Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Unique, just like everyone else

I was told, recently, that I am different.  Different from other comic book fans, in that, I prefer to enjoy the product, rather than complain.  Different from other Americans, in that, I believe that the US is not the total and end all of nations in the world.  Different from other Christians, because I believe in such a big god that I don't think human rules and human values are the same as the God I choose to believe in.  I am different because I am an INFJ on an MBTI scale of personality types.  And different because I am a poet who does not care about achieving for Academia, and I do not write for the genres and subjects that poetry fans read.

Am I so different?  Yes.  I am different.  Some of this is because of the circumstances of my birth.  Some is due to the parents who raised me.  Some is from the cultural experiences I have had.  And of course, my DNA is likely a party to the different that I am.  My life is not one that I am in complete control of, being that I live on a planet with 7.5 billion other people.  This isn't an amazing new concept, but it is one that some people attempt to suggest.  "I am not like the others" yeah, right.

I am different for numerous reasons, as you can see.  Another way I am different is that while I write and do other things, most of them provide little financial award.  Someone asked me if I was on welfare, since my work doesn't make much money.  I am not.  However, from day one of being in a serious relationship with the woman who became my wife, she was aware that I was going to be a writer, and that she needed to abandon ship if she didn't understand that I was unlikely to ever be more than that.  We are fortunate that we've arrived safely to the end of our child's K-12 education without being in bankruptcy, but some of that isn't my fault.  Getting cancer and paying oodles of money over years when I've fought it meant that our finances were thin.  And I only get to buy things if I sell my work, or books I buy as likely being of interest to collectors.  I am not a capitalist, I am not a communist.  I am an artist who has done work with little financial compensation, or critical success.

Why does any of this matter?  Everyone is different, right?  Yes, we are all unique in the very same way.  Yet, no matter the desire to think we are all different, you can assume that many people in any culture conform to a certain template that "normal" is considered to be.  I do not mean any disregard towards or contempt for anyone who fits that norm.  I simply am aware of how deeply different some people are.  And I believe that people who conform receive a great many benefits for such social conformity.  The world does nothing without there being a reason.  If I am kind, it is because I believe society is benefited by my action.  If a person steals that act rewards them in various ways, but comes with a risk.  Conformity allows people to thrive within the boundaries of a system.  Those who live outside of that system risk the benefits of being a social animal.

But remember, quantity is not quality, and no matter how unpopular you are, remember this too, 10 million flies love shit, it does not make shit good.  Being popular is not the same as being good.  Doing things that are or being of high quality does not guarantee anyone popularity.  It guarantees only what it is. 

I no longer attend church.  I have been involved in many churches, but I am not a social person, nor am I extroverted.  I am deeply introverted.  The act of going to church is one that some people feel rewards them socially, as well as spiritually.  For me the balance is solely for spiritual rewards, because I hate being in the midst of a large group of people, even in family or friends, I get overwhelmed.  The cost of being in that group is often anxiety and stress, but it can be worse, causing me to become wounded, and regret attending that church.  So, my choice has been to watch two different youtube ministers and read a variety of blogs for spiritual gain.  Not attending the group but getting the lessons allows me to grow.

So how do I intend upon moving forward?  I choose to keep writing, and I choose to be a positive force for the areas of life I am inclined to enjoy.  I am a Christian, a poet, an American, a Male, an INFJ, a Father, a Brother, a Son, and a Husband.  I like books, cats, comics, music, history, and documentaries. 

Wie Schafe zur Schlachtbank gef├╝hrt

One can assume that my goals are for a palpable reward.  And I accept that.  But the kind and form of reward, I think are diverse, unusual, and are not easily interpreted.

(Cat Photos copyright Jonathan Ness 2016)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Who I am, intellectually, and spiritually.

I've often been told that people are what they read.  If that is so, I am sharing images of the books that really helped define my intellect.  Some things to say before I explore more.  I don't always agree with what I've read.  I don't always like what it teaches me.  But I am happy, I am hopeful, and I have a mind that is curious.  All of those factors I believe help me endure life.  I have a number of beliefs, a number of interests, and my need to answer questions my heart and mind agree that need to have answered for me.

I am not a Hindu, but I am fascinated by the depths of the myths, legends, and spiritual truth found in their beliefs.   The world around me is quite different than the one I read about in the Hindu books.  This isn't a bad thing.  When I reach out with my brain and learn new facts, ideas, and beliefs, my spirit and being grow.  I have a great antipathy towards mindsets that are so closed as to deny what I think are spiritual truths.

"You grieve for those who should not be grieved for;
yet you speak wise words.
Neither for the dead nor those not dead do the wise grieve.
Never was there a time when I did not exist
nor you nor these lords of men.
Neither will there be a time when we shall not exist;
we all exist from now on.
As the soul experiences in this body
childhood, youth, and old age,
so also it acquires another body;
the sage in this is not deluded."

The Bhagavad-Gita

I am also not a Zen Buddhist.  What I find amazing about Buddhism is the fact that while it can be a religion, a spiritual quest, it can also be a manner of focusing one's mind, and becoming a stronger person.  My focus was improved by the information I learned, by the manner of questioning to find moral truth is beyond religious, it is a powerful tool to learn about your strengths, weaknesses and ideas.  Questioning your faith is important, at some point, to know its depths.  Learning how to do this is a way to explore personal intellectual growth, and it, in fact, deepened my understanding of my Christian faith.  In some ways I consider myself to be a Christian who uses Buddhist means to be a better Christian.

“The truth of Zen, just a little bit of it, is what turns one's humdrum life, a life of monotonous, uninspiring commonplaceness, into one of art, full of genuine inner creativity.”   D.T. Suzuki

Yes, I am a Christian.  My entry to religion was a baptism in the Lutheran church, I attended later a Methodist church, felt the flame of my beliefs at a Pentecostal church, and joined a Mennonite small fellowship to put my faith into action.  So, I am conversant in many aspects of Protestantism.  I am, at heart, not a deeply denominational Christian.  I pursue my faith by private research in the bible, that is outside of the group found in attending churches.  I grew in faith from every visit to reading the bible.  But dealing with people is completely different.  So, I admit, being an introvert has taken my studies into a realm that is considered questionable by many in the church.  But I believe in the church, I just don't find arguments, debates, harangues that come with defining one's faith to be helpful on my journey.

"“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

My journey was as a hungry mind and weak spirit who entered into a faith by many means.  Learning about the application of faith found in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's writings were among the most fertile of fields.  I rejected the desire to do things that Christians do, and embraced doing what I believed God wished me to do.  Christ's sacrifice was an act of grace for my sins, mercy for my being guilty, and by which I developed an understanding of the cost of true grace.  I wasn't freed to commit more sins.  I was freed of my sins to share hope with others.

Nietzsche, Rumi, Saint-Exupery and Laozi are an odd mix.  The path I've traveled is not as a perfect being, I am completely flawed.  As such, I have a desire to understand why, who am I, what is this world teaching me, and why do I listen?

Nietzsche was writing about many things, but what I found helpful the most was his pursuit of true, pure living.  I use this terminology to describe the whole of it, rather than to debate his other issues.  People think he hated those with religion, but he was saying, the era of man is one where the faith in God is one where others do your thinking.  Taking ownership of my faith happened when I did exactly what he was aiming at.  And I know God more as a result.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Rumi expressed how one should feel, learning the truth.  The glory that is God is not limited to only those of Christian faith learning of his existence.  It is a search that has no boundaries except those raised by the human desire to separate one's self from others.

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”  Rumi

I learned in the Little Prince the concept of knowing something that could help people greatly.  Instead of wanting more, desiring wealth, power, fame, learning to be amazed at what you have now, and grateful will bring you to a place of moral satisfaction, instead of unleashed desire.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I do not believe in all of the concepts found in Taoism.  I do however find great comfort in the manner in which it expresses that we should find satisfaction in life being ourselves, as opposed to having what others have, wanting what others want, and doing what what they do, instead of being yourself.

“The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.” Laozi

My mind has always pursued the universal truths in myth, the past actions of humankind, the deep truth of being sacrificing to yourself for others, and being courageous regardless of the situation.  As a poet I am moved mostly by the Greek myths, mostly because they captured truths while being exciting and interesting.  This also is why I love Arthurian legend, and the legends and lore of ancient Europe.  I don't presume to know if all or any of it happened.  I have ideas, though, and these were fuel for my mind. 

I do not know the future.  I do however, know who I am, and where I plan to travel.  I believe that there is reason to hope.

“You are well aware that it is not numbers or strength that bring the victories in war. No, it is when one side goes against the enemy with the gods' gift of a stronger morale that their adversaries, as a rule, cannot withstand them. I have noticed this point too, my friends, that in soldiering the people whose one aim is to keep alive usually find a wretched and dishonorable death, while the people who, realizing that death is the common lot of all men, make it their endeavour to die with honour, somehow seem more often to reach old age and to have a happier life when they are alive. These are facts which you too should realize (our situation demands it) and should show that you yourselves are brave men and should call on the rest to do likewise.” Xenophon, The Persian Expedition