Ataraxia.

Love with urgency but not with haste.

Something in the Rain

The sky’s been heavy the past few days, flickering on and off with gusts of rain and bursts of wind.

When I left for my run yesterday, the sunset was already behind billows of clouds, a few estranged rays lighting the swaying treetops along the path. I could tell it was going to start raining soon. The air pressure was dropping fairly quickly. A cool breeze swept past me- my body felt light, a smile on my lips. Running gives me a certain thrill. It’s the feeling of heightened senses, moving past everything fast enough so that nothing lingers for too long, a new sight, a new smell, a new something with just a few strides more. It’s the breathing in just a certain way to feel my lungs expand, the rush of oxygen shooting through my veins, the exhaling of the nonessentials.

4 miles later, I felt the first drops of rain. I quickened my pace, briefly wondering if I could race it home and make it back relatively dry, throwing out that idea just a few moments later. The rain dashed against my face and body, and I was suddenly soaked. My t-shirt had already turned two shades darker in blue. Those that were left on the trail like me, not quite having it made it home and not quite being prepared with an umbrella or a poncho, hastily put their bags above their heads and lengthened their strides. Some huddled under the shelter of some trees, contemplating their next move.

I kept running. I could smell the change in the air. The earth soaking up the water, the trees and the leaves exuding a feeling of exhilaration, the asphalt steaming and giving off that distinctly acrid smell of summer rain, the opening up of the sky.

A certain kind of Hallelujah.

I slowed down. Reaching the edge of the woods before the last mile stretch to my house, I stopped and sat down at the roots of an old pine tree. Mud on my shins, the water washing down the rest of me. Close to the earth, that’s how I felt then. Sniffing the rain and discerning its duration. Quenching my thirst by letting the rain happen to me.

A few miles off, the last bits of the sun peeked through gaps in the clouds. This was a passing downpour. I could already feel it pulling away. It would be gone in fifteen minutes or so, I guessed. It was. Dusk fell and I sat inside the new breeze for a little while longer, watching the sky clear out.

My last mile home, I thought about what it was that I found in the rain.

 

 

 

04. Let You Happen

“Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.”

Some people are so afraid that they will look back upon that moment and feel it inadequately represents who they are, so afraid indeed that they will stand still and not do a single thing. But what do they expect? To sit there and wait until they’re struck by a lightning bolt of a revelation screaming in their faces, “You are ready! Do it!” ?  That’s quite a ridiculous idea. You will never know who you are, not completely, as long as you are alive and constantly growing. Yet so many people are so damn scared of being where they are. 

I once knew a boy just like this. He was outwardly confident and truly talented, but inwardly anxious and fearful of anything but brilliance. He couldn’t stand anything that wasn’t perfect from himself, always wanting to be his best, always searching, searching for who he was. At first glance, these things seem like they could be good things, things that will drive a person to strive for and achieve better and they could if done well, (doubtlessly, we all “soul search” at one point or another in our lives,) but these things ultimately became his Achilles heel. Always unsatisfied with who he was in the current moment, he was never happy day to day. Every mistake he made only further compounded his self-contempt, and rather than allow them to propel him forward to a better mistake, he fell backwards to worse and worse mistakes until he made some that he could not live with; soon finding that he couldn’t stand himself and all the things that he had done to that day. 

He was no longer fearful of doing something wrong, but now he believed he couldn’t feel much worse, giving himself the leniency to do and become worse. He ran away from his biggest fear, one he knew could potentially give him the greatest growth if he faced it, and now is complacent with where he is. Every mistake he made, he could excuse as, “I’m still trying to find my real self.” Yet as everyone else around him could see at this point, he was living in full denial of himself and the things he truly wanted, even his true self and the person he wanted to be. 

It was arrogance and insecurity that fell him. Arrogance of only claiming “perfect” as his own actions, and abandoning all else as mistakes made by someone who wasn’t really himself; insecurity of feeling he could never find himself, that he could never be who he really wanted to be and thus feeling that each day not having neared this destination was a waste- a slow downward decay. These two things on their own, but especially in conjunction, make a person stagnant. 

This is the fatality in seeing this “self” as a destination. The demise in waiting to feel ready to do something, in waiting to become yourself, or know yourself wholly. A person is never complete, and I say that they should never think that they are. Wanting to be, however, is perfectly fine. That incompleteness is what drives us forward to acquire new things, whether they be experiences, knowledge, sights, relationships, etc. To feel more and more complete, to fill parts of ourselves that still remain as potential. 

Certainly, I too have had periods of stagnation because of my own self-doubt. Most of my writer’s blocks have been a result of this sentiment of not making something because I wanted to wait to “know myself.” I would get stuck, telling myself, “But that doesn’t sound quite like me,” “This doesn’t feel right, no, there must be a better way of expressing just what it is that is caught in my heart tonight…” Often, I just didn’t know better. The truth was that the reason these things didn’t feel “right” or “like myself” was because I wasn’t allowing myself to be anything else than who I thought myself to be. But I found that that’s not really how it works. 

I learn something new about myself every single day and that’s because I’m always fluctuating, growing, expanding. I can’t cage myself into this self-contained singular idea that can be instantly known, even to myself. Ah, I didn’t know my mind could do this! I have never felt this way before….being open to these new things, allowing them to shape you and extend you beyond who you were just a moment before, that’s crucial to being alive. I believe a person should always be malleable; I don’t ever want to be a fixed point or concept in space or time. I don’t have to ask myself who I am. I don’t have to know. 

Sure, I can say, I tend to be giving, patient, stubborn, sometimes impetuous, curious, honest…etc., but those traits aren’t who I am. Why do I tend to be giving? For what will I be impatient? Am I always so stubborn, when will I bend? The answers to the questions are closer to who I really am, than what those characteristics will tell you about me. It’s not in the certainties that you can see who a person really is, but rather in the uncertainties, the blurry edges, where the shift exists. This is where they are changing, this is their potential, their drive forward, their true colors, where they can discover more of themselves. 

What moves you? 

Whatever it is, it makes you. And you make you. With every act, with every move. What’s worked best for me is to just having faith in my instincts and what direction my heart pulls me. I don’t worry about knowing myself. I’m always going to be a process. And I’m always just me, and I’m not waiting for nobody. 

03. Identify the essentials. Eliminate the rest.

“Creativity is subtraction.”

The thing that comes to mind when I read this is the story, (I don’t know its authenticity,) of Michelangelo and his sculpture. The point of the story was that he started with a giant shapeless block of marble, and by chipping and carving away at this mass, subtracting what was unnecessary- the negative space, he would reach his ultimate piece. All that was left: the positive shape of a figure or an object.

Creativity lies in knowing what is irrelevant. What is essential to the subject at hand. Identifying the line between these two and carefully shedding the unnecessary. There is beauty in simplicity. The essential is what moves you. Everything else is distraction. Noise. 

It is a mistake (I have no authority to say this, outside of my own idea) if someone thinks that creating something is the addition of parts to make a whole. The fact is that the creators, from the noise of the world, carve away the nonessentials. They make sense of the chaos around them and interpret what it is that matters. What matters, of course, is subjective, to the creator and to the viewer, but it is the creativity and the act of creating that allows “what matters” to happen and to be perceived. 

As a creator, (anyone is, if they have created anything), I would say that we start with a whorl of an idea or few or a hundred. It is a cloud of something. We squint and look. Tilt our heads and lean forwards. We search. From that something, we strip away and mine for the truth that we hear singing to us. There, that truth, what remains through the process of subtraction afterwards, is what we have created, it’s what stirs something within us and moves us as a way of life. A message, an emotion, a song, a vision, a direction. 

02. Dying is Living

“Don’t die wondering.”

First of all, don’t die. Second of all, it’s fine to wonder. Wondering is natural. To be curious from the moment we open our eyes, to absorb with all of our senses the things we may learn empirically from all that surrounds us. We wonder what it is that we see and hear, the things that move us, the things we cannot understand. We wonder and question every waking moment, and perhaps those spent fast asleep as well. So then what is so wrong with dying and wondering in conjunction? Well, dying is fine too, if you must do it. It happens to the best of us, the worst of us, all of us. It is inevitable. From the day we are born to the day we die, we are all progressing in various paces towards our own death. Life is transient. One day, an expanse of days and nights to come- lined up in front of you in an awaiting stream, another day, all of those moments just memories to be remembered, never to be relived, never again taking up the same amount of time that it took up when it happened.

That is heaviness in one sense. Each day weighs as much as a whole lifetime since it is the only present that you can live. Today is the only day in which you have the capacity to change what happens, to affect it and to absorb from it; it is the only day left for you to live right in front of your face, in your hands. Yesterday and all the days before it are no longer yours to shape. Tomorrow and all the days to come are not yet yours to claim and make your own. Damn yourself today, and that is what you live with for a lifetime. It lasts eternally long while you live it, the only “time” that you can experience being “now.” That is the meaning of today. A heavyweight truth. Yet, where there is one, there is the opposite. As heavy as today is, it is also the lightest of things. This is because it is the day that holds all the possibilities in the world, the chance to build higher, the opportunity to turn around and walk in the complete other direction than where you were headed just a day before. You can abandon everything leading up to this day in the pursuit of something new and not look back. There is no obligation to what you must do on this single day. You can allow it to raise you up or steep you into the depths of its uncertainty. A gust of wind, or even a summer breeze can blow your life somewhere completely new. It gives you humility in your existence. That is something to smile about, the lightness of being. 

I can’t quite tell you why but I have never had a discomfort with dying. Never felt afraid, even when pondering it for an extended period of time. Even when faced with a narrow miss, an encounter with it of some sorts, even when considering my own ever impending, ever possible-at-any-moment death. My mom used to tell me it was because I was young and had the foolish naiveté of a youth, the belief that that we alone are invincible, and the worst would never befall us. 

But it wasn’t this that guided my beliefs. It was the acceptance of the fact that our existence is not permanent. That is something I had accepted from as far back as I remember. Perhaps it was the passing of seasons that taught me how fleeting things are. With each spring, new leaves. Come autumn, the falling of the same leaves. The time my parents let me keep a pray mantis and a cabbage butterfly in the same plastic tank and watched me witness the preying, the closure of one life and the continuation of another brief one. Every sunrise and sunset a new one. We are no different. That was the conclusion I had come to at a very young age. I’d never found myself conflicted at this idea. Like waves, we come and we go. 

This is the reason, I think, some of us cling so fiercely to our living lives. Afraid of not existing. Some people fear the unknown beyond and grasp onto a faith that gives them something afterwards. A destination they give themselves for comfort. Not existing is a strange concept. Existing is all we know. How can we even begin to imagine what the opposite of that would be like? It’s understandable that some people can’t face it. It’s one that I won’t ever know, not because I will never cease to exist, but because once I don’t, I won’t exist. I won’t know, at least not the same me that I know of. No one can tell me what it is that lies beyond that for sure. Maybe, it’s nothingness. I am fine with that. All things come to pass. 

With this in my consciousness at all times, that is how I live. I may cease to exist at any moment. I am very at peace with that knowledge. Not because I don’t always feel like there is more I wanted to do, should have done, didn’t get around to do, etc., but because at any given moment, I am happy with who I am, where I am, when I am. All of my actions, I make with a high level of awareness. I will not act, if I am not okay with ceasing to exist in the next moment. Thus, I have never done something in which in the next moment, or down the road, I have regretted. I don’t quite think of it in those terms all of the time, but essentially, that is how I am. Surprisingly, it doesn’t slow me down as much as you might think, doing this. I have learned to be highly attuned to myself and listen closely to my instincts. So far, I have, in every moment of my life, been happy with what that has led me to. Ultimately, life is not mine to own. It just is, and I happen to have had the chance to participate in it for a given amount of time. 

Exactly what I do in this given time is all that is within my control. That is where I pour my energy. What can I leave behind with the existence that I do have, to create meaning in having existed as myself? To be lasting beyond my own existence (as we all wish to be to some level, I think), to me, involves having touched the lives of others. There is no single way that I wish to achieve this. Just simply by living. The other ways in which I accomplish to do this is just that, other ways, the “everything else” in my existence. I simply follow the clarity in my heart and the light in my mind. 

The quote, “Don’t die wondering,” demands me to not die while still not having conquered all of my wonders. But it is impossible to know everything. Everything is always fluctuating and growing, every second that I have to live, there are is an expanding amount of things that I could know and I want to know. 

I am always wondering about something, whether it be: what exactly that pattern on the waves below signify, if I can pinpoint the changing colors of the ocean to a particular oceanic shelf and change of elevation on a map later, how old this plane that I am flying on is, whether it has passed safety regulations, when the last mechanical check was since some airlines are pretty unreliable about that, which particular wind current we are straddling and riding on the back of right now, at what rate are we being overtaken by the rising sun behind us, calculating this with what knowledge I have of the revolution of the earth, the angles, the time zones, the circumference of the earth and the velocity of the plane and our altitude

…where the people sitting next to me are from, what their relationship is, where they are going, what they are talking about, how many people in the plane have been looking out of their windows the whole time just as I have…what the difference is in between the people who do look out and who don’t ever bother, what the view is like from the pilot cabin, what it would be like to be an air marshall

…Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason and his worldview versus the view given by Hume, solipsism, how reason and rationality comprise how we perceive the world, yet perception is something that can so easily be altered and differ from one angle to another, there is not such thing as an absolute perception, is there? Is there such thing as an absolute truth?…I will never stop wondering. 

Yet, take my breath away, stop my heart now and I will die. If my plane dropped out of the sky right now, I will be able to let go peacefully. But, I will have died wondering all those things. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course, I would say that because I will die wondering, but truth be told, I know this isn’t quite the wondering they speak of, whoever “they” are that left this demand on us. 

Don’t die doubting where you are, what you have done, who you are on the day that you die, whenever that is. This comes with a certain heaviness because you must, in every moment, make decisions and take action in a way that you are not unhappy with. How can we ever know, truly, if out of the infinite number of ways we could have done something, the one path we chose was the one to be? But you see, that one that you chose is the only that had fruition, given breath, the only one that was given your life, your energy, wings to “be”. I was given the time that I was given to exist and all I know is that I am grateful of it. 

Being okay with dying at any point equates to being happy with the life you are living at any point. In this light, the act of dying is the same as any other act of living. Every act of being that you have had the opportunity to be. Being able to take it in stride as you would take any other thing in life. It is the lightness in being. Being brazen and bold in your living, graceful in letting go. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. 

If my plane plummets into the seas right now, in the instance of my death, I will be smiling. 

01. How do you live?

Prompt: “Just ’cause you’re breathing, doesn’t mean you are alive.”

And just because you are alive, doesn’t mean you’re breathing. To breathe, doesn’t simply mean to intake oxygen and exhale the rest, deemed unusable by your body. There is far more to it than the mechanics. 

Here, I will use an excerpt from something that I have written previously: 

*

People always talk about how they have brilliant ideas in the shower. Revelations, discoveries, whatever. Well, I just came out of the shower. And I realized, that it was probably the longest stretch of time today that I’ve had wholly and absolutely to myself. No computers, no phones, no people. Just me.

I can tell you what I thought about. I thought about how I should get a water filter for my shower because the water in LA is especially harsh on my skin and my hair (I’ve never had such damaged hair until I moved here), but a filter specifically for the shower would have to wait since I could hardly afford such a nonessential thing, how I should drink a glass or two of water once I got out of the shower since water is good and I was feeling thirsty, and really, I don’t think I’d drank enough today, and how I seemed to be voicing all my thoughts in my head, because I can finally hear myself now that I was all alone under the hot water and the steam. I thought about how yesterday was my parents’ 25th anniversary and how happy they are with each other and how amazing it all is (and one day, maybe, I’ll get to experience the same joys they have), and how, last night, in the shower, I’d thought about their anniversary and thought it something that I would want to write about, and how I remembered that I used to write so much more, but seemingly, I had gotten “busy” and now I hardly get the chance to. And then I returned to today, and realized, it really isn’t that I’m busy, but that I never get the kind of time that I used to use for writing, unless I was in the shower. I thought how brilliant it would be if I could write in the shower. But honestly realized, that it wasn’t the real solution, but rather, finding myself a time to think, disconnected from everything else, but entirely connected to me, could be.

The shower is the only place, recently, that I seem to even have an intact stream of consciousness. Otherwise, like anyone else living in this technological age, my thoughts are constantly interrupted and distracted by a new message, a tweet, an article, an email, things that other people, whether I know them or not, are beaming up and into my personal space and thought process.

Upon further reflection, it seems that like it or not, by living within this globally interconnected technological sphere, I can see that I have been steadily losing my stream of consciousness. My train of thoughts are almost always in jeopardy of being derailed, and I hardly have time to collect all the incoming information and synthesize it into something that I, myself, have processed into a thing that I personally understand and relate to. Regurgitating information isn’t having knowledge, and having knowledge isn’t anything close to real wisdom. How can I own up to anything I “know” if I haven’t pondered upon it, interpreted in a way that only I can, and made it my own? I can’t “do” anything real and meaningful, if I don’t personally understand the things that enter my head. It’s not that I sit here and swallow all the information without a thought or a care in the world, but it is certainly true, that I haven’t taken the time aside to slow down and pause, and muse on things and ideas, as much as I could be.

I don’t think I’m alone in this experience, nor in this realization.

Of course, it isn’t like distractions and interruptions did not exist before now. There were birds and bees and cars and conversations. The wind, the waves, the kettle, the crackling fire and mellow laughter. A mother and her warm meal, interrupting the fantastical imagination of her daughter, deeply immersed in her book. A rumble of thunder, awakening a boy from his reverie on the stoops outside his apartment…

Where did it start? Where did we begin to lose the precious treasure of time that allowed us to delight, agonize, ponder, brood, become beautiful catatonic creatures of thought, overwrought with emotions and ideas until we had lost ourselves? Where did we, in fact, lose the ability to lose ourselves?

This sort of time is fundamental. It gives us the ability to reflect on the world, ourselves, what we’ve seen, our roles, our impacts, our meanings. It even gives us the opportunity to better ourselves through conscious actualization. It captures, in essence, the process of our own cultivation. It isn’t something that we can give up.

We can only give truly meaningful things back to the world, after we have constructed meaning out of the things that we see, hear and learn each day. To learn who you are, what makes you tick. To learn how it is that you think, and how it is that you “do.” To learn what it is you can become and you can give.

I’m not saying that all the things that we think about in the shower are things that will change the world, your life, or even your day. What I am saying though, is that we can all use a little more time each day to be with just ourselves and our thoughts, to find meaning in the things we consume and give meaning to the things we exhale.

*

This is how you breathe. And only by breathing in this way, can we truly begin living. 

To be alive, one must live. This is not the easiest of feats. It is not the easiest thing to understand either. Often, it starts from living without muting yourself. To live within the corners, and the edges of your whole, and then more. Live outside your own self. To break down the walls that hold you in. To expose yourself to more and more and more until you are sure that your skin is scathed, worn raw, and your lungs are about to give out and collapse along with your rib cage. How do you want to live? 

The key is to let some questions remain questions for a while. Because once we start questioning the worth of life in its entirety and take off on the pursuit of the answers of all answers, then we come to all sorts of questions like “is this even worth it then?” “is anything worth it?” “does any of this mean anything?” “what is the point in ever loving someone?” “what is the meaning of life?” The usual philosophical spiral down into a place we have a hard time climbing back out of. 

What we have to know is that in things like life, it’s not a game of statistics or tangible answers. The answer doesn’t lie in numbers, if in fact there is an answer at all. The thing about life is that there may be reasons for only half of the things that happen to us, and the rest is almost completely irrational or unexplainable, simply beyond our reach or not worth the time we could spend trying to chase the answers to. There are countless unaccounted for and intangible things in a concept that is invisible to us. We can hardly attempt to define it; what chance do we have in knowing its delicate workings? The only chance we have in fact, is to participate in it, rather than spend our days breaking it down and dissecting it. We cannot take a microscope or a telescope to it and map it out. We hardly have the time, the energy, the equipment, or the heart to test out all our hypotheses and experiment with it. 

The only chance at truly understanding a thing so unfathomable is to risk oneself. But when we do, the outcome is not the thing that we should concern ourselves with. It is, truly, the journey it takes us on that is essential to life. Because the outcome, is our goal- an ideal end result that we have in mind, thus something somewhat known. There is a certain shape that we give it already. The process in between, that is what we cannot predict, and thus there lies most potential in expansion and growth. We cannot predict what opportunities may come tumbling down, or what obstacles may come slamming into our faces. We cannot foresee where the path we walk on will turn into a cliff, a sharp corner, or bend and meander into forests, oceans, continents undiscovered. Those moments however, where we don’t know where we are, are the places that can give us the most. For these times, we must have our hearts and minds open, so that we can take what rages around us and make it our own, and leave something of ourselves behind in return. 

We have to free ourselves up from our own demons and fears, our own preconceptions and hypotheses, and laugh with the things that frighten us the most. We have to choose to stretch and grow a little further each day, to choose to expose ourselves to the rawness that life requires of us. We have to brave the storms, the nights lost to doubt, to wander and find ourselves in a place we have never been before. To keep giving ourselves another shot, another chance at being more alive than before. It will never be the same twice, and each time, it will be visceral, an awakening to a new, deeper, more colorfully vivid world. Every time, it will be worth the risk. 

This is what you must walk with to live life alive: Have hope and courage. Embrace the uncertainty and lean into the unknown. 

This summer

Recently, I’ve been shyer about putting my things online. I used to use a different platform until I went on a hiatus and I didn’t actively use this even after I made it, so it’s really been a while since it’s been consistent. Half of it’s been laziness, half of it uncertainty, because let’s face it, I haven’t been busy enough to warrant not having time to not share my writing, since I have had the time to actually write…BUT I’m going to try to make it more habitual. It’s good incentive for me to keep writing, too.

Anyways, this summer, I’ve been presented with a good opportunity to write frequently, which I am thankful for. I am doing a writing piece for a prompt everyday/every few days, and although I’ve already written a couple, I’ll put them up as I write them from here on out.

And, since I’ll be writing on here anyways, I’ll probably start writing about other thoughts I have/other writing I do during my days as well. Should be fun.

Happy happy summer!

-M

 

 

Sun lines.

Tonight is a night for writing. And that, is a great night. 

Beautiful.

CNN Photos

“What happens to lovers while they are sleeping?”

This is the question photographer Paul Schneggenburger asked as he began his project “The sleep of the beloved.”

Using the second room of his two-bedroom Vienna apartment as a studio, he set up black sheets on a mattress, lit by a string of Christmas tree lights. A self-constructed trigger outside the room started the 4×5 camera at midnight for each six-hour exposure and turned it off automatically at 6 a.m., before the sun rose. Schneggenburger was not in the room during the exposures.

“I’m fascinated by sleep,” the German-born photographer said. “What’s going on in the body; what’s going on in the mind?”

He was curious to find out how people behave when they’re asleep, whether there is any emotion between them.

“Is it a nocturnal lovers’ dance — which is not necessarily sensual, but rather a kind of unconscious act of…

View original post 223 more words

To Grow.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

Anaïs Nin
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