Crowding in America

Everything here is so crowded with options and abundance, it seems to make the air thicker and harder to breathe. One has no trouble breathing on an empty meadow high up in the mountains. Here my three blankets are pilled up like mattresses, like the clothes in the corner, which I hardly wear, like the books on the shelf, all four of them just started, like all the objects and colors on the wall, like the electronics, four types of screens lined up on the desk.

My head screams. I imagine a room like that of a cell or a monastery, empty beyond a single bed. Empty so there’s room for my thoughts to enter it too.

Lying on the symbols of comfort, surrounded by bright and colorful lights, flowers, words, and decor, shoppes with my every undiscovered want, times a thousand. Choice, choice, and more choice. I become so distracted that it takes driving on the same old gray road that I’ve been driving every day for two years (if I manage to convince myself to turn off the radio), to be truly alone. Thoughts flow while I try not to crash, but a quietness permeates the air like nowhere else in the cities of the country, as I have no choice then but to hear my naked thoughts.

But the ride ends so soon, and I walk into places screaming, More! More! Think this! More TV! Eat! But what? Oh the time it takes to decide.

I watched a man say recently, how America never developed its own kitchen, as around the world all great cooking has been born out of limited options, and making the best of those possibilities. Although grateful tor the obvious, my mind starves for the limitations, like being stuck with a sheet of blank paper in a boring class, that enable me to truly be.
Free.

Writing is like prostitution.
Selling your soul to the page.
Just as I begin to feel some emotion,
In the midst of my crushing sadness or miraculous contentment,
I think,
This would make an amazing poem,
And there I am,
Grabbing my journal and letting all that’s human in me go away
For the sake of one hundred, possibly decent words of writing.
I find it better to be overly emotional more of the time;
It makes the words flow better.
And that’s how we explain
Why all artists are insane.

Work vs. Life Philosophy

I never understood why when adults went to work, they always complained about it, wishing their time would pass by quickly so they could get to the eternal destination, the weekend. The idea that you want to make hours of your rather limited lifetime simply disappear seemed illogical. I vowed never to do so. Then, I got my first job.

Of course, one cannot expect much of a first job, and I landed on something that with my seemingly low writable qualifications was what you’d call “nice.” Except that it wasn’t nice. A good company, workplace, and co-workers cannot make up for the experience of a brain vacuum. I would go around organizing clothes in the boutique, contemplating various ideas, trying to justify the enormous waste of capability I was experiencing. My brain was standing there ready to crunch calculus equations, and I was telling it to shut up, that it’s unnecessary. I tried to look through the shelves to perhaps find patterns or make connections. When customers would come in, I would stand there trying to guess there life stories along with their buying inclinations. And yet, my time for sociology and logic was so dreadfully rare, I thought it a luxury.

Often I looked at a piece of clothing there, and converted the price to hours I have to work. In a sense, if you don’t love what you do, an item is worth a certain number of hours of your life. It’s a frightening price to pay. I hope that now that I see it, I’ll do all that’s in my power to never pay this way again.

Encounter with a Younger Self

Sometimes we get off the track, we end up in a ditch, and we need to find a way back.
An unlikely ray of sunshine comes along-
Toddler pictures. Pictures of us smiling in our simpler, childhood days.
Since I discovered this magic, there’s one just standing in the corner of my room.
I look at the little girl smiling so naturally, and I think, who am I to ruin her? I love her. I must protect her. I wonder if she’d be disappointed at me and recent things.

Dear girl,
You carry your bruises like medals, and I hide mine with shame.
You laugh at the world which hates you, and I stay away from the one which cares.
You don’t mind being wild and crazy, and I mind even being seen.
You’re excited about everything, and I’m afraid to say I love a thing.
You smile to your ears, in your perfect discontent, while I, even in the best of situations, just know how to show restraint.
Would you tolerate what I have; would you cause yourself free pain?
Would you carry through the day, lifeless, headached, and so vain?
Would you let yourself be used, and be told that you can’t feel?
Would you openly deny, what in life is truly real?
Dear girl, I’m sorry if you’re now feeling abused.
It was never my intention.
Starting now, you’ll be my muse.
I don’t need to live this way.
For you, I’ll be me, but I’ll guard strong.
For you, when I feel a silly smile, I’ll hold on.
For you, I’ll let my heart beat as it likes.
For you, I’ll be a human of a million types.
And for you, just for you, I’ll be innocent again.

There’s No Stress in Play

It’s Friday, time for something a bit different! I was trying to relax yesterday, and I came across an article that really struck me, coming as important reminder. Similar to my Two Modes of Being Human, this article tells us simply to return, return to our original, better form of being.

Have you ever witnessed a little kid working out on a treadmill?

Or meeting up with a friend to chat over coffee?

Or wearing a suit and making cold-calls?

Or attending a networking conference to hand out their business cards?

HELL NO. That stuff is lame and boring. If you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would laugh and wonder what the hell was wrong with them.

Kids don’t run to get in shape; they run to feel the grass beneath their feet and the wind on their face.

Kids don’t have a chat over coffee; they pretend and make jokes and explore the outdoors.

Kids don’t go to work; they play their favorite games.

Kids don’t network; they bond with other fun kids while playing.

There is no ego. There is no guilt. There is no past to regret, and no future to worry about. They just play.

And that’s what I’d forgotten, what I’d been missing, all along.

Check out the full article here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/charlie-hoehn/2013/05/i-dont-think-about-work-all-the-time-anymore-and-im-seriously-way-happier/

Poetry Is Not About Keeping a Diary

     Regardless of what it might often seem like, poetry is not about keeping a diary, but capturing moments and ideas, real or imagined, that are worth being recorded as a memoir of the human experience as a whole. We do not assume that all of Shakespeare’s sonnets were written about someone he knows. They might have been inspired, but to call them so personal is to degrade their value as a whole.

     Poetry is not about truth in experience; it is about truth in outlook. When I write, I almost always end up turning the poem around in the last few lines, in order to offer the glimpse of the hope at the end of a storm I see as essential to a happy outlook. Others might write differently, to match their outlook on the world.
     Furthermore, some of the best writing is the over-exaggerated type. Few get excited over mediocre love or sadness, but not everyone lives in such a wildly emotional world, and they’re lucky to be so.

So the right thing would be to stop, stop the assumptions. A writer is not always writing about themselves, just as a painter is not always painting something she can see.

The Two Modes of Being Human

In my brief but colorful existence, I have encountered only two modes of being human: connected and disconnected. People in “connected” mode are those who know what truly matters. They look at the world and don’t see an endless ladder or a route to an accumulation of things, but the beauty of the present. Such people do not need to derive their joys from outer achievements. They know they have nothing to prove; their existence in harmony with nature and their world is enough.

But few people function in this mode.

As a student about to graduate, I’m expected to check the box next to “disconnected.” Once you hit high school (sometimes earlier), you enter the preparation for adulthood, and gain an outlook that is likely to stay with you the rest of your life, if unchanged. Suddenly, everything you do becomes part of a record, and every activity you undertake is an endeavor to prove your worth. Getting the highest grades is no longer about being proud of yourself; it is a matter of survival and competition. Clubs are no longer just a happy passion, but a resume filler. “Volunteering,” an act meant to be altruistic and voluntary becomes a grueling occupation, rewarded by number of hours, not contribution. I volunteered for 8 hours and did nothing good for myself or the community, and then 1 hour at a different place where I made 10 people feel cared-for. I can only smile back at the hour, but it technically doesn’t matter. I can smile at learning things, but not if I don’t show a good test score. Ultimately, what one takes away from a high school is that it doesn’t matter what you do, or why; it matters what you can say you’ve done, and what you can write on a resume, to impress a college or employer. It doesn’t matter who you really are or if you’re truly a good human. And they wonder why many high-achieving students seem to be half-living.

Similarly, many remark on the “presentation” mode Facebook users are accustomed to in which they carefully craft the right story and photo to show their best self, sometimes taking that photo for this sole purpose at the expense of the real experience. People continue to confuse this satisfactory presentation with happiness throughout their lives. In school, it’s the jam-packed resume to get into the “best” college. Later, it is the highly “successful” career. An accumulation of socially admired things is not the solution for anybody. Sure, we might think we impress society (though theoretically unlikely), but we forget to impress ourselves. We forget to meet our own needs, which might surprisingly not include anything that’s made to seem like a common goal. And that is okay. An amazing political science professor of mine said “there is no job I would rather be doing,” and I thought, I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say such a thing. Pouring more into a cup is useless, when the cup is already filed.

The philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville wondered why the citizens of poor European villages seemed to be happier than their comfortably-living middle-class American counterparts. What other reason can one give but the endless pursuit of badly thought-out goals and lack of contentment in sight? It’s much like what is said about traveling: you cannot expect a trip to change you because whatever problems you have, you take them with you when you go. The same can be said about reaching goals. The “connected” person is someone who addresses their problems before they travel, and therefore ends up being less dependent on whether or not that travel ever takes place. They do not need to derive their contentment from travel, or their goals.

It is hard to be connected in a society which seems to value a mechanical existence consistent with disconnection. Nevertheless, it is the right choice to make. As creatures with limited time on Earth, there is little reason not to love every minute of the stay. Through loving what we do, and doing everything for its own sake, for our own peace, or for a higher self, we make the choice to be present and connected, not temporary. We make the choice to be happy, regardless of circumstance.