there is no accident…

there is no accident

Nietzsche said that “Once you know that there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident; for it is only beside a world of purposes that the word ‘accident’ has meaning.” Perhaps in a grand sweeping gesture of radical acceptance and revolutionarily subversive compassion Nietzsche saw things as arising out of “necessity”. He so desperately sought to relish and embrace this necessity:

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

Most days I’m able to echo Nietzsche’s sentiments with near equal level of vehemence and veracity. Most days when our minds are sound and we are stably grounded, we can learn a lot by looking back on the events that we cannot change or alter. We recognize that wisdom is something that arrives at the end of the day.

But, sometimes when the low murmuring of depression’s dark sayings descend, regret crashes in to and I feel as though there is nothing that I wouldn’t do differently.

Sometimes our footing is less sure, our minds are more scattered, and we forget to close the door behind wisdom when it arrives; leaving just enough room for regret to come. And, the thing about regret is, when that mother fucker gets in, he tries to take everything.

Regret can seep into the even the smallest of crevices and when it does it can twist all it touches into the shape of something lonely.

Sometimes the thumping pulse of regret is the tell-tale heart of our dark forbearance crawling beneath the floor boards.

In constantly returning to that which we regret we are stuck reliving it again and again; a repetition without reprieve, a reenactment without realization, a repentance without redemption

But it can be undone.

Acceptance is the undoing of regret. Acceptances ruins the infinitely repeating loop of dejection and disappointment, and instead says “yes” to it all. Acceptance chooses to love it all, sees it all as necessary, sees it all as beautiful, says it was all worth and would would do it all again.

Most of us know what its like to fuck up. We know all too well how hard, fast and ferociously things can get fucked up. I know I do. In fact, I think I’m beginning to acquire a taste for it; it is bitter and astringent at the front, but strangely sweet and fragrant at the finish.  But, more importantly, I’m beginning to see what it looks like on the other side of it. It is the place where compunction becomes compassion, where contrition turns to kindness, and where we become something new. Maybe there is no accident…

If you enjoyed this essay, consider supporting my work by Buying me a Coffee.

Miracles happen…

miracles happen

If Dogen is right then that means that the very atmosphere of our world is atomically awash in the molecular happenstance of the miraculous. It means not only that miracles happen, but that miracles are always actively happening

It means that every arising breath is found writhing upon the wings of something wondrous.

It means that every smile that we unexpectedly receive, and every one that we find the strength to return, every glint we see in the eyes of the other that lets us see that we are more than enough, is nothing short of a miracle.

More often than not, despite our daily saturation with the miraculous we almost never recognize them. It’s so easy for all these tiny instances of mundanity to go unnoticed as the miracles that they are.

And yet, Dogen writes that “Even if you do not know that miracles happen three thousand times in the morning and eight hundred times in the evening, miracles are actualized”.

We can look for the exceptional in the trembling of the earth as paradigms shift but, we’ll miss it. We can look for the extraordinary in the flicker and flame of grand ideas igniting but, we won’t see it. We can try to find the incredible in being blown away by the formidable winds of epic change but, it won’t be there. Instead, if we have ears to hear, we’ll find it in the softness of an ordinary whisper; an ordinary whisper that breathes a miracle in the quiet spaces between utterances, a miracle telling us that we are loved, we are home, we are welcome, we are here, we are alive, we are still breathing, we are ok, and that we will be alright.

It may not feel like a miracle, I know. But, perhaps one of the most miraculous things about miracles is that they don’t stop being miracles just because they don’t feel miraculous.

If you enjoyed this post consider supporting my work by Buying Me a Coffee.

This breath is a bridge…

this breath

I don’t know if everything really does get better, but I know that it can. I know that the presence of potentiality is always redolent and teeming. On good days I’ve managed to catch a glimpse of how gloriously good it can be. I don’t know how far the road is between “here” and “better”, I’m not even sure if there is a road between the two. Perhaps it is only the distance of this breath. Matt Haig says that “maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths”. Maybe all there is, is just the road. Maybe there is nothing but the path. Maybe all we have is just “here”. After all, we can be no where else. To avoid being ‘now-here’ leaves us ‘no-where’.

Being ‘here’ doesn’t always feel particularly hopeful. Often all of our most angst-ridden questions revolve around the recognition and realization that we are ‘here’: “Why am I here?” “How did I get here?” “Where do I go from here?” These questions and so many swirling more are counted amongst the mass of things I don’t know. But what I do know is that no matter how hard it is to be, we are, in fact, unavoidably here, and we are still breathing.

I know that sometimes the sheer fact of our breathing here-ness is difficult. I know that sometimes its hard to think about existing beyond the next breath. I know that sometimes the thought of having to bear the anxious weight of another breath piled high upon all the other heaving breaths that came before it seems like an impossible task.

But, this one breath that is here, is the only one that matters. This one breath that you can hold on to, is the one that can hold you upright. This one breath that you can catch, is the one that can keep you steady. Perhaps there is only this one breath. Perhaps there has only ever been this one breath.

In Hebrew the word for ‘breath’ is ‘Ruah’, and in the creation myth of Genesis it is the ‘Ruah Elohim’, the ‘breath of God’, that hovers over the waters of the primordial deep to begin the work of beginning the world.

Everything that is, begins with breath, and everything that you will become begins with the truth of your breathing. Your breath is a bridge that connects you to to the same force and fire that created the stars and called out the light that divides the dark, and it is your breath that can continue the work.

You are hollow and hurting, and this is a time that requires conservation in the face of what feels insufficient. You will blossom and bloom into something both new and renewed, but you will need all that you have, you will need all that you are, you will need to breathe. This breath is better than any other. It is better than any that came before, and it is better than any that will come next, because it is the one that you have. It is safe. It is certain. It is enough, and it is all that you need…

Starving to give…

If you are feeling a void, or an emptiness within you; a vacancy of want and craving, ask yourself if that seemingly vacuous space is actually an indication of something that you lack, or if it is something that you have yet to learn to give to the world.

If you are scared , ask yourself if you have truly learned how to give someone courage.

If you are lonely, ask yourself if you have ever really understood how to welcome home the stranger.

If you are lost, ask yourself if you’ve ever shown someone how it feels to be found.

If you feel an immense absence of love, ask yourself if you have ever fully learned to to give your heart away.

Maybe everything that we are missing is something that we must commit to relinquishing to the hands of someone else…

Sustain faith…

sustain faith

Sometimes I wonder whether or not its actually accurate to say that we are killing the planet. Clearly our species has become the predominating force in influencing the Earth’s environment, to such an extent, in fact, that scientists now refer to our current geological epoch as the Anthropocene.  There can be no doubt that human hubris is, indeed, catastrophically impacting the planet and its various ecosystems and species, but I’m not sure we’re killing the Earth so much as killing its ability to sustain and support “us”. Perhaps, what we’re really killing is its ability to sustain faith in us.

The planet has survived and persisted through cataclysms far greater than the human species, and won’t skip a beat in pushing forward after we’re gone. It lived long before we did and will continue to live long after all traces of humanity’s torturous existence have vanished into the repressed memories of the Planet’s post-traumatic road to recovery.

In some ways that’s almost hopeful. The incredible insistence of Being. The inbuilt indomitability of life, itself; bolstered by its own tenacious capacity to persevere because it can, because it will, because it must. The Planet doesn’t need saving, but we do, and perhaps that is as  good a reason as any to work along side the planet’s inherent ability to go-on. Perhaps that doesn’t seem altruistic, but maybe it is.

On the worst days, amidst all the most horrendous atrocities of the Anthropocene, people suck, but also, in a miraculous display of paradoxical and oxymoronic simultaneity, we don’t. On the best days, we are a poem; we feed the great lake of art, authors and thinkers, bursting and brimming with quotations and conversations. Somedays we are “Earth planting Earth into Earth.” As Jacob Nordby says that “We are not one thing…We are many and all at the same time. Life is not simple or straightforward for those of us who must fight to express the many truths of who we are”. We are shaped by the shards; formed in and by the fissures. Closed off parts of ourselves are broken open by traumas, and more often than not, the world is made better for the breakage, because in that wondrous and terrible opening we are exposed to the fragile sanctity of our shared humanity.

In one of the early chapters of the Anthropocene Reviewed John Green writes that when the light that was humanity finally “goes out, it will be Earth’s greatest tragedy”. Two years ago, I’m not sure I would have agreed. But today, as you and I chide our laughability with aching sides, as we revel in our shared reverence of books and reading, we are galvanized together and incited by ideas of human ingenuity and inquisitiveness.  Daily we reach into the cavernous depths of ourselves, emerging with the words and language to most potently express the ferocity of our longings, and desires. We inhabit the fierceness of our yearning, our zeal, our lust, our excitement, and, especially our love, and I’m beginning to think differently.  Love is after all that most awe-inspiring feat of all human endeavors. Isn’t that, in and of itself, worth preserving? These things and more are so alive between you and I, and I realize “how wondrous humans are…how strange and [how] lovely”. “We are, in spite of it all”, Green writes “a charismatic species”. 

Nietzsche said that:

Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.

Nietzsche is right of course. When the brief smallness of our temporal range stands in stark contrast to the looming largeness of a near eternal universe, humanity is ultimately of little to no consequence. As John Green writes “The future will erase everything – there’s no level of fame or genius that allows you to transcend oblivion. The infinite future makes that kind of mattering impossible.” 

And yet, I can’t help but think that some deep down part of the cosmos will, from time to time, remember that for one gloriously ephemeral minute, the Earth was making meaning from Earth, and I’d like to believe that if there is any part of the universe left that still knows itself as itself, it will smile.

The planet will continue on once we have been caught by our own culling. It may never grieve our passing. It will probably never mourn our loss. But neither will it ever be the same. As we flicker out and fade away, so will the music, so will the laughter, and the art, and the poetry, and so will all the love. We may be the piece of the universe that wants to self-destruct, but perhaps we are also that piece that can summon the will to save itself, to sustain faith, to sustain faith in itself, to sustain faith in us. Somedays I’m hopeful, and some I’m not convinced, but maybe that’s why its called faith, the faith of hands still willing to get a little dirt on them…

If you enjoyed this essay, consider supporting my work by Buying me a Coffee.

How to see?

how to see

We are so busy looking, that we have forgotten how to see, and at heart, these teachings have always been about seeing; about seeing reality, about seeing fully, about seeing clearly. Thus, each one of us has the task of cultivating creative ways in which to regain “stability and clarity”, to open ourselves to an “ever expanding vision” that will aid us in our efforts to “dampen [our] habitual distortions”. In this regard, Kolkin sees “photography [as] a powerful educational tool”.

It’s easy to look at a photo with only a passing appreciation. After all, ours is a world engulfed by an overabundance of images. Overstimulated and desensitized, we see through half closed eyes. Our gaze grazes across a screen in a fleeting fraction of an instant. We tap the like-button and move along. Lost in the infinite scroll of luxuriant vacations and avocado toast, its tempting to believe that the thousand words contained in a single picture have somehow lost all currency in the economy of what we are truly able to see.

But, the truth is, a photograph is always so much more than the simple snap of a shutter. A photo is an opportunity for us to examine the various ways in which we see; to see where we are afforded the chance to be attentive, to see where and upon what we direct our attention. To transfix  and to be transfixed in a world alive with color, texture, and composition; reveling in a moment in time that teaches us how to see, that reveals to us the history of light and awareness – what else could this be called but compassion, affection, and love?

This an excerpt from my recent review of Jon Kolkin‘s book, Inner Harmony, that I wrote for The Tattooed Buddha.

If you enjoyed this essay, consider supporting my work by Buying Me a Coffee.

We are here…

we are here

“every new life on offer here begins now. And now is midnight. It begins now. All these futures. That’s what is here…Every other immediate present and ongoing future you could have had.”

– Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Here is all there is. Now is all we have. Every moment is an emergent midnight. Every moment carries with it the click of a clock’s second hand calling forth the dawn.

The present and the possible are intricately interlaced and intertwined. This is where life lives. This is where our life lives. This is where all our lives live. The present is the only place where anything is possible, and anything that is possible is only possible in the present. Within the present we are Now-Here, and outside of it we are No-Where.

There is a name for the place found at the periphery of the present; purgatory – the moment when we are pulled from the moment, when we are “Between lives“, when “disappointment is felt in full”, when, as Nietzsche might say, we cease all our Yes-saying to “what is necessary in things”, when we lose the sweeping gesture found in the love of fate. Because “If you truly want to live a life hard enough, you don’t have to worry. You will stay there” and “you [will] get to live it until you die”.

Sometimes it feels like we are simply lost; lost to life, lost to ourselves, lost within the distant and disregarded static humming amidst the clamor of a world already overburdened by noise. But if we could slow down long enough to simply look around, we would see exactly where we are. We would see ourselves tall, sharp, and distinct both with and against the backdrop of the world.

We are here.

We have always been right here.

If you enjoyed this post, consider supporting my work by Buying Me A Coffee.

A liturgy of surprise…

a liturgy of surprise

Virginia Wolff says that “A good book is never finished – it goes on whispering to you from the wall.” In my experience, some books whisper with such frequency and fervent intensity, that I’ve had to give up on the idea of them ever residing on the wall.

I keep a copy of Anthony Bourdain‘s book, Medium Raw, on the night stand beside my bed, as if it were a copy of Bible. It’s a ludicrous thing to say and do, I know. It’s absurd to even suggest that Bourdain’s book and the Bible are on equal footing.

Throughout my academic pursuits in the realms of religion and the Humanities, I have devoted myself to researching the sacred text, and I can say with a great degree of certainty that, to my knowledge, none of the biblical writers have ever had lunch with Iggy pop, or eaten spicy Pho on a Vietnam street corner, a scene that Bourdain, himself, describes as “the landscape of human desire…strewn with the spent expressions of human lust”. Clearly, Bourdain has a far deeper and richer understanding of the multifarious complexities within the human condition.

I’ve learned a lot from my time spent studying the Judeo-Christian canon, but no one has taught me more about faith, belief, and belonging than St. Anthony of Bourdain, patron saint of fucks not given. It seems that Moses and the apostles, will simply have to settle for second place.

Early on in the book Bourdain recounts having one of the best and most exclusive meals of his life, sitting amongst the who’s who of the cooking world, “the gods of food”, and wondering to himself “what the fuck am doing here?” As he looked around the room he readily recognized that he “was the peer of no man or woman at this table”. He could clearly acknowledge that at no point in his cooking career would any of them have ever hired him. He had found a place at this most prestigious of tables, but he knew it had nothing to do with his talent as a chef.

And yet, it was also abundantly clear that his failure as a cook was intricately intertwined with his arrival at this table. He writes that:

From this rather luxurious vantage, the air still redolent with endangered species and fine wine, sitting in a private dining room…I realize that one thing led directly to the other. Had I not taken a dead-end dishwashing job while on summer vacation, I would not have become a cook. Had I not become a cook, I would never have become a chef. Had I not become a chef, I never would have been able to fuck up so spectacularly. Had I not known what it was like to fuck up – really fuck up – and spend years cooking brunches in bullshit no-star joints around town, that obnoxious but wildly successful memoir I wrote wouldn’t have been half as interesting.

He was a chef who garnered acclaim not for his culinary capabilities, but for his writing, and he knew it. Somewhere in his failed attempt to be a worthwhile chef, somewhere in the anxious discomfort of the search, he became something else, something fearfully and wonderfully made.

I’m having a similar dining room realization, though mine is laced with more anxiousness than appreciation. I used to be the youngest person at the table, but not at this one, not today. Tonight, at this table, I’m everyone’s senior by a few years. I’m not sure when the shift happened exactly. Like the way most things change, I’m certain that it transpired quietly and in plain sight. And, in my case, I’m convinced the slow discretion of the change was made all the more imperceptible by the fact that, over the past few years, I have taken great strides to stay hidden from communal tables of almost any and every kind.

My vantage is not particularly luxurious. The table I’m sitting at is not in an exclusive, private dining room. I am not amongst the elite or the who’s who. In fact, most of the people here I’m meeting for the first, and quite possibly the last, time. It’s just a casual dinner at a beachside bar, celebrating the accomplishment of a friend of a friend, but I still feel like I’m the peer of no man or woman here. I look around the table and I am greeted by youthful faces; vibrant with vigor and vitality, glowing with the fervency  of all that they have already accomplished, and alive with all they still hope to, and probably will. There is welcoming in their eyes, but I find none of the weighted fatigue that must be so readily obvious in my own.

I work hard to hide the wear and tear of my dogged miles, but I feel so exposed. Like a car broken down in the middle of the road, smoke billowing from underneath the hood, hazard lights flashing; my mere presence is a spectacle.

Chuck Palahniuk says that “maybe you don’t go to hell for the things you do. Maybe you go to hell for the things you don’t do.” and, at this moment, I sense how incredulous salvation is when one is so obviously damned. A lifetime of regret and incapacity, arriving in an instant, I all too clearly come to understand eternal torment.

As the only child of a minister, I spent far more time around adults than I ever did around kids my own age. If I wanted to be seen and heard, if I wanted connection, community, and comradery I was going to have to make a space for myself at the grown-ups’ table. This meant that I had to learn to be articulate and intelligent, I had to be knowledgeable and outspoken. I had to be driven and ambitious. I had to learn to hold my own and I did, my whole life, until I didn’t, until I couldn’t.

I reached. I clawed. I pushed. I pulled. I climbed up that damn water spout, and I made something of myself, or I started to anyway. But then down came the rains, they were ceaseless and unrelenting, and they washed me completely out. 

Amidst the torrential downpour of life at its bleakest, its easy to believe that even the sun has lost hope and abandoned the day. But, the sun does, indeed, come back. Sometimes it just doesn’t stay out for long. And, sometimes it doesn’t dry up all the rain, at least not all at once.

If someone would have told me at age 13 that I was five years away from meeting the woman I was going to marry, I couldn’t have fathomed it, or even thought it possible.

If someone would have told me at 18 that I was just three years away from experiencing one of the most profound forms of life-altering love when my son was born in a Cape Canaveral delivery room, I would have, at best,  only patronizingly smiled.

It goes without saying that there’s no way in hell I would have believed them if they told me that I was only a little over two years away from experiencing it yet again at the birth of my daughter.

And if someone would have told me that five years after that, I’d suffer through two devastating layoffs, lose almost everything I’d spent the past nine years working to achieve, and only moderately recover after another five years; the sheer horror would have surely made me hope that it was a lie.

But, perhaps, the icing on the cake of existential angst would be if someone would have told me that at the beginning of 2020 the contents of an entire life would be neatly and catastrophically condensed down to 6 cardboard boxes and a duffle bag, desperately packed into the back hatch of a 2004 Ford Expedition after the devastating end of a nearly 15 year-long marriage.

And yet here I am, still reeling, still recovering, still wondering what “normal” might mean now. Seth Godin explains that “Every normal is a new normal, until it is replaced by another one”. But, a ‘new normal’, almost never feels normal, not at first anyway. Sometimes it just feels fucked-up; really, really, fucked-up.

So much of my life has felt like one unfolding fuck-up after another, and then, one day, something shifts, something changes, something happens and all at once, somehow, it feels like it all makes sense. In one seemingly serendipitous moment, in the warm auburn glow of the otherly and the unexpected, we realize that this crooked path has been twisting fast towards the clearest of all possible views.

John Green says that “You can’t see the future coming – not the terrors, for sure, but you also can’t see the wonders that are coming, the moments of light-soaked joy that await each of us.” Maybe that’s part of the excitement of sitting with such a limited scope. We know there’s something wild and ferocious taking place so near and yet so unavoidably outside of sight, somewhere just beyond what we can see. We can hear a faint yet unmistakable roaring in the distance. We can feel the rumble of something rushing towards us, but we just can’t see around every curve, or every corner, if we can ever see around any of them at all.

Sometimes, it’s not so much the terror and trauma that we suffer from, but rather the fear and the anxiety of our unknowing, near-sightedness. Sometimes we struggle with despair about what has passed us by and all our doubts about what’s on the verge of arriving, because what we’re really struggling with is only the misunderstandings of our partial vision. 

Maybe there are no mistakes.  Maybe, nothing is ever fucked up; not really. What if, as Palahniuk presses us to ask, everything has been “unfolding in perfect order to deliver us to a distant joy we can’t conceive of at this time”? 

We are always in the thick our stories. We are never privy to the whole picture. Perhaps,  what appears as a mistake so closeup is actually the thing that brings us precisely to where we most direly need to be, and  if we could just, for a moment, pan out into a wider perspective, then we would see it. 

If we did, and if we could, we would see that unbeknownst to our own limited view we have been inaugurating a liturgy of reverent surprise right under our own noses all along. We would see that every persistent step taken with both steadfastness and uncertainty has been quietly shifting the world into the shape of our own consolation. We would see that we have been building a temple this entire time; a sanctuary of ultimate concern formed and fashioned by the sacred steadiness of our striding through the foreboding uneasiness of the unseen. We would see that we were always on our way home.

I heart the Internet…

I heart the internet photography by Duane Toops

I have for so long been so caught up in the closed network of being alone with books that I have forgotten the fact that, even though books can build a natural communion of experience between the writer and the reader, books can be an even broader gateway to belonging, connection, and intimacy when they are read and shared with another. In the temporal span of turning pages together, we instantaneously experience “the stable community” of what Vonnegut might describe as an almost utopian “cure for loneliness”. And, perhaps, as Donald Hall might suggest, its also an opportunity for your gaze to be met and intertwined with another person’s, as you both look upon “a third thing”, that is, “a site of joint rapture or contentment”.

For me, this stable community which together shares the rapturous gaze given to a third thing has manifested itself as a kind of two-person book club reading through John Green‘s book, The Anthropocene Reviewed. The book is a series of essays that examine, evaluate, and review the various aspects of our human centered world on a five-star scale. John Green is one of those authors that seems to know me better than I know myself.  He is, what Eric G. Wilson calls, a soul doctor; an artistic physician whose presence in the world provides a prescription to alleviate the ache and burn that often comes from simply being alive.

But, even more than that, to me, Green is what the Celts referred to as an Anam Cara, a soul friend, a person who has connected with the depth and texture of one’s heart to such an extent that they become integral to the structural formations of our spirits.  Of the many-splendored things that come with being human, one of the the most splendid moments of really fucking magical, top-shelf, good shit, is when you meet someone that makes you wonder how you were ever able to live so long without them.

I was late to the party when it came to John Green. Most days I can barely manage to put my finger on my own pulse much less the pulse of popular culture. I’m generally out of step, never in ‘the-know’, and always behind on everything.  I’ve been told that I’m an “old soul”. I used to think that was a compliment. I thought it meant I was dignified and wise beyond my years. I thought it meant that there was something classic about my character, or that I had vintage sensibilities better suited for some bygone era.

Now, I think its just a polite way of saying that, despite the date of birth listed on my Driver’s License, I’ve taken the express lane to becoming a grumpy old fuck. Which wouldn’t be so bad if senior discounts were issued based on the age of one’s attitude alone. Instead, I’m stuck paying full price, but at least I can still yell at people to get off my lawn, so that’s something right?

My discovery of Green, as well as the aforementioned book party of two, could not have been possible without the internet. I stumbled across the YouTube channel and the podcast Green shares with his brother Hank Green. I watched and listened for quite some time, sensing something of a kindred spirit, but it took me a while before I finally got around to reading his work, and when I did, it changed some deep-down ineffable part of who I am, or perhaps, it simply reminded me that it was there. I’ve been hooked on his writing ever since.

Needless to say, when his most recent book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, came out I had no hesitations about getting it the week it was released. I started reading it almost immediately, but stalled out after the first couple essays. It wasn’t due to a lack of interest on my part, nor to lackluster writing on Green’s. I was enthralled, and Green’s prose is at peak performance. I have a habit of juggling several books at once, and Green’s was unintentionally put to one side in the restless shifting of texts. However, in the course of an emphatic, and almost ekphratic internet conversation, I recommended Green’s new book. The strangest thing transpired, my literary advice was heeded. 

When you read as much as I do, you look for almost any available opportunity to talk about books, no matter how cumbersome and clunky it might be peppered it into the conversation.  “I’m so sorry to hear your house burned down, that’s terrible! Hey, speaking of ‘burn’, have you ever read any of Robert Burn’s poetry? ‘To a Mouse’ is my favorite.” I’ve grown accustomed to the blank and glassy stares that come immediately after these kinds of interactions, but for someone to actually, purposefully, go out of their way to buy a book I suggested, that’s different.

It’s funny how such a fleeting aside can serve as the foundation for a two-person book club, but that’s what happened. Sometimes the miracle of miracles is the way one comment can set off a chain of events that alter our understanding of everything we thought we so clearly knew to be true. What can I say? The internet is uncanny. It makes perfect sense, then, that amongst the plethora of facets found within this human-centered age, John Green makes it a point to review the internet.

I can recall the ramshackle collection of plastic and wires that came to occupy a formidable piece of table top real estate in my parents bed room office, and the way that the pressed wood, some-assembly-required, desk and hutch seemed to tremble and sway under the weight of that second hand computing monstrosity. The hunter green carpet, the floral patterned print on the thin walls; awash in the crackle of groans and screeches emitted from a dial up connection; I remember when the internet first came to me.

I took to the internet quickly. In my early teens, a quiet, introverted, only child; I was a pastor’s kid with a small number of friends in a tiny rural town. It seemed like so much of the world was so far out reach, but in some inexplicable way the internet made everything feel close enough to touch.
I didn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn’t bullied or picked on, but neither did I fully belong; too entranced by secular artistry for the conservative religion of my upbringing, but also to entrenched within Christian culture to find a place outside of it. Stuck in a perpetual in-between, I was lonely a lot; a sense that has waxed and waned throughout my life but has ultimately persisted into my now rapidly approaching middle-age. (Well…persisted until recently).

I fell in love with music because it made me feel less alone. Bands and artists, not only knew and understood my angst and anxiety, they gave it a voice, even more so, they gave it a song. Living in that small country community meant that where I lived was never a tour stop for any of artist’s that had become my friends. But, the internet gave me the means by which to reach them. Much to my parents chagrin, I spent hours on the internet searching for photos of all the guitarists and songwriters I admired. And, much to my mother’s consternation I would print and plaster those photos all over my bed room walls. The bands may have never come near to where I resided, but, thanks to the internet, I found a way to keep them close. I still felt alone, but less so.

To this day I have rarely, if ever, managed to find myself living amongst like-minded people who share all my passions and interests. Most days I feel so far from home; like being separated across continents, divided by an ocean, 4165 miles away from where I should be; the internet has continued to be a place I have sought out a kind of communal reciprocity. That is not to say that it has always been easily found or readily available but, there were enough glimmers to keep me there, to believe that belonging was possible.

I have met amazing,  astounding, brilliant, clever, intelligent, stunning, and beautiful people; people who have made me feel more me, more myself, more safe, more found, and more home than I have ever felt before. People who have changed my life in inalterable ways.
It has taken time and patience, but it seems I was more right than I realized. After all , you are here. You are reading this. I found you, and, more importantly, you found me. And I can never thank you enough.

Maybe an essay like this isn’t particularly inspiring or profound. Maybe it’s not world-changing or life-altering. Maybe it’s just grateful, and maybe that’s good enough. Maybe it’s better, and maybe that changes everything. Maybe that’s just what love does. Maybe…it’s perfect.

From now until the day I die, I give the internet 5 stars.

The Tattooed Buddha: Snapshots of Meditation

snapshots of meditation

Recently I was asked by the lovely folks over at the Tattooed Buddha to contribute to their SnapShots of Meditation series, a project that seeks to show what real-world meditation looks like by highlighting the daily observances carried out by everyday practitioners and their reasons for practicing. It’s always such a pleasure to get to work with the Tattooed Buddha team, and I always jump at the chance to do so. Hope you like my contribution to the series, and be sure to head over to the Tattooed Buddha website to read what other contributors have to share.

So much of creativity and the creative process is about seeing; seeing clearly and seeing differently.
In fact, Seth Godin writes that, “Artists, at least the great ones, see the world more clearly than the rest of us”. This is, for me at least, why “artistry” and spirituality are so intimately connected and intertwined. Achieving and maintaining this kind of atypical ability to see and perceive is intrinsic to being an artist, but being an artist has absolutely nothing to do with one’s mastery over watercolors, oils, marble, or clay, because art, itself, has nothing to with any of those mediums, or any other other medium for that matter.

The medium is irrelevant and ultimately inconsequential. “Art,” as Godin goes on to say, “is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.”

Meditation is an art, and art is a mediation. Both function as the means by which our perception becomes alerted to the immense profundity laced throughout the realness of the present moment. In art we are allowed to exercise a kind of analytical awareness.

Our consciousness becomes concentrated and compounded, and we are attentively attuned to the rich interplay of texture, color, tempo, and composition. Similarly, “To meditate,” as Stephen Batchelor explains, “is to probe with intense sensitivity each glimmer of color, each cadence of sound, each touch of another’s hand, each fumbling word that tries to utter what cannot be said.” And in both cases, we are at our best, and our most artistic when the change created within ourselves elicits a change in others.

If you enjoyed this article, consider supporting my work by Buying Me a Coffee.