(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Walking By

I am the infection,
the contamination,
the word that plants the seed of an idea.
And, like a weed,
I flourish in the spaces in-between.
If kiss is kill,
then kiss me deep,
but don't you dare kill me.
The inflection, Pontypool,
screams at me to tell you to shut up.
I'm in the thick and in the thin,
waiting inside the outside.
My roots are strong.
They are tendrils and strings that,
cross the divide.
This fabric a blanket forms,
and I wrap you in my love.
Hypothermia seeps into your bones,
Under heat disease
Take the pressure off and go to sleep

If any of you have read this blog in the last few months, you know how much I go on about silence. It's the ninja aesthetic that draws me there. Move in silence, strike with deadly precision. I'm no ninja, but I like the imagery.

I'm drawn to silence I think because I live a noisy life. I'm always busy running around, involved in something. I'm always thinking about something I care about. Silence is a retreat for me, it's where I want to come from.

I don't think silence is as bad a thing as we credit it in society. To be by yourself, to be present does not require speaking or noise or sound. I view silence the same way I view the concept of nothingness. It is a container and an inverse that we cannot exist without.

But at times it feels like a fool's errand because to seek silence is to make noise. It's like Enlightenment, to truly be enlightened, one must not strive for Enlightenment, right? So I'm at a loss because I'm not sure what to do with all this sound.

Perhaps I should make a:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Fairy Tale Sermons: This too will pass

"This, too, will pass."

Popular accounts give the origins of this aphorism with Sufi writers, a variation of which I've provided with below.

A Story from Attar:

A powerful king, ruler of many domains, was in a position of such magnificence that wise men were his mere employees. And yet one day he felt himself confused and called the sages to him.

He said: 'I do not know the cause, but something impels me to seek a certain ring, one that will enable me to stabilize my state.

'I must have such a ring. And this ring must be one which, when I am unhappy, will make me joyful. At the same time, if I am happy and look upon it, I must be made sad.'

The wise men consulted one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally they came to a decision as to the character of this ring which would suit their king.

The ring which they devised was one upon which was inscribed the legend:


This is more a fable than a fairy tale and it very clearly serves as a reminder of the impermanence of all conditions, so I wanted to take a moment and relate this to my personal experience.

The other day I was asked what I was afraid of. I couldn't really give an answer, which isn't to say I’m not afraid of things or that I don't experience fear, but I try very hard not to let one bad experience prevent me from attempting the same action again. You learn from your mistakes and your victories, but I do not believe learning should ever stop you.

Learning is adjustment to the actions, it is changing your perceptions and your approach, which does not necessarily change the goals. A bee stings you once or a spider bites you, so you learn to treat these creatures with respect, but fear, or at least rational fear, is temporary. It is grounded in the immediate world that faces us, a situational comedy of uptight clowns if you will.

Temporary shares the same root origins as tempo. We keep time to this pulsing beat, the up and down wave-forms of life. This is why nothing captures my attention; it is the perfect combination of the is and the is not.

Nothing, as an idea, carries its own weight because it is constantly negating and creating simultaneously. It may be a simple matter of wordplay and inflections, but nothing could be simpler. Nothing but nothing captures the immediacy of the temporary and translates it into a broader state of being.

The vacuum, the emptiness that nothing embodies is temporary. It gets filled, but ultimately what fills it is nothing, or at least inconsequential things. I'm not afraid of the temporary because I know this, too, will pass. They come, they go and everything returns somewhere else. You can rely on this, it is the nature of change.

There's a word for this in the body: homeostasis. Even if we disrupt the system, if we cause the heartbeat to palpitate, it finds a new equilibrium. The norms adjust. Societally, perhaps this is scary.

God is supposed to have a plan for us, right? That's part of the basis of so many faiths, trusting in the divine plan and it's hard to maintain that kind of faith sometimes when you can't see the big picture. I don't see the big picture, but I trust that it's there and that as a total it makes sense in the grand equation. All these cardiogram blips are insignificant compared to the line we begin with and the line we end with.

Life. This, too, will pass. Enjoy it while it's here for both its good and its bad.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Unfinished empathy

You make me fall in love with your stories and your cares and your worries and your stares. It's not you, it's me. It's not me, it's you. All these insecurities touch me, grab me, pull me in. I feel your love and it becomes mine. I love on your behalf where you can and where you can't.

You make me fall in love every time you fall in love with someone else. It's painful. It's terrifying. All these strangers piercing my heart though we've never met, I see them in a new light. It's blinding bright: hurting, heart-shaped holes the only shadows unrequited.

I want you to stop. Stop loving. Stop caring. Stop telling me about it. But no, that's not the way this works. I'm a conduit. I'm translating this experience, making it accessible , but I wonder for whom?

Catalysts, we are agents of change. Networked and hardwired to receive and act. I take this in, redirect it, funnel it down a different path of this spider's web woven. Self-identified as a hub, I stand tall in a center with no boundaries. Forever.

Left-side. Left-side receives and listens. Carries across, translates into form. Words? Images. Picture me this, standing, leaning in the doorway, waiting for you to realize you can come in. The door is open. This is home. Home because you have carried it here on your back.

Let it sit. Let it stand. Freedom songs of the snails and turtles belong here. Radiate outward. Breath in with my hands. Breath out with my hands. Feel  them beat and break the knots that tie you down. Gulliver broke free from the grasp of such small worries.

When we care, it's a trade. Energy exchange in unequal expressions of entropic excess. I see red and blue at odds, polar offspring of the warm and cool emotional spectrum. I am blue: grounded, present and calm contrast to the lost red, the anger and fear that takes control . I take it and tame it, balance but I am no savior.

Reception is all about giving. Provide, provide, take you inside. A letter separated from the ultimate booby-trap. Sometimes we call it bait. Wait.


Positive spin. Clockwise or widdershins? The machine, perpetual motion, turns itself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Are Not a Number

Spring of my eighth grade year, I remember during ASB elections one girl used the tagline "You are not a number" as a main tenet of her campaign. She was rallying against the administration, a straight-A star, the kind of girl constantly winning awards and recognition for her outstanding work talking to the C-average laymen, her peers if you loosely define the term.

You are not a number. You are not a test score or a nameless ID on a form to be scanned and filed with countless thousands of others until you move on and it gets passed to the next office. You are not what the WASL tells you to be. You are not your grades -- a lesson I've found many an over-achieving student needs to learn sooner rather than later.

No. You are a person. You are an individual with unique perspectives and views. You are an artist and an athlete and a student.

I voted for her, but despite her perfect message, she did not win the election. At the time, she came across as too perfect. Perfect grades, perfect image, pretty and most of all, nice so that even if you wanted to hate her for her perfection, you couldn't without feeling bad for hating her.

I was reminded of this the other day when not hours after moving into my new apartment, my roommate mentioned some app he had on his iPhone. It was some rpg-style calculator that takes different actions and converts them into points that can be added to different areas of self-improvement like strength or intellect or spirituality. Get enough points and you move up to the next level.

My initial reaction to this was a mild interest because it's kind of a foreign concept to me, but the longer I sit with this, the more I get this gut reaction of distaste and I want to reject it and push it farther and farther away from me. This is wrong to me, you can't measure a life. To chart progress is to lose sight of the point of progressing in the first place.

And I get it, I'm not a gamer, who am I to judge, blah-de-fucking-blah. I don't care, I refuse this philosophy. It's a symptom of postmodern Western culture that it's okay to think like this. In Buddhist traditions, even in the search for Enlightenment, it cannot be achieved without first giving up the desire to reach Enlightenment.

There's part of me that wants to mock him. Danny learned a new recipe! *cue horn doo-do-do-dooo* Danny moved up to level 6 in cooking! But what's the point? I'm not going to change his mind by doing that.

This whole level thing is just another form of labeling. It's not rating, like a caste system or a hierarchy, but it's a box to put ourselves and each other in. To level up is to move out into a bigger box, a different label and name. But you are not a number.

It's confining because it's never escaping the cycle. It's ungrounded and leaves you seeking, seeking the next step, seeking the next level. There's no time to accept the present because it's too goal oriented. Where mediocrity and stagnation lie in too much stillness and not enough growth, this takes on the opposite extreme. Happiness only exists in movement and because of this you can never be satisfied unless you keep climbing the spiritual ladder.

I've asked it before and I'll ask it again (and again and again), but why does silence make us so uncomfortable? Stop thinking, stop doing and simply be. Receive. Listen. Feel.

I'm not unnerved by this philosophy because of JoeJack, but because of the culture that allows it to begin with. We're immature in that we as a society never reach beyond this and attempt to see the bigger picture. By trapping ourselves in levels, we put a cap on how far we can go.

The frustrations expressed in this post are symptomatic of a deeper dissatisfaction with the noise around me. I'm being pushed and I'm being pulled, lifted and weighed down by the love I surround myself with. I keep telling myself I'm grounded, but I'm not so sure anymore.

I love. I care. I want. I need.

The past few weeks disconnected from the world, surrounded by love so strong the world will move out of its way, I felt present. And it was a conscious intention of mine to remain present for myself, for those around me, to enjoy the experience. But now, back in the "real" world, I find myself at times overwhelmed. Is it possible to remain present from a distance?

I volunteered at a second Power of Hope camp in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Nothing I can write would ever really do the experience justice. There's something about spending a week making yourself vulnerable and open within a community of beautiful, artistic people that makes you fall in love with everyone despite gender, race, sexuality, age, class, ideology, etc. Eight days that go from 7:30am (if you're so lucky to be able to sleep in past the sun) until 10:30pm or later, full of non-stop activity are guaranteed to leave anyone emotionally and physically exhausted.

I spent a lot of that week trying to figure out how I can bring this experience out into my everyday life. I took notes on all the name games and opening activities. But when it comes down to it, I think the biggest way I can continue to carry Power of Hope with me is to internalize that message. Change starts with a decision, with a conscious effort to make a difference. In a society that believes that if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem, there's no room for any waffling in-between.

I've seen many different kinds of community over the last week and a half. As an organization, Power of Hope has created its own kind of community of individuals dedicated towards making that positive change in their lives. On the micro-level, there's also the community of our homes, the families who all to often are strangers to us. I've seen the beauty of a small-town community supporting and loving one of their fellows as a room of 40+ individuals sat together for an hour and a half and listened to him speak about the global community of which we all are a part.

I want this. I want this for myself and for everyone around me. And that's scary because it's one tall order. I don't know if I can deliver, but I'll be damned if I don't try.