Perspectivis Randomis

The tiny sliver of the spectrum that we see, we deem important.

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The spectrum we are currently aware of consists of a range of around 10,000,000,000,000 (ten trillion) angstroms (Ā).  We see a range of about 3,000 angstroms (300 nanometers) of wavelength.  So based on wavelength, we see about 0.00000003% of the potential colors of the world.

How many potential senses exist?  Mark Manson has a great article where he summarizes: “To put that in perspective, imagine that for every word you’ve seen and read in this article, there are 536,303,630 other words that were written but you cannot see.”

 


My friend Loren showed me that riding your bicycle slowly enough, makes the sound of wind in your ears disappear.

You see every leaf.  You hear every bird, even crickets.

We still live in the woods.   We rearranged materials.  Matter cannot be created nor destroyed.  Everything you see is a different orientation of what was originally here.

It’s been going on for millions of years.


It is often said Key West has more churches per capita than anywhere in the country.

The city is famous for its openness to homosexuality.  We even have openly gay mayors.

Many homophobes hide behind their church, because they are afraid to stand up for who they are: under-educated douchebags who don’t respect freedom.

Homosexuality occurs in over 1,500 animal species as presented by the University of Oslo in their exhibition Against Nature at the Natural History Museum.


TV

Prevents you from getting useful things done.  Learning languages, instruments, making anything, writing.  Studying anything in depth is impossible.

If we all know it’s not good for us, why do we let ourselves get hooked on TV shows?

I think it might be because we are lonely.  One summer when my brother and I were about 11 and 9 years old we watched daytime television.  We had no cable TV and the only shows after The Price Is Right were soap operas.  That summer we got hooked on Days of Our Lives.

After 20 years, I still believe it takes 3 episodes to get hooked on a show.  It doesn’t really matter how stupid it is.

How does it work?

We get to know the characters.  We now have “friends” with personalities and backgrounds and it doesn’t matter how many shows they write, we’ll keep watching them.  It appears to provide social health.


 

I used to relax with a sigh after a deliberate, deep, chest inhale.  I often prepared to relax.  My friend Cori Carlo showed me some pages from Thich Naht Hanh, which suggested that we can establish peace with EVERY step.  Now I relax with the inhale.  I don’t want my life to be a means to an end.

Another trick you can try is to put a hand on your ribs and feel them move when you breath.


I find it interesting that dogs and people can have meaningful communication without words.


 

I would like to attempt to clear up some confusion between capitalism and consumerism.

First, I would like to share my findings and sentiments toward a famous revolutionary, Che Guevara.  Originally a doctor from Argentina, Che met revolutionaries in Mexico and sailed with them to Cuba to overthrow the corrupt government to fight the exploitation of Latin people.

If you read a bit of recent world history, you already know the indigenous people in Caribbean islands, Central America, Mexico, and the countries of South America were captured, slaughtered, tortured, forced into slavery to work in mines to produce Spain with gold and precious stones / metals.  Pirates then came to rip off the gold filled Spanish galleons, etc., etc.

The sentiment just before the Cuban Missile Crisis was that imperialist America (yes, if you use military force to facilitate trade and production of food, precious metals, and cheap shit through poor countries, people will call you names) was using neocolonialism to “farm” resources without exploiting it’s own people and land.  Ever heard of the Panama Canal?  This sentiment is still in existence far and wide.  Don’t act so shocked.

******I am merely explaining another perspective.  I don’t imagine I will make up my mind anytime soon, as there are many more books to read and places to visit.******

From another point of view, the U.S. has used interventions such as the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary to protect the latin peoples from european exploitation.  As a world constantly becoming more integrated, it’s kinda hard not to intervene.

The questions in Che’s head became: “Why is a country like Bolivia, with major exports of gold and jewelry so poor?  Why do workers in the mines have an average life expectancy of 30 years?  Why is the mortality rate at 30% for children under the age of 5?  (It was 2.6% at that time in the U.S.)  Cuba wasn’t looking so good either.  Che wanted to fix this first. So, to make a long story short, he trained some rebels and defeated the national military.  Later he renounced his status as a Cuban citizen and went to Congo to attempt another revolution.  It was a failure, so after speaking in NYC and Europe and visiting Asia, he finally went to Bolivia to attempt yet another revolution.  His rebel forces were defeated and he was killed.

One problem I see with his plan and other ideologies similar to marxism, socialism, communism, stalinism, etc. is that, it appears to me, they don’t take into account the human factor.  People are lazy, immoral opportunists.  Socialism is all about equality, but people are all different and far from perfect.  Even the seemingly uncompromising Che married another woman while he was already married with a child.

**(Famous criminals such as Al Capone and even serial killers have been questioned and studied to find out if they ever believed that they were guilty.  The interesting thing about human psychology is that we make reasons in our head such that we are always in the right.  When we run a red light, we think, “It’s no big deal, I’m in a hurry.”  When we are waiting at an intersection and someone else runs a red light, they are the asshole.)**

Capitalism on the other hand, in my opinion, fits human tendencies better.  People are rewarded for being self-centered egotists, which we all are.

While capitalism may be the instrument in taking advantage of defenseless populations and natural resources, I don’t believe it is the root cause.  The same way a gun cannot fire itself, it is the greedy, senseless consumer that drives the machine.  Petty westerners—with 56 different drinking glasses in their kitchen cabinet, who leave the air conditioning on the lowest setting while they are away at work, who throw away zip-lock plastic bags because they held a sandwich once, who can’t drive home without buying something cheap and internationally manufactured so they can go home and throw away something that no longer matches this season’s décor—are what keeps the global economy so freakishly lop-sided.  I don’t blame any rich CEO for taking advantage of the unquenchable desires of the ridiculous and oblivious masses.  I might do the same if I hadn’t seen the world from so many angles.  Who knows, maybe I still will.

“Americans… are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.” -Kurt Vonnegut

Consumerism also exploits our weaknesses such as loneliness, guilt, and fear.  When I get off work, I have an urge to stop at a restaurant to see some familiar faces and “help” out local businesses.  They should be able to thrive or go broke based on product and service, not pity.

I feel guilty and lonely and spend my time-earned-money on food and drinks that cost 6-10 times (imagine how much less you would have to work if you didn’t do this) more than if I had discipline, a sense of wholeness, and was comfortable with my daily routine.

Ironic as it seems, frugality is what makes a man wealthy.  Ben Franklin agrees in his autobiography when, at a young age, he sees all of his co-workers spending their whole paychecks on beer and liquor:

“I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos’d, to drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.”


“Carbohydrates—sugars and long chains of sugar molecules like starch–are the most abundant organic compounds on earth.  They are synthesized from water and carbon dioxide by plants in the process of photosyntheses, which transforms the sun’s electromagnetic energy–sunlight–into chemical energy.”-On Food and Cooking (McGee)

Humans create more CO2, which plants use to create more sugar, which humans consume more of each year, so that we can produce more CO2.  Life, being an intelligent and, so far, successful entity, is thriving.  The idea that we know as much about the health of this planet as Life is asinine.  We did not survive through the last ice age as a bunch of idiots.  We were smart then, maybe as smart as we are now, but we are nearly oblivious when compared to Life.  Whatever force causes our DNA to mutate, experiment, and evolve, is now having us use our environment to create very large carbon emissions.  I think there is a reason for it.  I think the greenhouse gases are helping us to create a world with fewer ice bergs and more jungles.  What has more life?  The tundra of Russia or the rainforests of Brazil?  Higher temperatures globally might not be such a bad thing and it may not be Life controlling it at all, but rather adapting to it.  After all, we have been coming out of an ice age the last 20,000 years…


{“Tocqueville thought that American insistence on the idea of equality had a massive effect on the general attitudes of citizens toward the conduct of life.  In a society where all are equal, individuals will find the ultimate authority in matters of opinion and belief [sic] not in anyone else, or in the traditional values of class or nation, but in themselves.  Corollary to this idea is a general optimism which this observed from the Old World found unwarranted.  Americans, he said, have an exaggerated sense of the individual’s control over his own destiny, and an equally mistaken sense of the perfectibility of human nature.

This begins to explain why Americans might ignore the advice of expert on one hand, and yet put their faith in the inexorable progress of “scientific” nutrition on the other.  Tocqueville’s analysis also suggests why it is that we should be especially interested in our diet.  He described a distinctly American materialism, now long taken for granted, and argued that it too springs from the root idea of equality.  In class societies, the rich take material well-being for granted, and the poor take its impossibility for granted.  Only the middle class, because it is within reach of prosperity but not guaranteed it, must be obsessed with the struggle for wealth.  The “classless” because “equal” Americans are blessed and cursed, by default with the position of the middle class.  Said Tocqueville, “It is strange to see with what feverish ardor the Americans pursue their own welfare, and to watch the vague dread that torments them lest they should not have chosen the shortest path which may lead to it.”  This is precisely what dietary fads offer: an easy shortcut to health and long life, which are the chief of material goods because the prerequisites for enjoying all others.} – McGee p. 519 [On Food And Cooking]


 

“No hurries, no worries,” said the mouse to the screw.  Or was it a shrew?  It didn’t matter, ’cause the mouse had time to talk to two.

“No hurries, no worries,” he said to himself as he put the book he was reading back on the shelf.

With a calm head, the mouse said, “What do I want? Ah, yes, some cheese with my bread!”

While the other mice scurried and flustered and flurried, this mouse took his time and made a plan.  There was no hurry.

The other mice kept their weary heads down.  They used all their energy running around.  Their poor paws were beat from the cold, hard ground.

“No hurries, no worries,” Bert said in his head.  “If I follow this racket, I’ll never get fed.”

So he sat and watched them wear themselves out.  And he thought:  Don’t follow them, I’ll make a new route.  He walked to the wall and climbed over and out.

The next stop was China, then Paris and Peru.  It didn’t cost much and was easy to do.  The scary stories he heard weren’t even true.

The world was real nice and moved pretty slow, compared to all the places that he used to go.

The people even smiled and spent time having fun.  They had no alarm clocks except for the sun.

They said, “Good morning!” to strangers that walked by.  They enjoyed their breakfast everyday and here’s why:

“No hurries, no worries,” they say with a sigh.

Take a moment now and just look around.  Be still. Take in the sound.

There’s a whole world waiting for someone exactly like you, just to slow down and decide what you really want to do.

Don’t worry, there really is no hurry.  The answer will come now or it’ll come later.  For now just avoid the fearful, everyday hater.

Write down a plan that makes sense and stick to it.  Check on your progress and course correct when you think you blew it.

This is all you gotta do to be like Bert the mouse.  Stop believing there’s only one way to build a house.

 

 

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Learn a language 20 minutes/day

Message_1467858015214At least once a week, I hear people say they want to learn a language.  Because I live in Florida and near Cuba, people usually talk about learning Spanish.

From spending over a year in Spanish speaking countries, I’m already on my way with that language.  Because of my interest in coffee, history, and travel in general, there are more languages I’d like to be able to communicate in.

It’s too bad that the average American holds multi-lingual ability so high.  They’re just languages.  There is a finite number of words and rules, and you don’t need to know that much to get by.  English has a ton of rules and exceptions, especially when it comes to spelling.  German is easy to spell, but grammar is horrendous.  Spanish is easy all around.

Now I’m going after French.  The alphabet is pretty much the same, so it’s not as difficult as Arabic or Cantonese or one of the 22 languages of India.  After French is underway, I don’t think Italian and Portuguese should be that tricky.

So, let’s get into the method.  The key is to stay interested and not feel overwhelmed.  

I recommend you spend 15 minutes/day (or whenever you feel like it) reading/writing.  Spend the other 5 minutes listening.

It makes sense to me to start with a group of common words.  You can Google the 100 most common words in the language you are learning.  Although a forgotten and failed search engine, About.com actually has some really great language tools and I use it almost exclusively.  Write the words one day.  Start defining them over the next few sessions (see the picture above).

For listening practice, there is a site called www.rfi.com which you can listen to in 15 languages.  It broadcasts in different countries so you can hear Argentine Spanish in one article and reporters from Spain in another.  You can also choose the category and topic like news, sports, economy, etc.

After the 100 common words, verbs seem to be pretty important, so I made a list of 20 common verbs, most of which are from the 100 list.  Present tense is easy and effective in early communication, so I practice the conjugating patterns as seen below.

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Work on only what you are working on.  That’s one way to avoid getting overwhelmed.  If you’re learning conjugation, don’t worry about understanding, you are just building patterns.  After the 4th verb, I was guessing the endings.  I was still way off, but by the 17th, I was conjugating confidently with 75% accuracy.

The next day, I defined the verbs I didn’t recognize, reading a few examples to improve association memory.  By now, I feel it’s important to overview pronunciation.  Using a guide like this one, I guess, listen, and practice the sounds.  Again, I spend about 15 minutes studying and then I listen for 5 minutes while doing something like organizing my room.

Then I look for another part of speech, maybe prepositions.  They pair well with nouns and and articles to make simple phrases like “on the table” and “beside the door”.  With a pad of post-it notes, your room can turn into a constant learning environment.parts of speech puzzle

If I spend 2 days on each part of speech, that’s just over 2 weeks.  After that, I’ll look into regular verb conjugations, common nouns, and start moving into past and future tenses.  That will keep me busy for another week or two.

So in just a month of studying only 20 minutes/day, I can start watching kids movies that I know, like The Lion King and Toy Story.  Watch them with the audio/subtitles in the language the you are learning.  When I can’t watch movies, I read very short stories for extremely young children.  Pretty soon, I’ll be able to watch adult movies that I know by heart such as The Matrix and Forrest Gump while studying French grammar and common expressions on my laptop.

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It takes time and interest to begin learning a language, but once that momentum is built there is absolutely no stopping it.  For the rest of your life, you will be exposed to new bits and pieces of whichever languages you start.  The key is to start.

Food for thought (6 minute read)

“If it’s what you want to hear, then you’ve already made up your mind.” -quote from the movie Before We Go

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The first known form of life on this planet was Archaeabacteria dating back to 3.78 billion years ago.  We don’t know how or why or where it came from.

 

I’m not going to cite other articles just to make a point, but this is what I’ve gathered:

  • Bacteria colonized the first life on Earth.
  • They live in our gut.
  • Our gut affects our health.
  • After our bodies die, the bacteria consumes our bodies.

Who’s in control again?

 


 

The book I just finished reading, Brain Maker, is about the correlation between the state of the gut bacteria (microbiota) and our health.  After the book, I read 6 articles on how the author is a quack and his advice is dumb and dangerous.

In the end, we all have to take what each of us say with a grain of salt.  I’m as full of shit as anyone else out there and I honestly wish I would have realized this earlier.

I believe the most important thing is to study, experiment, and decide what works for you.

I tried the book’s recommendations for 6 weeks, looked like I was casting for Fight Club 2, and then went back to eating just normal, healthy food with the occasional junk food and sweets.

The thing I took away from it was that sugar really affects me.  The reasonable amount for my body seems to be less than half an ounce of sugar (which is how much is in a banana) per meal or snack.  Any more than that makes my heart rate increase for a half hour and followed by the drop in glucose which causes the “sugar crash”.

Why would an individual follow the latest health trends?  Are they hipsters who want to name drop the diet of the day to impress others?  That’s what I always thought.  But, why did I feel offended by their actions?  Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.  That means new ideas scare us.

The Greek physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, is said to have said in the third century B.C.E., “All disease begins in the gut.”

What has the common treatment been for illnesses in the last hundred years?  A lot of the time it’s taking a pill, which dissolves into your bloodstream and goes to the symptom source.  Well, aspirin is made from Willow bark.  Penicillin is made from mold.  In fact everything that is “medicine” is formulated from stuff on this planet: herbs, roots, oils, minerals, seeds, water, animals, fungi, gases, etc.

A little bit of curiosity and googling can help you make better choices, whether at Burger King, a 4-star steakhouse, or a hippie-vegetarian restaurant.  You don’t have to say goodbye to your Thanksgiving and Christmas food or your Italian grandma’s lasagna.  You just have to know what is in the food and how it reacts with your body.  Then you can decide if you want to die 30 years early or dance on your 90th birthday.

Here are my brief notes from Dr. Perlmutter’s book:

  • Lipopolysaccharides cause “leaky gut”. They are present in the gut because of simple carbs, like sugar.
  • Cells accept sugar (glucose) using insulin for transportation.  Too much insulin (because of glucose and the pancreas) forces cells to turn off insulin receptors. This is how we get Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Fake sugars (fructose) don’t stimulate insulin, which suppresses hormones ghrelin and leptin.  Basically they make you want to eat, but you don’t know you when you’re full.

Cross-checking facts, I kept finding facts which say in the 1700’s, the average Englishman ate 4 pounds of sugar in a year.  In current times we eat an average of 77 pounds each year.

>>>Fun Fact: According to my research and calculations, one gram of sugar (1/4 teaspoon) equals the amount of energy absorbed from the sun shining on one square meter of black asphalt for 16 seconds. <<< 

Read labels.  If one of the first three ingredients is sugar, or if the amount of sugar is more than 1/4 of the serving size, I stay away from it.  If it’s too tasty looking, like a maple-bourbon-bacon donut, I take one big bite, which is only eat enough to get about 15 grams of sugar.

 


 

 

Isn’t it expensive to eat healthy?

I’m not gonna bore you with recipes, but this is about 8 meals for under $30.  This gets supplemented with thick-cut peppered bacon, granola, kale, other vegetables, and m.f.-in’ pancakes.  I’m not sold on marketing strategies like free-range nor organic, but the eggs were on sale for as much as the regular eggs. When I have the cash and inclination, I like to experiment and find out for myself if it’s hype or not.  I can tell you the organic JIF peanut butter is much better than the regular “natural” JIF.  Same brand and both jars have no sugar, but the organic doesn’t dry out like old wood putty.

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I tried a 24 hour fasting last Friday.  I have this body for up to 80 or even a hundred years.  Why not try some stuff out?  Why would I want to live every day the same for the rest of my life?

It was surprisingly easy (I only got hungry for an hour in the evening) and the next morning I didn’t even want breakfast.

 


 

If you want to know more about our bodies, the first half of this article (not for the weak of stomach) is pretty interesting.  I am a little baked* though, so keep that in mind.

[*After not being able to sleep well for 2 years, I tried smoking weed before bed.  I slept great 20 out of 22 nights.  When I did not smoke, during the same time frame, I woke up during the night 75% of the time, usually hyperventilating.]

 


 

If none of this is strange enough for you, fecal transplants (Bacteriotherapy), have been documented in the 4th century in China and are coming back.  Although relatively new in the U.S., German soldiers recorded using fresh camel feces in WWII to treat severe diarrhea in the Afrika Corps.  The FDA began regarding human stool as a treatment in 2013, specifically to treat a dangerous infection called Clostridium difficile infection (CDI).

Other animals, such as elephants and pandas are also born with sterile digestive tracks.  Hamsters, gorillas, chimpanzees, guinea pigs, and other animals eat their own feces.  It seems clear to me that this is why dogs perform coprophagia (eat other dog’s poop), to build up their microbiome.

We humans are have no bacteria in our gut when in the womb.  We get bacteria as and after we are born.  Vaginal birth, breastfeeding, and our environment are major factors.  Although antibiotics can save your life, they have a serious impact on your gut bacteria.  They are designed to annihilate bacteria, good and bad.  Ask questions and think about what you are doing.  Having an education means having a choice.


 

When you stop considering time as a resource, you realize how wasteful developed countries are with materials.

 

How dangerous are Central America and Mexico?

Is it dangerous outside of the U.S.?  Here are some photos from living over a year in Latin America.  You decide.

(The following photos are from 2 separate trips, a year apart, paid for in full by working entry level jobs at restaurants.)

Consuming Fear

“You travelled for 9 months with THAT?!”  That’s what I hear sometimes when I show up with a little black backpack and a guitar.

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This fits my DSLR camera (3 years without a case or problems), my MacBook Air, my tablet, and some clothes and books.  I always seem to end up with a guitar.  This one was just sitting on the boat, slowly getting moldy, so Steve suggested I take her to a dryer climate where she can get some lovin’. 

Fingernail clipper and toothbrush ride with my passport and a piece of amethyst given to me by my good friend Melissa.

Besides chargers and headphones, that’s really all I need.  I can buy soap or baking powder if it’s cheaper.  (Your armpits stink because of bacteria that only survives in acidic environments.)  Apple cider vinegar is a great conditioner, fabric softener (no, you won’t smell like vinegar), and good for stomach bacteria.

If you think you need more clothes, you’re terrified of what other people think and stuck in routines that never get questioned.  Get a few shirts you really like, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, and a swim suit.  Wash clothes once a week.  Hand washing is a great meditation. Have a couple pairs of socks and running shoes.  I like to be barefoot as much as possible, but that’s just me.  I like to feel the city and the dirt and do some auto-acupuncture-grounding stuff.  We have electrical currents that need to get out.  The fleece lined jacket is for cold buses & airports.

If you don’t want to have an awkwardly huge backpack and bang into everyone on the bus then don’t.  Don’t be tired from lugging 50 pounds from hostel to hostel.  Don’t dread packing up because you have too much stuff.  Just make a decision and stop looking like such a tourist.  It also keeps me from being a target, in case you like using fear to motivate your lifestyle changes.

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“I cannot conceptualize or put into words what fear is.  I can describe various forms and details and events, but not the base fear from which all of its infinite manifestations flow.” -JK Freedom From the Known

But, I can feel it.  

I can detect it and either make my decision based on fear or not based on fear.

 Death is inseparable from life.  The fear of death, repeating the past, and any unknown outcome is part of how we think.  As long as we have thoughts, we will have fear.  Life uses fear to avoid death.  You can’t have life without fear, so don’t worry about it.

Thanks Cori Carlo and Krishnamurti for helping me get over this.  I was really stuck on trying to figure out how to eliminate something that I can’t live without.

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We are called Homo Sapien Sapiens because we are self aware.  When we look at our reaction to fear, we think we are separate from the fear, that we can get rid of it or overcome it.  But if you realize that you are observing YOU, and that the fear you are observing is also you, than you realize that you are fear.  You really can’t live without it.  Then you can get on with life and spend your time thinking about something more productive. pg 48

I’ve always heard: Enjoy your life.  I don’t remember hearing: Enjoy Life.  There are many forms of life.

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There was a little boy crying in the coffee shop this morning.  I think his sister may have taken a bite of his chocolate frosted donut. He might have been 5 years.  I realized and told the couple sitting nearest the coffee machine, “It just goes to show that life was never easy.”  We want to look back and say it was all gravy when we were kids because we had no responsibilities, but it was just as emotionally exhausting as it is today.  I also said, “Remember the next time you are having a tough day, how silly your problems are.”

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Getting settled meant getting a new phone and then a haircut.  During the haircut the girl and I talked about styling my short hair.  At that time I had no apps installed on my brand new phone.  After the haircut, I pulled out my new phone and went to YouTube.  It was the second time I used the phone and the first time on the internet.  The top ad was a video titled “How To Style Short Hair.”

Fear in the U.S. is amusing, but sad and equally threatening.  It infiltrates every aspect of life in the first world.  Half of the customers at the donut shop are terrified of trying a new donut. They look round-eyed at the bacon maple bourbon donut and laugh that nervous, uncomfortable laugh because they know they don’t deserve to do what they really want in this life.  Out of guilt and paranoia, they choose the safe option of chocolate frosted.  So instead of 375 calories, they order the much healthier 350 calorie option.

As silly as most of us know organized religion is in this day and age, it is still a major part of politics.  Every U.S. president has an affiliation to show their allegiance.  I find it interesting that in 2016 anno Domino (in the year of our lord) there still is no separation of church and state.

“You are always translating the new in terms of the old and therefore you are everlastingly in conflict.” – JK

20160318_120532— we all love a good swindle

You are a product of everything you observe.  Some things you accept as good and others you reject, but they all have influence on you.  You treat them as separate from you, but that’s where you came from, what you’re made from—your observations, judgments, and conclusions.  You influence your environment, but are also a product.

We judge the world as if it never changes and we never change, neither of which is true.

Books and quotes teach us to live in the present, but by the exact nature of the lesson, only have a temporary effect.  Like will power, we have to constantly seek inspiration and motivation.

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I judge people who are wasteful, closed-minded, uneducated about the world, are not thoughtful of others, and who think they are above other humans.  So, I feel like I’m above them, I’m not sensitive to the way they live, where they are on their journey through life, and I scold them for not knowing the implications of their ignorance.  A better option would be to ask questions about the way they see the world and ask them if they ever consider the source of their thoughts or how they live.

I was scared to come back to the U.S. because I knew it would unavoidably turn me into a slightly fearful shithead.  I know this.  Guatemala was turning me into having low standards and making me lazy.  I find it important to soak up the best features a place has to offer and accept that every yang has its yin.

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When the observer realizes that he IS THAT which he observes, there is no like or dislike and conflict ceases.-JK (this only happened to me once in Antigua)

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The moment you try to force something, you are creating violence.  I’m not talking about violence as in a video game or movie or in your neighbor’s house.  Those are forms of violence, too.  I’m talking about the very nature of violence.  Have you ever tried to look past the discussion, past the visual forms, past the churning of your gut feelings, and tried to figure out what is the root of violence?  Where does it come from?  What does it require?  If you are interested in learning how you and other humans operate, take a minute and go into your mind and figure it out.  Don’t assume you can’t.  You can.  I know because I did it and it was surprisingly easy.  Go ahead, I’ll wait (smiley face).

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This is what I came up with: We are violent because we want to control our existence.  But our existence (the instance of existing) is out of our control.  We had no choice in our birth and we cannot decide that we’d rather not die.  Only once we realize that we have no control, do we cease to follow our violent predisposition.

“Principles, beliefs and ideals must inevitably lead to hypocrisy and a dishonest life.”

Rules aren’t meant to be broken.  That’s not why we make them.  We make them because we are pleased with past results and plan to receive a similar pleasure if we follow the rules.  Pleasure is different from joy.  Joy happens in the moment, being pleased is dependent upon expectations.

Your pace

When you feel that flash of violence and are about to rush a task (answering a question, handing something over, walking) especially when it involves someone else, make sure you are acting at YOUR speed.  This may seem selfish, but I think it’s best for everyone’s vibe.  Pause for a moment and then move or speak as if you are focused on the smoothness of the execution.  This allows you to deliver the world an unspoiled movement.  You are at once deliberate and graceful.   You are then moving with confidence, alongside but independent of fear, handling the present circumstance with the gloves of your true character.

We learn the difference between need and want when we are uncomfortable.  To go without air conditioning for months teaches you, after returning to A/C, how much your body really dislikes it.  Once you have no money to spend, wasting it sickens you.  At work I watch people pay 6 dollars for a newspaper and $2.75 for a bottle of Smart Water.  The news is online free of cost.  Water is the single most abundant resource on the surface of our planet.  The United States has potable water everywhere.  You can drink from the sink.  Filter it if you like.

“So we have discovered a fundamental truth, which is that a mind that is seeking, craving, for wider and deeper experience is a very shallow and dull mind because it lives always with its memories.”

Thanks JK for making me question the last 5 years.

Everything is always falling apart

STOP! – Put on some music.  Music and pictures go together well.

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One of the beautiful things about the Guatemalan culture is their practice of total impermanence.  Everything is a quick, temporary fix, because after all, everything is always changing.  Leaky faucet?  Put a bowl under it.  Need new door hinges?  Install them under the old ones and then paint over the bad ones.  Paint peeling after 2 months?  Slap on another coat.


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This is the same shoddy craftsmanship that drives us Westerners crazy (Europeans really) when we are having a defensive, egocentric day.  On our peaceful, observational days, we admire and muse over these same modifications.

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“Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception.  Perception alone will resolve all your problems.”

-someone

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Life came to this planet a long time ago.  It mutated into what we’ve discovered and not yet discovered using the same basic elements of an ever changing code.  We are here as long as life has use for us.  I plan to take pleasure in as many irrelevant, useless activities as possible.

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Sadness is like photography in the morning.  There’s plenty of light, so open your aperture and turn up the shutter speed to 1/200.

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Humans are like bacteria.  Different cultures all trying to take over their host.  Sometimes the cultures mix and one tries to annihilate the other.  It’s interesting to read about wars and then afterward the cultures return to doing what the humans do most which is just living and consuming.

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This is one of the local bars I worked at called The Snug.  Probably the smallest bar in Antigua.  It felt full every time there were between 3 and 39 people.

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They have some tasty treats, too.

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It gets easier living somewhere after you accept things as they are.  It’s good to challenge things, but trying to change too much just makes you frustrated.  I realized that I can’t change every person living in Guatemala to my liking.  Reminding myself this allowed me to laugh when salespeople lied to my face and everyone (including myself) was 30 minutes late if they showed up at all.

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It’s not actually that I love a place, but rather my adaptation to it.  When things aren’t going my way, I do not enjoy the place.  But,today I finished work swiftly with a few bucks in my pocket and went home to sit on my comfortable cot and play music.  Things in my work and home life are set up the way I like.  My mentality is set to view the happenings with a neutral, abstract tranquility.  This style of management can make any town seem like the place to be.

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The best description I’ve heard so far (by David Gerow) is that Antigua is like a cartoon.  Illegal mezcal bars and blues singers with one-eyed dogs.

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Guat City is bike and art friendly.  And their coffee/food scene kicks ass.

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The mercado is definitely the place I’ll miss the most in Antigua.

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I lived 2 blocks away and went almost every morning for a chihuahua-sized bag of freshly chopped fruit for 5 quetzals = $0.65
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I’d like to know where us gringos learn to get angry when we aren’t in total control all of the time.  It’s not all gringos, only about 80% of them from what I’ve seen.  I think it’s a misconception that latin people explode with anger.  Maybe I’m in the wrong parts, but in the 16 months or so of living/traveling in 9 latin countries, I can only remember once someone going on a yelling rampage.  Guatemaltecas just don’t have that emotional eruption inside themselves.

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I’ll miss walking aimlessly around town with my camera.

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And of course I’ll miss free bananas in the back yard.

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The inside is like Cracker Barrel, but the food is fancier.  Pretty decent cappuccinos.  My guess is a gringo from the South got homesick.

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I asked my friend if the guy lying on the sidewalk needed help.  She said, “He’s just drunk from watching soccer.”  I laughed and said that’s just like football fans in the States.  Pan y circo.  I used to think it was trickery to control the masses with entertainment, but on this day I realized it’s not control.  They need it.

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I joined my girlfriend Gaby for coffee and dessert.  After our how-are-ya?s I start talking about how I am working too much.  Instead of sympathizing as usual, she said, “Always.”  That stopped me in my verbal tracks.  

“Always?” I asked.

“Yup.” She said.

I didn’t know what to say.  I guess I’m always whiny.  Why is this?  All of a sudden, I realized Guatemalans are better at life than me, probably better than most white people.  They have far fewer resources, a relatively higher cost of living, and still pay the bills.  If 2+2=4 in the U.S. then 1+1=3 in Guatemala.  Man, I suck.  Back to the drawing board.

 

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Rio Dulce

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Instead of dealing with volcanic ash, my brother has to sweep mayflies off the boat.  They come for half an hour every dusk to die.

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My friend Eli noticed that our eyes can’t track their flight, so I turned down the shutter speed on my Nikon.

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Stop taking home monkeys!

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Instruction manuals are rulebooks.  Children are told what is and is not possible.  This severely limits imagination and reasoning skills.  If you don’t understand then you’ve probably never left the land of guard rails and warning labels.

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That’s CARVED from a TREE.  Good luck even trying to imagine doing that.

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My good friends Karlita and Elito.

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Separating Lake Izabel from Rio Dulce, this is supposedly the tallest bridge in Central America.

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Side A – When I walked around the tree and noticed this guy was 2 feet from my bare feet my voice got all cartoony and high pitched like Butters on South Park.  I said something like, “Ugh guys, I don’t think we should walk on this nature trail!”  Looking back I just think: What a pansy I was!DSC_0076

Side B – The middle of this 5′ dude was easily as big around as my calf.

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So if you’ve never been stoned for 7 days in a jungle with naturally heated water falls, howler monkeys, some kind of skin-softening hot spring mud, and the Nat. Geo. soundtrack on ∞.1 surround sound, go ahead and put that on your calendar.  I finally understand why people like living in Rio Dulce.

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“Anything that challenges what you believe is going to make you feel unsafe.”

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If you want the majority of a country to be trained a certain way, you DEFINITELY don’t want them traveling.  Even the most unobservant people start questioning their belief systems.  

It’s nobody’s fault for the things they were taught when they were 3 years old.  The understanding of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” probably starts with breast feeding.  Happy emotions vs. angry/sad emotions are learned from family, teachers, church, and all other members of society.

When you go to a new cultural system, people do things that they were taught are “right”. In parts of the world it’s perfectly OK to pee on the side of a busy road in daylight or to stand against the next person in line at the grocery store or to set a backpack in a stranger’s lap on the bus.  In one part of the world it’s ok to let children run and yell because they are kids.  In other parts of the world kids are punished for acting like kids, depending on who’s around or where they are.

What I’m getting at is this: what is “right” in one place is “wrong” in another but both are possible and don’t really harm anyone or improve survival.

We get information about different cultures, not from the culture itself or even people who have experienced that culture.  We learn about the world through the tinted lenses of television, Hollywood, and the news.  Only after enough people have been paid do the remnants of truth trickle down to us in our plastic bubbles.

As a young American from a small town in Georgia, this is what I learned: 

Mexicans and Indians are roughing it.  Africa is fucked.  Europeans have a little bit going for them.  At least they look like us.  And they drive nice cars.  Even if they talk funny and wear clothes a little too tight, they are the most similar to us.  So, we’ll consider their method of living to be acceptable even though they aren’t quite “right”.  One thing is for sure— you don’t want to end up in a place where you can’t blend in.  All other species of humans, especially the one’s that look different, are very, very dangerous.

It amazes me how much of the U.S. believes this.

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Nothing grabs your attention quite like a pack of little kids sprinting toward you with huge smiles and even bigger knives.

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Birth right is a pretty messed up concept.  Natural born citizens act as if they demonstrated some herculean effort to have earned their “rights”.

“Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not part of us.” -BL  

To visit the U.S. requires total proof of returning home and costs a Guatemalan $150 (a month’s rent in Antigua) plus all associated entrance and exit fees and transportation.  This is possible if you have adequate sponsorship from a U.S. resident.  Multiply the cost of your rent by 6.  That’s the relative price to step foot in this country.

Some argue this difficulty is to prevent immigrant labor from working harder and cheaper and longer hours than the spoiled citizens of ‘Murica.  It’s ok to manufacture goods in less developed places like India or China and pay them next to nothing, as long as we don’t have to look at their ghettos every day.  It’s smacks of the same flavor when we send our youth to foreign soils to get shot at and kick down strangers’ doors.  Do we really have to ensure our way of life at the expense of theirs?  I have to admit it was thoughtful of them to install those nets at the Foxconn factory (Apple and Hewlett Packard) in China to catch the employees after 14 killed themselves by jumping out the windows.  But, I digress.

So what is the real reason we defend our borders from our more friendly, lively, and compassionate neighbors?  My mind immediately goes to real estate value.  No doubt the problem is complex.  The way I see it, my life could have just as easily started in Madagascar.  I wouldn’t know the difference.

One thought on leveling the playing field is that the rich will lose at the gain of the poor.  I think lazy people will stay lazy and the only change is that the lazy Americans will either get it together or fall behind.

They already have huge advantages with being able to read and speak English.  A taste of the world’s reality might give them a touch of humility and appreciation instead of blindly hating anything different, groping desperately for more stimulus, and following whichever side is predicted to win the next election instead of consulting your own dust covered intuition.


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“People already made up their minds [about what they believe] and only listen to supporting evidence.” – Eli Vellieux

 

Yin Yankee

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“The artless art is the art of the soul at peace, like moonlight mirrored in a deep lake.  The ultimate aim of the artist is to use his daily activity to become a past matter of life, and so lay hold of the art of living.  Masters in all branches of art must first be masters of living, for the soul creates everything.” – Bruce Lee

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I started get skinny to the point of looking at my gums in the reflection of my tablet to see if I had any pocketing.  Gross, I know.  It’s time to get some nutrients.  (Don’t worry, I am a hypochondriac.  While working at a local school to give kids checkups, I took a blood test and my iron levels are fine.)

I didn’t start to look in the mirror until I started working more—before I had the luxury of considering my diet diversity.  Before I was just happy with food.  This was usually a tub of yogurt, bag of granola, bunch of bananas, and a loaf of bread.  Nutrients beyond this would be from the cheap taco restaurant around the corner and in shift meals at work.  Having a pretty girl take me out to dinner is nice, but makes me feel like a bum. (Mario knows what I’m talking about.)

I’ve discovered two (2) (II) (dos) (zwei) (二) ways to get by in life and I alternate between them.  I would bet that most people do this many times throughout their lifetimes.  Some do it only once and call it “retirement”.

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The first way to get by in life is to work, and keep working, and early in the morning work some more, and at the end of the week work, and sometimes late at night work, and on the weekend work, and into the next week work, and work all week.  Eventually you develop a type of endurance to the discomfort and you can just work non-stop for weeks, months, and your body starts to crave the routine.  It’s not that your mind becomes numb, but it’s working so efficiently that there’s no time for refined thoughts.

I enjoy the ability to buy pizza whenever I want and have money saved up for travel and new clothes and my own transportation.  I enjoy buying the good food at the good grocery stores and not having to worry about things like malnutrition.  The funny thing about advertising is that it has no affect on those that can’t afford the product.  As soon as I started working like crazy and had money to spend, I needed all kinds of things.

The efficient mind part is what I have a problem with.  Fog. Fatigue.  A new form of self-pity arises after working your 14th day straight.  Part of the resistance is knowing that I’m letting go of my mind a bit.  Knowing that I’m not going to be as analytically sharp or aware.  It’s just one of the give and take parts of survival, I guess.  Like how living in society is easy, but also voluntary slavery.  I say voluntary, because the idea that the “world” is trying to make us into this or that is only our own innate tendency to regard other’s “judgement”.  In reality, it’s only us judging ourselves.

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The second way to get by in life is to work as little as possible and have oodles of free time for reading, exercise, art, observing, and thinking.  This of course gets abused and turns into “laziness” [from Proto-Indo-European *las- (“weak”)].  Goals are pushed aside for other goals and the whole schedule dissolves.  Life is grand for a couple of months until you realize that it’s not a self-sustaining system.  You realize that more fuel has to be pumped in from the outside.  Only pets who have genetically evolved to domesticate humans can get by with only “working” an hour a day.  

After the first 5 or 6 weeks of not working, my mind becomes “fully awake.”  The less monotonous, tedious, demeaning tasks you do to make other people money, the more you are connected mentally with the life-force-thing that flows through your veins, makes plants grow, and is in the sun and water and the wind.  The more you curiously and freely wander the earth, the more you feel your connection to everything.  You have the time and patience to watch the world.  And it’s both interesting and entertaining.

But, there’s a but.  The thing that allows you this freedom from worry and time to soak in 100% of your surroundings (which change constantly if you are traveling) is a pile of money.  The size of the pile determines the duration and luxury.  I find there is more to see at the ground level, so I don’t even bother with the luxury part.  But, when the pile is low, you can choose two routes.  You can figure out a way to start making money on the road or you can go back to your original source of income.  Both options involve surrendering large portions of your mental faculties and significant amounts of time.

Since time moves at a constant rate, there do not appear to be any shortcuts.  The best thing I’ve found is to figure out how to enjoy the run-ragged work part.  It has it’s perks.  Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of them.  Just don’t stay in the fog too long.  It’s just anxiety vs. sadness.  Anxiety when I’m running out of money.  Sadness when I have to temporarily say bye to my mind, my hobbies, and myself.

But, there’s another but!  There’s this thing called presence.  Sounds spooky, right?  It is a common theme that has been rediscovered by many influential people throughout history and it can be taught, but like anything, only to willing students.  It has a myriad of other names too, all equally bashed by skeptics who don’t experiment a whole lot throughout their 75 years on this planet.  “Awareness”, “awake”, and “grounded” are a few.

Basically, all you do is stop every now and then to ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?  Is there anything bothering me?”  This looking inward somehow makes everything outward more clear.  The same thing happens when you leave town for a long-over-due weekend to go camping.  It’s like stopping to clean the glasses of life.  This is my newest experiment.  Supposedly it’s a game changer.  As Boots says, “I’ll give it the old college try.”

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When you get a key made in Central America, the key maker doesn’t hit it with a brush machine to clean up the edges.  It’s obvious that it’s just a jagged piece of metal.  It’s not some magical object that opens locks.  

When you buy a machete, they grab a flat bar of metal, grind off one corner and wrap the other with duct tape or rubber.  A knife isn’t something that can only be made by a knife maker.  It’s a piece of metal that’s filed thin on one end.  A shotgun is an oversized metal tube with a loading/firing handle.  When you go to Little Caesar’s or the post office, or the grocery store, there are guards with sawed-off shot guns.  They smile back and you realize the shotgun is a cheap tool, about as easy to construct as a coffee maker.

It is infinitely more clear what objects really are when you are not living in a polished consumer society.  

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“The way to transcend karma lies in the proper use of the mind and the will. The one-ness of all life is a truth that can be fully realized only when false notions of a separate self, whose destiny can be considered apart from the whole, are forever annihilated”  – Bruce Lee

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“It’s very strange when we arbitrarily decide on one drug.  Regardless of its impact on people’s health and wellbeing and crimes committed under the influence of it.  Which is one of the most devastating ones.  Alcohol.  And we make that our primary drug.  And we just decide.  You’re dealing with a sophisticated and intelligent civilization.  You’re dealing with people who have previously impossible levels of access to information.  In the face of all this overwhelming evidence, you’re choosing to put people in cages for plants.  That’s unconscionable.” – Joe Rogan

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Chairs with back rests just aren’t good for your body / health.  I’ve been thinking about this for about two years and this is my conclusion.  Your body has built in muscles that give you posture.  These muscles, like the heart do not get tired, if you use them.  If you remove their need to work (using a back rest) then, like giving money to a bum, you only make them weaker.  You have a choice.  You can keep your ability to support your own body (i.e. sit up) or you can throw it away like bone density by using a mattress.  I’ll save the mattress for another article.

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When Joe Rogan asked Jay Leno what caused the end of the era of Italian mob-run clubs and casinos, he said this:  “Corporations are meaner and nastier and tougher than the mob.  At least with the mob you got a free drink every now and then.  Once the corporations came in, that was the end of that.”

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Most love songs (unlike The Distance by Cake) rationalize the sickness that humans develop through interaction with other sick humans. I’m talking about not taking responsibility for your own emotions and not admitting what is reality.

“I realize all the uncountable manifestations the thinking-mind invents to place a wall of horror before its pure perfect realization that there is no wall and no horror, just Transcendental Empty Kissable Milk Light of Everlasting Eternity’s true and perfectly empty nature.” Jack Kerouac, Tristessa

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Something I’ve learned recently is that you can look at everything in two lights.  Like the idea of Yin and Yang.  Here’s a story by Alan Watts explaining the concept:

The Farmer’s Horse

  • There is a story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “May be.” The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “May be.”
    And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “May be.”
    The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”

The yin-yang view of the world is serenely cyclic. Fortune and misfortune, life and death, whether on small scale or vast, come and go everlastingly without beginning or end, and the whole system is protected from monotony by the fact that, in just the same way, remembering alternates with forgetting. This is the Good of good-and-bad.

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The greatest fear or all is fear of the unknown.  That’s why traveling to foreign countries is so terrifying and interesting.  Why do you think death haunts us all?  Why do you think religion has been such an important part of our history?  If we knew death was only temporary or a transition, it wouldn’t be so damn scary.  But we don’t know.  Death is very useful to us because I think you can link it as motivation to everything we do in life.  It’s a good example of the duality of all things.

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“Put aside your notions of how people are and the world will surprise you with it’s grace.” – Arielle 5 to 7

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