Stay tuned (patiently) as we occasionally throw updates on here about what steps we're taking to get to our end goals, DIY tricks and life-hacks, child-rearing tactics (strategery), etc.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Depth

Meditation is a form of art to the Buddhists. There are various ideas of what one is supposed to do or who one is supposed to praise while meditating, but one of the more popular schools instructs would-be meditation practitioners to simply focus on their own breath and sit up straight. When you focus and concentrate on your breathing, not in the sense that you're controlling the pace of the breath but in the sense that you're concentrating on just listening to it, experiencing it, your mind seems to get overwhelmed with random thoughts that work their way out of the depths of your head.

Meditation in this fashion tells us lots about life in general. Life is a series of moments, and sometimes we're blessed to be so enamored by something that it's as if we're simply listening to our own breath. Maybe it's a sunrise or a painting. Maybe it's a piece of music. Maybe it's the face or the touch of a loved one. Whatever the cue, something jolts our souls into feeling that which we are tied into, reminding us of what we've had, what we've lost, what we've loved and what we've neglected.

We don't realize, when we get so caught up in life, that connecting with that simplicity is so close to our realities that when it does get cued from that piece of music or that picture of a face that you haven't seen in years, we are deeply touched. Our emotions are driven to their bloom, the flower of all that we believe in.

We all have many thoughts, feelings, beliefs that we cannot explain. Some of these are simply raw emotion, emotion that may seem to us to be bigger than the biggest mountain in the world yet completely contained within our chests. Some of these emotions make us swell with pride and give us a euphoria, convincing us that we alone can change or even conquer the world. Others can cripple us, put us in a state that we would gladly trade for death.

These raw emotions are divine. They are the closest we mere mortals can get to communication with something so much bigger than we can wrap our heads around. They're not prophesies for interpretation. They're not orders or missions for you to improve your life. They're simply reminders from the Universe or God that you are significant, that you matter, that you have a purpose. They are expressions of pure love, albeit not pure love itself. Emotion that powerful, that overwhelming, while crippling to our own senses is but a grain of sand on the beach of what divine providence can show us.

The Buddhists and people from many other faiths (and even the absence of "faith") have found their own ways to tap into these raw emotional waves. Some, the masters, have even found ways to control them and use them for good. Mythological stories which some hold true often involve someone who was so at peace with themselves and so connected to some form of "God" that they, too, achieved enlightened divinity. From the resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth to the enlightenment of Siddhattha Gautama to the apotheosis of George Washington, many inspirational figures in history, regardless of any opinion of fact or fiction, have been models of this connection with pure emotional energy.

These figures had spent a significant portion of their lives learning how to control their minds to be receptive to these emotions. The more you practice, the easier it gets, like anything else. Next time you have one of these moments, embrace it, breathe it in, and let it move you. Depending on what you believe, it could be the closest you could get to God before you die. And while I'm no expert or even a student of these thoughts, I've had too few mind-blowing moments in my life lately. This holiday brought me a few, and I figured I'd pass on to someone how intense it was.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cigarettes And Comraderie

I was walking home from the local drug store this evening when I was panhandled. Unfortunately, in these hard economic times, there's more and more panhandling on the streets of our cities. In a very rare instance, these people asking for money sincerely need help in the form of change for a meal or a place to sleep. More often than not, however, they're druggies or alcoholics, using their money to score their next fix. This is why I don't carry cash on me. Then I'm not forced to lie or be awkward. Tonight, I told the guy, "I'm just getting a pack of smokes. I'm putting it on my plastic. When I come out, I'll bum you one."

It's amazing how well a cigarette can break the ice between two complete strangers. I've discovered in a lot of instances, when I'm being asked for a smoke, it's an opportunity for me to stand outside, alone, with one or two other people. While we're committing our slow, slow suicide, we get to know a little bit about each other, like our names, our social situations, our personalities. It's amazing what one little stick of cancer can do.

In my conversation tonight, I got to know a man who married a crack head and now lives in his friend's van. I'm assuming he has no job, or he does and he spends all of his money on drugs, too. His right eye was blind and lame. He had lesions on the backs of his hand. He didn't smell of booze, and his speech wasn't slurred or awkward. On the contrary, he almost seemed educated and used some big words.

Other nights, I've met doctors, accountants, actresses, other hobos, hippies, hard working blue-collar men and women, and suburban kids out on the town partying it up. These damn things, these cigarettes, seem to be a social plague.

I must make it clear while I write that I am IN NO WAY advocating FOR cigarettes. I think deciding to smoke is a horrible choice for those with poor coping mechanisms for dealing with any sort of strife in their life. The reason I smoke is because I don't have those good mechanisms for addressing what I'm assuming psychologists would call depression or anxiety. For as bad as they are and as much as my lungs hate me on the bad days, the smokes make things a little more bearable.

Being the people person I am, I know it would be hard for me to give up a key to helping myself into other people's lives. I get a rush every time I'm thrown into a group of new people, new surroundings, new lives to learn from and grow on. It's this very strange dichotomy for me in that smoking is probably the worst thing I've voluntarily done to myself. But I have and will go on doing it, at least for a little while. And I will continue to meet the interesting characters that I've been meeting.

I heard a story on National Public Radio a few weeks ago, told by a young woman who had a violent relationship. She and her verbally abusive boyfriend would argue constantly, and one night, they were driving through some suburban street on the other side of town, and he slowed down enough, and she bailed out of the car. Alone in a dark neighborhood, she fumbled around in her clothes for anything... no wallet, no cash, no phone, no lighter, but she did have a pack of smokes.

She found her way to a park. The sprinkers were on, and she sat at a park bench to sort of regain her senses. A figure approached her out of the dark. The closer this figure got, the more the woman could identify. This other figure, too, was a young woman, maybe an old teenager, barefoot, and trying to stop crying. When the situation realized itself, the first woman got up and approached her in a helpful sort of way, and the first thing the second woman said was "Oh, my God, do you have a smoke?!" and the second lady said, "Oh, my God, do you have a light?" She did. The two sat there in the park and bonded, finding all of the commanalities in their equally sub-par lives.

At the end of this woman's story on the radio, she said she left her boyfriend after that, and later, quit smoking. Sometimes, though, she still misses the cigarettes...

Weird how much something less than desirable can be such a bonding thing for people.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie Review: "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West"

This afternoon, I watched "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West". This 2005 documentary-style movie directed by Wayne Kopping and includes interviews with a handful of people who aren't popular in the general public's eyes. Like any other documentary with an agenda, it features quote-mined sound-bytes, which supports the director's points and slanders everyone else's view.

The general synopsis is that the director is trying to paint of view of radical Muslims that connects them to the Nazi's of the 1930s, not through direct association, but through common themes, such as anti-semitism, the use of propaganda, and the fact that they both... umm... hate Americans and their freedoms? The director could have made a comparison to the Crusaders of the 12th and 13th centuries, but as a majority of the audience he is trying to target is likely Christian, the point would likely be lost. After all, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, yes?

Unfortunately, focusing on the idea of propaganda, this film seems to be more of propagandistic than documentation, grouping all of Islam into a category of radically hateful people, but stating as a disclaimer that they're really only talking about 15% of the Muslim population. This film promotes the idea that Americans should be scared of Muslims, that they should be scared, give the government more power to fight the good fight against these crazy Crusaders of the Star and Moon. This is not a good state to be in, because it causes citizens to be complacent with the freedoms and rights that are being taken away from them under the veil of "fear" and "protection". The population must not be sold on these ideals. Instead, citizens must, objectively and with an open mind, have the courage to seek the real truth, to throw out films like this and see what's really going on.

If you want to see a more accurate view of terrorism and fear (i.e. what to actually be afraid of), watch Alex Jones's "Terror Storm".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Patriotism

"Patriotism is love of and/or devotion to one's country. The word comes from the Greek patris, meaning fatherland. However, patriotism has had different meanings over time, and its meaning is highly dependent upon context, geography, and philosophy." -Wikipedia.org

The United States of America is an interesting place. It is a country grown out of principles of independence and freedom to do what we please with that independence. Without using over-played buzzwords like "founding fathers" or "forefathers", I'll simply say that those who decided to build a nation that would be the example for people around the world for generations, they created a masterpiece. They created a country where you could have a democratically elected representation of common people to govern them. They built a place with a simple set of rights, including the right to believe what you want, say what you want, and not be told what to say or believe by the State.

Patriotism, at that time, wasn't simply a love for one's country, but it was a defiance against those who would impose any sort of tyranny over the people. This idea of patriotism has fallen by the wayside in recent years. People refuse to challenge over the idea of tyranny because they are sold on what the shepherds have led the sheep to believe, that everything's either okay, or that the sky is falling and everything's not okay. The latter pushes us to grant those in power more tools to pacify the masses and con them into believing that their brand of what some would call tyranny isn't really tyranny at all, it's a good government taking care of you.

If we are so taken care of, why do we have brothers and sisters, parents, kids, fighting in wars that aren't really protecting our freedoms as much as pushing our agenda or even, maybe by some stretch, protecting the freedoms of others, although even there we fail, as we've killed millions in the process of "protecting" them? If we are so taken care of, why do we have the biggest deficit in our Federal budget in our nations history? If we are so taken care of, why are we paying into a Social Security system that twice as many people under 35 believe is less likely to exist when they retire as than in the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials? If we are so taken care of, why is the matter of public health care reform made into thousands of pages of bills that the people in congress haven't really read at all and been told by our chief executive to pass it as soon as possible?

Is the public of the United States really this gullible? Or is the public just uninformed? Do people realize that a law defining a marriage between a man and a woman violates the first amendment in the Bill of Rights by imposing a State-sponsored religious view? Does anyone even know what the first amendment is? Verbatim?

The sad truth seems to indicate that the public's understanding of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights boils down to the adolescent argument that this is "a free country, so I can do what I want." It may be that simple, but the part that teenagers don't get (and that the public doesn't get on a much grander scale) is that this IS a free country, so you should be able to do what you want, provided you've worked hard for it and defended it. The hard work part is where people seem to fall short. Hard work is, well, exactly that: hard. It's not simply working hard at a job or a career to provide for yourself and your loved ones. It's also paying attention to what's going on in the annals of our government, reading bills, knowing who your representation is at all levels of government, interacting with those people, and doing what the Constitution was designed for: THE PUBLIC GOVERNING ITSELF.

THIS is patriotism. It's not blind allegiance to a political party or sporting a yellow ribbon magnet on your car. It's taking responsibility for your actions, stepping up, knowing what's going on, and doing something with the knowledge and abilities that every single American citizen has. We are at a critical time in our growth as a nation. We have fallen from superpower status to simply a powerful nation run by powerful oligarchs, and we need to take the power back for ourselves, the way it was designed to be.

Be a Patriot. Take your country back. Pay attention and have political cocktail parties in your house. Don't be afraid to say your piece and ask and LISTEN to someone else's. Most importantly, don't quit. Don't give up. Live free or die.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More BattleDamage...

It's been 7 days with my spectacular run-in with my new friends from Colorado Springs, and I have yet to hear back from my insurance and their insurance agencies as far as whether or not the BattleWagon will get fixed or replaced. Maybe I'll be sporting an NCC-1701-A pretty soon. (You'd really have to understand some nerdy things to get that reference.

Anyway, for
your pleasure, here are a few more pictures of the banged up BW. I was driving south on Broadway Street in Denver, through downtown, when my new friends ran a red
light on Welton Street and smacked me. The van actually bounced! I spun around, and just took in the situation. This was finally an opportunity to go the wrong way on a
one-way street! Yay! I drove northbound on southbound Broadway for about a hundred yards until I could pull off in adjacent parking lot. We all made an assessment. The witnesses who conveniently left before we could get any contact information all confirmed that I had a green light and they did not. So all is right with the world... except now I'm waiting to hear what's up with my crippled van. Sigh... wish this whole process didn't take so long.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

There is No Chaos, There is Harmony

Lately, I feel like the river of my life has been caught up on some rapids I wasn't expecting. I feel like I've been on a lazy, lax float trip on a calm river, just floating, kicking back, and enjoying the day, when suddenly, the clouds roll in, the wind picks up, and the river turns into this churning torrent, and I'm caught with my pants down.

Saturday night, the BattleWagon was broadsided by a car full of young and innocent people on their way out to a fun night on the town. While nobody was hurt (well, as it turns out, some guy in the back of their car banged his elbow up), it seemed to have been no harm, no foul. We all drove away, going on with our lives. I wish them no malice.

Earlier this week, I also discovered that I've been getting attacked by bed bugs. So tonight, I'm scrambling to clean my new apartment and bag up all my clothes and bedding to make way for the exterminator to come tomorrow and spray the whole place down. This weekend, wherever I wind up, I'll be sentenced to doing enough laundry to wash everything I own.

I admit, I'm freaking out a little bit. I didn't think it was too bad, but it's enough to push some people away, including some of my best friends. One, in particular, is going through enough on their own, and, in their own way, reaching out to my oblivious self.

I took a walk to collect my thoughts, calm down, and try to figure out where to go from here. I'm realizing that if I go with the river analogy, I should just shut up, focus, try not to flip the boat. This way, when I get done, I have an awesome story to tell.

Is it this easy? Only one way to find out...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Battle damage to the BattleWagon

Last night I was out running around when a group of kids, 4 kids, from Colorado Springs, ran a red light and t-boned me. The picture shows the end result. The BattleWagon has an undecided fate. The insurance adjuster will be out tomorrow to give me the 411, and we'll see if the BW gets fixed, or if the time will come to lay her to rest and instill her spirit in a new BattleWagon. Sigh... I've held it together this long. We'll see how much longer I can keep my wits.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Colors

Colors are a fascinating thing. They have this sort of enhancing quality, like a visual adjective to whatever it is you're looking at. Like texture and shape, colors vary so endlessly. I just saw this picture, and I couldn't help but throw it up here. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chillin at the Homestead

I lay here, stay warm and hiding from the frigid December air outside. The 17 degree briskness outside chills me to my core and amplifies the cough I have, the lingering effect of a fall cold.

I ponder many things in my rare moment of solace. I consider returning to life in the BattleWagon, an unfulfilled experiment cut short by a longing for passion and love. I dream of the freedom of the road, the drive and empowerment that comes with that freedom. I remember how strong I felt, how I felt pushed beyond my limits and realizing that those limits were illusions created by society and personal fear.

Looking around and getting a sense for the early winter darkness, I recall the times when I was growing up, home in the winter evenings. My sister and brother were off doing other things. My dad would be sleeping and my mom would be working. I would have leftover pizza from Pizza Hut, and I'd watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Every time a big truck would drive by, this little glass ornament would rattle on the window in the dining room. That is what evenings such as this remind me of.

With any luck, I will once again be in the BattleWagon, but hopefully, this time around, I will be travelling, exploring, and educating those who read my blog about new places and things in the world, geographically, spiritually, and politically. This world around us is not as small as some would think. There is far too much to see, to experience, to really live, and I would feel it a shame to spend so much time away from that life, as if we are denying ourselves access to a world larger than the one we've created for ourselves.

I'm hesitant to commit to a statement about how now is the time to take another big step forward, but I can feel adventure poking it's jovial sunrise over the horizon of my future, and as I wake from this slumber, I embrace this new dawn with an open soul. I am prepared to take it in as much as possible. Now is a good day to live.