Outside Actuality

I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truckMoss covered rocks today which read, “I’d rather be lost in the woods, than found in the city.” There were many other cars on the crowded road with no trees in sight. Earlier in the day, I woke up in Allegheny National Forest, under a tarp which prevented the rain from soaking my blanket and rock pillow. My traveling companions and I were lost for about an hour at one point. Creeks flowed from all directions down into a thick ravine. We hiked along the running water passing moss covered rocks and green foliage growth. We must have followed the wrong creek on the return, but were able to find a gravel road back to the campground before it became dark. Sitting around the fire, we were able to see that the temporary lost feeling was the most authentic of the journey.

Being lost is often a personal introspection into what is working and what is not. Forced to carry everything regardless of what feels right, the advancement toward finding what you are looking for is not easy. People are less likely to judge each other when they are lost. Most thoughts are self-directed and as Larry Smith said, “If only I had.” Smith’s talk is titled, Why you will fail to have a great career. Although not specific to being lost in the woods, the sentiment is the same concerning the journey toward self-actualization. Critical thoughts may lead to the unfair challenge which results in the encroachment of fear. Smith believes many people fail to find and pursue their passion due to fear of looking ridiculous so they come up with excuses. “You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail.”

Afraid to try. That is quite the accusation. When we fail to act in a life full of freedom, we demonstrate how little we appreciate the gift. And it is all a gift. There is not a single individual who achieved their own life. However, the individual can indeed achieve in life. What is this achievement though? Is it the idea of leaving this world better than the way we found it for our children? Such a noble mission statement, but it may inadvertently lead to a cycle of excuses, as Smith mentions in his talk. I hear people talk of why they cannot do something because of school, because of jobs, because of money, because of family and all the budding relationships in their midst. Of course we should take care of our commitments, but what happens when your child asks for your advice on taking risks to achieve their dreams? If there is going to be growth and progression, we must do more than persist for the sake of “the children.” They will be better off trying to emulate our example rather than being coddled incessantly. Again, there is a balance to it all. A child without parenting and a child with too much parenting is for the most part in some serious trouble.

Railroad through the woodsThere are many trails to this life. Some trails are straight edged and it may feel as if you are locked in with a future not entirely certain, but secure enough to believe in the predictability of it all. Like a railroad, you let it take you rather than take it. On the other end of the spectrum are the trails through the thicket of the woods. The part of the woods where the thorn covered branches bloody up your arms and legs. Surprises are commonplace such as when a tree used for support is actually decomposing which causes a fall into a hoard of ticks. Even in this day in age, most people do not know what they are talking about. Too much information is also recipe for deception. Burning off a tick is not the advised technique due to what they tick does with its mouth when it feels the sensation.

Advice, suggestions, tips, and a few other teachings are not meant to define our moves. Their definitions are limited to a slight nudge, a guide of sorts to assist in the understanding of our place in the world. Take it all with a grain of salt. The literal meaning is very often unrealistic, especially when applied to dreams. A self-analysis will always find imperfections and it often seems there are many other people who are doing it better. The “it” does not matter though if we do not know what “it” is that we believe is important. Some people prefer to be on the rails their entire lives. Many feel it necessary, if only for a time, to be on the tracks in order to figure something specific out. The ability to go off trail from time to time is the true test. Can you easily get back on track? Or will you wander through the world forever? Is that track really going somewhere certain? Who is to judge what is the better way? Knowing where you want to go is helpful. Regardless of all that, because nothing makes sense all at once, keep on going because it is the only way you will get there.

positive change to growth

“The best way to live life is to do your best and be cool to people and be nice and get through this as easy as you can…virtually anybody can put themselves on a positive path.” – Joe Rogan

Anyone can come up with a complex way of living. It is for the most part much better to think of a simple way of life, simple rules, and simple values. Some of us are the same; most of us are entirely different from one another. Dreams, aspirations, plans, all differ ever so slightly. Our ability to identify with another person on a conversational level is a great skill toward creating strong relationships. It becomes problematic when we take personal what someone else says which we many not entirely agree with. When we close up and assume the worst in each other, the course will likely result in negativity and loss. Nothing good comes from negativity and very little comes from being over-realistic.

Train through the woods

For some the path through the woods is clear regardless of fear. Others may spend too much energy complaining about the mud or the camouflage effect of the trees. By listening too closely to the complaint and trying to figure out why the other person is so negative, we become negative ourselves and are less considerate of a favorable outcome. This is not such a big deal when hiking through a small park within city limits. However, if the circumstances were within an unknown environment or translated from metaphor to life in general, then such distractions can become fatal. There is not enough time in this life to be negative.

Do not be hard on yourself if you realize that negativity. Simply make a decision to change and it will happen. Positivity is much easier anyway. It also helps to accept yourself in all ways and to be open to constructive criticism. Being authentic is a great technique to understanding real passion and dedication to some sort of goal. People tend to notice this and respond accordingly by sharing ideas which may then spur great action. These habits of positive action have a profound effect on everyone you contact. They benefit and grow until eventually you find yourself surrounded by dozens of strong individuals who possess the capacity to change the world.

Balanced Adventure

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” -Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia outdoor apparel

Adventure is a personal journey into something entirely new. We often are better off learning and growing as a result of an experience. When that is taken as the measure, an adventure can simply be a walk around the block for someone who has never left their house. It is exponential from there as people continue to experience more of what this world has to offer.

With greater experience comes wisdom. And those with this quality prove to be great teachers on the ways of life. They design maps, write instructions, and explain consequences of doing things the wrong way. Some take the responsibility so serious that they convey to others warnings of what not to do and emphasize the less is more lifestyle.

Regardless of what people are taught, they sometimes need to pee on the electric fence to understand. Scholars fail to grasp this concept when the same mistakes are made throughout history. “Why can’t we learn from the past?” they’ll ask. We do learn, but it does not mean we understand. An optimistic view upon history shows that we have improved ourselves in a progress over perfection kind of way. We will not figure everything out at once. Some may, other’s won’t. The individual must at the very least know where he or she is going. And then take another step forward.

Sign of the way

The motivation for pursuing adventure is far more interesting than the details of a plan. It should not be so difficult for it to materialize. Near the end of the documentary 180° South, Chouinard continues a conversation with Doug Tompkins, a co-founder of The North Face.

Yvon Chouinard:  The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life because most of the damage caused by humans is caused unintentionally I think.

Doug Tompkins:  In response to people saying “you can’t go back,” I say well what happens if you get to the cliff and you take one step forward or you do a 180º turn and take one step forward? Which way are you going? Which is progress?

Yvon ChouinardThe solution may be for a lot of the world’s problems is to turn around and take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.

washed-up too soon? NO!

“If you go to the Buddhist meditation center, they make you taste each bite of food, so it takes two hours—it’s horrible—to eat your lunch! But you’re conscious of the taste of food! If you’re just eating out of habit, then you don’t taste the food and you’re not conscious of the reality of what’s happening to you. You enter the dream world again.” – Andre Gregory

Large disillusioned masses flock to city squares with little to no agenda and are often criticized for being so stubborn within the myth of participatory democracy. “Occupy a job,” so many will say with absolute resolve. Maybe we are witnessing the stages of grief of a people promised far too much by the American Dream. There is no way that everyone is on the same stage and therefore they have difficulty understanding each other.

Shock and denial that things have gotten to this point; they feel it will recover regardless of new leadership or worse believe it depends upon the upcoming elections. Others who do not believe this turn to pain and guilt. Being 2012, the world is quite chaotic and ominous, maybe more so than any other time, although probably just like any other year. When people begin to see what is really going on or see the system as broken, they turn to anger and bargaining. Yelling, protesting, resolutions, and all the other emotions at peak capacity are followed by a crash into depression under the impression that nothing will change.

Press on! It is the only way to break free from this despair, things start to get better, we begin to work through our collective problems, and then finally we accept the system and creative rules of the game to make things better for everyone. Seems easy enough and why not? There’s no reason to complicate everything or assume that most people are just wrong. Experience and education vary from nothing to too much. Many cannot even have a simple conversation on the world without reverting to “it’s just too complex to talk about, let’s talk about what was on the television last night or the weather.”just a man pointing at the horizon

Sometimes you have to find a new scene in order to see things more clearly. Remember one thing though. You bring you wherever you go. Changing your scene should not be thought of as an escape but instead as a way to better understand yourself under different circumstances. Everything is evolving regardless of where you are at the present moment. Generalizations, which are often regrettably used in this and many previous posts, can be dangerous unless you are willing to go and see for yourself if what you are saying is valid. Consciousness of the world is great. Do not take it personal though. Even if you were not part of the equation, most of it would remain the same. Since you are part of it, take a moment and talk about it with a friend sooner rather than later.

Turn it upside down

The idealized memory of the promising few casts a shadow of fear that many take to heart. This crisis of perception is not new and is used each year to justify so-called original works of art. The founders said this, the founders believed in that, the founders would roll over in their graves. Those who write history are people just like us all. They struggle to meet their editor’s deadline and from time to time compromise on accuracy. We should all take a moment to turn the argument upside down and see what makes sense and what does not. The truth seldom makes sense compared against a beginning to end fiction. What actually happened may come across as cliché compared to a sonnet written under duress. How do we judge source validity? If the grammar is off, do we lose confidence in the final conclusion? The same goes for people who may not have the best reputation, yet were there when the event happened. They saw with their own eyes, yet many would rather believe the spin of the corporate news anchor. The accuracy of interpretations matters less and less these days.

Self-diagnosis is not recommended when it comes to serious conditions. We have more access to information than at any other time in history. So when we notice symptoms of an ailment, it is easy to assume the worse, which creates a situation of self-fulfilling prophecies. The ramifications of this ability intensify when looking at the affairs of the modern world. Talking heads on every channel give their confident perspectives which very often contradict what they said the previous day. Politicians manipulate everything to suit their agenda and those who support them. Pollsters make ridiculous predictions with plus or minus two percentages and are taken literally by the undecided voters who either support the underdog or jump on the bandwagon. Millionaire strategists understand this concept and are paid even more to set up the wealthiest candidates for victory regardless of their ability to inspire. Instead of becoming pawns in their game, why not take another moment and really think about what is going on? Imagine the possibilities if everyone took an extra fifteen minutes a day to read and acknowledge that which they normally find to go against what they believe in. This advanced citizenship is not an easy feat, but would probably lead those individuals seeking positions of power to take a more human approach to their campaigns. Maybe then, the habit of seeking the truth will finally sink in.

Choose now!

The initial conditions of snow covered roads are treacherous. Just the other day, my truck slipped off the road and without any control was headed straight for a telephone pole. For some reason, instead of twisting the steering wheel back onto the road, I straightened the tires and expected to go straight on through, hopefully to the right of the pole and into a snow bank. It all occurred too quick to really know how what actually happened next. The truck must have hit some bump in a ditch and it bounced back onto the road. Thinking back, I remember sliding uncontrollably accepting the crash as if it had already taken place. The natural reaction would have been to correct course as soon as I started sliding. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision or not. All I know is that the truck bounced back onto the road and later in the day when I came back to the scene of what happened, the wind had covered up whatever had caused the miraculous save. It was cold and dark, so I didn’t bother digging through the snow. Maybe when the weather warms, I’ll be able to discover what it really was. It doesn’t matter though.

from Patch Adam's book, Gesundheit!

Waiting for something to happen is one of the toughest aspects of life. Whether it be a positive outcome or negative, the feeling is the same. The result of this waiting is too much thinking. The waiting game as it is often referred leads to anxiety along with a mixture of hope and despair. There is no way to predict exactly what will happen. Some days are characterized by evidence of all the good life has to offer with optimism. Others are not easy and drag on through pessimistic thoughts of how bad things can get. Most days have both ups and downs with variations of speed. There is no reason to let that ruin the present moment. Why spend so much time in the waiting room, when there are alternatives? It all depends on what the individual believes is the right course of action. The important thing is the decision to act. Even if the options are unclear, a choice must be made and fast or the waiting will go on forever. Or worse, the chance to make a difference will fade away. Nobody is damned. No matter how bad things seem, they are usually a little better than perceived. Keep a steady head, face the music, and continue on. As this habit of choosing to act grows, what was once an impossible situation now becomes realistically solvable. Thinking too much about it is recipe for inaction. Life is not meant to be spent waiting. Accepting what is out of one’s control is a vital choice to make and leads to further options on how to deal with whatever comes. So make it happen.

Acting out, living out

There is no reason to be so defensive. Knowledge does not come easy and very often the resistance to new ideas prevents advancement. Nobody has it all figured out and if they come across as if they do, they are probably more lost than you. Humility is a vital step toward growth. The question becomes: how teachable are you?

“Half of the people can be part right all of the time. Some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.” Dylan misquoted Lincoln and many others, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We can still carry messages to each other, not say it the exact way it was meant to be said, and manage to share the idea effectively. Sure, an argument should be sound and as close to perfection as possible to stand up to scrutiny. However if you look close, you’ll always find imperfection. Nothing ever is perfect and by dismissing things beneath unrealistic standards, there will be no progress. After all, even the sloppy points, if taken together, manage to lead to great results. Measures of success vary on so many levels. We have to make do with what we have in front of us and not lament our perceived limitations.

Some people refuse to acknowledge any of these points and have grown within a sheltered existence where they are never wrong. Avoid these people at all cost. They are unlikely to change and it is not your business to try to change them. Never take anything personally from these types when chance does bring them across your path. There literally is not enough time to convince these people how they are wrong. And remember, they may be part right some of the time, which only strengthens their resolve to be proud. They are not at fault. Parenting may have something to do with it, but I’m not psychoanalyst.

Instead of fixating on others, think of what can be done with what you have at the moment. Take some beach wood and create a goofy looking structure in the middle of winter. Do something unexpected. Be different. Creating something original is far more interesting than attempting to draw a perfect circle freehand. Conduct a self-analysis and figure where your performances may need improvement. The thing is, the only way to figure all this out is to act out, to live it out. There is a great chance that everything needs improvement, so take another look whenever you sense all is well. When it feels like others are to blame, take a look at yourself. It is the only way to move forward.

“This is going to be the best stage you will ever have to do your number. Never mind all that reflection. Let’s see who we are. Let’s turn the thing on and write as it’ll go and see what kind of shadow we cast.” – Ken Kesey

Is money real?

Hoping for the best is natural.

Not preparing for the worst is foolish and immoral. Cautious optimism is one way to play it. The only requirement should be for everyone to at least think about it and exercise some foresight. We have that freedom and ability to choose to change when we discover something not working. The act of changing is a little harder, yet it becomes possible as soon as we acknowledge what is going on. We all have a different pace after that point. What is the goal here? Is it to simply ease the status quo to ensure productivity and enjoyment of life? We are more than that, so much more. Life has value and our cultural influences help us to better define the course it takes. However, life in all its unlimited potential is not condensable no matter how hard we try to figure it out. I’ve heard of predispositions and agree they’re real, yet I do not accept predeterminations. We all have tendencies and these are changeable. This concept of being stuck is unappealing and not worth the time it takes to consider. Epigenetic influence is what happens to one in life. Even in those good moments of believing in something greater than yourself, it is important to remain on guard. We are taught at a young age of leaders in democracy who bring the best of ideas to the table and help make the world a better place. As we grow older, this becomes less and less realistic. Far too often though, we dismiss the whole system and go about our lives ignoring the real problem.

Today we have politicians arguing amongst each other over trifling matters in an attempt to win over the masses with their way of speaking. These politicians and other people in power assume in their philosophies that we have infinite resources. They speak in confusing terms about how to spend money. In any analysis, we come to see elite interests guiding their actions as soon as they take the wheel. Politicians end up like any item we’d buy at the store believing they’re the best due to the advertising in media. The truth is that companies spend more money advertising than they do on actually producing the items they sell. We think this is normal and even by our first birthday get used to a world in which arbitrary gifts are provided to induce happiness. How much do you think it costs to produce a politician? Factor in education, food, shelter, and overall care, it must be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seems like a lot, but when it comes to the self-promotion they must all go through, millions and even billions of dollars are spent on endless advertisement promising the world. There is a huge difference between the monetary vote and the signs outside the bars of the White House fence. The media throws in other distractions disguised as so-called entertainment. We continue on as wage slaves assuming things all work out in a democracy, in our system of freedom. While we pay attention to what the powers that be make us believe as important, they sit on their opulent thrones and collect ridiculous paychecks of our spent time. Those people are many and really are not to blame for they only exist due to the current system and we allow them to take advantage of us because there does not seem to be an alternative.

Theorists mocked as utopianists tell of worlds without money, where all are equal.  Is this impossible? All the debt in the world is proof of a flawed model for civilization. Must the world go bankrupt? Is freedom worth it if only a few really have it, or would it be better if freedom were redefined as a logical order of things based upon scientific reality? Incentive is often referenced whenever new systems are mentioned. Well, what is the incentive now for a politician or others in power to change things for the benefit of all? Are we to assume they are self-less individuals? How can we possibly believe in this farce? Politicians are just like any other person on this planet. They wake, do whatever they have to that day to get by, and then go to bed hoping they did a good job. They can only do the best with what they have and are compelled to appeal to the few who have the wealth, the most to lose. There are not many lobbyist groups advocating for those without much to lose. What do the poor have to lose? What do the youth have to lose? Life. I think everyone agrees, life is more important than anything else.

We can’t all drive a Maserati that does 185. Resources are limited. Miracles, magic, do indeed exist, but only to the extent allowed or believed by the individual. Love is one of these things. Thinking about it all can get you down, but that is just another attribute of the system. It is not too complex to change or too broken to replace. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Remember, the intention is to enhance our ability to change and that begins with acknowledging the problem. What’s next is anyone’s guess, but things do get better when we make a decision to make it so. Thinking about it all is necessary to develop solutions, alternatives to the system, or simply actions which lead you down a better course. The information is out there already. The people are there too waiting to hear new ideas. Regardless, think about it and what you believe to be right. Think twice to be sure it is your own voice shaping your mind and not that of the media or overwhelming cultural influences. Give it all a fair share for consideration, but in the end, make up your own mind.

Enhancing Intuition

Ideas come and go. Options, offers, directions, evolve to meet the state of the moment. We are never in the same exact place we were yesterday. There’s always something new, always something to do, if the individual makes it so. At the cellular level, we are all changing regardless in continuous cycles of renewal. Our bodies evolve with the times depending on the systems available. What do we have now? What ways are available? People pursue forms without much thought and develop unintended habits which result in vulnerable bodies. If left ignored, these bodies fail earlier than expected. This may be a simplistic evaluation; however the concept of systems is too often forgotten in consideration of the status quo and remedies for discontent. The American Dream is not dead, but the train is moving too fast for us all to get on at once. It does occasionally slow for brief moments, and we have to be ready to hop on without hesitation. These moments are not inherently clear. Also, these brief moments are not always true opportunities to jump on board. How can you tell the difference? When do you make a move? This is where intuition, the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning, comes into play.

The first time I ventured into bear country, I packed way too much. My friend described what we were getting ourselves into as an “overnighter.” We would hike a couple miles into the middle of nowhere in the Northern Rockies of Glacier National Park and then come back out the next morning. The essentials included tents, some food, and a change of socks. Manufacturers design backpacks which can be loaded with the many trinkets available at sporting goods stores. I thought I should bring three extra pairs of clothes in case the weather conditions radically changed. I thought I should bring dehydrated snacks in case we were unable to cook food. I thought I should bring extra water bottles, other drinks, binoculars, a camera, bug spray, extra batteries, sun block, fishing equipment, some rope, a few other things, and a tripod for some odd reason. Soon after I packed all that stuff into my pack, I lifted it off the ground onto my back. It was heavy, but felt manageable. Before long into the few mile hike, pain set in. Throwing off extra weight was not an option, neither was asking my hiking mates to carry my load. I accepted the fate of a heavy pack and continued on. I did not need most of what I brought. And the trail climbed up and over hills I did not anticipate which exasperated the pain I felt. I did however, learn from this experience, and the next “overnighter” was far more enjoyable.

One way to enhance this ability is to better understand our system. Where do we live? Who do we associate with? What do we need on a daily basis? How does our immediate surrounding environment affect us? Why do we want? There is an obvious difference between “need” and “want.” The why do we “need” is often easier to answer than why do we “want.” The American Dream is a prospect of “want,” not “need.” There’s disagreement on this point, but when it comes to what the individual “needs,” it does not require all that much effort to get it. It’s when “want” is believed to be “need” that trouble arises into a paradox of not knowing what to go after. This leads people to set upon a course of action one day, then an opposite the next, and finally back to the same place. Having a firm grasp upon the characteristics of our system is only the beginning though.

We cannot change the status quo over night. Bernard Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” The most effective means of achieving a change in self is to work to improve the system. Our respective communities have so much influence upon our quality of life. It is a shame when neighbors treat each other as strangers. We have isolated ourselves to deal with problems as individuals instead of working together to solve those problems. Simply figuring out a way to survive is not enough, and unworthy of the life we’ve been given. Why merely survive, when we can improve our surroundings? We must begin to share our experiences and then work together to ease the hardships so many face at achieving what is necessary. We’ve all heard this before, but what have we done to live it? We can all learn the hard way on an “overnighter” through the backcountry, but I recommend we lighten the load.

Making plans

“It’s okay to make plans.  Plans are great.  Do not plan for an outcome though.  Consider the plan and whether it results in success or failure, accept it.  If it is meant to be, it will be.” –T.D.

It doesn’t take much to set yourself up for disappointment.  The first thing that happens is an overall confidence buzz kill due to unrealistic expectations.  Freewheeling can be tricky, but when done correctly with continuous self-evaluation, tends to pay off majestically.  The modern age is full of those seeking instant gratification with fulfillment a long way off.  The past, present, future, are different in more ways than one.  Thinking about them all at once is recipe for madness.  Regret or satisfaction about the past, anger or happiness about the present, fear or anticipation about the future.

Some days are better than others, but the fact is that almost all control is out of our hands.  Trying to hold onto it, thinking it will all work according to plan leads to disappointment.  This does not mean you should set the bar low.  Reach for the stars on as many occasions as possible.  Those who have achieved the perceived impossible feats did not do so effortlessly.  Most great achievements come after many failures.  If the people who went after their dreams expected doubtless results, they most likely would have given up after their second or third attempt.  Eventually it works out and then things start to look a little better.

Take another moment and enjoy a view of the stars.  It is all too vast to sincerely comprehend.  Grasping individual purpose between the earth and heavens is and has been a constant struggle ever since people gained insight.  There is nothing new with this concept and for the rest of existence, the questions will be asked.  So, after another look into it all, breathe lightly and consider the fact, that it will not all come at once.  Once, twice, and a dozen more times, check yourself.  Plans may work out.  They may not.  Regardless of how events play out, accept it and move forward.  Never allow yourself to become stuck in the muck.

The stories of what happens are interesting, but the motive behind their circumstances are always far more interesting.  Sharing what happened is not as useful to another as complementing those stories with the how and why.  Inspiration comes from this steady progression of the inception of a plan to its eventual outcome, not simply the outcome.  So much time is wasted looking to people who are at their best without consideration of how and why they ended up at the top of their game.  It’s like climbing a mountain or any other distant travel.  The journey is what it is all about and where the lessons are to be gained.  With a little further research into these things, we’ll all be a little better off in the long run.  Seriously, check out those stars.  Sunsets are pretty awesome too.