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…

 

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.

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.