A Cycle or a Story?

What is the difference you ask, between dreams and reality? Reality can be changed, a dream is but a mere reflection, a mirror may reflect, but only the reality can be altered, and only by altering reality can the reflection change.

Sometimes, I feel as though things are changing for me, be they good changes or bad changes, it’s nearly impossible to tell. More often, however, it seems as though nothing changes at all. An endless cycle of walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, and our descendants will walk in the footsteps we walk in now. From the beginning of time to today, nothing has changed, humanity forgets everything it learns and every few centuries repeats the same sins as their forefathers centuries before.

Perhaps in the observation of that reality, we can alter the reflection. We will and do, but do not have to repeat the same evils over and over again. Just because things have always been that way doesn’t mean they always have to be that way. I don’t have enough faith in humanity to trust that it will not, but it doesn’t have to.

The question is whether we’re doomed by nature, or by choice, I suppose I believe we are doomed by choice.

Sometimes it seems like you want to ask: Do things ever really change, or do they just go round and round? You want things to change, but you feel like you are wandering around in some weird sort of place, where no matter what direction you take, you always end up back in the same room you started in and you wonder, is life a prison or an adventure?

You ask yourself, why look for change where change doesn’t exist? Is it a worthwhile pursuit? I don’t know. Yet, staying still, I do not like to do that either, and it seems as though one sure way to waste a life is to stand still, they say the ones who get things done are those who do something.

Yet, here we go, round and round. We always end up back in the place where we started. If the destination and the start are the same place, is there a point to the journey? People like to say that there is nothing new under the sun. I cannot think of a more depressing idea than that.

You want something new. Something beyond that which you already know. Yet no matter how far you go, you always find yourself back where you started. Occasionally you meet someone else on their own fruitless journey to and from the place where they started, and for a bit, it seems as though something new has occurred, but always, we come to the same understanding, we’re just traveling back to our prison cells. We thought for a moment we escaped them, but our meeting only reveals to us the dark reality of our journey and our destination. We know that if we continue our delusion and try to escape together, we’ll only be torn apart in the end, so we walk on, accepting a little pain now to not have our hearts torn out of us by the delusion of love, whatever that might be. With no world to transcend to, no world outside the borders of our prison cells, the best thing we can do for each other is to walk on. Why continue on in a illusion that an unloved man can love in spite of that, after all you can’t love, or if you must, you must love alone. From a distance, never close.

When considering how repetitive life is, it does seem rather monotonous. For me, personally, I rather dislike it, it feels to much like being in a prison or like being trapped. Even the day to day seems so, you get up, you eat something, you do what you do that day, you cook dinner, you go to bed, you get up, you repeat everything all over again. Week to week, you go to the same places. You repeat everything you just did the week before. Year to year as well. Why? What is the point?

Yet, there is a point, if we are in a story, if life, and the world, and everything in all of space and time is a part of a story. A story has a beginning, and an end, and yes, the middle parts do sometimes feel monotonous, especially if you are the one in the story itself. It is even more difficult to notice that you are a part of the story if the story began long before you were born, and continues on after you die, though whether for a long time or short time, remains to be seen. We do not know exactly how short or long a time the future holds for us, both personally, and corporately as the human race, and that is a good thing, I should think. If we knew the future we’ll either attempt to bring it about by changing the world, or we’ll attempt to change ourselves to fit our knowledge of the foreseen. It is enough for us to know that there is an end, at the present time, as well as to know that there is a future. Not that there isn’t value in considering the future, that isn’t what I speak of. Our ideas of thinking only about our present selves, and our present generation, are leaving a very sad inheritance to our children and our children’s children. It is a sad thing that we’re leaving a world much worse than how we found it, mostly by our insistence in only thinking about the here and now. Not that there haven’t been improvements both socially, politically, and even environmentally, there has been, but for every step forward, we’ve stepped backwards twice, and thus the progress we do make not only has not made a better world for our children, we are still leaving the world worse than we found it. In that sense it is important to consider the future. The problem of knowing the future is that our attempts to conform either it or ourselves, is that it has unforeseen results, usually disastrous.  It is an uncomfortable notion, being bound to the present moment, but it is our fate.

The fact remains however, that if we are a part of a story, the story, then there is a story that is being told. This is encouraging, for though things may seem like a prison at times, and even life itself says that all is a prison, a story tells us that there is a world outside of the prison walls, that there is a place beyond suffering, and the darkness of the shadows where we ourselves often dwell. If all creation is a part of a story, then yes, there is more to life than this, and that is an encouraging thought.

Furthermore, and this further enforces in my mind the idea of the story, the world is full of interesting people. Yes, as a whole they are fundamentally all human beings, and in that sense all alike, but within that wholeness of humanity, there is a great deal of diversity. Not all people are alike, they each have their own personalities, likes, dislikes, in short, their own stories. Every human that has ever lived has been unique. Considering the population of all humanity that has ever been, the diversity involved is great indeed. Diversity is, in my opinion a good thing, it doesn’t make one more superior to another, though many have thought this, often with horrific results. In part it is diversity that makes me so desirous of loving people, I know that every person has something I do not, something to teach me, or something that I can find to treasure in them. It’s where each person finds their beauty. If we were all alike, what a horrible world that should be. Yet, it is distressing how much we are told ‘this is beautiful’ and ‘this is not’. I was astonished earlier upon seeing a poster where a normal man was placed next to your typical advertisement man. What astonished me was how much I had subconsciously swallowed the notion that the advertisement man was what I was supposed to be looking like. Not that there is anything wrong with some people having particularly fine features, but I do find it wrong that they are exalted as though they are gods and goddesses, while at the same time, these same deified people are often hurting themselves as much as they are being used to hurt. Sometimes the pictures we see of people are not strictly speaking even real, but photo manipulations, which must also be taken into account. I believe the term is ‘Photoshopped’ in reference to a commonly used image manipulation program for computers. Some industries thrive on fighting diversity, trying to sell us their particular view of what things are suppose to be. I try to acknowledge and be accepting of the idea that people are indeed different from each other, but still recognizing them as our sister, our brother, to respect them rather than insisting that either they or myself change to fit some notion of my own about what we’re supposed to look like. In many ways, I think respect, rather than conformity is a better way. To understand a person, is a gift for them, and for ourselves. To be honest, I think one of our deepest needs is the desire to find acceptance, but even if for whatever reason, acceptance cannot be, we desire to find understanding and respect.

I suppose in a sense I want to see people put aside their prejudices. I suppose it starts with me laying aside my own prejudice against those whom I bear prejudice towards, and even I do not always know my blindness.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Sometimes I wonder if happiness is the highest virtue, or if there is not something higher. Often times we live our lives as though the pursuit of happiness was the highest pursuit that we can attain, but what if it is not? I have to ask whether or not the pursuit of happiness is a noble goal or whether it is a tyrant upon the soul. Not that there is not value or even goodness to be found in happiness, to be happy is a very good thing, what I ask, however, is whether the pursuit of it is worth the cost to our souls. I think that contentment is a higher state of well-being than happiness, to be content is different I think, than being happy. Contentment accepts circumstance much more readily than does happiness. Happiness is more akin to a vapor, it comes and goes with the wind, but is largely to do with circumstances outside of oneself, where contentment is much more about the circumstances inside. The key to contentment is found primarily in gratitude, and in humility.

There is, I think, a form of tyranny in the pursuit of happiness, something that says that it is wrong to not be happy, to feel sadness, or even sorrow. It also tells us that ought to always pull ourselves up again, even though sometimes we’ve been beaten down so badly, we do not even remember how to look up. I believe the pursuit of happiness to be a tragic one, a cruel pursuit really. It’s not that I wish to feel sad, or sorrowful, but I do want to feel emotion.

Emotion above almost all other things open our hearts to empathy, the mind is too cold and rational to bother with anything outside of itself, it is efficient in the sense of cutting itself off from all that it deems to be not important to the task at hand, but it is cold in terms of our relating to other people. It was once believed that a mind detached from emotion would be a cool mind and one more in tune with truth, justice, and so forth, but it is a cold mind, and the coldness of the mind always turns the heart cold with it. The pursuit of happiness, like the mind, tells us to disregard what is deemed to be undesirable emotions, rather than embracing them as part of the human experience, part of what it is that makes us human beings to begin with.

Human beings are designed to be empathetic creatures, perhaps it is why we have emotion in the first place. I see the result of cold minds and the pursuit of happiness. Together they create monsters. People with cold hearts pursuing happiness often times are those who are interested in ‘getting their own way’ and little else. Those who are out to get their slice of the pie, if you will, and their neighbors too if they can get away with it. We ask what would compel someone to take something from somebody else, for example, in a robbery. I think it is the pursuit of happiness in the hands of a cold heart that more often than not is to blame. It’s hard to say exactly why this is, and what it all means, but it remains doubtless a reality of the human heart. Yet, it is also true that people are more complex than a single aspect, and while a dominate characteristic of these folks is to seek to look out for the most important person in their view, themselves, there is usually some aspect to them that is far more complex. It is difficult to find a human so totally given over to evil that there is not something good to be found in them.

What I’m trying to say is that while happiness is important, I think we err to make it the chief goal of our lives, and in many ways, I think it deprives us of the fullness of our experience to do so. There is value in both the light and the darkness, the day and the night, the joy and the sorrow.

I am a human being, and as such, I experience things, some of those experiences are good, and others are not, and while we sometimes can choose to improve our experiences, often times, we cannot. Circumstances can lie outside of our ability to control them, and we cannot become so unfeeling as to remain entirely emotionally detached from them even if we wish to be. And when we do succeed in doing so, what we find is not a state of peace, but something more akin to a state of torment.

Another thing I think that we err to do is to be so independent that we no longer concern ourselves with our fellow human beings. We are fundamentally, if you will, community centered creatures. Or tribal, if that word suits you better, the point is, we do need each other. in my own country, however, we value our independence so much that we pretty much cut ourselves off from everyone around us, and even in the closest of relationships, we have a notion of our own personal space, or something to that effect. I understand, sometimes it is necessary to be alone, and solitude can be, and is, extremely valuable. No, what I question is whether it is wise to have an entire civilization given over to it on a permanent basis. We need each other. I think the greatest danger to American civilization is fragmentation, when it comes to a point of taking our independent spirit too far. Granted, some wonderful things have taken place at the hands of Americans, I also acknowledge that some terrible things have as well. There is a long, sad, trail of American atrocities, stretching from its beginnings all the way until today. There is not much we can do about our past, it is done, but we can take care about our future. We can learn from our own evils, and in so doing, turn aside from committing them further. It is not that I do not love my own country, I do, but I do not wish to let patriotism blind me from its faults. It may seem the better thing in the moment, but in the end, it is a much greater disservice to it. I am not so blind to the whole of human history as to not believe that we are not as capable as every other civilization of not only rising to a hight so high as to soar upon eagle’s wings, but falling so far into the abyss as to never rise again. We have a story, as people, but also as a community, and as a civilization. Not all such stories have to end badly, but many do. What will ours be? I think much of our independence stems from our pursuit of personal happiness. We believe, wrongly, I think, that we are happiest when we have a universe of our own to command. I don’t think we find happiness there, I think we find a taste of Hell.

We have much to decide, but one of the things we do have the power to do, in the moment, is to reach out, to love our neighbor. To forget the ‘American Dream’ that is robbing us of our ‘Human Reality’.

What About The Monsters?

Halloween is a few weeks, and the conversation can often turn to monsters, and yes, some of them, I suppose, are scary. But the scariest monster of all is the human being. Yet, I also wish to have compassion on them. I am constantly in a conflict with myself, I want to meet people, where they are at, and accept them, and then I come against the darkest of humanity, what am I to make of that?

Take for example the reality of human trafficking. Those who are trafficked, these are my brothers, these are my sisters. These people are precious, and precious to me. I want to believe that humanity is beautiful, but what do I make of the traffickers? In light of that, is it wrong for me to seek to see the best in people? What do I make of the monsters? I think humanity as monsters scares me much more than things traditionally considered scary, for example, ghost, and so forth. With humanity, I want to see them as beautiful, so the horror is so much more pronounced for it. I feel conflicted, perhaps because of conflicting ideas. My love for humanity coming up against the horror of the human monster.

Another example is those who would bully those around them, for example, I recently saw an example of a person who obviously had a dislike for a certain form of music, calling someone ‘trash’ because they said something relating to that particular form of music. Seriously? Over a difference of taste in music?

Why are people cruel? Why does evil prosper and why do the good suffer? Don’t tell me their are no good people. I’ve had that thrown at me more times than I can count. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is responded with “There are no good people.” Do not say that. What, are we all monsters? Is there truly no such thing as goodness, as beauty, as truth? What is the point of life if there are no good people? There is none, not that I can see. But if people are capable of even a glimmer of goodness, than life is not only worth living, it’s worth living in a land of shadows, and horror, and death, and pain. To say that there are not good people is a terrible thing to say, and if gives no meaning to this life. There is no reason to be good if goodness is not possible. If there are no good people, than all people are monsters, and life is but a vain joke, a deception, a trick, a lie, and the vain hope of trying to be human, a vain, and empty hope, with no purpose, and no future. If there are no good people, than there is more hope to be found in hell itself. Do not tell me there are not good people.

The existence of good people is why we have the monsters, but at the same time, it is why even the monsters have hope. We’re not all monsters, and even more importantly, we are not doomed to be monsters forever.

I cannot forget that I too, in the past, would have argued beyond reason or feeling, about frivolous, ridiculous, things, like musical taste, valuing my opinions above that of the heart of a human being. I too have been the monster. I really don’t know why my mind has changed, and I am not such a firebrand as I once was. It is not like I can point to a single event, or thing, or person, and say this is what happened. It’s not like that. I do not know what it is about, only that it is. Perhaps part of it was the Lord of the Rings, and another part was Harry Potter, perhaps I learned how to think while trying to understand Severus Snape. I won’t deny, trying to understand what happened atop the Astronomy Tower, it has been a huge boost to my skills upon how to think through something, to see if what is seen could be different than what truly is. You might say that Severus Snape taught me how to think.

It’s also true, however, that when you see people as beautiful, suddenly, they become beautiful. You do find that you are quite fond of them. They become inexplicably precious, wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, people. It’s really a great way to see the world. Suddenly you find that all these people are precious to you. A view of others that encompasses this mindset is almost an enchantment. The enchantment, is it possible that I had cast it upon myself? But, now, what a thought, consider the artist who passively sets the captives free just through their artwork alone.

Sometimes, the artist is a most fragile creature. Sometimes, in some of their work I perceive slight insecurities in them about themselves. They don’t know how special they are. I wonder how many people believe they are nothing, not realizing how beautiful they really are. As such, I am really beginning to hate condemnation and what it does to my sisters and brothers. Take a former student of mine for example, past all the hurt there is a beautiful creature. She, however, believes the lies that say she deserves hell. Truth is, I myself thought this way, and still do at times, much more than I desire to actually. Lies do hurt people, I know, I’ve lived through them.

Condemnation tortures the human soul into believing that they are without worth, beauty, or anything good. It holds captive people in a sort of self-sustaining slavery. It, more than anything else hurts people. Even abuse victims, a lot of times, regardless of truth, will suffer from condemnation, and thus believe that they are somehow deserving of the abuse, it can even become desired. It’s still slavery, and not their fault.

This is what Raven does, it is like facing internally the horrors of Máiréad’s Labyrinth, or the prisons of the Dark Prince. It is a prison that is so much a part of you that you forget you’re a prisoner. Raven is the perfect tormentor, he knows the best possible way to break the humanity of every person. Condemnation is one of his chief weapons in that. This is the state of humanity, they dwell in a prison and are tormented at the hands of the perfect tormentor. The kind that is believed. The people believe Raven’s lies. They believe his words and blame themselves for his tormenting of their souls. I hurt in my heart to feel this, to see this in my brothers and sisters. These precious ones. They deserve our compassion, not our condemnation.

It is amazing though what happens when you start viewing those around you as something precious, as something beautiful. And because all humanity is created in the image of God there is something beautiful to be found in all of them, if for no other reason than that they are made in God’s image, that alone makes everyone someone beautiful. It is also beautiful how when you start seeing people as beautiful the world becomes really, really, beautiful for it.

Suddenly all these people are not a nuisance but are precious to you. It makes life beautiful for me, and I hope I can in some way be a blessing to these precious people.

It is also why there is hope, even for the monsters.

Alone.

Few things terrify me quite like the notion of talking to people, however few things excite quite so much as actually talking with people. I suppose I really want to just be myself as I am, no more, no less. I want to relax and just talk, but I don’t know how. I feel like I’ve actually got something physically restraining me when I try to speak to people. Like I’ve got something covering my mouth preventing me from speaking, unless I say it with exactly the right wording, I feel as though I am physically incapable of speaking it. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling. It’s kind of frustrating, and sometimes rather scary even to me. Of all the things in all the world, I think I frighten myself most of all. I am the one I fear above all other things. I look back over the last ten months since I started blogging, and I see very little change in how I am. I still hesitate to call it a failed experiment, after all, I did take a break over the summer, which I did use to write more journal entries, which are often what I use as a framework for these blog post to begin with, yet, here we are ten months later, and I’m still petrified when it comes to talking with people, still ridiculously secretive, and still feeling like everything is just remaining stationary, not changing. Stagnant even, and I can’t seem to figure out how to even stir the water, or why I want to. I’m lacking in motivation, I have no dreams, I feel apathetic, and do not care about things that used to enthrall me deeply. I question why I do the things that I do, even those things I spend hours and hours doing. (Like learning Mandarin Chinese and French for instance.) I can’t always make sense of myself.

When I write these, I hear these blog post in a Scottish accent, usually either Amy Pond or Merida’s voice as I type them, and I’m quite restless in general. I want to do something, to change something, but I have no idea what. I’m not exactly bored, it’s different than that. It’s like I don’t feel anything at all, except a hatred for the feeling of not feeling anything. It’s a sense of restlessness, really.

When I’m not feeling that, I often feel troubled, but I can’t explain why. I just don’t know. I worry, without out reason, or with reason, I know not. I worry about how can I make a difference, I feel as though I’m really quite insignificant, and that people will go their way, that there is nothing that can be done to truly encourage or help them. I also worry about myself, I second guess myself a lot, which I admit, is not healthy.

I really don’t know, but I wish I did. I remain ever troubled, but why? I know, I know, it is self-condemnation. But, Paul tells me that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Am I in Christ? Yes. Therefore condemnation, which is at the root of my troubles is a lie that I do not need to heed. I worry about those of my generation, I worry about those I love. I worry about the torture of condemnation upon them, I worry about what lies they might believe. I worry about them being precious to me. I worry about them, their souls are beautiful souls, and nothing hurts the soul like condemnation does. I worry about those who seem to think like I do, and hold my personality. I feel pity for them, I know what they will face, if they are the least bit like me, and I feel quite sorry for them as a result. It’s not all bad, I know that, but I also no my worrisome disposition, which is unaffected by logic or reason. I can be as reasonable as possible with myself, and point out the logic and all that, and it still does not make a difference.

Alone, I feel quite alone, really. Worst part is, I know I’m not the only one who feels it, there are literally hundreds and thousands of other people who feel so alone. We want friendship, and a community, but we don’t know how to reach beyond our own borders. The internet is a good thing overall, yet at the same time, I do not think we’re quite wired for it ourselves. I wouldn’t trade the many, many, wonderful people I’ve met online for all the world, yet I can’t forget that there is a certain ‘human’ element missing. Almost all interactions take place through the written word, which is fine, and we humans have been communicating via the written word for thousands of years. But we have not the benefit of a local community, it is now possible to be completely alone in the midst of a crowd.

It is the feeling of being alone, and so is everyone around me, but how to reach out?