This Place Is Empty

The day was hazy as many before have been, and many beyond this I’m sure will be. I’m in a different place, and even here my life, this moment, feels the same; hazy.

The air is hot, no wind to cool the skin, not fresh enough to enjoy, nor to be active in, for its contents are as unnatural as the loneliness I find myself clutched by.

This place is empty. Not that others aren’t, just this one seems to fit the feeling. This day the same.

In the back seat of a taxi, driven by a man I only know a little of his language to communicate with, the conversation over before it had begun, we head North East towards something I want to see since I find myself close by.

I plan to spend the afternoon, most the day even, to explore this area, to witness its history first hand. I’m excited, sure, but I am also alone on this trip and I can’t seem to shake that awareness, much less the feeling I am attempting to describe.

Maybe it would be different if this had been my first extended time alone, but for reasons I am unaware of I have become quite familiar with this kind of loneliness. Again, I don’t know why. That’s just how it has worked out up to now.

Whether here or somewhere else I have traveled, somewhere else I have lived, I have often experienced deep feelings of isolation, deeper moments the same.

I have found I am able to go many places, be many places, live many places, alone, and yeah there’s some good in that, but there are moments when I battle with anxiety of being there by myself, with no one to help if needed, no one to experience it with.

These feelings have haunted the journey as well.

As irrational as this sounds, this can be felt deep within the explorations of a foreign country, or even down the street at a familiar coffee shop within my own hometown. It’s limits know no bounds. It’s creativity either.

It’s not that I am scared. It’s more that I am aware, overly aware maybe, of this feeling of empty, of alone. Aware to the point where it is sometimes hard to notice anything else. This isn’t always the case, but it still hurts at moments.

I’ve felt this in some of the worlds largest cities surrounded by a thriving populous.

I’ve felt this in the middle of a starry high-desert evening sitting alone reclined in the front seat of a rented truck.

I’ve felt this crosslegged on many coasts, staring out into the blue abyss of both ocean and sky.

I’ve felt this intwined within a shared embrace.

I’ve felt this almost everywhere.

Not all the time, but almost everywhere.

And I feel this now as I write about it, or else I wouldn’t be able to. This isn’t something you can conceive out of nothing. It’s describe very much so depends upon a well to pull from, no matter how empty it feels.

However, I hope none of you take my writing as a cry, but rather an attempt to add to our species collective desire and strive for a relatable human condition.

Notice, I didn’t say for an understanding of our human condition. I believe many people do not necessarily care for the answers to our questioning of why, nor do I believe they would benefit from them either.

Why us? Why here? Why now? Why all of this?

Forget that.

We fool ourselves with such romantic questioning at times, thinking that their answering will provide comfort. Well, we’d still be here even after their finding.

No, I believe many would benefit more from the understanding of our shared and relatable existence. Not why we are here, but rather a collective effort to help and to understand while we are here.

It doesn’t make sense to worry about things which we cannot control, things we cannot see. It makes much more sense to care for those that we can, those we are able to touch; each other, our world, ourselves.

This place is empty though, and at moments its able to make you feel the same. Again, as irrational as this sounds, I can be anywhere and this feeling of empty can overcome me, in many ways even.

Empty of mind, of conversation.

Empty of feeling, of sensation.

Sometimes of the very breath which by nature fills.

Sometimes I can’t feel it and it scares me.

I sometimes feel as though there is nothing there at all. Nothing but an empty container we find ourselves roaming about within the confines of its elaborate ruse.

I’ll stop there with the existentialism. That’s too easy. Too shallow. Too predictable. I don’t want this piece to run off the rails. I want it to lead somewhere. I want it to mean something.

I read a book recently.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging‘ by Sebastian Junger.

It talks openly and bluntly about these feelings of empty, of lonely, of isolation. I’m glad I finally decided to pick up and to give it a read. It helped me understand these feelings deeper. It made me realize I’m at least not alone with them.

Read it if you’ve ever felt this way.

Read it even if you haven’t.

It might help you understand the struggles of another in this light.

It made me understand more of my own. It made me understand better those of other’s. I’ll read it again one day because I’m sure I’ll have to. I’m sure I’ll want to the same.

Anyways, there is a story shared amongst countless others within its pages that resonated with me at the time of my writing of this piece. It could have easily been another, but at that moment it was this one which really filled the gap. I won’t go into too much detail about it because I feel its words alone are enough. However, its setting is war, but its meaning translates to any degree of life you may be experiencing, at this time or at any other:

“I missed being that close to people, I missed being loved in that way,” she told me.

“In Bosnia—as it is now—we don’t trust each other anymore; we became really bad people. We didn’t learn the lesson of the war, which is how important it is to share everything you have with human beings close to you. The best way to explain it is that the war makes you an animal. We were animals. It’s insane—but that’s the basic human instinct, to help another human being who is sitting or standing or lying close to you.”

I asked Ahmetašević if people had ultimately been happier during the war. “We were the happiest,” Ahmetašević said. Then she added: “And we laughed more.”

And that’s what I am trying to get at. I’m not blaming my feelings of alone, of empty, of isolation on anyone other than myself, ourselves; your’s too. Collectively we all can do better. Collectively we all are designed to do better.

To help one another.

To talk to one another.

To listen to one another.

To acknowledge one another.

Simply, to be there for one another during our time within this labyrinth named life, because it’s really the only thing that makes any damn sense anyways. The only thing that really leads anywhere. The only thing that really means something.

What else are you going to do?

Sit and ponder the heavens, and waste every second we’re allotted, instead of embracing and engaging with the place, the moment, the people of which also we ourselves are embedded? Of which we ourselves come from? Of which we ourselves will one day soon leave?

Yeah, this place feels empty sometimes, and I do too, and I’m sure you reading this can relate, but that emptiness, it falls on myself, ourselves.

The day was hazy, but I chose to ignore that. I had felt empty, but I decided to fill that with life, which was all around. I met a stranger, who shortly thereafter became a friend, even if only for the day. We experienced the place together, and we both felt better for having done so.

That’s Life

It’s been about a year, a little over a year now, since I moved away from the city I have always been pulled to, even as a little kid. The one I learned to love for what it is, not for what I attempted to make it to be, for the attempt to do so would prove useless. It did and I learned and I loved it more for it.

Remaining the romantic I tend to be, for the attempt to be otherwise would prove useless as well, a classical array of Frank Sinatra numbers have always, and I believe will continue to, keep me current with the city’s lasting allure, even in my current absence. For me, no other artists have truly captured this. No other songs have ever embodied it, though I will admit there are a few honorable mentions, but who really wants to be caught on that list? This piece is about more than music though.

Though at the moment I am away from the city, I never fully left, as is true for any great romantic relationship. Much like the loving and romancing of a great woman, you’ve spent time exploring her, only to find as your knowledge of her grows so does your appreciation of her, and fortunately so does your awareness of your ignorance of her vastness which still remains. There’s still more to find.

And, not only that, but you’ve experienced with her. This life, her emotions and yours. This life, its highs and its lows and everything in between. Apart from her or entangled with, you can’t remove what has already happened, and nor should you try.

In many ways I am still there, and for the enduring and strengthening few with time, I will always remain.

But over this time many things have changed. It’s remarkable when you do take the time to reflect on the passing of another year how many things do. Some we have been aware of, but for many we only realize upon looking back.

Many say looking back is wrong. I’ve never believed this, but I have realized how heavy it can be.

That heaviness though I have always enjoyed.

I’ve never been one to believe life needs to be happy all the time. I’ve never been one to want that for myself either, though I have caught myself deep in the trap trying to make it that way. I don’t think I’d like it if it always was. I don’t believe many do trying to make it that way.

Sometimes I want the unhappy, the sad, the crazy and the impossible, the yearning, the past, the pain. It reminds me of what has happened, and it makes me appreciate every part of it more; the happy and the sad, and everything in between.

Sometimes isn’t right. Usually I find I want it more. It makes sense if you think about it. Maybe I’m wrong. But, it tends to make me feel everything more and I don’t want to be numb all the time attempting to ignore that.

Anyways, I sit here now, thousands of miles away from that city, in another one, another big one even, but its not quite the same.

Things feel different. I feel different. Not that this is wrong or bad, just different. Like anywhere else, somedays are good and somedays are bad, and some are somewhere in between.

I watched a video earlier today, one I had made the day I left a little over a year ago now, and it made me feel that way again. I know I’m not the only one that city uses. Countless eyes had seen it before me, and countless others will after me. Countless lives have enjoyed her before me, and countless others have and will after me.

But, nonetheless, I felt captured, and there, though only for a moment in the grand scheme of it all, captured felt right. Everybody wants freedom. I’d take, even if only a little, that kind of captured again. This piece is about more than just a city though.

Still sitting here now, writing this, it hits me how much truly has changed. People, places, thoughts, wants, truths, and so on.

It’s easy to think everything remains the same. It’s hard to notice the changes. Most aren’t big enough to wake you up at night. No, most are subtle. But, once noticed, their acknowledgment proves to be impactful.

Around this time last year I was leaving somewhere. This somewhere now I am thinking of leaving again. Those I guess you could call examples of the big ones. All the things that have happened in between these two points though, I wouldn’t say they add up. No, when you think about it, things just sort of happen.

Some add. Some take away. Many just happen. Many just slip on by. It’s up to me to notice what I will. It’s up to you the same.

I miss that feeling, but I wonder how many feelings I have missed since then, ones I would have appreciated if I had only noticed them then, if only I had not been caught up with just the one.

Though I can’t live them again, though I cannot go back and really feel them, I notice them now, at least I am trying, and at this now that trying is enough.

But that’s life. You notice what you notice. Who knows exactly why?

Days come and so do nights, and then they go and maybe another one comes around. It’s easy to think another one will, but things change, you never know. And if another does come around, its easy to think it the same as the last.

Again, its hard to notice the changes.

Blame ignorance.

Ignorance towards thinking things will never change, or ignorance blinding you from noticing what has.

I’ve missed many moments thinking things were the same, or at least thinking they hadn’t changed. I don’t want to miss anymore fighting this alone. There’s really nothing to fight anyways. You’re making it up. You think there is, but there isn’t.

There’s only change. Don’t take that on. You’ll lose.

Yeah, sure, I miss that feeling and I miss that city, and I probably always will, but constantly chasing the highs it evoked, or believing the lows it did as well to be only unique to its confines, both of these are wrong. It’s highs were high and its low were damn low, but most of my time there was spent somewhere in between, and most of that time I let slip away, unnoticed.

Again, its up to me for me, and its up to you for you the same, to notice what you will. I’ll still acknowledge the highs and I’ll still endure the lows, but moving on I simply want to notice more of the in between.

Because that’s life. Most of it happens somewhere in between.

We tend to avoid or pursue the highs and the lows.

Invite them, welcome them, sure, of course, but don’t hold on to them. They don’t last. They fade quickly. Feel them when they are around, but let them go.

Again, most of life is found in between. Try to notice the life in that. Don’t become numb to it. Become very much attuned with it.

Life is largely about realizations and we all feel more alive in the moments of our deepest ones.

Or maybe in the moments of our most simple ones.

We’re too blinded during the highs, too emotional during the lows to have these. Most happen after. After some time has passed. After we have gained sight again. After our emotions have leveled off. Most happen somewhere in between.

Most happen in the quiet. Quiet can be good. I’ll try to write on that sometime. That’s enough for now.

Most of all of this happens somewhere in between though. That’s the main idea here.

Right now you’re probably somewhere in there. I know I am.

Don’t let it slip away chasing the next high or avoiding the next low. Those you will meet again. Don’t worry. Don’t be scared. Those will happen again, because that’s life. But, there is so much more in between, and that is usually where we tend to be.

Anthony Bourdain’s Life, Confidential

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” – Anthony Bourdain

On the outside, this man seemed to know more about life than everybody; its subtleties and its limits and its secrets alike, and I’m sure on the inside the same, maybe more. I mean, how couldn’t he? The places he’d been, the people he’d met, the pleasures of this life he’d most definitely indulged to the fullest, and the lows he’d cared deeply, and with understanding to speak openly, about. And not only that, but dive into his work; his shows, his writing, his sharing of his life and his experiences. All beautiful works of art in their own right, all poetically crafted and uniquely and meaningfully his own, derived from his acts of doing, not from his assumptions of what if. This man had “the best job in the world”, and we all thought that, and we all said that, and we all believed it to be true, but this story is about much more than a profession. This sends shock waves across generations, around the world, forcing us all to question our own lives, our own values and beliefs, our own sufferings, because that is how broad and how deep his influence reached; spanning cultures and people both young and old and in between, infiltrating our souls and our desires on the basis of our allowing of and our hoping for, and challenging our beings with sensory liberation. This man was an influencer, probably the realest among countless other’s attempts of our generation, and, staying true to his approach towards it all, even in his last act of expression, he kept things real and he brought to the forefront, life.

At the radically experienced age of 61, he was in rare position, enabling him to possess multi-generational influence, ranging from the young and the reckless to the old and the restless. However, age alone did not provide him this effect. Much like ‘The Rolling Stones’, in my fanfare opinion of the pair, he was able to keep current, entangled with the up and coming, while also remaining defiant, engraved with and by the stuff of legends; all with a keen sense of real, all with an innate ability to do so.

Look at me. I’m talking as if I knew the man.

Well, I didn’t. Personally, no. But, nonetheless, I understood his presentation. At least, I tried to. In many ways I’ve tried to embody it, even if only a little, for the attempt to do so promises to be worth it, again, even if only a little.

Authenticity encapsulated this man, rather, authenticity had no chance to hide from him. He would find it and I’m sure he would enjoy it, and then he would tell us about it, and you could not help but be infatuated. Maybe infatuated isn’t the right word, for what he proposed was much more lasting. Infatuated from the onset, yes, but appreciative, all the more from the initial encounter onward. Don’t deny it. He had you thinking. He had you questioning. He had you wondering. And then, he had you acting on it, and you were appreciative for having done so; appreciative of him and of your listening to. And if you haven’t yet, you will be. You’ll see.

Again, this man had it all, and we all believed it to be true; travel, food, freedom; what else? He would be in Hong Kong one moment, perhaps dizzying through the bustling streets, indulging by choice and by circumstance the beautiful frenzy of it all, and Paris the next, maybe accepting the moments expose, directing one to succumb to the city’s subtle but charming asking to simply allow and to enjoy its offerings. But again, I can’t say for sure. I didn’t know this man. Most of his admirers didn’t. This is all assumption, but assumption hinted, supported even, by his heavy persuasion bestowed upon us and by our willingness and eagerness, or maybe our surrendering to, to take on its weight, to abide by its claims and to, again, even if only a little, see for ourselves its truths and its essence.

If you’ve tried then you know. If you haven’t yet, then eventually you will. Maybe, if of course you choose to do so, and if you do it the way he proposed; authentic.

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.”

Look past the glamour of it all though; the food, the travel, the freedom. What really was he presenting? What really was he asking us all to see, or to at least try to?

I believe it to be just that. I believe he was asking us to just see, or, to at least try to; to see all that we are offered and all that we can experience and all that we are able to live through, to feel life through. Don’t just eat the food, but taste it. Don’t just travel somewhere, but become it. Don’t just dream of freedom, but live it and understand it and allow it. It doesn’t truly matter what dish may be served, or what city or escape you find yourself temporarily inhabiting, or what level or what medium of freedom you feel yourself yearning to express, quivering in hesitation before releasing your guilt or your shame or your dogmatic restraints and simply trying. I don’t believe he gave a damn what it was that turned you on, only again, simply that you would try. What else?

“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find the perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”

Letting the happy accident happen. How beautiful is that? How perfect does this simple line define our sublime undergo of life? But, unfortunately, how often do we find ourselves willfully protesting against its proclamation, holding firm our restrained consent to simply allow it to be?

I’m not talking about vacation itineraries here, and I don’t believe his words are either in their truest sense. You could just as easily hear him say, “Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of our live’s miss”, and he’d continue to try to push us to allow those things to happen rather than sticking to some rigid plan we have laid out for ourselves, and for that we should be grateful; someone devoting their time in this world to remind us that there is more, and that that more is found here, now, in our letting it happen, not in our planned attempt to take control of it all for some far off future arrival. Besides, how can we expect to have a good experience here without a constant willingness to experience a bad one? The good comes with the bad and we should have it no other way.

But again, this story is about much more than a profession; about much more even than the man himself, and I think we would of liked it that way. Outside the enjoyment of it all, outside of the food, and the travel and the freedom, it reminds us bluntly of the other side which remains, lurking within us all, able and ready and willing to demoralize our efforts, burden our thoughts and our inhalations, tame the very spirit which once burned through our worries and our blockades. This story, however contradicting and sad and surreal it may appear, is much more about our sufferings than it ever will again be about anything else.

His life influenced us all profoundly, but his death, I suspect, will do so all the more, in time and in reflection; it’s happening already has, at least for those who admired him and attempted to emulate his approach. His life and his words and his actions alike first challenged us, then they dared us, then they empowered us, not to withhold from this life, but to withdraw from it; to withdraw all that we can and to share it with all of whom we will and are able. His death I believe has and will continue to do the same. I know it has already for me. At this moment it is challenging me, then at another I am sure it will dare me, and then I believe it will empower me the next, to question everything, to intuitively re-evaluate my values and my beliefs on my own accord, and to be aware and to try to understand my sufferings, as open and as honest as I can. What else?

But, as is always the contemplation following another’s departure; where do we go from here?

“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

Stuck In The Amber

Here we are, such as we are; and whether or not we are pleased with this moment, we have no other choice than in accepting it.

“All time is all time. It does not lend itself to warning or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”


I’m currently on a train, traveling through mainland china, enroute to a new city, a new experience. At this very moment, I am leaning against a cushioned human shelf up against the window, among a chattering crowd in the dining cart section, a small elevated table in front of me where my keyboard now rests as I bug it with type. To my right, the kitchen dishing out a foreign menu, both by flavor and script; I’m hungry, so I’ll try it. “Nǐhǎo. Menu?!” “Ah, xièxie!” To my left, the crowd, filled with wide smiling faces, made up of families, friends, associates and strangers, I’m guessing, and a little girl barfing into a plastic bag, being helped by her un-phased, “been-here-before”, loving parents; no one minds, they are busy enjoying the scene, though a few pair of curious eyes are caught by the bald “Měiguórén” (American) lone and curious himself in the corner.


Here I am, such as I am.

The moment in time with which we are given, the one we currently find ourselves encompassed by, embedded with rather, this is where we are, and to the best of our understanding, this is what we are; people, stuck in this spec of existence, alive.


“The flat car sometimes crept, sometimes went extremely fast, often stopped — went up hill, downhill, around curves, along straightaways. Whatever poor Billy saw through the pipe, he had no choice but to say to himself, “That’s life.”

This is life. I’m surrounded by it. A part of it even. I am life, and so is everything and everyone else around me, far beyond me, beyond this place, even more. Yes, this is a moment, and though we are limited in sight, sometimes in mind, to only our little pipe hole view of it, this moment is massive. It encompasses everything and everyone you know, and for that matter, don’t.

You are only a part of it.


I return to my seat, only a short time later to again return to the dining cart, due mainly to restlessness, part also out of angst; I’ve never been one to rest easy during travel. I’m too curious. I’m too wound up. I have too much on the mind. I wonder where everyone is heading? And if they’re heading there, where ever there is, by choice or by have to? I’m heading now by choice, on return by have to. No one from the looks of it seems concerned, at least on the outside. What about the inside? There are a few dull expressions filling this cart now, whether by idleness, worry, contemplation, or something else of this sort, as we maintain impressive speed, hurling with grace and subtle rocking through farming lands along the route. The younger crowd is still playing. Some drawing, some eating or attempting to eat, others yanking the fake flowers out of their waterless wicker vases placed on each table and examining them, then quickly reaching to yank out another. There’s another little girl twirling about, table to table as she ignores the call of I’m guessing her father. She might need to throw up too later on due to the dizziness she’s playfully tumbling into. She’s having fun though. All the younger crowd is. I don’t know about the more-aged crowd anymore. Some are eating or attempting to eat, others are poking around on their phones or laptops, one man is putting pen to paper, maybe he’s drawing, and some are examining the fake flowers shoved into their waterless wicker vases, not yanking them out, though. They’d probably like to yank them out. They seem preoccupied this time, though. Aren’t we all? I wonder if by choice or by have to? Either way, we’re all heading there; somewhere.


“You sound to me as if you don’t believe in free will,” said Billy Pilgrim.

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by “free will.” I’ve visited thirty one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

Here we are, such as we are.

And, this thing we call time has no care or concern of our wants or our desires anyhow. It doesn’t work for or against us in any way, though we’ve played it up to do that, for us or against us, romanticizing our lives for needed substance, I’m guessing. Hell, time isn’t even a real thing, Einstein said it, I think. Anyway, it’s as if we needed something to fill the spaces between this and that, the spaces between until this turned into that, the spaces until this became that, or the ones found pointing us to do this first and then that next. Time we’ll call it, and we will tie to this thing now known as time all of our most important things this life can, not must, contain. But, this can we will turn into must, so now this life must contain them. And we will spend our time making sure those things happen. And to make those things happen, time will need to be spent. So we will make things worth more time then they really should take, increasing in mind the value of this time, because the big things now take and demand the most of it, and applying it in pursuit towards things which take more time to acquire, demands thus more time for you to give, and you willingly will, and more and more time for it to take, and it gladly will. Give the time, give them time, give the time, only to have it taken. And then, no time left. Where is there free will in this? I guess you can choose how you fill said time, but following the form of times design, do you choose, or is it chosen for you? I think I’ll order a coffee. “Nǐhǎo. Hēi kāfēi?” Yeah, I’m in the mood for one.


“Why me?

That is a very Earthling question to ask Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?

Yes.

Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

Take me back to the amber. No. Let me realize it myself. Wait. I’m already here.

I’m ready now.


Back in the dining cart again I find myself. It’s full this time, again with families and friends, associates and strangers; people. The aroma of the foreign cuisine fills the space as my hunger again toys with the thought of succumbing to its warmth, to its welcome, as others have already decided to do so and have delved in, face first, enjoying the innate pleasantries of its simple yet meaningful serving; there are three plastic microwaveable options to choose from; one with chicken, one with the beef, and the other a vegetable option I believe, but damn do they hit the spot when hunger finds us. A baby awakens and begins to cry, but is quickly eased down by the loving caress of her mothers embrace; she’s now sleeping again. Another mother watches as her young boy devours the plastic container of food in front of him; she’s concerned and hopeful he finishes it all; you can tell by her look, she’s a mother. A dad of two catching some much needed sleep either before the trip begins or now after its end; you can tell by his look; he doesn’t have one; eyes closed, body limp, the arm he’s slumped upon without doubt asleep as well. Others are still poking away at their phones, maybe texting a loved one, maybe reading an article, perhaps playing some video game, or maybe doing whatever it is that makes them happy; it doesn’t matter, let them enjoy it if they do. Some are conversing amongst each other as we continue our trek through this massive stretch of farm land, still hurling by, still subtly rocking; their conversations remaining as foreign to me as the menu, but their presence shares a commonplace; their warmth, their welcome; it doesn’t matter what they are talking about, it’s human connection and thats a wonderful thing. Another little girl, standing between her fathers legs, head barely clearing the table, appearing to be eating a bowl of noodles for the first time, excessively and forcefully attempting to blow away the heat of the bite, only to find that her efforts are spent having not cooled the spoonful; she’s not concerned, shes hungry. She takes a swig of water from a bottle which dwarfs her little hands to wash away the sting of the scalding noodles, coughs because the sip must have gone down the wrong pipe, then hurries back to begin again with another round of excessively and forcefully attempting to blow away the heat of the next scoop; she’s enjoying those noodles and she finishes the whole bowl of them in this manner; still unconcerned, tongue slightly burnt, I’m guessing, but fed and happy to be so. Stewardesses carefully toeing around, hurried taking orders and taming the nerves of the crowd as they serve out not only plates and snacks and drink, but more effectively and appealing, attention; they are great at what they do and impressively patient; also, a sight for sore eyes I’m unashamed to admit, or admire. Farm land has turned into outskirts of towns, still rural, but in its own ways charming; I could spend sometime here; only a short while though. And I, the bald lone “Měiguórén”, again in the corner, looking around and typing away, taking it all in, and realizing the richness of this amber, of this moment I’m a part of; all of this, and much more my capacity of attention missed, in this one moment, the only one either one of us here can see, but rich enough none the less, no need for anything more.


We may be bugs, stuck in the amber, but this amber is enough. There is everything we could ever need, here, now, in the amber which embodies us.


“That’s one things Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.”

“Um,” said Billy Pilgrim.

Here we are, such as we are; and whether or not we are pleased with this moment, we have no other choice than in accepting it, and I believe we can do so by realizing and embracing the richness of the amber we find ourselves stuck in. Free will is found in the appreciation and the realization of the moment we are embedded; in our acceptance and in our contribution to such. This moment is all we are given, its richness derived from our acknowledgement, our autonomy actualized in our choice to partake, in our chance to just be.

Though a bug stuck in amber cannot choose to move freely, no matter its struggle to, at least that amber is rich, and in its richness it is sweet, it is warm, and it is golden. It’s not nothing. It’s very much something, indifferent to our neediness to know why me, why us, why anything.

It is something.

Here we are, such as we are.

You are only a part of it, yes, but you are, most definitely, a part of it.

A little bug, stuck in the amber of now, and its enough.

“So it goes…

Oh, wow! We’re already in Xi’an. “Zàijiàn”. “Bàibài”


***

This post was inspired by my reading of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic ‘Slaughterhouse-Five‘. I recommend highly your reading of this book as well.

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If The Fates Allow

I am away.

Far away now from most of the things in this life I have come to love, to accept, to miss.

And that I do; I miss them all, deeply.

But this I chose, and this choice was hard, as most the greats tend to be.

Something inside of me though has always yearned for adventure, and that is where I currently find myself, both in terms of mind and of body.

This too happens to be something that I have come to love, to accept, to miss as well.

How couldn’t I?

Now you see where the contrast lies.

Life does that.

It never matches up.

Never offers everything at once.

Never allows you to find your stride in one without tripping you up with the other.

On one hand I want stable, I want unity, I want consistence.

On the other I want movement, I want differences, I want unexpected.

Currently I am experiencing the latter, and though I am enjoying it fully, currently I am yearning for the former.

So what to do?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

So then,

I will begin to both allow and to challenge myself to find the two within the same.

Within those and thats that my life has formed into my stables, I will find the movement, the differences, the unexpected.

Rather, I will allow them their opportunity to flourish within my life.

No longer block them.

No longer believe them not to be.

And,

Within those and thats where my life has provided my movement, I will find the stable, the unity, the consistence.

Rather, I will allow them their opportunity to grow within my life.

No longer stunt them.

No longer doubt their strength, their purpose.

And,

If the fates allow,

I will do this with those and thats that I have come to love, to accept, to miss.

This I hope they do allow.

And,

Since I am still here, this they do.

So,

One final effort before the sun sets.

If, of course, the fates do allow.

“The fun of talk is to explore…”

The next conversation you find yourself in, do me favor; explore, and have fun doing so.

How many times do we find ourselves a part of the typical, mundane, monotonous sharing of words, of which we all care very little of asking and of sharing, and even more so of hearing? No need to respond, for we all already know the answer. You ask this, I tell that, I ask that, you tell this, and so on. The thinking of it now makes me sick, depressed even, for that is where most of our breaths are wasted away. They have their place, this I know, but they do not deserve a grander lot when compared to the potential.

There is hope though, as there always is with any endeavor in which the mind, the body and the soul of a human are involved. The mere involvement does not guarantee the improved quality of experience, but the opportunity is always there, if those involved are willing and are courageous enough to delve and to act.

As Hemingway so simply, yet powerfully put it,”The fun of talk is to explore…“. So, let yourself do so, and allow the same for others involved. Ask for the answers you so deeply desire to learn, open the gates to those you have not yet even thought of, share the truths of your being and listen to the truths of others, all of which will inevitably appear in this exchange of words and of life, again if you and if all involved are willing.

Want to learn something of another, to a point of excruciating intellectual or primitive interest? Then ask the damn question, and do so with passion, with innocence and curiosity, and with life, and allow the conversation to go. Be courageous and confident enough to ask and to share, but even more so of the pair in your acquisition of response. Responses, yours or theirs, are not always what you dreamed them to be, but they are real, no matter their basis of truth or of origin, or to the degree of their reveal. However, the deeper the better.

Are you scared to do so? Good. You should be. You should be scared to the point of faint, to where consciousness approaches the fall, mere steps away from being lost. Feel it. Be afraid it, but join it, and share your words to the same extent in your response towards the expression of another, and give them the same. They deserve it, we all do.

Cautious to offend someone with question or with view? To hell with that, for taking offense only shows one has not yet accepted the harshness of the world, of reality; not yet ready to dance with, yet to even acknowledge, it’s toil, it’s strife. Offense taken to words shared, towards ideas expressed and thoughts revealed, of questions asked, symbolizes only one’s poor attempted defense of their own internal, an attempt to hide themselves from others, even more so from themselves. A cowardly act, but one I will acknowledge as common and as difficult, for the choice to do or to not is enough to debilitate even the strongest of us.

The truth? No matter what you say, someone will always take offense, and that is not within your control, so share and pursue anyway, of course again, if you and if all involved are willing and courageous enough to do so.

And if someone responds with malice? Confront it, don’t shy away. We are designed for the challenges of life, to confront them and to overcome them, be them physical or be them vocal. We are built for this, though even more, we yearn for this; for the confrontation of life and for the overcoming through expression of self.

And, what about the fun? Didn’t you mention it would be fun? Have your fun, explore the secrets of the mind, of the opposites, of the people you know nothing about, and of those for which you think you know much. The fun is in the exploration, so there truly is no limit, only that of what you set for yourself. Ask, share, try, fail, connect. Then? Ask, again. Share, again. Try, again. Fail, again. Connect, again. Then? Again. But, have your fun, for, “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.

The fun of talk is to explore…“, so do so, no matter the conversation’s nature. The mystery of the exchange had and of to come, where may it lead? One cannot truly tell, but this should not stop us, nor do I believe anyone would like for it to. There is no shame in this, nor should there be. We are all here together, experiencing the same world, though of varying context, of varying frame. Good. Intellectual, or that of a more primitive nature, approach the familiar and the uncharted with growing experience and innocent curiosity, and simply, explore, for, “You may talk. And I may listen. And miracles might happen.

To Each Their Own

I’m tired. However, and I realize this, I’m tired of all of which I know to be of my control, of my choice.

I’m tired of the comparison. Of comparing myself with others; their wants, their needs, their dreams and pursuits, their current lot and the futures they speak of, and so on. It’s not me, not at all, but its easy to. It’s also easy not to, if of course I choose against it. Similarities, they can exist, but the same? No, not at all. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the doubt. Of doubting myself, my worth, my place, my acts, my thoughts. It’s old, it’s tiresome, it’s cruel, self imposed I know, but cruel the same. It’s not me, its my choice and I can stop this at any moment. To allow it to remain, to persist, how much of a fool can you be? Stop your pity, instead choose to try, choose to do, and then you will know. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the confusion. Of confusing myself, of being confused by others, or rather, allowing myself to be confused by the pair; the words they say, the actions they take, and the same of mine; my words, my actions. Choose, choose now, then choose again, not to be confused and you won’t be. Confusion from curiosity, let it live, that’s fun, but confusion from your own allowance of both the internal and the ex-, let it pass you by — give it no mind. Remember, to each their own.

I’m tired of the hatred. Of the kind from others, but even more so of the self-loathing of my own partake. Do you enjoy the act of self-defeat? Of self-betrayal? The tearing down of your own being? Or the destruction of your own peace? No. Than enough, no more. Allow these thoughts to again pass you by, for they carry with them no real anchor, only the hope that you may offer harbor for their taking. Don’t. And of others hatred directed your way? Also, don’t the same. Choose, then choose again. Remember, to each their own.

Okay, enough of this. Who cares if I’m tired of anything, anyways? Typically not many, sometimes not a one. Maybe I’d be better off by simply not caring myself, not of just anything, but of what I perceive to be worth the time.  Again, not that of just anything, but of things of this nature; harmful. Let it go, move on, simply stop. It can be that easy. It is that easy, if you want it to be. If you choose it to be. Maybe easy isn’t the word. But, if not easy, able; always able. Let it be difficult if you must, “If it’s endurable, then endure it”; accept its confront, but remember, you’re able; always able.

Choose not to be compared — and you won’t feel compared. Don’t feel compared — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be doubted — and you won’t feel doubted. Don’t feel doubted — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be confused — and you won’t feel confused. Don’t feel confused — and you haven’t been…

Choose not to be hated — and you won’t feel hated. Don’t feel hated — and you haven’t been…

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius

But I do — than you will. And if I don’t? — than you won’t. Choice always remains. You’re able; always able.

And in closing, all I want to do in this life, and I assume for many the same, is love. Love what I do, love who I am with, love where I am, and love where I am going — than you will — if you choose to. And this choice? Remember, to each their own.

Remember, you must die.

Death; oh, how it has flooded my mind lately. More appropriately, the thought alone has consumed my attention, stood defiantly in place against my hesitant rebuttal, and toiled with my attempted understanding of its ominous position. However, with this, and with recent encounter of its inevitability and its swiftness, death’s ever lingering presence has also brought about a sense of compartmentalization, towards how I divide the allotment of my time, who I decide to allow my being, and what I deem as worthy within and of my life.

Death has a funny, and yet a not so comical way of bringing back to the moment reality. We all will die, yes, there is no changing this. Despite our various efforts towards a guaranteed life of longevity, no matter how cautious or how tame we live out our days, they are numbered, and they remain, with unyielding persistence, in tally; destination and departure unknown. With this… memento mori.

Derived from Latin origin, memento mori, when translated to our modern form of the English language, reminds us bluntly, ‘Remember you must die’. In reference to the piece pictured above, from a perspective more poetically crafted, ‘Vanité’, master pieced by 17th Century French painter Philippe de Champaigne, displays through detailed expression the thin line of existence in which we abide. The tulip (life), the skull (death), and the hourglass (time); life, our current experience, remaining in constant shadow of death, which we may encounter at any moment. The only guarantee between the triad conveyed at median; death.

There is no guarantee of a life, even less, if possible, no assurance of time. We aren’t promised a single breath, no law of nature ensuring us an abundance, or even a presence, of either element. So why are we so wasteful of it? Why do we engage with such petty occurrences and tasks? Why do we allow our lives to be consumed with such oblivion, with negligence towards its fragility? There remains a thin line between our existence and our demise, yet, we act as if the former is forever. Again… memento mori.

As mentioned, I recently encountered death, not my life, but a loved one, and as I write this, with mind lost in consumption of its very nature, I find it, with slight grief, irresponsible and selfish of myself to only be aware of it now, in light only because of our latest confront. A loved one, so dear and close to my heart, to my being, to my life, almost taken away, by a true evil of this world, one which affects us all, directly and indirectly; addiction. Stolen it felt, robbed, if even only for a moment, with monstrous lack of care or of concern for all involved, for death does not carry with it a sense of compassion or refrain, only a duty, a duty to take, always too soon it feels, for death doesn’t, it only does.

How arrogant it feels though, how wrong and self-loathed it seems to allow the tribulation of another the right to provide you with any sense of pain, or for that matter, of thanks; he experienced this inevitably, you merely observed, for now. You have no mind even to what it truly entails, to what he truly experienced. Is there pain? Perhaps a release? How intense the struggle? Do we succumb with ease? Or, maybe, just nothing.

Enough, these thoughts, they’re needed, these feelings too, and it’s okay, life tends to provide the test first and the lesson later, death staying true to this form. Meditate on this however, understand what this is, this feeling, this experience, this will happen again, to you even, to another so dear, sooner or later, but no matter, for it will happen again, no matter.

But oh how it hurts when you are so near it, how odd and unsure the moment it provides, how abrupt it impedes everything, stops us on our path and challenges us to accept, for with death there is no other way, no alternative route, so accept. Death ceases life, but life itself does not cease, and that is the hardest truth to accept. Beyond you is more, beyond our loved ones, beyond this moment, the same, but no matter, nor you or I will be a part of that, we are only a part of this, right now, so the future, no matter, only now.

So than, what to take from this? Death is always there, here rather, around you and I, always, right now. You are already dead, your life already destined to end, finale inscripted, you just don’t know it yet, you don’t truly know it, and by the time you’re allowed to, you’re gone, too late.

So than, what to take from this? Live, live now, before it is too late, do not fear death, rather accept it, embrace its forthcoming with repose, for… ”nobody dies before his time comes, so I am calm. I know I am going to die, I just don’t know when.”

Thankfully, with deep gratefulness of fate and of circumstance, he is still here with us, still able to converse, still given time to express ideas and to share perspectives, to create and to learn, still capable of life and of love and of all that comes with it. We all are, remember this, you the same if you are reading this now.

However, this experience, as gratuitous its perceived purpose at the time, excavated from within me, from depths of inactive essence, from thoughts of idle action, an awakening and a forging of a practice, one towards understanding and of gratuity, towards acceptance and of regard, for this life, for death to come, and for the sustain of this moment… “thankful, for it is not ours to own, only to borrow. Death will come, know this, use this.”

You may be sitting there, reading this, believing it to be a rather pessimistic piece, but I would argue against this innate impulse of thought. Allow this idea, or truth rather, to bring about a vigor for this life, for this moment. Again we all will die, yes, but now, right now, truly be grateful to be alive, I beg you.

Wherever you are, right now, reading this, look up from your screen, now around you, and find the beauty of this moment, better yet, bring beauty to this moment. Take a deep breath, come back to your being, feel the world and its nature around you, understand the best you can with acquiescence the common fate of us all, and be grateful and amazed to be a part of it. You will die, yes, no matter, but for now you must live.

From this moment on, in our constant face with death, to reference the always pertinent Stoic philosophy, to quote Marcus Aurelius, “…think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breatheto thinkto enjoy,to love.”

And with this, memento mori.

Move On And Let It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be…

When you find yourself in times of trouble, whoever or whatever Mary may be to you and your natural incline, let the guidance of your own directing mind lead you; nothing more. Listen to your internal words of wisdom, be selective from which you hear external of this, move on and let it be.

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be…

In your hour of darkness, or moment, or second, or however present it’s duration, allow the internal to stare you down as you stare back, never wavering nor allowing oneself to turn away in guilt, or in shame, or in doubt; strong and steady stare back, accept this, allow it, embrace it, become it if you dare, then, move on and let it be.

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be…

And when the broken-hearted people, or those broken by disagreement or by disgrace of their own nature, living in this world agree to begin accepting first themselves and second their brother’s and sister’s, there will appear an answer. Once acknowledged, once accepted, once felt and embraced, no more doubt of this, no more hate of this, no more refraining from this, move on and let it be.

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer
Let it be…

For though they may be parted, at this moment of opportune, which is every moment we are given if we understand it’s potential, there will forever remain a chance that they will see. Allow others their rightful time to become aware, in due time, in accordance with their own nature, in timing of their own experience and choice. There will always be an answer, move on and let it be.

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be…

And when the night is cloudy, and the opportune moment seems to have passed, understand, or rather truly see, that there is still a light shining down on me, on you, on him or her, on us all, and it will shine whether we accept it or not, always there will remain an answer, on until tomorrow and of tomorrow of that, move on and let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be…

Waking up to the sound of music, whatever that melody of serenity is to you, the Mary of your choosing and of your nature will come to you, there is no right or wrong here so do not worry, once again, speaking, some moments with a subtle whisper and others with roaring demand, words of wisdom for you. Listen, accept, or not, it’s up to you, if not now, maybe later, but, no matter your choice, move on and let it be.

There will be an answer
Let it be

There will always be an answer, but that is for you to see, move on and let it be.

 

How To Spend Our Lives: In The Moments, Of Course.

[bctt tweet=”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

Are you there yet? Are you where you want to be? Or, better yet, are you where you believe you should be? Are you doing whatever it is you would like to do? With whom you intended to do it with? No? Well, perhaps then it is now that we change the way we view our experience here before our uncertain lot of time chooses to depart from us.

For years — and I would wager for many the same — I had been working towards a destination, an end point, a place that I felt I needed to reach before I could fully enjoy this life. I was wrong and I am here now to share with you why. If I had not stumbled upon the commencement quote of this piece, who knows how much longer I were to have fallen for the promise of tomorrow without ever having realized the offering of today; more appropriately, the offering of now. Please, before moving on any further into this read, do your best to comprehend and to truly welcome into this moment the power and the defiance of this quote’s meaning, in alliance with its subtle plea:

[bctt tweet=”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

There is no place of reach, not one destination that will provide any of us with our ideal environment nor peace of mind to feel and to do and to create, to live rather, however it is we would like to. Along with this, there is no other time but now to realize that the actions we take at this very moment, the priorities that we set for our current engagement, the tasks that we deem as worthy of our attention at this junction of time and of opportunity, and the people that we surround ourselves with this instant, either by nearest allocation or of distant admiration, do in fact provide the context of our lives; the context contained in the raw sensations of now rather then of later. In complete accordance with this, waiting for certain things to come to fruition, or for certain events to occur, we must realize that we do not have choice, for they currently are not and they may never be, and that is OK. This is not to take away the importance of future, for the acts of planning, of envisioning and of progressing still serve as healthy exercises, as long as we remain indifferent to their presence and engaged in the moment we are given. Instead, what’s important to understand is exactly what this quote is telling us:

[bctt tweet=”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

Our lives are now. They are not tomorrow and they are no longer yesterday. So, whatever it is we aspire to, however it is we would like to spend our days, wherever it is we would like for this occur, and whomever it is we would like for it to be surrounded by, realize your life is only now, and now is the only time it can happen. A string of consciously engaged moments make a life, not a longing for our tomorrows, or a holding onto of our yesterdays. But, of equal to or of greater importance to understand along with this is that you are not the only one this moment encapsulates. We all have a now and they may not always match; not in wants, not in needs, not in location, not in ideals, and not in other countless facets of our instant; accept this and carry on. This moment is more precious than you think, so this indifference should not take us away from ours. It should only provide us with greater opportunity towards becoming more attuned with ourselves in the time we are allotted, in which case we can learn to appreciate and to be more grateful for our contemporary. Therefore, right now, let us all remind ourselves:

[bctt tweet=”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

Live accordingly.

**Updated 8/1/2017**

At this very moment, while going back and reading underlined content from my most recent completed read, ‘The Stress of Life’ by Hans Selye, M.D., I came across a vigorously highlighted section which further supports the needed and demanded attention from us all for this moment, the one right now, the one you are choosing to use to read this, and the subsequent moments we may be granted; enjoy:

So many people work hard and intelligently for some immediate objective which promises leisure to enjoy life tomorrow; but tomorrow never becomes today. There is always another objective which promises even more leisure in exchange for just a little more work. Hence, very few people in the usual walks of life retain the ability to really enjoy themselves: that wonderful gift which they all possessed as children. But it hurts to be conscious of this defect, so adults dope themselves with more work (or other things) to divert attention from their loss. Some people nowadays even speak of “workaholism” for the behavior of those who work merely as a means of escape from a life which became stale.

The inspired painter, poet, composer, astronomer, or biologist never grows up in this respect; he does not tend to get the feeling of aimlessly drifting, no matter how poor or old he may be. He retains the childlike ability to enjoy the impractical by-products of his activity. Pleasures are always impractical, they can lead us to no reward. They are the reward. It is common place to say that money is no ultimate aim, but few people seem to live as though they understood this. The labors of the artist who succeeds in expressing some hidden aspect of his soul in painting, or of the physician who learns how a hitherto inexplicable disease develops, may have practical advantages for him — benefits which can be expressed in dollars — but this is not the kind of reward that can make his life a real success. The great financier must also seek his final compensation elsewhere. To find it he must stop worrying about the success of his enterprises, at least long enough to think of his own success. He must first find a way of life which can assure him the equanimity necessary for enjoyment, and then he must learn to distinguish between what can give him pleasure and what are only means to buy pleasure.

The most acquisitive person is so busy reinvesting that he never learns how to cash in. “Realistic people” who pursue “practical aims” are rarely as realistic and practical, in the long run of life, as the dreamers who pursue only their dreams.

Again, live accordingly.

 



For other perspectives on our moment, pair this reading with What is a Prospector? , Janis Joplin on the Urgency for Love, and Neil Young on one’s Fervent, Unyielding Search for the Fabled ‘Heart of Gold’.

Reality’s Delusion: How Sure Are We?

“Reflect often on the speed with which all things in being, or coming into being, are carried past and swept away.”

Recently, in conversation with a new acquaintance, a perspective was shared with me, or rather towards me, depicting the substance of a situation in context of our exchange; “There is reality and there is delusion of situation, and this is an example of the latter”. It didn’t hit me then, but as I pondered his statement later on, a thought stirred about in my mind indicating error in his chosen insight, not in accordance with his intent but rather with the concepts entirety. Be it ignorance or ambition on my part, nonetheless, this narrow inclination is one far too often shared, justified, believed and cast onto others as definitive truth that the self-appointed arbitrator has deemed reality; be aware of this, but ignore it. However, for sake of digression, pressing on, though not spoken aloud for auditory consumption, thoughts of internal reserve contain the ability to produce a noise much louder, within the individual at first and potential for the greater good second, if expressed effectively and with collective intent. Now, in this text, I hope to give opportunity for its communicable understanding.

“Existence is like a river in ceaseless flow, its actions a constant succession of change, its causes innumerable  in their variety”

– Marcus Aurelius

This reality so often spoken about, one thrown around with such strong and confident conviction, remains in a constant state of change, for the concept of reality itself understands the weakness of its own stable and the dubious fluidity of its mere arguable grasp. This is not a new understanding, for it is truthfully the product of many great minds of before, and of our worlds observatory nature; thought of, understood and communicated through the ages by virtue of mediums of both presenter’s choice and of the times expressible permit. However, for sake of skeptics needed assurance of example, one relevant to our current moment of existence, ponder on the following:

[bctt tweet=”Reality is negotiable. Scarcely anything stands still, even what is most immediate. – Tim Ferriss” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

Far too often we are fed to belief against this, having been taught by others who have been fed the same. I am not ignorant enough to fail to realize that this is not the case with all, as there are numerous examples to look upon, expressing themselves no matter the field nor their pursuit. Artists, creators, musicians, innovators of business, trade, architecture, industry, fashion, scientists of all studies, writers, poets, inventors, and so on; the list remains unending. What do they have in common? What sets them apart apart from the rest? What grabs our attention of their pursuits fruition? They question one thing; reality! Then, they make the choice to ignore the commotion, to make their own noise in this world, to follow their own unique beat in line with their visions rhythm.

“We should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go.”

– Seneca

Reality in this context represents a paradigm of nature; the two are the same, both in mystery and in question. But, for the majority conditioned to leave nature, and in accordance reality, left alone, how do we begin the revealing? In these moments, we shall turn to others, towards their examples and towards their work, and in this moment, as I struggle with this myself, I turn to none other than Hans Selye, MD, otherwise known as the Father of Stress. Without now taking the exploratory dive into his life’s impressive and profoundly progressive work, I instead want to share with you what lead him down his own road of unknown, towards the unraveling of his own questioning, shared in an excerpt from his famous classic ‘The Stress of Life’, a book about stress in the applicable sense and of our unique ability and innate quality to adapt. Though the language is relevant in regard to his particular question, the concept shared and practiced is appropriate no matter your contemplate:

How to Question Nature

What is disease – not one disease, just disease in general? This question lingered on in my mind, as it undoubtedly has in the minds of most physicians of all nations throughout history. But there was no hope for an early answer, for Nature – the source of all knowledge – rarely replies to questions unless they are put to her in the form of experiments to which she can say “yes” or “no.” She is not loquacious ; she merely nods in the affirmative or in the negative…

Occasionally, if we ask, “What would you do in these circumstances?” or, “What is in such and such a place?” she will silently show us a picture. But, she never explains. You have to work things out yourself first, aided only by instinct and the feeble powers of the human brain, until you can ask precise questions, to which Nature can answer in her precise but silent sign language of nods and pictures. Understanding grows out of a mosaic of such answers. It is up to the scientist to draw a blueprint of the questions he has to ask before the mosaic makes sense. It is curious how few laymen, or even physicians, understand this…

Only those blessed with the understanding that comes from a sincere and profound love of Nature will, by an intuitive feeling for her ways, succeed in constructing a blue print of the many questions that need to be asked to get even an approximate answer to such a question. Only those cursed with a consuming, uncontrollable curiosity for Nature’s secrets will be able to – because they will have to – spend their lives working out patiently, one by one, the innumerable technical problems involved in performing each of the countless experiments required.

What is disease? – What is stress?

I did not know how to ask the first of these questions; I did not even think of asking the second.

In closing, do not be afraid to question reality nor apprehensive in your questionings implement. Reality is largely, by its own nature, negotiable and plastic, and we as humans were meant to explore every facet of our enigmatic undergo. If you do not know where to start, in form with the ones who have found their paths continued questioning, start with an interest, and if that one doesn’t work, start again with another. You do not need to know much to begin, other than to begin is the only way. And, to keep equipped in mind, parallel with what’s to come:

[bctt tweet=”Remember that all is opinion. – Marcus Aurelius” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

‘The Man In The Arena’: Much More Than A Quote

As I write, I am under the assumption that most of you who will read this post will have also had prior exposure to the ambitiously moving quote from Theodore Roosevelt, known now more prominently as “The Man In The Arena”. Though expression of equal and greater value in regard to it’s surrounding content both initiates and further facilitates these words, given its lot in the grander scheme of oracle derive, for those who have not yet felt the quotes might, enjoy:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

As stated; Moving; Powerful; Inspiring. However, in this short piece of mine what I wanted to share with you all, as mentioned in the preceding passage, was content of equal or greater value, both prior and post Roosevelt’s illustrious recite. Below I will share with you words leading up to the discounting of the critic, to those eloquently following suit with the cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat; again, enjoy:

Prior to the discounted critic:

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

In short; Do yourself instead of talking of others doing. Act as opposed to remaining apprehensive. Remain indifferent to the words of others who merely contain the superficial expanse of aggressive words but very little, to non-existent, in their actions fruition. We all contain the ability to act, but we must be courageous in its implement and in its practice. [bctt tweet=”It’s OK to be afraid, but fear more the consequence of idle and fear less the act itself.” username=”cityreadsnyc”]

Post those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat:

Let those who have, keep, let those who have not, strive to attain, a high standard of cultivation and scholarship. Yet let us remember that these stand second to certain other things. There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character – the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man’s force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor. I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good. We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution – these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.

In short; development of the collective should remain the highest standard and consequential aim of a society. However, this starts with the individual, with the lone development and sustain of self-mastery. Thereafter, or in midst of, the greater pursuit of collective progression, not in terms of industry or of capital expansion, but in the realization and in the development of an aware, able, and self-mastered people. To interject with ever relevant and always comprehensible Stoic perspective, to quote Marcus Aurelius, “That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.” We are the bees and our moment of existence, along with our universal position is the bee-hive. We are responsible, so as a people, let us become aware of this responsibility, for the hive and for the bees which make up that hive.”With great responsibility comes great power”, and that power is found in the human practice of doing.

The responsibility we all were handed from our first breath, or rather from our first insight of being and of aware, remains ours to our last breath, or rather in the passing on of character and of understanding on a generational basis; this will be difficult, this will be hard, and this will be ours. [bctt tweet=”Own the duty or be owned by the duty’s in-acted upon declare.” username=”cityreadsnyc”] And, to further quote Theodore Roosevelt, in moments of our inevitable disbelief or refrain, find strength and courage in these words:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”



Attached below is a copy of Roosevelt’s entire speech, titled “Citizenship In A Republic”; I encourage you to read it. However, as with any reading, understand the context the best you can, take from it what you will and leave behind what you choose. Reading itself is an act of individual understanding, unique to you, your desires, your perspective and your ever evolving existence. And remember, enjoy!

The Man In The Arena – Citizenship In A Republic – Theodore Roosevelt