Thursday, November 22, 2012

To have been, or to yet be

The following is a message sent to a friend whose mind I like to probe from time to time. But you can have some too.

i've always been caught up in this problem which i've realized can be compared - loosely - to reason wrestling with the theories surrounding the space and time continuum.

let me start with an example.

tonight, i decided to watch the abe lincoln, vampire hunter movie.

(totally a side note: did the word movie come from the idea that the pictures move, and so we called it a movie in the same we call something cute, a cutey? petty)

anyhow, the film was not intellectually captivating, and so my mind was left to wander while half-heartedly holding the thread for the spinner of the plot. i could feel it move through my hand, but i was only just aware and focused enough of and on the thread so as to ensure that it continued on its way to the loom, and that i would be able to realize any gaps, kinks etc in the plot.

somewhere in the unguided wanderings of the rest of my consciousness, my mind thought on lincoln, so i wiki'd him real quick for a few facts. I found this: "While preparing for the nuptials and feeling anxiety again, Lincoln, when asked where he was going, replied, 'To hell, I suppose.'"

In imagining the character of Abe as though I were actually meeting him, the thread still running through my hand showed a scene near the end where Abe was looking for his hat, and wouldn't leave the house without it. Though I seem to recall that men of the time were collectively much more attached to the idea of a hat being a fashion necessity, I conjured up in my image of Abe, the idea that he was a real man, you know, tangibly human. He has a dog, swears occasionally, enjoys sex, knows a few dirty jokes, etc, all in an effort to try and grasp and - perhaps - idolize the man. Here was a man who, though his accomplishments transcend such characteristics, was humanly passionate about having his hat.

The continuum relevance comes where I am always trying to learn from these wanderings, actually take some truth from it, you know. So of course, I should be like Lincoln, in the way that Adam Smith suggested I should be the everyman, who would be as any man should be, as an ideal man. Ben Franklin famously indicated that, in his pursuit of perfection, he found it necessary to not actually be perfect, so as to maintain a  sort of symbiotic relationship with those around him. I should be real, and have those "flaws" in my character that are important to have only in principle, not in individual worth. To complete the task of learning from my sculpted image of good sir Abe, I must at some point find a place for my learnings from this past, in the present day. So a modern version would be "humanly passionate" about having a mac vs pc, or about always eating after a certain diet, wearing north face, et al.

Anyhow, this all happened in the mind in a moment, and I have forgotten some of the feel of that original thought. But the thought is this, that if I am not naturally that way, do not naturally have those humanly passionate inclinations, does forcing it do anything? In the same vein, that awareness of a different point in time may greatly change the present, but may also have no effect, as well as many other theories.

So does it do any good to be aware of the principles that could define me as a better man, or should I rely on a more natural, moral compass?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dream On

Where are my dreams? At 17, I could have seized this world and all it wanted to give me. With a touch of instruction and opportunity, it would have been no difficult thing to flourish my talents before many, and hopefully help people in the process. I don't mean to bemoan my own decisions, nor seem ungrateful for a blessed life. But I do wonder: what good have these last years been?

I was a lad of impressive quality; primarily, this was a result of my upbringing. I was of stout enough heart and keen enough mind to reach up and grab the stars, but somehow chose not to. I dabbled as a young man, here and there, in events and activities that could have ended up being the precipice from which I would fling myself into the whoosh of personal progress. But I finished high school, went to a year of college, served - as expected - a two year mission for my church, returned to a year of school, and have since been working low-end jobs in the hopes of returning to some sort of education.

Truth is, I'm sick of being told, and want to start telling.

Many moments of greatness have passed me by. They were so close at times I could have painted each fleck on the hull of each ship that could have bore me to the heavens. I fell in love with a woman who would have had me, but went instead on that mission for two years. Shortly after my return, she was married. I have met at least three gents who offered me chances to join up and tour: a sound tech for the blue man group, a drum roady for aerosmith, a sound engineer in Boston. But I wouldn't have any of it. Not for lack of interest, and I could never look them in the eye and say I really believed I had a better plan. I just always felt that there should be.

I feel selfish talking about myself at all, let alone about what I want. The one quality I do like about myself is I abhor myself. It sounds like paving the road to your death with quicksand; beautiful in a way that doesn't serve you a bit, with a touch of bewilderment. I've never been comfortable with the idea of being praised. As a performer, I always bowed for the sake of the audience, trying to ignore the idea that I was supposed to be accepting a compliment.

It was never about me (ye fools), but you.

I'm a bit useless to most people these days, unfortunately. I'm not as sharp as I once was, nor as warm and social, and I don't like people much. But I do love them, still. I've certainly no money to spare, nor wealth of any other fashion. Can I be of meaningful service to others, if I refuse to serve myself? I remember a paper I wrote years ago, in which I asserted that to best serve altruistically, one must first live a bit egoistically; to feed the poor, you must first pack your own larders.

Sometimes, I feel that I'm on the verge of defining the new and best way to serve others; one at a time, and usually in the least noticeable way. To even speak of it does of course detract from the goal and purpose. But what if giants lived among men, hidden except to those who invited them in? To truly help someone, the helping must result in the individuals own elevated sense of potential. If Hercules pulls your wagon out of the mud, he does you a disservice. If he helps you pull your wagon out of the mud, you are reminded that you're not up to the task alone, and may feel that you may never be. If he pulls it out when you're not looking, you'd probably wonder: how did I not notice a team of horses pull up, examine my state, attach several cords to my cart, pull, detach, and drive off? I'd like to know how to do whatever just happened.

A short story:

A young Tibetan cares for his dying grandmother. Bereft of proper parentage, he has only learned enough to scrounge up enough to support himself and his mother; he is certainly capable of as much as anyone in the planes that soar up in the sky, though he knows not what a plane is. He lives next to a mountain of jagged rocks and daily blizzards. His grandmother speaks of the days when her young lover, a mighty man, would climb this mountain to fetch her the blossom of a rare and hardy weed which grew at the summit. The young boy was always fascinated to hear about this giant of a man, capable of such feats as to bound up such slopes, while in truth the man was of diminutive stature, and found the courage to climb only in his love for his wife. A group of german mountaineers passes by the hut on a stormy evening, their presence hid by the howling wind. One curious gent peers into the hut, unbeknownst to the boy and his and grandmother. He listens as the grandmother tells her story of her beloved blossoms, and how she would love to see one before she passes. He hears the boy weep and say he wishes he could get it, and how she comforts the boy, and assures him he is of ample service to her failing heart. The stranger, though he has climbed this way many times, has never before looked into the hut, nor even noticed the boy or his patient. To his recollection, he has only ever looked out from the summit of the mountain, at the vast expanse before his eyes, and never down at his feet where the weeds grow in the cracks of the mountain. Sure enough, he finds them atop the peak a few days later, and carefully plucks one for the odd pair he witnessed a few days before. Passing by once more, he stops to visit the hut. Never entering, never speaking, he simply beckons to the boy, and hands him the flower. One year later, the mountaineer visits once more, finding the hut a-shambles, the boy nowhere to be found, and a burial mound covered in the weeds of the mountain.

I don't know how to do best whatever it is I'm supposed to do. But I suppose I better make sure I'm doing it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friend of a Friend

It seems easiest to resort to criticism, negativity and a glass half-full when considering a topic of exactly antonymic nature. That topic is charity. 

Even as I do now sit down to write about the love we all deserve, my mind is overwhelmed with examples of how mankind seems to fail miserably at exhibiting the virtue of virtues. But while proclivity is to think so negatively, recalling any specific examples of this failure is extremely difficult. It seems much more in my nature, and perhaps in the nature of many of you, to leave some part of our mind clinging to the idea that mankind is a failed display of charity, and then call on that cave of scorn when we  do actually witness some act void of kindness, or - more likely - hear some gossip about the worst side of some poor individual. So we're ready to jump on the examples that can easily fit into our critical view of the world, but where is the comparative data? Do we have a chart showing the number of events in our lives in which we experienced charity, versus the events in which we were treated poorly? Should we have such a chart? Does Facebook collect such data? Is there an app for that? 

        {I apologize if the similarity of this post to the most recent one has made this at all boring for you. But reader beware: an underlying purpose of my writings at BlirstHog is to address such human tendencies that cripple our wellbeing. Another is to cultivate a joy in everyday comings and goings, be it Everest or getting out of bed.} 

Even as I ponder this direction of thought, I find myself really trying to call upon experiences in which I felt myself mistreated. But the vindication to provide grounds to a thought process which was set loose untamed and unguarded will certainly lead me nowhere good. Is human impulse morally justified automatically? I should hope not. Self-improvement is distinct to the human species, at least to such a degree, and I believe that we should guard ourselves against rationalizing the descent into animalistic absurdities such as just "being who we are." It is indeed of no ill report to be born or made or changed in any certain way, but what are all those inspirational quotes for if we haven't learned that it is what we do with ourselves that matters, and not what is done unto us? 

As I consider all of this, I perform a quick experiment: what happens if I shift to looking for examples of charity in my life? 

I expect you've already completed the experiment yourself. What was the outcome? Was it easier? Was it a bitter experience? 

My first thought was of my mother, whose goodness continues to rain blessings down on me from afar. I thought of additional relatives and friends who, at different points in my life, have been of a help to me worth memorializing. And specific examples continue to flow through my head even as I write; whenever I pause from focusing on which letters to type to form certain words, I find that same part of my mind carrying on the momentum of optimistic thought. The vehicle for such thought does not seem to be in gear or accelerating unless I am consciously at the helm, but left in neutral, presumably coming to an eventual halt. 

The suggestion is obvious: take a minute to think positively at least occasionally, to ensure that the cave of scorn remains shut and the clarity of optimism permeates our every action. 

I hope to be kinder and warmer to those around me. It is certainly within me to desire the wellbeing of all mankind. But if my own optimism is crippled, then my crusade to help others will fail, at which point it is easy to feel as though in a downward spiraling vortex of negative thought and negative reality: "I think I'm a bad person, and here's some supporting evidence." So here's to performing a check on myself at least once each day: 

Any negativity? 

Any strange lumps? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

two for three (this one's about God)

I did not take this picture. 

Yestereaster. With no plans and no peeps, I decided to go exploring. This is Mt. Pleasant; conservatively named. I took the longer way up, which I've never done before, and had a great time doing so. As soon as I got back, I headed back up for an evening hike to watch the moon rise with a few friends. Two guys set up their backpacking hammocks and stayed the night near a fire, but the other two and I headed back down after 10:30 with our headlamps and black lab, Ginger. She did great on the trail, and apparently loves jerky. 

When I went up alone, I met God on the mountain. I've often wondered what it is that almost forces us to calm down and just look with reverenced awe upon certain natural wonders; why there is an apparent closeness to God in certain natural realms. For me, I think, it is because in those moments, I have set out to find him. 

God does not live on mountaintops alone, nor is he confined to any boundaries natural or otherwise. His mark is upon all of creation, and the Holy Ghost goes out before him, testifying of his divinity. Most importantly, he is within each of us. Not literally, for I believe God has a body of his own. But if there is anything which can draw our attention to him the most, that can send our understanding to a higher plane, and help us to feel close to him, it is interaction with our fellow man. God made man in his image. 

It is easy for some to view hiking and similar expeditions as entirely unnecessary and a waste of good energy. Such a perspective views each root and stone as a stumbling block; each tree as an unwelcome shield against the suns warm rays, and each field as unprotected from the same warm rays. But in these same things I have learned to find God. Can I learn to do the same with his children? 

Man can indeed be cruel; wicked; ignorant; foolish; annoying or just inconvenient. I would say, however, that I need to learn how to look for God not on mountaintops only, but in the people he has - by his grace - allowed me to cross paths with. 

"Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!" ~ Doctrine & Covenants 128:23
I took this picture

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I never new

Some of us may find ourselves taught to understand the greatness in each of us, but fail to release it. They never knew, because they never new.

In contrast, many are conditioned to feel small and meaningless, and so they never release the same great potential which is just as much present as in the aforementioned. They never new, because they never knew.

I have been running 3-4 times per week since mid-February; I want to trim the fat, breathe the air, and see if maybe clothes will fit more perfectly if I'm closer to what fashion seems to think is "normal." Two weeks ago, I got the flu and didn't run at all. The following week, I felt really tired and hardly able to run as far and as well as I had been. The short hikes I normally enjoy have been really hard. In short, the little progress I had made seemed gone in a flash. I was so tired this morning after a late shift at work last night, so I didn't go for a run when I first woke up. Afraid this would lead to the total abandonment of my jogging efforts, I decided I would run anyhow, even though my last run was particularly disappointing.

I drove to a trail I like to run on. It goes through a cow pasture, and follows a river with fish regularly jumping, and where a flock of teen geese loiter daily. I started with my usual 10 minute walk to loosen up, stretched a little, and started running. I don't know have a good sense of distance on the trail yet, so I take my phone with me and run for ten minutes, then ten minutes back, followed by a walk and more stretching.

The first ten minutes out felt pretty dismal; it took only one minute for me to downshift into a gear just above walking. As I turned around, I walked for just a moment to let my heart rate calm down. I started running at my pathetic pace once more, when I thought on a coworker who I talk with about his workouts. He is a true athlete, and sprints often. I felt an urge to just sprint. What the heck, right? Well, I felt like I had been out of energy for ten minutes already, so using up the reserve couldn't hurt. As I sped up, I noticed it was much easier to go faster than I had anticipated, and even felt better on most of my muscles. I paused after a few minutes of this new, bolder pace, pleased with this new discovery! I could indeed run at the pace I had earned after running for weeks; I hadn't lost it! As I slowed to a walk in order to monitor my heart rate, I came close to a bail of hay. Further ahead, I saw a post on the side of the trail. I decided I would full out sprint the distance. And I did! I was definitely out of breath, but after a moment I was able to jog the rest of the distance I hoped to cover.

In my life, I can often feel the next level just above my head. But I can feel so discouraged in various ways, as to never reach up and push to that level. Todays success was symbolic; I will try that much harder with things that matter much more than a morning jog, and I expect to see some rewards.

I know I can do this; I've always known. But I never knew, because I never new.

Now I know.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Step Won

Hi, my name is Jake and I play guitar. I enjoy hiking, canoeing, swimming, and the outdoors generally. I want to travel the world a great deal, learn about the different people and lands I visit, and share those experiences with others, especially through photo/video presentations. I would very much like to make the world a better place, but don't know exactly how to do so. I hope to learn enough about medicine, economics, government and education, and work with the world community to help improve those features in various communities and nations. I would like to have the opportunity to display my musical talent around the world via rock concerts and orchestral celebrations, most of which would probably be free or for some other benefit. I want to get to heaven, and feel ready for it. 

Right now, I'm only half done with a bachelors degree, but have had to stop attending school for now. My grades suffered tremendously, I became bitter and prideful, detached myself from almost any social contact, lost my (approximately) minimum wage work for almost three months, and just recently picked up three jobs at mediocre pay to catch up financially. I have had 5 speeding tickets in the past year alone, 3 of which were considered reckless driving and led to suspension of my license. I hardly sing or play any instruments these days, despite being able to play several quite well. I took an EMT class and enjoyed it, but never took the test. I am well behind on rent. I have quite a bit of debt, and haven't been able to make any payments on my delinquent student loans. I found myself unable to maintain a healthy relationship with a wonderful woman who wanted to love me. 

I believe that the distance between my present situation and my lofty aspirations is a result of many variables, but I would like to consider two which I see as main contributors as well as things that I can control. 

First, I am self-centered. Though I want to give so much to the world, part of the motive to do so is because I want to be great in the eyes of my peers. This is not all bad, but it should never be my primary motivator. I have been far too concerned with how I can fix all of my own problems, make great things of myself, and so on. This also prevents me from seizing opportunity to participate in meaningful service, which is additionally crippling to ones wellbeing. 

Secondly, I am daunted by the people in this world who have already achieved some sort of greatness. There are people who do all of the things that I would like to do, and do it better than I probably ever will be able to. It can be easy to give up on jumping off the diving board when your friends can do all the flips you can't, or to forget your guitar because you'll never be the best. The explorer in us wants to be the first to get somewhere, but struggles to find something no one else has done already. 

My name is Jake. I hope to share my everyday successes with you. My audience consists of no super-humans, movie stars, virtuosos, but real people who are filled with just as much greatness of spirit. I want to get so lost enjoying my life, that I forget the pride in me that makes anything but first place seem pointless. My name is Jake. 

Nice to meet you.