Cognitive Dissonance

Many summers ago…

I looked out towards the Pacific, saw the miles and miles of cultivated land and uniform buildings, hundreds of windows catching the sun and glimmering in the distance as a great fire.

We sat there, my brother and I, on the hill crowned with a solitary bench, overlooking the very land that had fostered us. Below our aching feet suburbia unfurled before us like so many uniformed soldiers. Houses stacked in neat little rows, their manicured lawns gleaming in green summer perfection. There was not a soul to be found in that display window world below. The streets were empty, the parks were lifeless, and the atmosphere eerily silent. Somewhere within me I longed to hear the sound of children’s laughter, but there was only the wind. Suddenly it felt like we were the last ones left.

How sad, I thought. How very sad.

A breeze sped west from the sea, rippling passed like so many fingers through my hair and headed towards the mountains that still burned from its summer preening; sending plumes of ashes and smoke into the valley below. In the miles and miles in front of me staring down from our little mountain lay everything we had ever known. How utterly microscopic our pristine world was.

“This is it!?” I spoke suddenly, compelled as I was to break the silence. “The culmination of all of our efforts…I don’t think we were meant for this. I think other people feel it too; I think they just don’t know how to listen. Why do you think apocalyptic fantasy is all the rage right now? Maybe, subconsciously, we long for this to come to an end.”

The words flowed out of me lucid and clear but the train of thought had no destination. It sped forward, unbound and undeterred along clear tracks of gray matter going nowhere.

“I harbor no faith in us as a species. Time and time again we have proven we do not deserve this. It’s all there, in the pages of history. I don’t think we are going to make it…Nations pursue conquest and domination every generation over dwindling resources constantly at war over invisible lands drawn in the sand.”

“We consume far more than we produce,” said my brother.

I pointed up at the blue sky, “We should all be going up there, together!” then stretched my arms out at the cities before me, “But we are too busy squandering over all of THIS! Nationalistic conditioning has blinded people to the idea of unification. We turn a blind eye to the suffering of others in other worlds. Our progression as a species has been halted in the name of capitalistic consumerism. Our governments have implemented systems to raise generations of comfortable consumers to buy, buy, buy; and all the while they are the ones who are being bought.”

“Working to feed the machine.”

I lowered my quivering arms, “The machine needs to die! All empires fall. And one day this age will end, with or without us. We were not, we were…then we won’t be.”

It had been hours since we dropped, but the LSD was still hot in our blood. Just moments ago we were running down the canyons of Laguna like half-naked Braves. Chasing what? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. I suddenly felt every muscle in me come alive and begged to burn. So I ran. Crossing small valleys in a matter of strides. My breath drowning out all other sounds. There was only me and the path and the wind billowing in my  hair. How I suddenly longed for four legs.

We stripped down to our underwear when we reached the ocean. She sparkled like some bygone Mediterranean jewel and I let those salty hues envelop me whole until I forgot to breathe. Beneath the surface the sunlight pierced the liquid veil and I looked on with burning eyes at natures dance. I was young and the world was brand new. That day the life I had been avoiding for months took me by the hand and begged me to participate. How could I refuse?

 

A hawk flew across us, moving with the breeze. I traced its trajectory, in awe of its perfect and most mechanical design. It’s plumes were brilliant, the tips of the feathers shining red beneath the sun like blood from a fresh wound.

“I see before me the futility of existence. I see life and at it’s most basic level, my consciousness deems it meaningless. Everyone wants to believe that life is this great miracle that is guided along by divine providence or some grand design. Life, in its basest terms, is the result of biological reactions between two compatible pairs of living organisms. People want to believe we are born with purpose, that every one of us was put here to accomplish something great; there are almost seven billion people on this planet and what? Everyone has a destiny they are meant to fulfill? No, we are born without purpose—”

“We have to find purpose. We can make a purpose.”

“That was my next point!” I shouted in excitement knowing he understood. “I know how pessimistic it sounds, but we are born without purpose, though I believe we can make our own. You are absolutely right. I see life, and I still see it as ‘meaningless’. There are people born that just live and die, but I can give it a meaning. I can make it mean something, what time I have here.”

“All I want is to see the world, to live and enjoy my life, and help as many people as I can. I think that would be enough…,” he said, speaking more to himself than to me.

“I think like that, about the absolutely absurdity of life, and then I think of us. You and me right now, sitting on this very bench. I think of all the steps, everything that ever happened to us that led us here, to this moment in time. I think of our Grandfathers, how Mom’s father ran away from home as a child and joined the circus and made his way to America. And I think of Dad’s father, how he landed at Normandy on D-Day and somehow, someway made his way up that beach without his rifle. Made it through that terrible war and made it home. Those men sired our parents. Our parents in all their own steps somehow made us and out of all that, here we are—sitting right here. One step in a different direction, a subtle shift in the wind and we wouldn’t be. And even us, we could have turned out very differently, you and I. But here we are, as we are. And that, that to me is amazing. That makes life beautiful to me,” I was nearly on the verge of tears. “I am torn between futility and beauty.”

“That called Cognitive Dissonance, when conflicting beliefs exist inside of a person.”

“That’s my personality…internally, I am constantly wrestling with myself. But you know, I am really beginning to like who I am. What I am becoming. And you, I am so proud of you. I like who you are, who you’ll become.”

“I like the person you are.” He said as my eyes began to well. And maybe that’s all I needed. Maybe that’s all we need, to be seen. Then he hit me, “But my pale ass is burning up! I gotta get out of the sun cause your dumb ass lost the sunscreen. Let’s go.”

“You go ahead. I want to be alone for a while.”

He took off down the path and disappeared. I made my way off the sidewalk and onto the dirt path that led up to a rocky Martian cliff. At the top, a man dressed all in white was flying a remote hobby plane. Suddenly I felt the compulsion that I had to go up there and see him. There was nothing else in the world that was more important.

I made my way up the steep rock face sure-footed and unafraid. I tried to be as silent as possible. A deep urge surfaced that pressed me forward just to see this man’s face. I walked behind him at a respectable distance, not making a sound. I caught his face for a moment from a peripheral glance. His eyes never left that plane. The drone soared silently as the hawks flew around it not quite sure what to make of the alien blue craft.

‘I bet he wishes he was that plane’, I thought. As I rounded on his right slowly moving further and further away from him I saw on his face a look I’d never quite seen on anyone before and it’s stayed with me ever since. There on his wrinkled canvas was painted an expression of pure bliss. I had never seen someone more content. So completely lost in a moment.

I smiled to myself and said, ‘I need to find my plane.’

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The Manic Parade (Dissecting the Desiderata)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender 

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; 

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story. 

 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

 

Keep interested in your own career,

however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

 

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection

.Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself. 

 

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

 

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy. 

  Max Ehrmann, The Desiderata, 1952

To everything in life, there exists a desirous state of equilibrium  A strive for balance. Although the planet spins on a titled axis, and the scales of our morals and scruples are always swayed with the current of time; it is our duty as human beings to find a center. Both in our selves and our orbits around other people. In spite of the cacophony that finds us constantly, find some semblance of peace in what you would define as silence. This day and age finds us constantly bombarded with a constant dull roar and din. We drown out sounds with more sounds. A battle is fought daily for the dominance of your attention.

Silence the static ghosts.

Step out of the digital bath.

Turn the knob left.

The power off.

Explore the quiet of your own mind. You never know what you’ll find. Most things are best illuminated when all the other lights and sounds go out.

Today finds us not at odds, but rather at a loss of understanding for one another. We are a generation that is constantly plugged in and yet, detached. Despondent.  Despite the lack of understanding, strive to understand. Understand life brings us to great heights and crushing depths. One can never truly know what anyone is going through. Smiles can be deceiving and tears misleading. It is imperative to keep these things in mind and remember that simply being there with a willingness to understand is enough.

Understanding is born out of communication. The likes of which is becoming a lost art form. Some people speak often and loudly, saying nothing. Others don’t speak often enough and do so quietly. In spite of the stark contrast and extremes of these scenarios, while many speak, few lack the capacity to listen and even fewer, the ability for retention. There are so many people, young and old, that have so many stories to tell. Books should be read, not only for escapist entertainment but also to learn. To analyze the lives and mistakes of people who have lived before as to not echo history. In literature you have the learned culmination of a thousand lifetimes at your disposal. The ability to gain the knowledge of many worlds. Take great care not to dismiss the pages. Listen to when people speak. In this shallow place where falseness reigns, it is hard to know truth and sincerity when she graces your ears. You must learn yourself what is truth. There is so much knowledge to be found in the words of other people. At the very least, there exists a sense of cradling comfort in knowing you are not alone.

As you grow you’ll discover the kind of people that are a detriment to your growth and progression as a human being. There are people out there, contorted and stunted in their own evolution that lack any ability to see past the bridges of their own noses. In trivial matters such as these it is wise to follow the ideal that a Wolf does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep.

You cannot compare yourself to another being. We often dance around these comparative perspectives out of envy or insecurities. Stop the music. For you are you. Unique to an incalculable degree. Comparing your place in life to that of others is a futile gesture, for there will always be greater and lesser men than yourself. Take from them what you can. Draw from them inspiration to reach the same heights and greater or the motivation to steer away from their lows.  A grand foundation to finding center in you is always maintaining some sense of progression. To diligently mold a better version of your own self. With satisfaction being the death of desire and the birth of complacency, never seek an end all feeling of satisfaction but rather a constant sense of trial and the accomplishment purchased only in besting the obstacles set by your own hand or otherwise.

Find what drives you. That spark that keeps an eternal flame lit in your gut. The very thing that takes you away from the predetermined norm of nine to five and traffic lines and into your very own dream made reality. The greatest crime a man can ever commit is not at least trying to give wings to his own ideals of how he would live his own life on his terms. Who knows whether or not it will fly, but oh what heights you could attain if you only tried! With the worst case scenario often only being failure, the risk to succeed is always greater. Be smart, aware, but do not live in fear. Fear is often born out of a sense of misunderstanding, for many do not understand the value of success found in the greatest risks. While men would try and sell you the moon, be aware of what gain others may have off of profiting from your own gain or loss. Do not be skeptical of every opportunity but rather think of it from all sides of the board. And remember, moving a pivotal piece backward doesn’t necessarily mean you still aren’t moving forward towards victory and that at the end of the game, all the pieces go back into the same box.

To find and define your authentic self, I believe it is imperative we lose ourselves outside of the norm. That is to say one who never tests themselves will never fully gain the knowledge gained from pushing the boundaries of what we perceive to be our limits as human beings. Finding that definition should be thought of as a never ending journey of self discovery and it is one that should be taken faithfully and devoutly. For understanding yourself is paramount to loving the person you perceive as the authentic version of your own self which in turn will lead to an easier understanding and possible affections for other people who desire to understand you. Do not mock or feign love. In spite of affections spurned or a love being unrequited, do not let pessimism become the realistic perspective of love and it’s properties. We can only throw ourselves out there. Cold and naked. And hope, always hope, someone will arrive or be found to clothe us.

We are as plants nourished by the sun that is love. Without it, our roots hold fast to none. We grow contorted and our seeds scatter into nothing . Still, regardless of how devoid we are of this precious light, our gnarled branches will always reach out for even the faintest shimmer.

As the seasons find and leave us, each winter and spring imparting some new and learned truth, we carry with us now the experiences and teachings brought on with the new hue of foliage. And as the years pass, we may grow cynical. We may grow tired. Wearied from a life of constant labor. Our abundant questions may come to yield no answers. Our fruit once yielding to grand flavors  may become tasteless. Our minds begin to entertain the notion that every voyage’s destination is only the inevitability of failure. This is a state of mind born from innumerable failures and incalculable loss.

Damn the loss.

Remove yourself from the shackles of the past and move forward. You’ll never love the same way again. You’ll never reach that point in your life you once had. This harsh reality is truth because if you are growing at all as a person, you will be far beyond that level you were before. And there will be new loves and new heights attainable to be experienced as the person you are now. Transformed from the crucial lessons born from the loss and failure you once feared so much. It’s the experiences that transpire outside the monotonous routines of our lives that test the limits of our vessels. If the lessons and mistakes are translated properly, your growth is only accelerated. The direction which you decide to take in that burst of momentum is yours to decide.

God, whoever or whatever you define him to be, if at all, exists to give us hope that there is a design and overall purpose to this life thrust upon us. And God bears a different name and face to the holder of faith. God can be love. Wealth. Children. Life. Even ourselves. Faith disguised as hope is essential and we all worship something. But there is a certain sense of absurd comfort that comes from the belief that there is a divine composer orchestrating the measures of the and space of our universe into a grand symphony.

And if there isn’t, who can really say?

For all is but an unsound theory proven only in the denouement of our stories. Until then, we can only strive to give ourselves a sense purpose and definition and write a story worthy of being told and play our own songs to add to the soundtrack of time.

The earth spins on a tilted axis. Perfection, in it’s definitive form, is unattainable a midst the chaotic orchestration that holds our universe in place. But with perfection being merely based off of individual perception, one can ignore this fact of absurdity should he so choose to. A man can see perfection in imperfection, and who could truly tell him otherwise? There are abundant horrors to be found in this modern waltz we call life. The sheer absurdity of which can cause a man to lose faith. In his god, in himself, and in the overall condition of man. These manifestations, the lesser demons of our nature, have been manufactured by unseen forces. Designed to keep you oppressed and burdened with all that can keep you instilled in a state of fear. And afraid, you would live safe and obey. You would find comfort in the small luxuries found in the dream sold to you. But to rid yourself of this American Nightmare, one must only open their eyes. To stand witness that life was not designed to be sold away for materialistic gain and to only find some semblance of freedom in the last winters of your life.

You must accept that life is not cruel, but that it is indifferent. Pathetically apathetic. But it is those who fight for life that live through the night. Life is but a manic parade. The stampede of which can trample you underfoot or carry you aloft to the destination of your dreams.  To avoid losing yourself, define yourself. To survive, one must continually hold fast to the idea that love, brotherhood, and a self defined sense of purpose is cause enough to long and fight for life, liberty and seek salvation. Happiness is a revolt. An open rebellion, a coup d’etat against all that would seek to snuff out it’s flame.

There is more to all of this. There always has been. All you need to find it, is want it. With every fiber of your being.

– HOWl

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 

Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one…

–  John Lennon, Imagine

I have found myself again seeking a clear definition of my own beliefs. I am evaluating my stance, the pillars of my faith, measuring the scales of my own morality. And everything I have come to know has only been reaffirmed; There is no truth, but what you make the truth. There is no right or wrong, only the consequences of our actions. And it is because I have sought to throw myself out of the cogs I have spun around for years that I have been to able to see with new found sight, that all that I have been brought to believe, is a lie.

And for years now, my beliefs on God have been transparent in design. Flawed to countless discovered contradictions. I have weighed the words that have rang so heavy in my heart. Riddled with guilt and self doubt. Knowing full well that I wasn’t as the church said I should be. Fighting a spiritual war that was really going on between my ears. For in all sense of spirituality, it has all rung untrue to my own spirit. And the scales tip towards irrational thought. This idea that man has so solemnly sold his soul to, the idea of a higher being presiding over us, purchases nothing for me. And I can breathe easy now…and what a tremendous sigh of relief. Because for years I wanted to sell myself to the notion that even a wretch like me could be saved. If not from the world, then maybe, from myself. But the feeling of love I so yearned for was lost upon me. This is me letting go. I have come to terms with our Father.

And in terms of a father, God is indeed cruel, is he not? For millions speak testimony of this unconditional love and understanding, acceptance and care, but where is it to be found? We must seek him out? Our creator? Our own Dr. Frankenstein. Giving birth to this wondrous monstrosity we call humanity and then fleeing in horror when greeted with the reality of his creation. I sought him out. Playing the role as the prodigal monster. I truly did. I read the bible and tried to know Christ. I got on a stage and sang in front of a congregation about his love,  just so that I might one day feel that same requited affection I so desired to taste. And up there, looking down on the closed eyes and raised hands of my former church, I felt no sense of truth. Only an ever growing sense of unease. The only truth was that it wasn’t true to me. But I couldn’t accept that then. I couldn’t even fathom the possibility that God wasn’t to be found because God might not exist. I felt only the jubilation I received moving people through the power of music and this internal dialogue within myself. I was a hypocrite, singing of a love I never knew. But I told myself, it’s enough for God, if I can but only get these people to feel what I cannot.

In the real world (because we are ALL of this world, contrary to what any decal or mainstream christian apparel company would have you believe…) had I a father who created me, loved me, revered me, but stayed completely out of my life until the years brought me to a place where I wanted to know him, I would have nothing to do with him. I would curse him and loathe him for giving me life so carelessly only to abandon me. And that is how I feel at the pinnacle of my self loathing and aggression; that I am God’s unwanted orphan. I am his bastard son.

__________________________________________

According to Christian dogma, in order to purchase a seat in heaven one must live a life dedicated to the fundamentals of love and acceptance and come to herald the martyr that was Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior. That being sad, the “Christian” God didn’t come into existence until about 4,000 years ago…so, in the hundreds and thousands of years before what became of those poor souls who didn’t get to know this neo God?

Who is to say that the gods of our ancestors were no less than real? No less of an illusion? As a species, we have chalked all that we could not understand to superstitions. Human’s called the sun a god, for how else could they even come to understand the warmth and life it brings? They worshiped the moon, revered stars as holes in the fabric of the universe revealing the true nature of an outer space they saw as the heavens; for they were all visible and miraculous things that were completely unfathomable in the scopes of their limited perceptions.

And now, science has given birth to the revolutionary concepts and theories that have begun to unravel the mysteries of the universe and has shown what foolish creatures our ancestors were to exalt a massive ball of hydrogen as a God. This all leads me to wonder what future generations will think of our own God’s when they have gone well beyond the scopes of our own understandings.

And I believe some people believe simply because it’s all they have known. When do people ever truly evaluate their stance in life? Do you ask yourself what’s real? Or do you just accept what’s being fed to you? Fed to you from a book that is thousands of years old?  The real question shouldn’t be, is the bible true? It should be, why are people following an institution constructed from testaments that have long since grown outdated.  The question should be, what has religion truly given man kind as a whole?

How many were slain to inquisitions? Crusades? How many people have died for the same God worshiped only by a different tongue? Religion has only introduced mankind to a new sense of depravity and moral ambiguity. A new way to distance and close ourselves off from one another and limit our growth as human beings. Have you seen how fanatical people become over an insult to one’s belief’s? People have died, very recently, for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. We are killing each other over our beliefs! Over a joke. And you cannot ever, ever openly advocate the possibility to a believer that God doesn’t exist. It’s an instant attack on their person and everything they stand for.

“How dare you mock my God?”

No sir, I mock you. I mock you and your fear and inability to question. I mock “oh, ye of little faith” for having such a faulty unconditional belief system that could be easily shaken from some poised phrases spewed from some prodigal stray. I mock you and the countless hypocrites that lay claim to the title of a Christian and segregate themselves, judge others, and instead of preaching of love only seek to damn we, the non believers. When I know full well the God and Christ you fail so splendidly to follow would have you “do unto others”.

You are such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.” – A Perfect Circle, Judith.

My whole life I was always told, it’s in the Bible. It’s in the Bible! And people use that damned book like a rifle. It is in the weapon of choice for a new breed of salesman. Men who would tell you can be saved! If you only pay. Cause Jesus, he wants you to pay. He wants those called to serve! To serve their hard earned cash, their offering, to line the thousand dollar pockets of these twisted evangelists. He wants you to throw money at these institutions so that they can build massive monuments (Idols, are they not?) to let people know, this here, this here is God’s country. And this weapon, this bible is simply a series of proverbs and fairy tales! It speaks of great floods, physically purging away the human stain the same way that the martyrdom of Jesus Christ would eradicate mortal sin. It would have us believe that the sin we all indulge in was brought unto us because a woman ate of a forbidden apple…a regular Snow White. And her seven dwarves became our seven sins that would doom us unto hell. Am I the only one who seeks the joke in all of this?

We want to believe God exists as an individual. People want to be told how to live, what to think, how to feel, because it’s how we are raised by our parents. And is God not the metaphor of a father? We want to have a name to hide behind. A face to blame when all is lost. For do we not blame our own creators for the flaws we cannot accept and failing us in matters beyond their own capacities of reason? And God has given us this, we can curse his name or find love in him. We can give him blessings and thanks for the abundance of good we have found in our lives, we can curse him for what or who he has taken from our lives…but it’s all in our head. For God, god is indifferent.

“When I found out about the Lord I wanted more but I never could believe. That there was something that had so much love for us. That could sit and let us bleed, to death” – Circa Survive, Phantasmagoria.

I believe now, with utmost certainty, that God does not exist. That he does not exist in the matter with which the Bible, in all it’s glorious, self righteous and outdated contradictions would paint him as. He is not a loving and merciful father. He is not the God who wiped all the world away like a bad etch a sketch when the human race revealed unto him the horrors of his own creation. And did he not create us in his image? If this is true, then God himself is flawed beyond reason. He is not the architect of your failures or successes. God does not bend the world to his will. He does not take life, nor create it. He is the author and finisher of none. For “HE”, is not a being.

God, is a state of being.

I believe now, that God is simply another word for love. A true and perfect form of love that is accepting, unconditional and without surrender. And in this regard, I do believe in Love. I believe in it wholeheartedly and it’s infinite capacity for good. I believe that human beings are all connected through some shared communal unseen and intricate string that I am still trying to discover. And maybe it is God, this love. This love we do not see and are wary to accept, because we are, in our minds, undeserving. Our lives are conditioned to believe that love or rather the cheap mockery so many try to reproduce is something to be solicited for some sort of gain. Not a freely given thing. But I see God, I see love. In the faces of children, the look on people’s faces when surrounded with their inner most desires, that look that just says, ‘This is it‘. It’s there. It surrounds us. The choice is, and has been all along, if it’s something you want in life.

I have no god. My prayers, if any, are simply thought, willed to the universe. My life has led me to have little faith in human beings for I understand them far too well. But that isn’t to say, I still don’t seek God in some sense. That isn’t to say, I still don’t hope for the better of humanity. I still seek love. And the truest foundations of religion are outstanding pursuits that could push the capacities of the human condition. However, you do not need to surrender to a higher power for this pursuit to be underway. You need not be born again to save yourself. For what is there to save yourself from that you do not have the power to overcome? Are you admitting to weakness? Then become strong.

Love, acceptance, understanding, those equations equal a perfect formula…As Bill Hicks said, let’s just ditch the dogma. It has done nothing for mankind. The stories, the guilt, the fear and ultimate consequence of hell…religion is nothing short of a blight upon mankind. It gives you a reason to seek truth, yes! But there is no freedom. Only the ultimatums of damnation or salvation…how is that even a choice? How is that free will? Seeking love…out of fear?

Survey says… incomprehensible!

But what of an afterlife? There has to be something after this! This all has to mean something! I am meant to be here! God put me here. Right?!

No, you are merely life, squirted into existence. The result of a chemical and physical reaction between two animals. There is no miracle in birth. It is only a reaction. Cause and effect. The stars didn’t part and planet’s didn’t align on the day of your birth. Your life here is without purpose until you make a purpose for yourself. As I have said before, you are only recognized by the scars you leave on the surface of this wonderful planet. Or you can be a stain on the earth, consume precious resources and live on in mindless self indulgence, glued to the television, another brick in the wall, till your death and there…there you will have your answer. And it may be the silence of the grave or it may be the sweetest source of affection you will ever attain.

I have only heard stories, of people returning back to their mortal vessels after passing into this beyond where all it is, is love. Just love. And there is nothing else. For nothing else matters. I want to believe in a place where all conflicts and resentments we harbor are lifted and our anchors are dropped forever. A place where the vessels of our spirits can soar as intended. Haunting the heavens. Weightless, floating on in the ever after that is infinity as happy ghosts.

But, more than anything, I want to believe that heaven can be attained now. In this place. For I only know that I am here.

-HOWl

Wolves

It’s become too much. How can I possibly retain all of this? Everyday I swear, it’s like I am experiencing some profound revelation. And it gets to a point where sometimes it’s as if I am on the very brink of some spiritual awakening. I am on the cusp, about to fall over into the unknown. Like the secret of the whole universe is right in front of me! But my reach is just shy of it. And my words fail me. But I can try. I can try to make sense of all of this.

My youthful, inexperienced and still budding mind can only fathom so much. But because I choose to constantly grow, because I choose to strive to better not only myself, but the people around me, I will always grow. But that’s it. That’s what life is; all it is, is a choice. A series of choices we make. And every choice has a consequence. And every consequence, either rewarding or otherwise, echoes into what we perceive to be our futures. And every future branches off into an eternity of infinty. An endless possibility of all that could ever be. But our choices dictate and define who we are. Our futures are never set in stone. How can they be? When at any moment a simple choice we make can change the outcome of our entire existence.

Time does not flow in one direction like a river. It is not a straight line. But it’s how we perceive it. It’s almost frightening, how the thought of a reaction can change the course of everything. But once again I think I have only misinterpreted my emerging emotions. It isn’t fear, but excitement! Not knowing what will come next. What new choices I will be faced with and where my decisions will take me. We have no set paths. Only choice. There is no fate. No destiny. There is no “meant to be“. There is only what you have willed to be, through choice. Reaction. Cause and effect. There truly is no fate but what you make.

But people do not often comprehend the power of their choices. It’s a principle fundamental in elementary physics that every action in the universe has a consequence. We have choice. It’s a gift. But I do not think most people understand or do not have the ability to fathom that our choices not only effect our possible outcomes but others’ as well. The people we choose to recognize in our life, who we choose to allow to recognize us, they are all affected too. Much like a kind gesture can be payed forward to person to person in gratitude, so can a hateful one be passed to an innocent out of pain.

Until very recently, I never really understood the magnitude of how much my own choices affect other people, but I am becoming aware of it now. I thought it was enough to look forward and see how my choices would effect my outcomes. But it isn’t. So long as you choose to let others love you and know you, they are affected too. Some people, they never learn to think this way, even on a minute scale. Because no one holds them accountable for their mistakes or their transgressions or calls to light these faults that need to be identified and repaired. If there exists no immediate consequence to our actions and choices, how will we learn? If you touch fire, you get burned. Cause and effect. Some people, don’t get shown any effect. They stop at cause because they are not shown the effect reacted in the wake of their actions. Eventually, time will make them aware of their singed skin.

Some people can only think of themselves cause we are conditioned as people of a consumerist society to be self centered and think only of what we think we want and what we think would better ourselves. Our communal identities as a species never develops properly in this place. So our relationships generally become purely superficial. Only take and take. Never truly selflessly giving and giving only when it is in our best interest to do so. We aren’t born this way. And I want to truly believe in my heart now that this isn’t the natural tendency of human beings. Although a scope into the world of modern man would, more often than not, prove otherwise. Still, I have faith in human beings and their capacity for good. But it’s a voice many are growing silent to. Even myself. The ways of the world can sometimes harden even the best hearts of men . But it’s a choice, not to let the transgressions of the world wound us to the point of scars. If you do not tend to a broken bone properly, it will calcify incorrectly and the limb will never be used properly again. The same could be said of anything in need of healing. Physical or otherwise.

A quick glance at any pack in the animal kingdom can show how nature intended us to live. I have a deep love and admiration for Wolves and how they live; individuals operating as a communal unit to survive. But it’s more than that. They have love. They show affection and devotion. They even mate for life. These “savage beasts” have a concept of loyalty spreading even to monogamy. And they are cognitive enough as a species to not mate when resources are scarce. And I wonder why it is so hard for us to achieve the same near perfect social order of a pack…Am I really comparing us to animals? Yes. Because, at the core, we are animals. We just have an advanced ability for retention and communication. You would think as a species that these abilities would give us an advantage…

We are now raised to be almost inherently selfish. Maybe that particular word in this case is too absolute. We simply do not often consider other people. We solidify ourselves in our perspectives. Rarely taking into account another’s points of view. We may think we are putting ourselves in their “shoes” but, think about it; that’s all you are doing; placing YOURSELF in their position. YOU think as YOU would think in the place they are in. And while that gives YOURSELF an advantage to understanding a certain scenario, YOU are not truly gaining THEIR perspective. It is then merely YOUR own perspective in THEIR own position. It’s in these places where we have to deeply, truly, desire to want to understand someone else. So that we can understand how others feel or will feel in the wake of our decisions. And, in recognizing someone else in your life, you are acknowledging their existence. By choosing to want to understand them, you are showing them, in one of the kindest displays of human interaction, that you want them in your life. To be a part of your existence.

You, in a universally understood gesture, are showing them love.

In the past, my choices and the choices others made brought me to many dark places in life. And, had I chose to, I could have allowed myself to be deeply, horribly affected by them. The overwhelming, polluted, atmospheric pressure I attributed to with my anger, hatred, and confusion would have weighed down so great on my vessel that my growth as an individual would have been crippled and contorted just from sheer force of that gravity. I could have become a person who had a very negative outlook on both people and life, and, once upon a time, I did. It’s hard sometimes not to when you really look at the way the world is. You want to become angry. It validates you and your position in life. You want to withdraw into yourself. But that’s just giving up. I could have become a very calloused individual, a product of my very broken and unstable environment. Calcified and cemented in all my despairs. Fueled by the fires of my own hatred. But, the world has enough of those cliche’s and I have chosen not to be shackled to transgressions and events that were beyond my capacity to control. To not be defined by the past, but instead by the choices I make to better myself now.

I choose hope over despair. I have chosen to be better. I recognized my pain and I hold it dear to me, as to not forget. As to not seek to pass on the same injustices done to me unto someone else. I acknowledge the horrible choices both I and the people whose choices affected me have made. But I am not a person shackled and bound by history’s mistakes. I have chosen to look within myself and find ways to forgive. And I have moved on from that dreadful place. I choose to not become a statistic. And now, the darker parts of my past don’t seem as dismal. And when I look back now, those memories seem like a movie of someone else’s life who feels very familiar to me, but it’s a memory I cannot seem to grasp. The boy I was is no longer the man I am now. My choices now have so greatly altered who I have become, that in a sense, my own past feels altered. And the possibility of what could have become of me is a wasted thought. Because the eventuality didn’t come to pass. Because I chose to not make that my reality.

_________________________________________

There is a story I heard once. One evening an old Comanche told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said,

My Son, there is a battle between two Wolves living inside us allOne wolf is evil. It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret. It is greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and ego.

“The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, perseverance, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The Grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,

Which Wolf wins?”

The old Comanche replied simply,

The one you feed.

Illustration by Mikaela Ritter.

You must strive to fight against the evils and frailties of your own heart. For no man is free from fault. First, you need to recognize that as a human being we have the capacity for great things, both great evil and greater good. That balance wrestles insides of all us. You cannot simply ignore the hatred and all the ill feelings you harbor. Recognize them. Acknowledge them. For they exist within all of us. They are the consequences and the penalties of our greatest risks. The lingering scars our vessels obtained from a failed expedition or a reaction stemming from loss. But the idea is to control them, not to let them control you. Understand where they come from. Dive deep within yourself and ask why these wolves howl within you. What is it they are saying? When you recognize and understand your feelings, you are now in control. It is a matter of choosing the correct wolf to feed and nurture. And this battle that goes on inside of ourselves; it will never end. Not until you do.

Life can be a great and beautiful thing, but you have to chose to believe that it can be. You have to believe that happiness, love and understanding is something you deserve, regardless of any excuse you try to conjure up to deny yourself of it; your past, your present, or your future. No one has the right to deny you of your happiness and we all have a right and the freedoms to choose to pursue it. But in order to fully recognize happiness, you must first come to acknowledge, understand and love yourself. Choose to learn who you really are. A positive outlook will cause good things to attract to you. And I cannot promise you life will not become harsh sometimes. It can be downright cruel. But how you choose to react to those events that transpire outside the norm of your existence is what will define you as an individual. Adversity introduces a man to himself. And I think some people are long over due for an introduction.

But where is this introduction to take place if we continually hide ourselves away?

So turn off your television. The screens you find yourself behind. Kill your radio. The incessant chatter must cease. Close your computer. Open a book. Read a story. Feed the dying embers of your imagination. Expand the small world you live in. Allow yourself to dream as these authors dreamt, and realized. Turn off your phone. Leave it somewhere so that no one may reach and you pull you back into that digital bath. Then grab that copper handle by the balls and open that door to the infinite possibilities that await you. Lose yourself. On the road. In a bar. In the sky. In the sea. The eyes of strangers. The company of friends. Inside of a woman or in the arms of a man. Lose yourself to find yourself. And don’t come back till you’ve found something. Even if it is yourself. Something to remind you, that you are here. Something that will inspire to prove that same fact to the rest of the world. I. Am. Here.

All any of us are looking for is meaning. Purpose. Love. And in this age where these words have all but lost their meaning, all we can do is find meaning for ourselves.

And remember that life wasn’t meant to be like this! Life was meant to be lived, explored, tasted, remembered, not observed from behind high definition screens on our couches in our big houses that house our big cars and our empty lives! Walk out that fucking door, unplugged, unhinged and awake and I promise you, you will feel strange. As if you are seeing things for the first time. As if you have just woken up.

And when that fog lifts…that stupor you have been sitting in for years and years completely unaware that you have been sedated by television, the media, FOX and ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ and all those legalized, taxed, and government regulated substances wear off, and you are left in the complete and utter silence of your own mind for the first time since forever, with only your shadow for companionship; don’t be afraid!

Cause you are discovering your self.

Listen for the wolf.

– HOWl

Counting Stars

The sand gave way to me. The minuscule grains slipped between my naked toes like so many grains in an hour glass as I walked across the dunes of Newport and the coast of my childhood. The clouds above me scatter shot from the breeze that carries with it that perfumed aroma. That perfect blend of salt and nostalgia. My Dog could always smell if from miles and miles away. His excitement was something to be admired. I recall the text I’d just received when I’d arrived. It’s nice to know you are in someone’s thoughts. It’s nice to be thought of at all.

All these thoughts run rampant in my mind as I shift my way towards my destination; an empty tower looking out towards the end of the world…

My world, anyway.

I climb up the ladder, up towards that platform, and it’s as if the wood itself is still alive. A living thing, breathing out all that I breathe in. I keep reminding myself to take hit after hit of that intoxicating scent emanating from the tempestuous mistress that is my Pacific. Before I know it, I am stoned. I sit down on the still wet surface, paying it no mind. My book in hand. Ready to take in what sun light there is left of this day as the sun itself  begins it’s descent into the ever inviting waters of the western sea.

Here is my sanctuary. My temple. You can keep to your own churches. Here is where I go for that calm I can’t find much place else. It’s here I spent the happiest days of my childhood with my brother as the boys of summer. Overcome by sun and surf. Completely fearless and unafraid of the waves that towered over our small frames. Digging up palaces out of sand only to rejoice in the destruction of it by our tiny limbs. I would ditch school, hop on the bus and haunt these shores in the winter of my teenage years. It was this place where I took the most hopeful few of candidates to revel in the magic with me. Yeah, it’s all really quite romantic. Shivering there, pretending the cold doesn’t bother you. Trying to see which story from your life is going to impress this one this time while reminding yourself to stop chattering your teeth when you speak. Giving your coat to some lucky dame while you freeze to death.

At this rate, I will die long before chivalry does…

Needless to say, but I will say it anyway; the Pacific and her shimmering waters have been a constant backdrop to the scenes of my life and even it’s near death. It’s impossible to imagine my existence without those waters being ever reachable.

The tide is low. The waves are high. Higher than I have seen in a long time. And that tumultuous chorus reverberates in my ears so sweetly. I think to myself, if I could hear but a whisper of this song for the rest of my life, I will be just fine. If I could just walk these shores everyday with the sweet, salty chill nipping at the nakedness of my bare feet, it’ll be enough.

I wonder.

I open the pages. It’s hard to focus. I am a man prone to distractions. No offense to Kerouac, his words aren’t going anywhere. He has made damn sure of that. I just wanted to read the sky instead. To see the fire painted across the ever changing canvas of that polluted horizon. It’s these perfect little scenes that remind me how beautiful California can be, in all her glorious smog and majesty.

I read my book till it’s curtain call for the sun and this beautiful scene all fades to black. Till my eyes strain from the focus and I can’t see the pages anymore. In that ever growing darkness I look up to the sky to count the stars. And man, it’s pathetic. I can all but count the flickering little ghosts on one hand. And half of them, they are  probably just airplanes. Red and white fire flies lighting up the night. Their flickering sirens reflecting off the surface of the black waters like so many temporary artificial moons.

I continue to wonder…

What brought me here again to this place? What is it that is driving me to seek the calm?

And it’s there on that tower that I remind myself that nothing is changing. Life is as it has always been. Deliciously chaotic. The only thing changing, is me. In the long absence from my post at this tower, I have become something far more than I was before. Each day has brought new lessons and new faces to my life. While some lessons were learned in the hardest of ways, true to my nature, and some faces were temporary stand in’s, I take from them all what I can. Not to illuminate myself as a creature of egocentric qualities, I just rather like the man I am becoming.  It is quite a departure from the self loathing ghost in a shell that haunted these shores so many years ago. And more people should validate the people they love with such soothing comments. Heaven knows the world could use more of it.

It was there on that weathered tower, or rather now on this far too comfortable couch, that I remind myself that life and it’s vexations won’t stop. My summer is over. Life will not always be sunshine and rainbows. People are prone to selfish inclinations of the heart and I have never claimed to be a saint or absolved from parading in my own selfish antics, but I try to be better. Aware. People will misunderstand me and my intentions. Even if I tell myself they are the best. And no one knows the effect we have on one and other until you realize those tears in their eyes, knowingly or otherwise, are your doing. And I have known enough hurt in my life to know that I would never want to put another human soul I care for through that. But I can’t say I will never hurt anyone. I am perfectly imperfect and flawed in ways that would make most shrinks blush. It’s a constant struggle to want be better. And you have to want that for you. Not for anyone else. Each day I learn something new about myself and life and it’s all hidden secrets. The thing is, they are not hidden. They are right in front of your face if you’d only look up from the cracks.

Sometimes I just need to make time for myself and put an ear to the discord going on inside of myself and sort it out. Because other times, I lose myself to the lesser demons of my nature and the greater distractions of life. The youth of this generation as a whole seems to share in this communal desire to constantly seek the next state of intoxication. Whether we realize it or not, I think realizing it at least puts you back in the drivers seat.

You can’t outrun yourself. You can’t drown all your innards with excess.

Believe me, I have tried.

For now, the thing to take away from this is to every now and again take some time for yourself. Take that knife to your own soul. As my father told me recently, [sometimes] you have to make yourself the priority. I’d like to take others into account but sometimes, that’s just not a luxury you can afford. How can you know anyone without knowing yourself? Replace know with love, and it has an even greater consequence.

And in that selfish state of meditation I have discovered I love the friends I have found. And that’s it’s okay to love.  While I feel that word friend is thrown around far too casually, I hold those who have earned that title in my life near and dear to me. I love the places I have been and the places I have yet to go. And all the fruit I have yet to taste in the still budding garden of my youth.

And I hope all of you find some semblance of calm and quiet. Shelter from the storms you must endure in this ever temperamental climate of life. A way to soothe the beast.

Enjoy the silence.

-HOWl

A Knife to the Soul

You look around to place faces to the noise ringing in your ears. Those verses of perfectly timed clever wit. That oh so infectious angel choir chorus. You revel in the delightful sound of laughter unhinged. The theme of many endearing evenings. The go to soundtrack to those endless summers.

You join in when they beckon. Life is too short and far too inviting to constantly sit in the darkened seats in the audience. Jump to the stage. Demand the spotlight. And feel how delightful it is, just to share this elevated place with such remarkable souls.

You’re all a bunch of wolves, howling in harmony at an envious moon. And how blessed, how lucky it is, this rock suspended in the sky, to be in the presence of our company.

That’s your spotlight, kid.

These people, these happy few you share this stage with, what brought them to this place? How far have you come? Is the distance traveled now, even fathomable?

Where are you going to go after this act is over? When the curtains fall on this scene, will they exit the wings with you? Will they be there tomorrow? When the moons turns it’s spotlight elsewhere and the sun seeks to rise us from our beds? Will they remember you and the part you played in their life?

Semantics and over dramatics.

At the end of it all, when you are washing off whatever the night left on you; what can you do? But be true, to you. To them. And these smiling faces will come and go. The ones who choose to stay in your life will do so or they will not.

Life, it happens to the best of us.

All that really matters, all that really fucking matters, is that what we all do with the now we have. All that matters, is that they are here with you. Right now. In this small stain in time. So just stop. Drop everything you carry around with you in that hundred and something pound shell of yourself and just let it go. And just…be.

For the Past, has passed. The Future is a promise. Unspoken and uncertain. The Present, is a present. Be as a child at Christmas. Rush to it. Rip the fucking ribbons apart.

How I even came to this place, surrounded by this, by these smiles, these kindred spirits, I don’t know. These overwhelming gestures of compassion and inspiration…I wake up and wonder silently to myself, “What have I ever done in my life to deserve this?”

Was I meant to find these people? Was it destiny? No.

Destiny is a whore. And she spreads her legs for everyone.

We simply found each other. And you will find others. Hell, maybe they will find you. It’s all a matter of collisions. You never see them coming. There is no brace for impact. And whether they are here today and gone tomorrow, always leave an impact they will remember. Leave a stain. Leave a scar. Take a knife to their soul and show em what they are made of. And hopefully, they will look back knowing you at least tried to make a fucking difference in their lives. And by extension, made a difference in a world that has all but forgotten the meaning of anything.

Here in these moments, however temporary they may be, live and strive for them as if you could; infinitely.

– HOWl