Ontology Crisis: Do You Exist??

“Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within.” – Schopenhauer

SchopenhauerSchopenhauer, a German philosopher, walked this earth from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, and he came to adhere to a faith in transcendental identity. Currently, I am not deeply versed with his work or philosophies, but I understand that he was influenced by Eastern philosophy.

This German philosopher and I share the same personality according to the Enneagram test.  “Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within.” is a quote attributed to Schopenhauer and appeared during my personality study. Now one of my favorite quotes, it represents an ideal with which we should be acquainted.

If you busy yourself with cumbersome things for a long enough period of time, you will find yourself wishing you could do something else. You want to do something else because you are not fulfilled in what you are doing; in other words, you are not being you.

I know a number of individuals who, at some time or another, discovered that they are uncomfortable being alone for long periods of time. I speculate that this phenomenon occurs, at least in part, not because no one is around; rather, it occurs because you are the only one around – and you may be uncomfortable with yourself. Generally, being uncomfortable with yourself happens because you either know yourself well enough to believe you are worth disliking, or you know yourself so little that you are a stranger to your very self. I tend to believe the former is more commonly believed, and that the latter is more commonly the case. Once you come to a true understanding, or nearly true understanding, of what and who you are, you will understand that you are valuable.

You may or may not have noticed that 99% of the last paragraph is written in 2nd person: I repeatedly talked about you. This means that my assumptions are entirely up for debate, because I am not you. My question for you is the one I ask myself frequently: “who are you?

Becoming active within is vital because you are involved when I ask:

  • What do you believe?
  • What/who do you love?
  • Why are you here?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • What is your dog(s)’/cat(s)’ name?

You can claim neither to have faith nor lack faith in anything without first knowing who you are to claim it.

Is faith, belief, religion, morality. etc. present without you first being present? No. If you are sleeping inside, your faith is a dream.

I do not suspect Schopenhauer holds any contention to external activity, but I suspect he would contend with external activity meant to distract from internal activity.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ: Is “ministry” your external activity? Or is it a surging from deep within that you can neither suppress nor escape?

To everyone: If you have not done so already, do a little “soul-searching”. It may just be worth it; after all, this is life you are living. You should live it as beautifully as you are.

Further Reading: I See Dead People: An Old Adage  is my response to You Are What You Love by Phill Easley; both deal more with personal identity and may be a helpful step in self-discovery.

 

 

 

 

Unwrapping Time: Living Present

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“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” – Dalai Lama

Presence:

The culture in which I live interprets eye contact into various meanings: strength, care, respect, presence, etc., and each interpretation accompanies a degree of value. Presence occurs when two or more parties, engaged in discourse or the sublime company (or not so sublime company) of one another, come to an understanding of each person’s mental or spiritual presence. By U.S. sociocultural standards, little to no eye-contact in conversation translates as little to no attention/engagement/presence in the discussion. Making healthy doses of eye-contact during conversation tells the other party you are there – it tells the other party you are present.

Past and Future:

The past and the future belong to everyone; the past has helped and hurt most everyone, and the future has only yet to do so. Overly focusing on the past dwindles strength for today in that the strength used to perform yesterday is still in use as though the show never ended. Overly focusing on the future disrupts today in that the after-party is preemptively begun in the mind, confusing the immediate scene. Focusing on today rejuvenates the strength to satisfy today’s own needs and budgets the mind’s thoughts, mentally stabilizing for tomorrow.

Present Presence:

Focusing on today is making eye-contact with the present moment, being present in the present. The door leading to the past is locked; the threshold leading to the future is still being built – each of us exists in the same room of time – now. Shall we withhold love ‘til the future comes? The future never comes. Shall we falter in faith because experience (past) “taught” us better? Experience ought to redefine, renew, and fortify faith. Shall we put off “doing” today? If the past taught us anything about the future, it is that things change; today is the only opportunity to do. With the past behind me and the future before me, here I am betwixt and between alongside the present – now.

“…I looked in my rear view mirror to switch lanes. Then an idea formed in my mind. I have to use my mirror to look behind me in order to drive safely; however, I can’t continue to look back otherwise I will wreck. I believe this is like life; it’s important that we look back but if we continue looking back we sacrifice the life we’re living now.” – Brittany Echols, from Looking Back…

 

I See Dead People: An Old Adage

“In America especially, we are wrapped up in what people think of us. Our entire [culture] is grounded in cliques, social status, and brands. The core of this groundwork is the “need” to have the right people like you. Since when has that mattered? Are you running for a political office? If the answer to that question was no, then focus on you, not them…” – Phill Easley,  from You Are What You Love

Referring to and moved by the simple quip “You are what you love, not who loves you”, Phill continues to delineate on a number of identity issues to which several souls succumb: many people identify themselves via the identity of a significant other; certain people, perhaps, identify themselves solely by a political or socioeconomic class; and others, even identify themselves in terms purely based out of religious conviction. These are but a few sources anyone can draw from the identity pool: ethnicity, sociocultural stigma, marital role, career choice, technological devices (phones, gadgets, computers, gaming systems, etc.), internet (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, etc.), and so on and so forth. None of these even slightly relate to who a person is. If all the of the aforementioned identity-bubbles were painted grey and popped, what is left? The inside is left; you are left.

The initial clause, “You are what you love…”, is inspirational; the latter clause, “…not who loves you.”, is liberating. Most people find peace in something – even if that something is nothing in particular. Most times, people are inhibited from doing that something by: physical barriers, metaphysical barriers (e.g., others’ expectations; self-imposed expectations), depression, demotivation, a career path or lack thereof, and the list goes on. That anyone’s peace-bringing something, or nothing in particular, would be suppressed by external or internal forces is grievous.

If we live without allotting some or much of our time for the something that makes us, us, then our life lived without our something is devoid of truth. If a lie is presupposed not to exist, then our pseudo-us may also be presupposed not to exist. If you fail to do what makes you, you; you, though existing, fail to live. Ignorance of one’s self is ignorance of life – a special form of death. The initial clause, “You are what you love…”, represents your something; the latter clause, “…not who loves you.“, represents your something unshackled.

“What do you love? What of you, by you, and from you is so inseparable from your being that its very absence would make you stop being you? That is who you are. And it is only through discovering what you love–that inmost core, hardwired into the recesses of your soul– that you find you.” – Phill Easley,  from You Are What You Love

Draped with Chains: The Important Thing I Allowed Myself to Lose

There was a time in my life when I would battle within fortified castle walls, luxuriously abide in a mansion, and plot devious operations within the confines of my personal headquarters: my treehouse. Sometimes my treehouse served as a cabin where I would vacate from childhood woes and home life; as if either were not, in reality, quite nearby. I would retreat to the five-foot by five-foot loft on cool nights and sprawl my body across the gaping floorboards. If it were raining, I would peer out the somberly small square window, relaxing as I observed the rainfall.  My treehouse was what Lemony Snicket might call a “sanctuary.”

Formed out of semi-solid planks and glazed with chipping paint, my treehouse walls sheltered me with adamancy, sobriety, and the caring craftsmanship of my father. It was magic fortified with wonder.

These days, my dilapidating treehouse door refuses to allow my entrance; Life, who instructed me to grow up, locked the magic inside. The entrance is barred shut by others’ expectations of success and approval. Misplaced priorities and responsibilities concerning education, finances, and careers shut the window I once peered through. The world forged drapes of chains out of a cast-iron obsession with greed, power, and sexual inclinations. Common notions of how man ought to live, with and without faith, crucified the magic which hemmed me in.

No more will I allow the harrowed magic to remain as such. Jesus called us to be as one of the little ones, a child. Confidently, I pray that His grace and Spirit, dwelling with and within me, transform me into an all-seeing-child.

The life of a child is simple and undefined, allowing the father to guide and nurture it. The splendor of creation is my new treehouse, sheltering me with adamancy, sobriety, and the caring craftsmanship of my Father above. Its doors are open, unbound and abounding with magic and wonder within. Christ broke the bars of expectations. God’s grace swung open the window, and His unbearable peace shines through, illuminating the loft with his grand working and schema. The cast-iron drapes we forged are unlinked, scattered, and falling through the floorboards gaping with His Spirit’s breadth. God’s notion of how man ought to live is resurrected with the Son, restoring us to childlike magic. I am a child once more.

“…people die in monotony every day. Pain and euphoria remind us that we are alive. If the magic ceases to exist, then life is pointless.” – Autumn Jade Monroe

Cityscape Empire: Our Temporal Abodes

Stars halt my racing heart and Nashville’s city-lights catch my eyes on the yield. My mind ponders over the light emanating from the streets, towers, and Hustler Hollywood. All forms of socioeconomic class and ethnic group flock to the city of Nashville, and I wonder: to what end was such a city conjured? On an individual basis, a man understands that he is finite and his efforts will fade away; on a universal basis, mankind lives and acts as though it is immortal and its institutions will undoubtedly withstand the trial of ages.

Light’s mere existence renders me breathless, let alone a metropolitan night. Mankind raises constructions which simultaneously enamor and tear me inside. All that has been, is being, and will be built up will be torn down. Ceaselessly, mankind plays in its sandcastles without accounting for the coming tide.

Though we are frozen within our own time, we are warm just enough to move. Any success or lack thereof a man may consider himself to have accomplished has an end: it is simply and truthfully the nature of finite things to remain as such. Man may work to live or live to work; death closes both cases, and our cityscapes stand tall as ephemeral empires.

Heaven’s Heart: Revisting Siloam

Nearer the Beginning of November, I posted on this blog for the first time and am now returning for a moment to develop a thought:

“This man washed his eyes, blind, and dried off seeing. Likewise, starlight washes my eyes and illuminates Earth’s beauty. Comparatively, creation’s veil lifts, and her eyes mirror mine. No few nights have I gazed at the heavens and admired her worth, intrinsic and imprinted by her Creator.”

Comparatively, creations veil lifts, and her eyes mirror mine, reflecting an intimate, personal individual whose identity is understood in unison with his Creator’s flawless identity. Opening my spiritual eyes closes the eyes of my flesh, and the believers’ spirits surrounding me illuminate, appearing as a silhouettes whose shadows are cast as flesh. The soul incarnates the body which relies on its possessor to act, as a shadow does its silhouette.

Creation echoes the Creator’s voice; those disposed with spirit mirror his image. When he, created in the image of God, recognizes of the image of God, he simultaneously becomes enlightened of himself – and God.

The spirit reflects God’s image uniquely; and mankind, like a broken mirror, represents vibrantly the Creator’s image upon restoration.

Thence I say, no few nights have I gazed at the heavens and admired her worth, intrinsic and imprinted by her Creator.             

Usefully Useless: Redefining Purpose

Zhuangzi, a Buddhist monk, expressed the ideals portrayed on the pages of Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature. The following illustrations are modeled after the comic-book-style illustrations adapted by Tsui Chih Chung and translated by Brian Bruya.

“Zhuangzi thought, people need to be aware of their own existence. You shouldn’t always perceive yourself in comparison with others.”

Hui Shi’s Calabash

Hui Shi, an old friend to Zhuangzi, planted calabash seeds given to him by the king. The seeds produced larger-than-life calabashes, which Hui Shi used as water containers – not so successfully. The large, weak frame burst under the water pressure when handled, rendering his innovation useless.

Zhuangzi wrapped some remaining intact calabashes in nets, fixed them to his waist, and whirled about carefree in a nearby body of water. His clever improvement pointed the disappointed Hui Shi to an unorthodox concept: a calabash can, indeed, be used to hold water; water, however, can also hold a calabash.

Huizi’s Shu Tree

Assorted gnarls and twists afflicted Huizi’s Shu tree. Huizi worried that a carpenter’s plum-line may never grace the large, deformed tree trunk. Zhuangzi considered Huzi’s dilemma and sat with his concerned friend underneath what he believed was a splendid tree. He observed that the supposed maladies protected it from those who would otherwise desire to cut it down. This allowed Huizi to use the Shu tree for shelter, worry free.

Using the Useless

By not practicing what was commonplace for either the calabash or the Shu tree, Zhuangzi freely used the resources to his benefit. He was not shackled by the purposes chained to the materials at hand, as if either grew with a congenital, defined purpose.

We are individuals undefined by our society, peers, or denomination. We have unique strengths and weaknesses; what another may believe we are based on such is independent of who we are. We are neither this nor that – we merely are. A calabash is not a water container – it is a calabash. A Shu tree is not a craftsman’s raw material – it is a Shu tree. We are not our character traits – we are.

 

Mirror Image: Meeting New People

Familiar faces are fairer once acquainted with. Faces in my coffee shop ventures appear, respectively, on certain days of the week; i.e., if I go here or there, at such and such a time, I will likely see so and so. A familiar face once pierced the acquaintance film that separated a friendship.

Some matter of time ago, a man, to whom I am strongly bound today, introduced himself to me. His first appearances occurred while I habitually, excessively walked to Climb Nashville and Dose. Occasionally, as I was walking, I would find him walking; other times, I would find him bouldering at Climb Nashville. Another time, I found him walking to Dose, as I was; and we walked and talked on the way ‘til we purchased our coffee, indulged, and went our separate ways.

These happenstances transitioned into intentional plans. We would meet up maybe every other weekend; and through time and discourse, I came to understand this man’s thoughts.

“Contentment incarnate” best describes his overall disposition. Most content people are satisfied with what they have; this man is content with what he does not have. He is satisfied not with what he has, but with not having. He does not desire anything that is beyond him and only superficially desires what is not. My pragmatism deeply reverberates his detachment.

David and Jonathan supersede our relationship by only a few degrees. My unlikely friendship emulates the covenantal love hallmarking David and Jonathan’s:

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”

To this day, the man’s name escapes me albeit the mirror he stands in every morning. For now, I will call him John.

Starlight of Siloam: A Little Town Night

Pleasant View’s night sky is a pleasant view, indeed. Stars shine brighter in the sticks and the darkness abroad invites more. Traveling westward from Nashville to the small town dispels both city lights and city-life: distractions. Curiously, the absence of light illuminates my blindness in the presence thereof. You could say that stars, for me, simulate the pool of Siloam.

Jesus benefitted many a blind man; peers questioned the renewed sight of one man in particular. This man proclaimed,

            “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’, So, I went and washed and received my sight”

This man washed his eyes, blind, and dried off seeing. Likewise, starlight washes my eyes and illuminates Earth’s beauty. Comparatively, creation’s veil lifts, and her eyes mirror mine. No few nights have I gazed at the heavens and admired her worth, intrinsic and imprinted by her Creator.

That night in Pleasant View, the celestial lights lit the sky and woke my mind. Prior to, I was conscious; thereafter, I was aware.