COMMUNITEA BOOKS BLOG
I miss reading while riding the train. I preferred to stand so I would, either, find a free space to lean against the side of the car or I’d wrap my arm around a pole, and I would read. When living in The Bronx I would get on the train at Parkchester and ride it, usually to 86th and Lex, but sometimes further. That is a twenty minute ride, at least. I had nearly an hour of reading time every day simply by riding the train. My problem now is the time, where do we find the time to read? Eh, actually, I have more than enough time, but how do we decide to allot our time to one thing over another?
Sometimes, on the train, something intriguing would redirect my attention. I have too many accounts for it not to be difficult to even come up with one. I do recall one late night when I was riding the train back from Brooklyn—from Brooklyn to The Bronx mind you, so it was a bit of a ride—and a young man, he may have been homeless, and/or just completely out of his mind, sits down next to this older African American woman. He faces her and begins talking to her, only he started in the middle of a sentence, as if an earlier conversation of his had abruptly ended and he arbitrarily decided on this moment to best represent the end of his story—assuming, of course, that there is a discernible ending. The woman wasn’t entirely too phased, her only reaction to this character was to hold her purse a little closer to her chest, although that might be habitual for her, who knows, while she read her book. She was reading. No, but that didn’t stop this guy from talking to her. And, no, what he had to say was not coherent, there were very few coherent ideas coming from his lips, nevertheless it was entertaining, and enough so even for me to put my finger between the pages, marking my place, while I blatantly stared at the happening. His eyes were glazed, I don’t remember him blinking, once. He just stared straight ahead into-, and through the train telling his incoherent story seemingly to this woman but, really, to nobody at all. When he stood to leave. I can’t imagine he actually knew where he was getting off, he must have made the trip so often that the entirety was as automatic as a dog finding his way home after being left somewhere far, far away. He left, and then I continued to read.
There is something happening to eye contact. The way people engage with one another. It’s all changing so rapidly, well maybe not even changing, it’s just disappearing, and I honestly don’t think it’s only the way that we interact in person, I, sometimes believe that it’s the undoing of all interactions. How we talk to people and why. I do not recognize this world as the same one I grew up in. And I grew up in the 90’s, I mean, this wasn’t that long ago. Before I moved to New York City I bought a pocket sized travel book called, NFT: Not For Tourists Guide to New York City, and at some point in the book is expressly states not to make eye contact with people on the train. A handful of the stigmas that book created took me a couple of years to unlearn. Eventually I was making eye contact with almost everybody on the train, because that is a human response to other humans. We make eye contact. If you look at people a certain way or are not conscious about what you’re feeling or thinking while your maintain eye contact you might discover some surprising, and unfriendly reactions, but that’s only because we emit what we feel and what we think by how we look at someone inasmuch the same way that we do when we communicate with them verbally, the vast majority of our interactions are nonverbal. So shutting yourself off to the people around you, in the train car, and in the world it isn’t going to create a safer or better place for you, it might sometimes feel safer, but, I mean does it really? This crack head that was sitting on the train telling us his incoherent story was completely out of his mind, but he was harmless because we allowed him to be human—regardless of how different his humanity is from our own.
I’m not sure how I got off on this tangent exactly. I know that every time I read a book a big part of the reason that I lose myself in the story is because I am not satisfied with the direction society has gone. We talk about creating a better world, and change, and then we argue about what that means, and we are always wrong. With every step that we take we think that we are headed in the right direction, and still we consistently manage to f$%k it up. Meanwhile I’m trying desperately to lead some semblance of a normal life, but, really, all that I want to do is go build a cabin in some remote woodland area—if I can find one—or to live on my long anticipated dream boat and return to ‘civilization,’ if only immensely dire: such as the imminently problematic, and unlikely event that my boat is sinking.
I actually haven’t read anything new in way too long—I’ll leave it up to your own imagination to invent how long is too long in this case, for me—but when you listen to too much news radio and spend even a fraction of the day on Facebook without losing yourself from time-to-time in a good book, or rather when I listen to too much news radio and spend even a fraction of the day on Facebook without losing myself in a good book, it doesn’t matter how green it is outside I know a long weekend of some Golden Milk and several happy pills while binge watching Roku’s background graphic is in store for me or I am going to lose my mind!
I suppose that is part of the reason why I miss riding the train, and reading so much. For nearly an hour every day I would both read and be surrounded by people just being people: I would occasionally hear conversations spark up between strangers, random people singing, the occasional argument, but nevertheless everyone on the train, whether aware of the people around them or not, they affected one another—if only for that hour, and my head could be buried in that book so deeply I’ve missed my stop, and the next one, and the next, nevertheless all the people sharing that car with me became a part of that story in ways that I cannot always know.
For a running number of years now I have wanted to pack a backpack with a few essentials, design and buy a sailboat out of Hamburg, Germany, then hop on a freighter from some undisclosed point on America’s east coast and disappear, at least from anything that I am familiar with.
I imagined that I would end up somewhere along the southwestern coast of France. In my novel, Between Transitions, Jonah, the protagonist, started his journey in Paris then headed north by train to Brussels, Belgium then east to Cologne, Germany followed then by Leipzig, Berlin, and, finally, Hamburg. Where he too had commissioned a sailboat. Between Transitions ends with Jonah sailing up the Elbe towards the North Sea, leaving in an open-ended journey towards whoknowswhere, as Jonah sails away.
I, however, would like to visit the shores or Bordeaux and backpack inland to Lyon, and wander upwards to Geneva, Switzerland before making my way to Paris. Or to find myself in San Sebastian, Spain and then to walk south to Pamplona, and then west to Santiago de Compostela completing the walk--The Way—Camino de Santiago, before heading to Bordeaux and then east towards Lyon.
I was driving earlier this morning, listening to music, and singing along, I don’t remember to what exactly, and this feeling swept over me: how badly I wanted to get out of the car and just walk away. In that moment I could picture my sailboat, and I could see me sitting on the deck, with nothing but the sea surrounding me, and, in the distance, there was a faint hint of land, but still I could be mistaken, it could very well be nothing, only a mirage. I might be reading, or writing, or fishing perhaps, there is a glass of wine on the deck next to me, a small crimson puddle gathers around the edges of the circular base of the glass stem; or maybe I’m doing nothing at all, I’m just staring off into the distance, until I’m distracted by the warmth of the sun on my arms, and the salt in my hair, and the smell of seawater, of the sea completely consuming me, “you would think I would be used to it by now,” a thought likely to have crossed my mind: the smell; while also being consciously grateful that I’m not yet used to it, and here’s to hoping that I would never be.
I could go anywhere at all the world is as big or as small as I allow it. I could eat cheese with wine at a café in Barcelona, after running with the bulls, and smoke hookah with old wise Turkish men on a patio near the port of Istanbul, and swim in the pale blue ocean off the coast of Santorini, Greece, and walk through the castles and the hills of Croatia, jog from coast-to-coast on the tiny island of Zanzibar, and after docking in Mumbai, hike through India towards Nepal: Tibet: China. And, this would be the beginning, only.
What keeps me, I wonder. Here. Projects, different dreams, love? All of which are consuming day-in, and day-out, and yet all of which are still just slightly out of reach in their entirety. So, again, what keeps me; here.
I had let go of my fear of the unknown, and of the familiar long ago. I packed up my 99’ green Honda Civic and drove west down I-10: Pocatello, Idaho; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; New York City, New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico. All of which came and went as easy to me as picturing myself sailing up the Elbe, towards the North Sea.
When I was younger I had an unquenchable desire to experience life. In the mornings, as my eyes slowly opened, I thought only about what I had already missed that day, and what I would not allow myself to continue to miss if I didn’t get out of bed. And so, I was up, and I was out, waiting to experience whatever opportunity I was able.
I know when that changed. When my lust for life left my body like a cold soul being lifted towards the heavens prematurely. It was during those same series of moments when everything else left me, and I was numb. I was a shell of body that contained only the hope of revival. It’s funny how the subtle manipulation of someone who claims to have loved you will slowly rip pieces away from you, it’s not so funny when you look back at a younger version of yourself remembering that you once had a lust for life, but to not remember what it felt like. It’s gratifying slowly developing it again. And then again the promise of sailing away is postponed because of dreams of opening a bookstore, the determination to see it through, and the limbo of a love that’s an unspoken, mutual, idea…only.
Do you ever think about that kind of stuff, and then you look out the window, and you see the sun reflecting off of the innumerous shades of green—my favorite color—and feeling only the passion, again, to experience…everything? Perhaps I would not have found that lust again without the direction of a dream, and the fulfillment of unrequited love: like pieces being put together, but differently, a puzzle that slightly resembles you. “You don’t know this new me, I put back my pieces differently.”
It is so easy to let the mistakes of your past dictate the direction of your future. In very small, unsexy ways, it builds up: more, and more, until it is all you can do just to get through the day, and then the next day, and the next, and the next.
I was driving earlier this morning, listening to music, and singing along, I don’t remember to what exactly, and this feeling swept over me: how badly I wanted to get out of the car and just walk away. In that moment I could picture my sailboat, and I could see me sitting on the deck, with nothing but the sea surrounding me, and, in the distance, there was the faint hint of land, but still I could be mistaken, it could very well be nothing, only a mirage. I might be listening to music, or dancing, or cooking perhaps, there is a glass of wine on the deck next to me, a small crimson puddle gathers around the edges of the circular base of the glass stem; or maybe I’m running along the beach, I’m not even sure what country I’m in, the silhouette of my boat anchored just off shore, the course, uncomfortable feeling on the pads of my feet from running in the sand drifts in and out of my thoughts, “the sea is cold this morning,” a thought likely to have crossed my mind: the ocean; while also being consciously grateful that I’m not yet used to it, and here’s to hoping that I never will be.
I keep a handful of books shelved at my bedside, standing upright between a candle and container of really cool rocks that I’ve found here and there throughout the years, my keeping the books next to the bed like this is a new happening; we all know that most of us do our best thinking and processing as soon as our heads hit the pillow and we’re trying to fall asleep, so I keep them there for reference for a wandering mind. There is a copy of Swann’s Way, Meditations with Dante Alighieri, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and The Element by Ken Robinson.
I first discovered Ken Robinson on TED.com, he was giving a talk about creativity, and education, and how schools, at least in the way that they are currently formatted, actually “kill our creativity.” I reference him several times throughout my blogs, because he deserves to be referenced. Ken Robinson is an education reformist, he recognizes that our school systems are creating thoughtless ‘monikers’ of the human race; Robin Williams, I think, said it best as John Keating in the Dead Poets Society, and “…the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, business, law, engineering these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.” Our school systems are devolving more, and more, and away from teaching children how to be desirous about their passions, and therefore their pursuits.
Reform makes me nervous because instead of recognizing where the foundation of our problems actually lie we are simply attaching or amending, applying an adhesive in attempt that our fix might mend the swelling dysfunction within the institution. Unfortunately, the flaw within the education system is the system, the point at issue lies at the foundation of the design of the way the institution was structured. I mentioned in a previous blog that our current education system was implemented in late 20th century, and was constructed for farming families and industry work, but, you know, like, what does that mean? Well, our education system is procedural, and is formatted systematically: course, semester, season, etc., and every year students spend the first semester reviewing what they studied the previous semester, and then in the second, and final semester students are more extensively examining what they reviewed the semester before—the same five or six courses year-after-year-after year—for twelve years. The institution was set up this way because the majority of students were averaging five to eight years of schooling before they were removed from school and expected to work on a farm or in industry to help provide for their families, it allowed for a quick exercise and review and overview for a number of subjects within a short period of time, and if children were able to continue their education they would dive a little deeper into familiar subjects and increase their knowledge base. It made sense for the average lower and middle class families, which, at the time, outnumbered the upper classes significantly, only the system became our only source of education, and it continued much, much longer than it should have—you know, like, it somehow manages to exist even now, as our primary public educational means; which is, obviously beyond me.
In Ken Robinsons’ book The Element he discusses how, because of the lasting curse that is our education system, we elevate certain subjects over others, we think of them as more important or more relevant in our day-to-day lives, subjects like math and science are revered when the vast majority of us don’t really employ either of them that often, and when we do it’s when acknowledging time and going over finances, things that are not actually taught to the majority of us during our primary schooling anyway, and other aspects of each that we employ daily we experience unconsciously when we confront them naturally—in the natural world, in the way that math and physics are the “language of the universe,” but, you know, like: “Cool!” Yeah, it’s awesome how the Fibonacci Sequence, The Golden Ratio, and Fractals apply themselves in nature. And Pythagoras, and his relationship with math, and music are undeniably intriguing and influential; a number of my favorite musicians (David Bowie, Andrew Bird, Josh Ritter, The Flaming Lips…) utilize math and science in their songs. Otherwise, I mean, math and science are as relevant as dance and literature depending, only, on whom is actively applying them. Meanwhile, in school, subjects like art and music and dance are ignored or belittled, subjects that far more people employ not only on a day-to-day basis but professionally, and with more passion. Because the simple fact is that far less people think and process like a mathematician or a scientist than the number of people who think and process the world like artists, and musicians, and dancers, and writers. So why is our education system designed not only to create scientists, and mathematicians, and college professors but to do so as if we all process the world in the same way that scientists, and mathematicians, and college professors do?
Ken Robinsons’ The Element challenges people to find what their Element is, and suggests that once you do figure it out your relationship with the world will change dramatically, because it is not only possible to learn math, social sciences, geography, and language through the lens of a dancer—or any Element—but necessary in order for some people to actually understand, and relate to the world. In his book Robinson gives the example through a number of ‘case studies,’ he tells the stories of Mick Fleetwood, Faith Ringgold, Meg Ryan, and Others, of how our traditional education systems very nearly secured a world without the music of Fleetwood Mac, or the acting of Meg Ryan, or the choreography of Gillian Lynne.
I would go as far, even, to acknowledge our general lack of understanding when relating to our emotional selves. People have a series of emotions and moods that affect us, and our relationships every single day, and yet we dedicate zero time to learning how to acknowledge and relate to those emotions. I cannot find the sense in that at all, in fact it’s systemically dangerous. And, quite likely, the reason for our present devolving moral and political situation. I mean, we have a difficult enough time actually surviving in the world, let alone becoming an adult, being expected to handle a career, bills, taxes, relationships, and people without the underlining stress of dealing with erratic, sensational, and seemingly unpredictable emotions and moods; and then we die. We got all that going for us, while behind the scenes there are people creating budgets based on a foundation of education that we, generally, accept as a sensible standard, but why? For all intents and purposes there is no sense at all for these people to continue looking for ways to get rid of art, and theatre, and music, and dance in school.
My idea of a healthy and formidable education system would be as follows: imagine a system where we spend the first few years of our lives learning how to relate to those reoccurring, and unpredictable, and overwhelming emotions that we experience, sometimes without any apparent reason, so that we might recognize what we’re feeling, when, and why, and in various situations and then knowing, as adults, how to go about behaving. And then, in the years following, after having spent the previous few years of education learning, not only about our emotions, but simultaneously, and unwittingly, ourselves, and, as a result, we have a better understanding of our own Elements, and then being taught those, seemingly, core subjects through the best lens that we have in order to relate to our worlds, ourselves, and one another. The best way to educate yourself about a topic is to relate to something that you’re interested in, and the best way to others to educate us is to do exactly the same, because we cannot assume that we all think and process theories, and facts, and ideas the same way—because we don’t. If you’re still on the fence try reading The Element by Ken Robinson and Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet.
Does anyone remember that documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!?? The film that brought quantum mechanics, and human consciousness into mainstream society. A commercial interest in physics exploded in the newly evolved social mediasphere and it took all the Millennials with it. I really enjoyed it, the film, as did everyone my age that went through the “Rabbit Hole,” but there was one aspect of the film that really intrigued me: a brief interjection of commentary discussing the writings and experiments of Masaru Emoto. Now, for those of you whom are unaware Masaru Emoto is the author of The Secret Life of Water, Hidden Messages in Water, The Shape of Love, and other fantastic books. Emoto believed that water was, essentially, a blueprint for our reality. The frequencies and vibrations of our world could be channeled and enhanced by water, and that water is a conduit of energy. The idea is…OK, take The Law of Attraction, for example, and the concept that our thoughts affect our reality, now consider for a moment that there might be a scientific, physical explanation of the idea that our thoughts are capable of affecting water through vibrations, and that because everything is made up of water molecules that water might be a conductor of thought which allows for the manipulation of reality. Are we all on the same page? Because if not I will be explaining it further momentarily.
Masaru Emoto is most commonly known for doing vibration experiments with ice crystals. When you freeze, and then unfreeze water there are very, very brief moments before thawing when the water creates crystalloid shapes. Masaru Emoto thought to photograph these crystals, and he applied the idea that different non-physical variables might affect the crystals, for example: different types of music playing, speaking with both negative and positive intention and tone, writings, etc., basically what I’m talking about the is epitome of New Age bullshit, you know, how our feely feelings affect our surroundings, but when perceived from a scientific perspective. I suppose that another way of putting it is to say that I have reached the point in this blog where if the GOP cannot kill it, or eat it, and it cannot be explained metaphorically somewhere between Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark then it’s quite possible that I have become a dangerous liability to the illusive American standard.
Masaru Emoto discovered that when being expressed positive thoughts or intentions in the form of positive verbal, auditory, and written stimuli it would affect the vibrations and frequencies traveling between ‘the source’ and the water crystals, and they would form stunningly beautiful crystalloid shapes, and when expressed negatively the water crystals would appear misshapen and deformed. As a result Emoto discovered that our positive thoughts affected water in a very real way through measurable vibrations and frequencies that travel through all things, and he therefore began to express urgently how important positive thoughts are, and when you consider that the human body is made up of more than 70% water you might rethink the way that you live your life. See, for me, these concepts provide so much more insight, and a more logical framework for the genesis of our existence, and the development of our reality. And to be completely honest I do not understand how anyone could possibly disagree with it. The physics of quantum mechanics, the conception of spiritual evolution, and at the concentration of human connection can be expressed collectively by the discoveries of Masaru Emoto, and, as far as I’m concerned, where the three of these concepts meet we find a pinnacle understanding of our humanism.
I read Emoto’s books and found so many profound connections between the most difficult political, spiritual, and relationship questions that have challenged a belief that I had always felt, and yet I could never quite explain, and not just between one idea and another, but Masaru’s writings offered insight to various connections between ideas that I never even considered might connect.
Religion is deeply personal for the majority of the people on the planet, in one way or another, even atheism is responsible for strong stigmas regarding religious, or spiritual ideas for some of us. As far as my own beliefs I cannot deny that my upbringing was a case study of spiritual ADD: my parents were both raised with strict religious contexts: my father’s family was devout in Southern Baptist, which, from the 1950’s through the 70’s, you know, “the severity of American religious idealism,” especially among Southern Baptists, was pretty scary. My mom went to an all-girl Catholic school for twelve years. And as a result of their childhoods my father, being an intellectual, but not much of a humanist, now considers himself agnostic, while my mother spent years looking for spiritual enlightenment, and stumbled upon a religion called Eckankar, which is a young western philosophy similar to Hinduism that has adopted also a variety of other eastern philosophies, and I have attended many of the religions Sunday services. My mother gave me the option as a child to either attend service or to spend the time studying different religions—more often than not I took her up on the study. Throughout my years of practice it became quite clear to me that the two most prominent problems within our religious purview also happen to be the same two reasons why many religions still exist today, and exactly as they did centuries ago: stigmas and money. Modern religious institutions have created stigmas against their religious counterparts, which has been both sustainable, and dangerous. For example, according to the Qur’an anyone who follows the teachings of a religious text is not, technically, what some Muslims might consider, an ‘infidel’ and, for those of you whom are unaware, religious texts include the Torah and the Bible, as well as others, it would appear that a sect of Islamic 'believers' simply disregarded that creed, but no more so, and inasmuch the way that Christians tend to ignore much of their own doctrine—many people form a belief on baseless hearsay.
Masaru Emoto and his writings—his books—have helped me develop many ideas, within our belief systems, that others are taught not to accept, or that they have been disallowed the means to see through various stigmas and dogma. It would seem that the unusual aspects of my upbringing have made it easier for me to distance myself from the manipulation of emotional reactions when necessary. For example: I was reading a copy of Indigo Sun Magazine many years ago, I picked it up while working at Borders Books, Music, and Café, and came across an article in which the author describes sitting with a group of people discussing the different ideals and perceptions that shadow God, and in the middle of the discussion someone said, “Oh! I get it, so God is like water and we are like fish.” The author goes on to describe how no one among them seemed to understand how profound a realization that was. It simply went over their heads, or the idea did not fit into the systems that they have created for themselves because of their religions.
But, think about it for a moment, "God is like Water and We are like Fish." As a foundation, the principles itself, when developing ideas from that particular foundation, the places you are capable of reaching, I mean, it’s astounding where that one idea can take you.
And, of course there are obvious similarities between this sudden burst of spiritual clarity and what Masaru Emoto was writing, but there is a deeply-rooted hidden concept within this spiritual understanding that exists as well, and it’s an idea worth expanding upon, and that I urge you to develop on your own. I have gone on to develop my own understandings surrounding spiritual enlightenment over the years. But whenever I’m asked about my own ideas I share one or both of the following: “God is not the Creator but instead the Act of Creation,” and, again: “God is like Water, and We are like Fish,” because I do recognize how deeply profound they are, and how uniquely they can be interpreted, they also fit comfortably within the dogma of any belief system that YOU might presently accept, because thinking of your belief system in ways that you have not yet considered can be paramount to perceiving the world around you in a way that might be less threatening.
For years, even since developing, what I thought, would be an open-minded all-inclusive system of ideals I realized that I still had my own stigmas, of which included the belief that my ‘pillars’ listed in the paragraph above were antithetical to those of Christian or Muslim doctrine, until I was sitting in a café in Salt Lake City one evening talking about religion with a friend of mine. We stayed there until 4 in the morning discussing different ideas and belief systems. My friend was raised Mormon and when I mentioned that “God was like Water and that We are like Fish,” and, then went on to suggest that “I don’t believe God to exist as a personified being, but rather as a collective,” he agreed with me completely. I asked him, “Well, I thought you were a Christian?” to which he responded, “I am.” “So, then how can you believe God to exist as anything other than as a personified being?” his response was that- “That idea is not mutually exclusive to Christian Doctrine.” And, aside from accepting Jesus as the Son of God, he was absolutely right. We have a very basic, and limited understanding of our own spirituality, because we have collectively refused to understand it, as a result most of us would immediately reject the idea that God could have a ‘Son’ while not actually existing in the image of man. Allow yourself to imagine, for a moment, the idea that we may not be created in the physical image of God, but rather the emotional image; what would that look like? And how would that connect with, not only, other belief systems, but other aspects of our humanity? Science, Politics, Relationships, etc. I thought about Masaru Emoto and the differences that we establish between creating a narrative and developing a belief, and recognized that my stigmas regardless of their foundation were the inherent problem.
At its root we do not understand religion and spirituality beyond a narrative, a collection of stories that we’ve been told in order to perceive certain ideals or feelings in a way that we are able to make sense of. Unfortunately, when applied, those stories don’t exactly mesh with other narratives that we tell ourselves as humans. Unless we strip that narrative to the fundamental connections, but not just between us and our belief systems, but the belief systems of others, and of our scientific and political communities. Once we allow ourselves not to force our connections, beliefs systems, and stigmas but to recognize-, to be conscious of how the connections exist around us, just as Masaru Emoto has done with the simplicity of the harmony between nature and our humanity, we’re capable of recognizing the simplicity of our own connections and we’re left with the freedom of our perceptions, which are influenced by both our physical understanding of our world, and our emotional. Masaru Emoto helped me to bridge the gaps that, before reading his books, seemed much too far to connect.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.