual perceptions can procure.

How can I compare myself and my own individual experience with the grand and unknown (if any) scheme of the universe? You can’t. For you are indeed an individual. Even among countless other souls that inhabit this place, you are still a “One” in a very vast and all encompassing “All”. Camus believed that in spite of the absurdity of life; it’s karmic absence and indifference, that we should still strive to give pursuit to find meaning for ourselves. “By accepting the Absurd, one can achieve absolute freedom, and that by recognizing no religious or other moral constraints and by revolting against the Absurd while simultaneously accepting it as unstoppable, one could possibly be content from the personal meaning constructed in the process“.

This is what drew me to plunge into the thought of Existentialism. This is a belief that centers around the ideology that that human individual alone is responsible to find his own definition of purpose while staying true to his authentic sense of self . In Existentialism, there is meaning simply in the pursuit of discovering meaning. This is what I have been looking for! This is the pillar of belief that can cause the human experience to progress without the confining conventional structures that are religious doctrines. A belief that holds one accountable to finding a purpose in life passionately and rapaciously while being true to what we have come to accept as our sense of our selves…this is it.

And I am soothed, knowing that I found some form of truth that finally is beginning to make sense to me. For how can I, in all of my own vanity, youthful ambition and sense of own self importance, accept the fact that my existence; no matter what I accomplish, is utterly meaningless in sight of the absurdity of life. Despite my being One, an individual, I still make up a part of the All that is the universe. If only for a moment in time, if only only as a fraction of a fragment, I am still here.

With reality simply being  the interpretations of our own perceptions, life as we know it is defined by the individual. The one who chooses to find definition. And when facing our own mortality as finite physical beings, is it not our duty to define what life is on our terms?

“…to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

– HOWl