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Pray for the Devil

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Certain pieces of ourselves never quite die. As much as we live in the pursuit of happiness and all that it can bring along the way, the fact still remains that certain parts of ourselves will never really disappear. For as much as we try to live in a constant state of euphoria and positivity, these emotions can never quite really exist in a sphere all by themselves. After all, darkness is typically described as just an absence of light.

There is no need to look below the ground to find what we truly despise about humanity. The devil lives in the deepest parts of our psyche: doubt, fear, regret, shame, hate, and greed. We all carry it to some extent within ourselves. Since the greatest atrocities known to this planet have been committed from one person to another, it is not unrealistic to believe that everyone carries that same capacity for destruction given the ideal conditions.

Worse than not addressing these pieces of ourselves is denying them altogether. A garden left untended will soon lose its practicality—the useful pieces still exist but they have become shrouded by others that look to take and never give. In the same way these pieces of ourselves can become heavier not because they were tended to or designed to become larger than they were, but because now they are covered in other details that make it much harder to get to the root of the problem.

The garden in which we harbor these parts of ourselves gets to that unkempt state through the repression and denial that we view these pieces in. Rather than learn how to manage it all in conjunction with the other pieces that we enjoy, we choose to simply ignore it and act as if we have become absolute masters of ourselves.

By choosing to live in this constant state of denial, we never allow ourselves to know what kind of emotional capacity we are truly capable of. Keeping that dark end subdued as much as possible may work only to a certain extent—perhaps honest sorrow is only interpreted as meager melancholy. The emotional intensity is kept at bay to what is comfortably manageable. Simple remedies will do to alleviate simple sicknesses.

It’s a daunting task to be able to wade into the deep waters and truly confront the devil we carry within. Crossing that threshold and being able to return intact is a journey many have lost themselves to. Releasing the anchor of our comfortable emotional spectrum to sit in front of the beast is a challenge that few will ever choose to do voluntarily. Some are thrust into it; others choose to walk into the devil’s den out of their own volition.

As uncomfortable or dangerous that it may be, those who have returned from the depths of the abyss know that this experience adds an entirely new dimension to the world that we see as our reality. Confronting the parts of ourselves that the rest of the world represses, and realizing that there is truly nothing to be afraid of, is one of the most magnificent forms of introspection one can take part in. The devil we carry is no longer seen as something separate from ourselves. It can only exist within us because we take part in creating it. It exists within us to let us know that humanity is capable of inflicting and experiencing an incredible amount of suffering. It lets us know how deep we can fall into the abyss. It lets us see that it is indeed possible to face the beast, and if we are prepared, climb back out.

 

I pray that we never lose sight of the devil within. Tending to our garden of dark humanity allows it to exist without creating destruction. Knowing that we can go there and experience that spectrum of our lives allows us to live much more richly on the other side. We get to truly know and experience the peak highs only when we have gone to and returned from the lowest lows. We must live deeply—angels and devils included.

Photo Cred:

http://www.spyderonlines.com/wallpapers/angel-devil-wallpaper.html

As We Are

Long we wonder

Stuck in thought

Desolation and plunder

Of everything we’re not

 

I’m told we’re thriving

I just have to give

We’ve grown attached to surviving

Without a desire to live

The Blessed Curse of Ambition

Playing a never-ending game of cat and mouse is an absurd proposition on its face. Agreeing to constantly be chasing something that is designed to run away is a losing battle right from the moment that the starting bell rings. Sisyphus at least had an excuse; he was given his task by beings above him. Some people live with this apparently fruitless task in part because of something inherent within them. The rest of it comes from the world telling them to always search for the bigger and better option.

Once we arrive at an apparent end, the big question of “what comes next?” undoubtedly makes an entrance into our minds. At least is does for those cursed with an excess of ambition.

It can certainly not be understated that going after the carrot at the end of the stick is at least a useful catalyst to initiate movement in the right direction. But that stick can go on forever, and the carrots multiply for what seems to be an eternity.

Striving or working towards something greater inherently makes us feel that answers will be found upon our arrival. After so much work, discipline and dedication, there has to be some sort of truth at the end of it all. Every sense of justice in the world leaves us feeling like “by the time I arrive at __ place, then __ will be revealed to me.”

Of course, this is the premise behind any hero’s journey. Typically flawed but with incredible potential, what is usually written is that at the end of the story the hero will have changed and grown for the better due to the trials and tribulations encountered along the way. (The movie-goers clap and walk away feeling inspired. Unless the writer was George R.R. Martin. So I hear.)

Whatever inspiration is gained from our fabled heroes certainly serves us well. These moments of inspiration can definitely be one of those catalysts for action that were previously mentioned. There is nothing wrong with trying to play the part of the hero. We would certainly be in a better place if we had more people taking on the mantle of a hero than a villain.

What separates us from these beloved characters is that their story has already ended. Their script has been rehearsed and performed. The whole world knows how the story ends. The same cannot be said for us however.

Our story continues to be written and re-written. Scratched out and scrapped. It gets messy. It gets ugly. That is why stability and comfort are so appealing. Once there is a path of least resistance made available, then it is incredibly tempting to venture onto that road. Growth and development does not come easy. It is often painful. That is why ambition only to the point of comfort is so attractive.

Those bitten with the bug of ambition are always on the move for more. It is absolutely easy to stop at the first opportunity! Yet that does not sit well with someone possessed by the idea of everlasting growth and development.

The hunt always continues and constantly leaves more questions than answers. What was once held onto so tightly for fear of losing it eventually becomes much too heavy. The weight of past achievements and successes becomes a burden when they lose all personal meaning.

It would be much easier to not care. When the world shrinks to such a level that you can control and manage it with one hand, not feeling powerful becomes impossible. Being a king or queen over a dominion of any size certainly feels better than not being royal at all.

The search for more will always continue. Alexander, Genghis, and other colossal figures in history knew that to be true. The need and want for more is not always based on common greed, but rather out of knowing that we are always capable of more. We could stop at any point after moving forward and call it a success. No one would think any less of it, but the flame of ambition simply does not allow for stagnation and belief in myths about one’s self.

Those afflicted by ambition will never stop chasing. No one but them will know what it is to keep searching for something that cannot be grasped. They will only know if they have achieved what they really wanted once they arrive. Even with that being said, arrival is never really guaranteed.

In our state of perpetual motion, the only thing that can really keep the wheels turning is finding personal and authentic meaning to what we do. That is why past achievements become dull and meaningless after a point. They mattered then. They do not matter now. What is being looked for in the present has gone beyond the original intent. So long as that sensation of change exists, those endowed with ambition will keep searching for the white rabbit.

Keep reaching. Keep dreaming. Keep moving.

Photo Cred: http://ericinprogress.deviantart.com/art/Deeper-and-deeper-down-the-rabbit-hole-202622086

In Between Two Extremes

“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.”—Tom Robbins

“Or” is an incredibly limiting word in the English language. It sets up an illusion of choice. Freewill is guaranteed; so long as it fits certain parameters. It depicts choices as either love or hate. Wellness or illness. Yes or no. This line of thinking is easy to comprehend. This makes our decisions clear cut. It’s easier to understand what makes up one side because we can also picture exactly what it isn’t.

“And” seems to be a bit more realistic. To think about people and situations as having more than one component is an incredibly useful mental framework. Not many consider that we could have love and hate. Wellness and illness. Yes and no

Segmenting and compartmentalizing options into two categories is an oversimplified method of thinking. It takes all of the work out of making a genuine and honest decision. Thinking that we can only gain something after we completely give up its opposite is easy, and it is also rarely the case.

Painting the world black and white is simple if you only have the capacity for two colors. When lines intersect, things can remain the same or become the polar opposite. For those who have only ever known one color, making a sudden switch can be the most frightening decision ever.

When sides are chosen, alliances are made (covertly or otherwise). The decision made alongside a larger group of people is safe. Surely, there must be strength in numbers? With so many people agreeing, it means that a whole lot of perspectives arrive at the same conclusion. Surely, they can’t all be wrong at the same time?

Having to pick a side can stem from fear and love. If my support system has drawn a line in the sand, it would be wise to make sure that I do not stand opposite of them when the going gets rough. Without them, my world disappears. Without them, I become the other. I become what I was always taught to oppose.

Having the opposition unites those who reside at that extreme under the same flag. For some, an identification with an extreme point of view is absolutely necessary. They may have been born, nurtured, and socialized by it. It may be their only known world. That world, at least in their mind, exists only because those on the other side do. As long as they stay on their side we’ll stay on ours. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it should always be.

Bridging the great divide between left and right is easy. Stepping forward is what’s hard.

Both sides can be right; kind of. What lies in the middle is often the best answer; usually. Stepping forward to admit that we don’t have all of the answers is very difficult to do. If I’ve spent so much time defending my side of the line, anything otherwise makes me lose credibility. I am now neither here or there. I’m in the middle. I’m caught between two extremes.

Living in between two extremes means acknowledging either end and that a combination of both sides is needed in order to make the best decisions. What worked yesterday may not work today. Perhaps I need to move at top speed one day; other days I may have to slow to a crawl. Each side has its merit. Problems arise however when we try to take a curve at full speed; we end up careening off the road and truly move into dire straits.

However, the time does come when extremes are needed. They exist for a reason, and on occasion their answer is the best for the situation at hand. When tides have gone so far to one side, the only way to restore balance is with at least an equal and opposite reaction the other way. A sudden outpouring of light is most welcome when we become enveloped by darkness. Only when we know what that darkness truly looks like will we understand and appreciate what it is to be in the light.

An unquestioned commitment to either side is foolish. The time will come when the opposite end will need to play a role. Ignoring its existence or practicality is a quick way to ensure our demise.

Our world moves as a pendulum does. Most of us like to stay at either end and hold onto the marker when it gets to our side. It becomes our moment in the limelight; an affirmation of our commitment to that side. Sooner or later, the pull from the other side will become much too strong and pull the marker back, continuing the endless cycle.

The best option remains to stay committed to change. That is really the only guaranteed option. Holding on for dear life to a philosophy and outlook that accepts no variation will only crumble under the constant barrage of time. It’s our human nature to see things as “this or that,” but what will ultimately carry us further is a sense of “this and that.” I know it will surely make Tom Robbins proud.

Photo Cred: http://www.shmoop.com/a-clash-of-kings/title.html

An Oasis of Self-Destruction

 

To those who know me as I am: greetings. To those who knew me as who I was: pleasure to meet you.

Time has passed since I have left my home, but I can hardly say that nothing has changed. As more and more time passes, I become the daily stranger that I love to meet. What I thought I knew has faded into ambiguity and what was a hazy shade of gray has turned into a vivid and colorful canvas of experience.

I am not far from where I started. The desert remains as dry and arid as it has been since before we arrived. Which is why I presume questions were asked after I decided to walk away from the oasis. As much as I tried, I could not bear suppressing my curiosity for comfort. I chose to willingly explore the unforgiving and merciless terrain around me. Only someone as foolish as me would make this mistake and leave the comforts of paradise to walk into the mouth of hell.

Within the day I found mirrors whose reflections were unobstructed by my false virtues. From all angles, I saw how my misguided intentions never seemed to work. A lifetime of seeking perfection had left me with disappointing mediocrity. Upon further inspection, I saw that I tried to make dire situations manageable, but in the end only made them worse.

The mirrors did not reflect with an intensity meant to stun. Rather, they mocked in a manner made for me to learn. I took this to heart. If I cannot bear to laugh at my own shortcomings, then surely those who can will do so with a fervor much more passionate than mine.

Leaving the mirrors, I happened upon an acting troupe amongst the dunes. On the stage, they portrayed what I discovered was an unscripted rendition of the history of existence. The director told me that this was just a game that they were playing with titles, props, roles and masks that we all knew in some way.

I’ll never forget his words: “All curtains come to a close eventually. Will we give the kind of performance that demands an encore? Or will we fall by the wayside, as the character who did not know that in the time it takes to make tragedy into comedy, we become the fan favorite by acting as the joker?”

My last encounter was with the watchmaker. In a furious manner, he scrambled on all fours trying to find a missing piece. His responses were worried and panic-stricken. The one true marker of time was slowing down, and if he could not repair it, his world would fall into disarray. Strangely enough, after finding his lost piece, he could no longer identify his sacred clock. He had simultaneously lost his sense of time and purpose. If he could no longer measure his existence on a scale of 1-12, then what did he really have?

In a strangely comforting way, he laughed. It was terrifying to think that what he had based his entire life upon had gone away. He could no longer look forward to the proper passage of time. All he could look into was what was right in front of him; nothing more, nothing less.

Departing from the watchmaker so he could wallow in his depression (or ecstasy?) I wandered into the place from which I write to you now. It bears resemblance to the oasis I once knew. The water ripples as gently as ever, the palms as receptive to a dance with the wind, and the shade as comforting as the embrace of a long lost friend. With all its similarities, it is still incredibly different.

It changes every day. My sensations and perceptions of it remain, but every day the oasis shows to me a new side of its face. What I thought was there moves or disappears completely. Where it goes I have no idea, but in its place comes a replacement that fascinates me even more.

I love it here, but damn does it hurt. It tears me apart. Every. Single. Day. With each new gift and joy to life that I receive, I have to willingly give its equivalent parts that are deepest and strongly rooted in me. I do so most painfully, but also gladly. The sights and wonders that I have marveled upon by allowing it all to display itself before me have made my journey worth it.

Will this ever end? The watchmaker would argue that it is irrelevant. The actors would pay no mind; the scene always changes. I am not sure what the mirrors would show; with so much of myself gone, I would hardly recognize my reflection.

Giving in to my curiosity has been the greatest mistake I have ever made. I do not regret arriving here. I only regret not having arrived here sooner. Some may regard the pain as something to avoid—I cannot blame them. But each day that takes a bit of what I thought was permanent gives me hope that eventually I will be rid entirely of the person that I once knew. All that I know for certain is that setting on this path of self-destruction has been my greatest (and favorite) mistake.

Always in Love and Peace,

Your Old Friend

Photo Cred: http://feel-planet.com/desert-oasis-in-libya/

Choice, Honor, and Outlaws

Living outside of the wall leaves you in charge of yourself and your tribe if you choose to be a part of one.

Living this way seems like an invitation for vice to make a permanent stop. These are not the intentions. In spite of this, the aim is to live and experience something greater than the immediate satisfaction of a quick high.

Beyond the wall, what guides the sense of honor is a finely tuned moral compass. You don’t need the threat of eternal damnation or a fear of God to do the right thing; you do the right thing because that is what should be done. Those who believe that a world without religion or faith would turn into an apocalyptic wasteland of violence, misdeeds and violation need to do some introspection. If the only thing stopping them from pulling the trigger against another is the image of their deity above their front door, then they’re preaching for all the wrong reasons. Other people make the moral code they choose to live by whether they like it or not. They accept a worldview out of fear of being left outside the wall.

You go out and make you own version of the world you choose to see. You don’t need the fear of a watchful eye over you at all times to make decisions. You choose to live a certain way; you don’t allow your fate to be decided for you. When you go outside, beyond the stability of what everyone else considers normal and acceptable, you isolate yourself. You are no longer protected by those laws and mores that govern everyone’s life. All you have is yourself. All you can give is your word. The law you live by is a code of honor. You are only as good as your actions; your actions give credit to your words.

It is lonesome outside the wall. Making the decision to leave can be the best or worst decision you’ve ever made. Many can spend their lives simply standing on the edge. They dare not step over it to see what they will find. When you live in such a manner that people will know exactly what you stand for, good or bad, before they meet you. Your reputation precedes your name. You do not fall among the crowd because you have chosen to live outside of it. You live as the outlaw.

A criminal and outlaw are not always the same. A criminal acts through means-to-an-end, actions taken for immediate gain. A criminal operates within a narrow frame of “that is what I want, and I will stop at nothing to get it.”

An outlaw acknowledges that certain roles may have to be broken. But they are done so for a greater good. A rule may be broken for selfish reasons of course. A utopian society does not yet exist (I am optimistic, not ridiculous). However, a role may be broken if it is established with malicious intent. The outlaw breaks the rule not for the base pleasure of it, but because the rule gets in the way of a healthy existence.

Laws were made to protect those who needed someone to tell them what to do. To create “peace and harmony” we need to have some sort of agreement on how to behave. Somehow in the midst of all this, we decided that the best way to enforce stability would be at the end of a barrel of a gun or a collection of words called scripture. It makes no sense to keep pledging allegiance to a system that is designed to entrap you.

Confucius said it best: treat others as you would want to be treated. Without the protection of common law, how many people would continue doing what they do? If a loophole exists that will bring me to the fringe of criminality, but get me what I want at the expense of someone else, why wouldn’t I do it? After all, isn’t that what we do already?

We all carry a bit of an outlaw inside of us. We have to. Otherwise, this existence really does become Orwell’s vision of the future. We follow every law to the dot, we think along party/religious/ideological lines on both extremes, and we play the game by always taking the safe road. There is where we find community. There is where we find connections. Even if they are connections we don’t even like in the first place.

The outlaw lives with choice.

The outlaw knows that s/he is only as good as their name.

The outlaw lives where few ever go; because they go where there is no trail.

The outlaw lives and dies by her/his own personal convictions because their life is their own to live, and no one else’s.

Photo Cred: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/569494315350943081/

Sweet Mayhem

Sweet, sweet mayhem

How I’ve missed you

Your bring peace to where I’ve been

And light to where I’m going to

Oh sweet mayhem no one understands

Quite like you do

As Father Time spills his sands

You catch me and let me resume

Sweet, sweet mayhem

What I wouldn’t do

To start all over again

And already know you

VII. Reading and Writing

Nietzsche1882

What follows is a majority of a section from Friederich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” This stands as one of the most inspirational pieces of writing for me. I highly recommend reading the entire text to anyone interested. What I love most about Nietzsche is his celebration of life and all it entails; for everyone to become a Superman. I’ll stop here and let his words do the work, I dare not go too far and spoil his masterpiece.

“Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit.

It is no easy task to understand familiar blood; I hate the reading idlers.

He who knoweth the reader, doeth nothing more for the reader. Another century of readers—and spirit itself will stink.

Every one being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only writing but also thinking.

Once spirit was God, then it became man, and not it even became populace.

He that writeth in blood and proverbs doth not want to be read, but learnt by heart.

I no longer feel in communion with you; the very cloud which I see beneath me, the blackness and heaviness at which I laugh—that is your thunder-cloud.

Ye look aloft when ye long for exaltation; and I look downward because I am exalted.

It is true we love life; not because we are wont to live, but because we are wont to love.

There is always some madness in love. But there is always, also, some method in madness.

And to me also, who appreciate life, the butterflies, and soap-bubbles, and whatever is like them amongst us, seem most to enjoy happiness.

And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity—through him all things fall.

I learned to walk; since then I have let myself run. I learned to fly; since then I do not need pushing in order to move from a spot.

Now that I am light, now do I fly; now do I see myself under myself. Now there danceth a God in me.

Thus spoke Zarathustra.”

Picking Intention: Intensity & Aggression

Motivations come in all shapes and sizes. When times are rough, intensity and aggression can be used as a quick switch to get going again.  It’s easy to turn to these emotions/ideas at times like these. We’ve all felt them to a certain extent at some point.

Both words echo similar meanings, but in certain cases they cannot be further from the same.

Aggression, in its purest form, is short-lived. It is a destructive force that will run out eventually. It can rely on certain emotions (anger/hatred) that can be often misdirected, under the purpose of some “greater good.”

Simply stated, maintaining a high level of aggression to accomplish a task is not sustainable. If your emotions were an engine, could it really afford to run at full speed every minute of every day?

Consider a demolition site. There is a wall that needs to go down (Berlin and Pink Floyd aside). We have two options: blow it up in one fell swoop with dynamite, or we pick up a sledgehammer and chip away.

It seems reasonable to side with dynamite. Who doesn’t enjoy a good explosion from time to time? But if I had more walls than I had dynamite, I’m setting myself up for doing more work than I really should. What if the dynamite isn’t enough to tear down that wall Mr. Gorbachev? What if the dynamite is a dud? Now I’ve suddenly given myself some bigger issues. The only plan I had hasn’t worked and I’ve compromised everything around me.

If I pick up the sledgehammer, I can be a bit more methodical with my work. If I know the design, I can start and end my work in the most efficient way possible. Every single strike has intent. Of course it only works with plenty of energy behind it, but at least each swing I’m taking counts for something.

Approaching situations or events with dynamite instead of a sledgehammer in our hands can make all of the difference in the world. The dynamite will only last for so long; it’s a quick, concentrated and violent effort at addressing the task. Anger, hatred, spitefulness, can all perhaps fuel the aggression we use to accomplish something. But for how long? Our dynamite will run out eventually, and even if we managed to tear down every wall before, we just now have to start to learn how to use the sledgehammer.

The sledgehammer can be our saving grace. Yes it will be tiresome, require more attention, and no we won’t bear witness to things that go boom-boom. What we will see however, is that we can have a better say in what each swing will accomplish. We can persevere, adapt, manipulate, and be in better control of the outcome instead of leaving it to chance that one explosion will do the trick. Intensity can be the purpose and drive behind every action that can go far beyond simple emotions like anger.

The long and winding road leads to this: aggression can work, but not for long.  Managing intensity can accomplish the same task, and be better sustained.

Speaking from personal experience, living life with aggressive intentions produces more harm than good. It isn’t long before you take on self-destructive tendencies in blind fury; you forget why you were approaching everything that way in the first place. I can control intensity. I can control intention. I can control purpose. This (as of now) has been much more efficient and fruitful.

All of this isn’t to say that aggression should be completely avoided. Sometimes it is definitely needed. As will be explored later, it may be necessary to have that occur in order to get somewhere. But for now, all I can say is this: when approaching a wall, stop to think, does this call for dynamite or a sledgehammer?

(DISCLAIMER: I have never been an enthusiast/user of explosives or have had extensive experience in demolition. These images come from my twisted and sardonic mind to be taken with multiple grains of salt. Any invitation to an enlightening demolition session will be gladly received.)

 

Photo cred: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/chinas-mountains-of-construction-rubble/?_r=0

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