Category Archives: Essays

The Origin of Hate: The Wordy Intro.

The fear prelude.

A wise and powerful old alien once said that “Fear is the path to the dark side.” You know, because fear leads to anger then hate then suffering and all of a sudden you’re wearing a creepy black breathing apparatus or shooting blue lightning from your fingertips and trying to blow planets to bits.

I’ve been mulling over this idea of Yoda’s for some time, attempting to write this grand essay crushing the evil force that is fear…but I couldn’t, try as I might. First I thought, “Well, you obviously can’t write something about conquering the Fear Menace because you’re a sissy and have no place writing about something you can’t fully grasp.” (That was an interesting stage for in my life). Then I realized the truth: I couldn’t write an essay that hinged on destroying fear when fear isn’t usually a bad thing. Fear is simply a chemical reaction in the brain, one of our most primal functions biologically devised to keep us alive and fully functional. It’d be like writing about the terrors of feeling hunger. Sure, some people overdo it with their food intake but all in all knowing when you should nourish yourself ain’t half bad.

Fear is inherently a necessary or even good thing, but loses much of it’s usefulness in the part it plays in two specific areas. The first is as an inhibitor in one’s quest to become their ideal self. This is the sort of fear that keeps you from approaching that sexy vixen on the other side of the room; the fear that figures you might as well settle for one school because the chances are so absurdly small that you’ll even get into your dream school that you don’t even try. It’s really easy to blame poor ol’ fear, but the true troublemaker is a lack of self-esteem or an unclear idea of one’s goals. The second area in which fear becomes a problem is as a springboard toward hate. But as with the example above, fear is not completely the issue here (I’m the last guy who will question the wisdom of Yoda, but dude’s oversimplifying). The origins of hate are more a matter of psychological processing than a simple emotional reaction. I’ll spend the remainder of this prelude looking at these origins and the part that fear has to play.

The Anger Suite.

Before we go diving headfirst into hatred, I think it’d be beneficial to define it. And to do so I’d like to compare it to its close buds anger and rage, the three main components of what I like to call “The Anger Suite.”

On one end of the suite is anger itself. Anger is a strong, but basic reaction to a perceived wrongdoing; a person, place, thing, or event that has provoked the other into a feeling of discomfort and great displeasure. It can be overwhelming to the point of negatively effecting one’s rational thought processes, often causing one to act out against the catalyst (or anything within reach, really) in varying levels of vengeance.

Like fear mentioned before, as well as sadness and any other feelings falling under “emotional pain,” it’s a natural human response meant to alert you that something is wrong and a resolution is needed in order to return you to a state of contentment. This works identically to physical pain where the sharp sting of holding your hand in a fire is your body telling you to get it out of there. And, like physical pain, allowing anger to linger results in escalating and sometimes irreparable discomfort.

This is where hate comes in. Hate is what happens when one hangs on to the anger. The anger plants roots and becomes less of a passing warning and more a constant presence in one’s life. Hatred runs deep. It’s got all the downsides of anger but even more so. Maintaining it results in a constant flow of stress and frustration which causes more anger which inflates the hatred. Where anger provides negative motivation in the moment (to throw something or punch someone in the face), hatred births constant motivation that borders on (and might eventually achieve) obsession. The catalyst and its removal or transformation to something more acceptable are never far from the forefront of the hater’s mind. The greater the hate, the greater the lengths one will go to achieve this goal.

Finally, rage. Summoned by a catalyst that causes an especially high level of anger, rage comes on powerful and reactive. Blinding in that it cancels rational thought and a clear sense of time and space, rage causes the sorts of situations that leads people to plead “temporary insanity” in courts of law. Due to the amount of energy this emotion needs to erupt, it tends to have the greatest short-term destructive potential of The Anger Suite but lasts the shortest amount of time. Rage isn’t the most common thing out there, but it’s worth mentioning in that it’s a very real concern and feelings of hatred brings the threat of it closer to boil.

Hate me. Fear me.

Hate based purely in anger is a pretty easy concept to grasp. You hate the guy who murdered your fiance. You hate yourself for having never really applied yourself, resulting in a life you are wholly dissatisfied with. The solution here is forgiveness of self, of others. I talk about this at length in my last post, Forget-Me-Nots: The Art of Letting Go.

Our friend Yoda tells us that fear leads to hate, but how? I mean, the very biology behind fight or flight offers a very simple choice: fight OR flight. Anger OR fear. One doesn’t lead to the other. They are polarized options…right? Initially, sure, but anger is a reaction to a perceived wrongdoing…and the thing that pushes one into a state of fear is, more often than not, perceived immediately as “wrong.” Sure we’re afraid of the guy in the ski mask coming at us with a chainsaw , but we hate him for it, too. We hate him for disrupting the relative good that our existence allowed us. We hate him for exposing our perceived weakness (read: fear). Dealing with is it like dealing with any hurt you feel (I direct you once again to my last post). Of course, making sure you’re out of continued harm’s way comes first. It IS a man with a chainsaw after all.

Perceive it. Believe it. The end?

Perception is everything. Molded by nature, molded by nurture, it can be guessed at based on one’s biology or society (sometimes quite accurately so), but is inherently a very intimate, personal thing. How we perceive something dictates how we interact with it; react to it. Skydiving unlocks exhilaration in an adrenaline-junkie and utter terror in an acrophobe (someone afraid of heights). Going a blind date excites lovers of surprise and produces apprehension in those who fear the unknown. A guy with a chainsaw would cause most to wet themselves, but it’s really no big deal if you’ve got Yoda’s skill set.

How you perceive something shapes your feelings toward it. And in the vein of this essay, perceiving something as alarming will cause us to fear it and whether that fear grows into terror or hate (both are no way to live) is up to us dealing with it in a way that does not exacerbate the fear or anger, but instead removes it from the entire equation. Understanding and compassion are the key.

Onto the main event…

This is just the intro. I focused heavily on some basic ideas and lightly touched upon the ones we’ll hit in the main event coming up. A major part of a society, of a culture, is the existence of a moral code; a general consensus of what’s right and what’s wrong. This significantly shapes the perception of its people and therefore shapes their fear- and anger- triggers as well. This becomes quite interesting when one member of society is viewed as “wrong” or “different” by certain others for various reasons. Maybe they’re an axe murderer or from a different race or alcoholic or gay. Some people can’t see the moral differences between two or four or any of these descriptors and so the seeds of hate are sewn.

Of course, the axe murderer is willfully destroying other people. He is wrong. The alcoholic is willfully destroying his or herself. He is wrong. But animosity toward those of a different race, gender, sexual orientation, certain cultural traditions…this sort of hate is another thing altogether. And so we call it prejudice, a human trait wrongly perceived as wrong…and so a grave wrong itself. It is a great destroyer of things. Of lives. Of peace. Of love.

It is the sole focus of the remainder of “The Origin of Hate.”

Stay tuned!

Question everything.

Who. What. When. Where. Why. How. These are the building blocks of knowledge. If I were to have cultivated a catch phrase, a motto, a battle cry, it would surely be “question everything.”

The majority of the time, questions are asked as the result of doubt; of an existing unknown, or the decent-enough probability of one. What time are we meeting for dinner? Does he love me as much as I love him? Is bigfoot real? Other times questions are a means for one to assess the knowledge of another or prove their own. What is two plus two? Who was the thirty-eighth president? Why did the chicken cross the road? In any case, knowledge is being shared or verified under the admittance of the possibility that the one or more of the involved does not know. The power of questions, for many, seems to stop there.

While the eradication of the unknown (of doubt) is primary function of the question, the relationship between doubt of question often warps the latter into a negative space; a space linked to confusion, uncertainty, and distrust. This stigma unfortunately tends to keep us from utilizing the question’s power when it comes to those things that are known; the things that we are certain of.

Science is the human invention that makes the greatest use of questioning knowns…mostly because science accepts that fact that most things can never be 100% known. Does the Sun really revolve around the Earth? Do heavier objects really fall faster than lighter ones? Is the Earth really 6,000 years old? The constant challenging of and building upon perceived fact is at the foundation of science. Without it we’d still think that angry gods made lightning and that masturbation leads to insanity. While the benefits of this manner of thinking are countless we tend to shrink away from it when the matters become more feeling- and emotion-based.

Let’s take two of the most powerful feelings we’ve got: love and faith.

Love is the peak of positive human emotion, forger of the strongest relationships between one’s self and the person, thing, or idea in which they are in love with. Faith is level of emotional certainty so complete that it perseveres without the requirement of tangible logical proof. Both are draped in commitment and, as such, “questions as doubt” are in direct opposition to both. It’s difficult to separate questioning love from doubting the strength of the relationship just as questioning faith is synonymous with doubting one’s core beliefs, even seen as a sin in certain religious contexts. In fact, the opposite is true. As in science, it is understanding and verification that often should spark questioning, not lack of belief.

Take Jack and Molly. They’re recently married, have an unassuming house in the suburbs, a dog. They share their innermost thoughts over coffee in the morning and marathon Netflix series, cuddled together on the couch every night. They are in love. One morning, Jack looks over at Molly and asks, “Why are we together?”. She answers, matter of factly, because we make each other happy, we get one another, and we want what’s best for the other from the bottom of our being.” That dialogue strengthens a bond. It validates a feeling. Granted, another answer could have gone like, “I…I honestly don’t know anymore.” That dialogue reveals a weakness in the bond and from there it can be dealt with. Regardless of the response, the challenge of the question fosters growth and both parties will be better off because of it.

Here’s a list of reasons people steer clear of questioning things they’re certain of:

  • It’s morally wrong. Especially where faith is involved many religions teach that questioning its doctrine is itself a sin.

  • It looks like an awful lot like doubt. As mentioned above with love, questioning something can seem an awful lot like you don’t believe in it even if that’s not the case. Questioning a relationship, a decision, an idea can be hurtful to those who are intimately involved in either.

  • It makes you look dumb. Putting any question out there (unless testing someone) is admitting that you do not have an answer. Some of us would opt for continued ignorance to avoid being viewed as ignorant in the moment.

  • The truth is scary. So often questions aren’t asked because the answer (the truth) is scarier. Living a lie becomes the more comfortable (or less mysterious) choice and therefore we cling to it because the alternative might be worse in the short or long run.

The truth is the truth. The truth is what’s real. It is the the only way to reach genuineness, completeness of self, goals, and relationships. And the only way to do this is to “Who, what, when, where, and why” everything, not with the intention to debunk it (that’s how you become paranoid) but instead to simply understand.

Growth begins with a question.

Forget-Me-Nots: The Art of Letting Go

Whoever came up with the saying “Forgive and forget” was probably referring to a time one of the neighborhood kids accidentally hit a baseball and broke a window. It’s got a 1950’s ring to it (just like that scenario). A little too clean, a little too easy. Granted, in the sort of situation like that it’s totally justified. Kids being kids. Glass being glass. No real emotional attachments. No harm done that can’t easily be undone. Accidents happen.

What if we raise the stakes a little? Let’s say the ball crashed through the window and broke the urn which happened to hold the ashes of your recently-deceased and beloved grandfather. In this instance a bit of emotional pain comes to play. Judgment’s clouded by anger or sadness. It’s harder to brush off. Still, most good-tempered understanding people would forgive and let this go easily enough.

How about this? A mom, with her 2-year old son, is getting some weekend shopping done. The mom sees a sale on baby clothes, looks away for a second, the baby wanders into traffic and a car (completely within the speed limit) rounds the corner killing him on impact? Another accident. This time there is extreme emotional anguish experienced by the mother…and probably the driver as well. Guilt comes into play and with it the ever difficult task of forgiving oneself.

Let’s say you’re a guy in high school and your best friend is in science class when a classmate decides to pull out a gun and kill him and nine others. Or your sibling sleeps with your significant other. Or you spent two months assured that you’d get a raise only to find out that they don’t have the funds. Or your husband or wife commits suicide?

“Forgive and forget” is a stupid saying. Adding the clause “only when applied to the simplest of offenses” helps a little, but it’s not the forgiveness half of the cliché that is its major failing, but part about forgetting. Forgetting something that has caused you pain (physical or emotional) is as ridiculous as trying to forget things that have made you feel happy, content, complete. Both are growth opportunities that should never be ignored. What’s more, once an event has illicited a certain level of emotional intensity, forgetting becomes all but impossible. The farthest those who try will get to doing so is suppression…and we all know how well supressing feelings goes. Forgetting and suppression (bad) are sought after because they present themselves as express routes to the clarity and cool of forgiveness and letting go (SPOILER ALERT: They’re not).

Letting go is not the same as forgetting. I repeat: letting go is not the same as forgetting. Forgetting is the attempt to erase a memory completely. Letting go is the act of understanding the experience, logically cataloging lessons learned, adjusting accordingly, and releasing the negative hold it has had on you.

Let’s take the example of the mother who lost her son (I like using the most extreme examples because it’s easier to take something like this and scale it down to relate to your painful experience than something small like a broken window and scale the lessons learned up):

This is a living nightmare; a mom losing a child. The cause here is the death of the 2-year old (“Oh my god, I killed a child!), the mother’s anger toward the driver (He killed my son! He should have been paying more attention to the road), and the driver’s anger toward the mother (She should have been watching her child!”). Throw in the cops and the family of the mother and you’ve got yourself a certified tragedy. So, what’s the path to letting go look like here (and everywhere)?

First thing’s first: life experiences can’t be undone. Wishing things had been different; that you could go back to the way things were before… it’s not possible. Dwelling on that sort of thought is an utter waste of time and can only do harm. Time spent trying to relive the past is time lost in creating a better present. The pain is prolonged.

Allow yourself to feel. Hurt hurts. You may want to suppress the pain with every bone in your body. Losing yourself in tasks like drinking or partying or cleaning or drawing for the sake of creating distraction, pretending everything’s fine, locking yourself away from the things that could make you feel – choose your drug. These things can prolong the healing process. If you want to scream, scream. If you want to cry, by all means go ahead. Let it out. This is who you are. This is what you feel. Embrace it, as horrible as it is right now.

Keep on living. While it may feel like a certain part of your life has taken a beating…or the whole thing…know that the world will continue to turn with or without you. I suggest you choose “with.” Sure it was the world that kicked you in the first place, but it’s going to be the world that helps to lift you up again…just as it has before. And the cool thing is, every time it lifts you up the chances of the next slack to the face hurting you as much will be much lesser…even the chances of you being hurt at all go down. So keep living. Pick yourself up and have a night out with your loved ones. Take a walk and take in all that is awesome in the world. Use the emptiness you may be feeling and fill it up with something off your bucket list: take a trip, pick up a new language; a new hobby. This will slowly raise your sense of self and belonging and will counter of the negative aspects of allowing yourself to feel, namely getting lost in a prison of those feelings.

Sidenote: What’s the difference between cleaning your house as a distraction to feeling and cleaning your house as a means to keep on living? Answer: Intention. We constantly walk the thin line between helpful and hurtful and mindset can go a long way in placing your safely on one side of the other.

Forgive. While I hesitate to say that any of these steps are the most difficult in the process (that depends on each individual situation – accident or not, emotional intensity, cultural conditions, etc…) I will say that forgiveness of self or others tends to be the hardest part. Unfortunately, it is an integral part of completely letting go. Forgiveness is looking into the belly of the beast and saying, with utter genuineness, “I am not resentful.” To fully let go one must forgive.

Forgiveness tends to be the last step of the process to kick off, a culmination of the others running their course and contentment returning. Life is about growth. If there is an easy meaning to life, growth would be it. Lessons learned and applied. Learning to forgive, to release the hatred toward the offender, is one of the most trying and inspiring methods to growth moving forward. The mother doesn’t need to hate herself to ensure that her next child doesn’t suffer the same fate. The best friend doesn’t need to despise the boy shot his best friend to be kind to a student that is ridiculed and beat on. The girl does not need to resent her man-stealing sister and ex to engage in a healthier relationship with her latest boyfriend. In most cases the opposite is true.

The goal is and always will be not to forgive and forget, but to forgive and let go. The first will lead to the second and we will continue life, empowered, never forgetting, never losing hope.

How Religion Works [Part 1: The Magic]

How Religion Works. [Part 1: The Magic]

 

Pick A Card. Any Card.

I was speaking with an acquaintance the other day. “I mean,” they stated at the end of a short, lax dialogue about Christianity, “why would anyone pray or devote themselves to some storybook character from a completely different culture that ended thousands of years ago?!” Twenty minutes later that person whipped out a set of tarot cards (a former game from a completely different culture that ended hundreds of years ago) and, with all belief and seriousness, did a reading for me.

In another corner of the world someone is meditating on a dilemma that they wish to solve by clearing their mind and letting the solution come to them. Somewhere else a person holds their hands over a patient in pain and focuses their fourth Chakra in order to heal them. Or the one who keeps a lucky bottlecap in their suit pocket just before they defend their latest client, for good luck. Or the one who throws a handful on bones onto the dusty ground to determine the well-being of their family; their tribe.

All of these examples and/or ones like them happen countless times every day across the globe. And one or more of these examples, to just about anyone reading this, sounds either absolutely plausible or absolutely ridiculous. Yet, they have ALL stood the test of time. But why? I mean, we’re talking the products of completely different belief systems, some in ways in direct opposition to the other. Some claiming to be the only true way while shrugging the others off as misguided jokes. Yet, they ALL persevere. They ALL have a group of people swearing up and down that they have experienced, firsthand, their desires being met through each of these means. How can that be? If there is one way, how can they all offer powerful, potent results as far as their denizens are concerned?

 

The Easy Answer.

People will believe what they want to believe; hear what they want to hear; see what they want to see. If you were raised on Christianity, you are more inclined to bend your perception of life to fit that. Someone’s wife dies. They might think, “This sucks but it was part of God’s plan. She was needed in heaven.” That’s crazy talk. No one is needed in Christian heaven. There’s not some heavenly crisis that needs solving. It’s perfect by definition. People just die. It’s part of the show. Someone raised on Tarot really wants to move to California and open a New Age bookstore. They pull “The Empress” card, which is all about achieving a great bounty and new ideas. Immediately, the reader reads “new ideas” as the ones she’ll bring forth by introducing a new bookstore and “great bounty” as all the money she’ll make with this awesome idea. No matter what card she pulled the result would have supported her idea. She had made up her mind. (Let’s say she pulled the “Ten of Swords” which is easily one of the scariest cards ever- utter destruction, nowhere to go but up. She’d think “that’s obviously referring to my life here in this town. I really DO need to get out of here!”)

The easy answer: We use our belief systems to justify how we already feel or to blind ourselves to the reality of something we don’t want to think too much about because of how complicated, sad, or scary it is. It’s power is in it’s enabling and deceptiveness and nothing more.

Or is it?

 

There Can Be Miracles…

Fourteen years ago I dreamed that I was standing at the beach, the ocean stretching out before me. Between myself and the water were two of my cousins, brothers, building a sand castle. The younger of the two of them threw a plastic shovel that was quickly swallowed by the sea. He started after it and the other brother, taking the other’s hand, went with him, disappearing beneath the waves. The next day I woke up, went to school, and then ended up at my grandmother’s where my mom and I found out that my two cousins, the ones from the dream, had drowned in their swimming pool that afternoon. (I wish I had a story that was that powerful but less depressing, but I don’t)

How many times have we heard of people praying to God for their sickness to go away and then -poof- they’re healed and the doctors are baffled? Or those amazing Reiki healing stories. What about when a parent will just “know” that something terrible has happened to their child? In the past year I’ve been read by a Tarot card reader, a psychic, and a past life reader, none of whom knew me prior and all left me with freakishly identical answers to the question of my purpose.

Those who subscribe solely to the easy answer from the previous section are denying the existence of these, the second and more powerful perpetuators of our spiritual or religious belief systems. The easy answer bypasses the fact that, lo and behold, beyond the ease and delusion and fear this stuff can actually work! The metaphysical world is real and, from the looks of things, omni-denominational.

 

Let’s Get to the Meat of It.

I have a very close, intelligent, and religious friend who once said to me, “Trystin, I believe that just about all of the religions are true. Because there are so many different types of people, God gave us options so we can choose which one fits us the best.” What. God supplied us with the very source of most of the bloodiest, manipulative, insane events in history so we could experience him in our favorite way? No. That’s crazy-talk. That’s rationalization. That’s justifying opposing ideals while maintaining the perfection of one’s own belief system. Compromise by not compromising. Anyway, we’ll worry about the nitty gritty of all that in Part 2: The Mystery. All we care about is “The Magic” right now.

Now, let’s take a chicken (Haha, “Say whaaat?!” – bear with me here). Chicken is a fairly affordable and very versatile food. You can fry it, bake it, grill it, saute it, toss it in soup, salad, or sandwich, take it barbecued, smoked, breaded, light, dark, by the breast, wing, thigh, leg, foot, gizzard, enjoy it hot or cold, lathered in gravy, cooked with lemon, garnished with all manner of veggies, all of these things greatly altering its taste and physical properties but never changing the fact that it is, indeed, chicken. Regardless of the part in which you choose to engage or how you choose to engage it, the chicken-ness of it all remains.

Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Hindu. Wiccan. Roasted. Poached. Fried. Baked. Sauted. Nutritional values aside in this awkward metaphor, all are definitively different preparations but wholly sustaining. Regardless of one’s chosen system of belief the power, the force, the energy that allows it to answer prayers and fulfill prophesies is identical, simply prepared differently, cooked up with psychology, sociology, morality, and philosophy prevalent in its culture (or sub-culture) of origin.

Meaning: The power’s source is not a particular belief system, but the act of believing itself. These systems merely dictate the ways, strengths, and limitations that we allow ourselves when seeking answers or achievements.

 

I Am Confident That You Will Read This Section.

Most of us remember The Secret; that book popularized by Oprah that emphasized the power of positive thinking as a means of getting what you want and being who you want to be. It sold millions of copies and helped tons of people by adding a magical quality to the our confidence in ourselves. Confidence. The belief system that involves faith in our own capacity to fulfill our wishes. Some of it’s symptoms include increased health, morale, and a greatly increased chance of an ideal future. It is a human power we all are capable of and it’s no wonder we re-brand it to the more mystical things like “the secret” or “law of attraction”. It’s symptoms are nearly identical to those drives that lead us to seek assistance from a higher power. Coincidence? I think not.

Confidence is a religion in which the one trusted and being called upon to fulfill one’s greatest desire is one’s self. The energy that fuels it is the exact same one that causes prayers to be answered or cards to reveal a truth about the future or a mother to sense her child just suffered from a car accident. Confidence, in comparison to the rest, is stronger in that it focuses more on a person taking action action being taken upon them. Also in that it doesn’t involve a middle-man (such as a deity or magic runes). On the other end, it can be weaker in that, as adults, we have been conditioned to accept our human limits and religions and the rest allow us an excuse to dream greater than we have been raised to believe we are capable of on our own.

Newsflash: We are all of us capable of remarkable things. Bound to physics, we probably won’t be sprouting wings and flying to the moon any time soon, but there is power inside of us to accomplish nothing short of magic and it comes from us. Change your future. See the future. Become your ideal self. Dream your destiny. Achieve ultimate happiness. Discover great truths. Find love. Know love. Get your ideal job, house, car, body. See the true intentions of your peers. Jump higher. Run faster. Live more fully. And, to Hell with what I said earlier…go ahead and fly.

Believe in yourself enough to act on those beliefs and you’ve got yourself the foundation of true greatness. There is no power greater than that. And it is in, and connects, us all.

This has been Part 1 of How Religion Works: The Magic. Stay tuned for Part 2: The Mystery, where I dive more deeply into some of the subjects lightly touched upon such as “How can you differentiate true magic from people just seeing what they want to?” (is there REALLY a difference?) and Part 3: The Morality, where I’ll discuss…well, let’s keep that my little secret for now.

Method to My Madness

Maybe this is the most self-congradulatory thing I’ve ever written. If it is, I don’t care. What I DO care about, on the other hand, is that I got it done. And while I tend to spend a lot of my time surfing a chaos wave of random thoughts and actions, get things done I do. Lots of things. So many things that not a day goes by where someone doesn’t come up to me and ask, “Trystin, how do find the time to get so much done?” or something to that extent. After all, by the halfway point of this year, I’ve already written two plays, four essays, held two readings, wrote the first 10 chapters of a novel, moved into a new apartment, reworked the rules for a board game, got a new job, added 4 stone-solid friends to my collection, launched this very website, got cast in two short plays, and graduated from level one of Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s Improv Class. This isn’t me showing off…it’s just fact. I usually reply to the question with a smirk and a shrug or some snarky fantastical response like, “I bend time”  or “I’m an alien.” Well, stand back, friends, for I shall now trade in my answers of fantasy for one of reality…

PART ONE: PREP YOURSELF

Figure out your purpose.
Simmer down. This isn’t as ALL EMCOMPASSING as it seems. Well, actually, it is. But it’s not as difficult as it seems. Deep down we all know our purpose. It’s just that sometimes we’re either afraid of acknowledging it or covering it up with an over-glorified goal.

Check it: Purposes are more about who we are than what we want. They are not something we can attain (that’s a goal), they are the force that drives us. So when someone says that their purpose is “to become a famous actor” they are actually stating a goal and limiting themselves to other things they can be doing or being that could be just as satisfying. Also, by putting a tangible ceiling on something as big as a purpose there is this overwhelming feeling of disappointment if it is not reached…or a sense of “Damn…why am I still not fulfilled…?” if it is.

I’ve decided that my purpose is “to be an inspirer.” It’s something I can always explore and do and grow in different ways, through an insanely diverse amount of goals. Imagine if my purpose was “to become a great writer”. It pains me to think of all the other methods to inspire that I would miss out on!

Have a ton of goals, great and small.
This one’s pretty obvious right? If you want to get something done, have something that you want to get done. The most important part of this step the pluralization of the word “goals” as in, more than one (we’ll talk more about this later). Then there’s the “great and small” part. Every goal doesn’t have to be “Save the world” or “Lose a million pounds”. Try something like, “Buy some paintbrushes” or “Call best friend tonight.” These are simple tasks that will not only allow you to then move on to greater things (like painting a picture or venting, sharing, and laughing with one of your besties), but also give you a little boost of positive energy that you can use to tackle the bigger goals…or even unfortunate necessities like paying bills or going to work, with just a little extra pep in your step.

Make lists.
I can’t even begin to say how important this step is. Make lists like crazy. Put everything on them. To me, lists come in two different flavors.  There’s the brainstorming list and the focused list.  The brainstorming list has EVERYTHING. This is the best list ever. Go crazy. The crazier the better.  Here’s an excerpt from one I did a couple weeks ago:

  • Become a bartender
  • Adopt a baby of a different race than me/husband
  • Write a play about terraforming
  • Learn Spanish
  • Be a motivational speaker
  • Eat at that ninja restaurant
  • Read a book from the Sociology section of a book store
  • Eat healthier
  • Use fear as a launchpad to adventure

I probably have way too much fun doing this…and you should, too. The more ground you cover and the more you override your doubts and allow yourself  to jot down, the more open your mind will be in actually achieving things. Plus, I guarantee the brainstorming list will reveal some desires you didn’t even know you had once you get on a roll. Really stretch yourself here. Some of the best things I’ve ever done have come from some random thing on this list. Last year’s trip to Buenos Aires, for example, is the result of a point on a list from early that year that read “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!” (it was a rough couple of months).

The focused list is more like the lists we’re used to making. Not really much imagination involved, we’re just writing down the stuff we already know we need to do. Maybe this looks familiar:

  • Pay rent…or bills…or…loan…or tuition
  • Finish project for work…or school
  • Clean [something in or around the house]
  • Fix [something in or around the house]
  • Pick [household item] up from the store
  • Get food for pet…or kids…or self…or spouse
  • See the doctor about that [fill in the sickness)

There is really no arguing the importance of that list. Ignoring that list will result in utter chaos…and we can’t have that.  We’re working towards growth and accomplishment here, people!

The focused list comes in three flavors. The one up above is the “Basic Needs” list. It’s that list that, if you don’t do it, you’re screwed. It can be lame. It can be boring. It’s always gonna be there.

Next up is the “Purpose” list. This list is pretty cool, because it’s all of the goals that are in line with your purpose. If you can’t think of anything, it’s a good time to refer to your brainstorming list and see if anything fits the bill, then grow it out from there. I could easily pull “Be a motivational speaker” and “Use fear as a launchpad to adventure” to mine. Then maybe add something like “Buy a book on motivational speaking” or “Start an inspiring blog” or “Talk to people on the street about who they want to be”.

Finally, we’ve got the “Rewards List”. This is basically a list of goals that don’t fit into the other list, but bring you some sense of joy or accomplishment. These are the things that keep you fresh, happy, surprised, exhilarated, and on your toes. These are the things you allow yourself once you’ve reached one of the other goals. Reward systems are super effective.

Let’s say you pay all of your bills on time this month. Do you know what that means? Ninja restaurant! And what if you officially launch and kick-off that inspiring blog? Why not start looking into bartending school? Using these things as rewards is a great way to keep your morale and sense of joy up while continuing on toward maintaining your basic needs and making headway with your purpose (two things that can be a tad heavy at times).

Oh, and if you have goals that aren’t basic needs (home, work, family, close friends etc..), don’t feed into your purpose, and don’t offer that sense of fun or adventure…get rid of them!

Right now. I’ll wait.

Also, you don’t have to actually write 3 separate lists all the time (I’d say I do it about 50% of the time). As long as you can identify what goal belongs where and you have ample examples of each, you are A-OK.

From here on out I’ll be focusing on the goals of purpose, as the basic needs pretty much get TOO much attention and the goals of rewarding are easy enough to motivate you to do on account of how utterly awesome they usually are.

PART TWO: PREP YOUR WORLD

Now that we’ve got ourselves in shape, let’s take it to the streets!

Operation: Trim the Fat from the Steak.
This is one of my favorite things and integral to reaching your goals and thus your full potential. Fat can taste really good in the moment, but at the end of the day it’s just slimy gloop that goes straight to your hips. For this reason we must look for the “fat” in our lives and do away with it, much like the goals that don’t fit I mentioned above.

The “fat” of our world are those things that stand in the way of our growth as individuals. The things we “hang on” to simply because we’re used to it or things that hang on to us like parasites (they take and take, but never give).  Things like a job that makes you feel like a waste, the ex you just can’t let go of, the friend that comes to you only when they need something and never any other times. Acknowledging and then either changing or removing these things should be among your  FIRST goals.  Put them on a list. Write them in bold, red, underlined. They are the weeds to your garden of possibility.

Enviro-trap.
This is something I’ve always been a big supporter of but haven’t really focused on much until recently. Despite the deceptively negative connotation I’ve given it, enviro-traps are fantastic at keeping your eyeses on the prizes. They are anything that physically exists in your world and support the achievement of your goals. They trap you so that you cannot escape thinking about what it is you should be doing.

The most obvious and powerful enviro-trap is the schedule. Giving a date and time (and alarm/notification) to a goal puts the heat on just right. Do it.

These beautifully laid self-traps can come in an unlimited amount of forms.  Keeping a journal in my messenger bag reminds me (and allows me) to write anywhere.  I bought a drafting table and put it in my room…it says “Trystiiin, draw on meee…” until I can’t take it anymore and put pencil to paper. Sometimes I’ll excitedly explain projects and goals to other people so they can later come to me and say, “So, Trystin, how’s [goal] coming along?”. There are few things I hate more than having to reply to that question with, “I haven’t started yet.” And I’ll be damned if I don’t start right after if I haven’t.

PART THREE: DOING IT!

Alright, now that we know our purpose and have a slew of goals on a slew of lists in a world that better suits our journey, how do we turn all this prep into some tangible action? Why, we just do it of course!

Time management.
You made a schedule, now follow it. If you can’t make one of your appointments, move it to the top of the list, highlight it, and keep it there until you do it. To me, time management isn’t so much a means of allotting a certain amount of time to a certain task as it is giving NO time to wastes of time (i.e. the “fat”).  Unless, of course, the time you’re putting in is time to alter or remove the fat (a noble quest indeed).  You will be amazed at how much time you magically have once you’ve gotten rid of the nonsense that wastes it for no personal gain. Things like excessive rutter-less Internet use and taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror (you know who you are!).

Balance.
Balance as a means to success is everything; in love, in friendship, at home, while partying, and certainly when it comes to reaching your goals. Focus should be given as much to purpose as it is to basic needs. Think of it this way: Focusing too much on the basic stuff can be kind of a downer. It’s easy to get lost in the importance of it, thus inflating its impact on you and drowning out the other list. Focusing too much on your purpose can place you in this idealized world where you’ll lose sight of the reality and importance of your basic foundations (workload, house etc…) and overall stability. And instability effs up everything.

One of the most beautiful things along the journey towards higher purpose-driven life is that the basic needs start to look a lot more like the purpose-driven ones. Paying your electric bill isn’t so bad when you’re living in your dream house. Getting your work done on time is a breeze when you love what you do. Purpose and need-based goals should never be looked at as opposing forces. The ultimate goal is for both to feed each other.

Prioritization.
“Do what you feel.” This has been my slogan for a while and so when it came to prioritization I said “Screw it” and did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. Whatever “felt” important at the time. And, despite my use of the past tense, this is more or less the way I do things now, but with one shiny new thing to consider: Sometimes there are parts of a goal that you just don’t want to do.

For instance, I LOVE researching, brainstorming, and writing plays. I don’t need to prioritize. It just happens. And that’s all fine and dandy if my goal is “to write a play”. But what if my goal is to “have one of my plays produced”. I hate submitting things, I hate reformatting things, I hate looking for submissions. My lack of desire will make it so that I will rarely ever “want” to do it. This is where prioritizing comes in most handy to me. I take the crappy goals on my purpose list and I make them priority. I put them at the top of my list. I schedule them with an “URGENT” flag. Anything to put them on an even playing field with the fun stuff. It also helps to think big picture. Then everything, in the long run, is the fun thing.

Avoid burnout.
There are a number of ways to avoid burnout from working too hard, too much. One of them is to simply lie around and never try too hard.  That is extremely burnout resistant, but the productivity is almost nonexistent. Another way involves going at a single endeavor while taking ample breaks in the middle. This is productive and burnout is very slow to come, but it does come in the frustrating form of a “block”. Writer’s block being the most famous block-type, but anything can be blocked really.  It’s the brain going “I’ve had enough of this! I am more than this!” Standard burnouts are an overexertion of energy. Block burnouts are an overexertion of focus.

I never experience burnout when in the act of achieving my goals. A bold statement, sure, but a true one as well. Here’s how: First, I always have a number of goals I’m working on at any given time in at least three different areas. Right now, for instance, I’ve got a novel, a blog, an essay series, a board game, and aspirations to be a motivational speaker going on. This way, if I start to feel the burn out or blockage coming I simply hop on to another project, giving my brain something else to focus on for a change. This is how to beat the block. This is also why it’s important to have a purpose that isn’t “I want to be a writer” because coming down with writer’s block completely renders your progress at a standstill.  What other avenues have you given yourself?

Important: What I am explaining isn’t multitasking. Multitasking is juggling multiple things at once and one of the best possible ways to accumulate stress and burn yourself out. What I am explaining is simply complete and utter shift in focus from time to time.

Another version of this is the right-brain/left-brain leap. This one is pretty legit. If you’re tired of working on one aspect of a project but really want to keep working on it, then pick another aspect. If I start feeling stressed over the design aspect of my board game I turn on Excel and start working on the mathematical aspect.

Lastly, never take breaks. Or, more to the point, never do nothing. Even more to the point: never do something without a purpose-supporting reason for doing so. This step is one-part rationalization, one-part momentum-maintenance, and uber-effective.

Let’s say I’ve done all the writing, drawing, and motivating I can do. It’s time to step away from the obvious purpose-driven activity and engage in something that will aid my journey with less exertion of mind or body. Maybe I want to hang out with my friends and grab a bite. This isn’t “taking a break”, it’s “allowing fun and nourishment to recharge me so I can hit my projects even harder when I go back to them.” Maybe I want to watch an episode of Skins (British version, of course). This isn’t “taking a break”, it’s “allowing inspiration from another creative source”.

All of these things are necessary to prolonged work on an activity. This is mostly for those work-a-holics out there who are afraid to step away (recipe for burnout much?). It’s not a “break” if it’s, as a whole, for the better of the project.

One more thing: the “stepping away” option is the exception, not the rule. This is what happens once all other options have been used up…or you’re getting tired or hungry or your house is on fire..

Basic needs trump all here, I’m afraid.

Feel completely, act completely.
Here’s a fun one (especially for those who knew me as the anti-emotions automaton I used to parade around as once upon a time). We are people. We have feelings (Cry! Laugh! Scream! Let ’em out!). Feelings are chemical reactions of the body that are pushing us to take action. If the feelings are negative, we must take action against them. If they’re positive, we must take action to keep that party going. And what is the best possible way to take action in response to feelings? That’s right! Your goals!

If you’re sad, what good does sitting around in the dark with a pint of ice cream doing? If you’re happy, why waste that energy staring longingly out of a window and thanking the heavens for how happy you are? Lame and lame. Put that sadness into action. Use the energy and convert it to getting stuff done. I guarantee that whatever awfulness you’re feeling will simmer down while you’re achieving your goals.

I once put together, from concept to completion, a 24-page fully-illustrated and written book about a journey to Neverland for my boyfriend at the time. Each page was drawn in a different style (abstract, impressionist, “Dr. Seuss”, street graffiti…). I did this in six days. To this day I say this is the greatest project I have ever completed and you can bet your bottom dollar I would have never been able to do it without the love that was fueling me at the time.

A warning about negative feelings and goals: Don’t use your goals to hide from what you’re feeling. Use the feelings to give energy to your goals. It’s the difference between having a bear bite off your arm but continuing to grill burgers at the picnic and having a bear bite off your arm and using that pain to get your butt to the hospital as fast as humanly possible. Or what if you had an awful day at work and come home furious. You check your basic needs list and see that you have to take apart an old table for the garbage the next morning. Therapeutic destruction, here we come!

Other people.
There are people who are going to love what you do and those who are going to hate it. Whatever. That’s great. If they love it, use their energy to do more. If they hate it and that angers you, use the anger to fuel more of it (see above). Sort of a goal-based “In yo face!”. If they hate it and you feel discouraged, either you care too much about what people think about you (stop that!) or this goal is weak (because your knee-jerk reaction isn’t to defend it…which it should be) and needs to be tweaked or removed.

Another thing about other people. Never ever EVER achieve your goals for them. Do it for you. Go ahead and dedicate it to them if you must, but do it for you. The very second that you begin creating things for the sake of pleasing others you begin to muck up your style, your individuality, and your completed project is watered-down crap in comparison to what you would have accomplished for you.

Reward yourself.
Remember that rewards list? Use it. It’s motivational. It keeps things interesting. It reduces boredom, burnout, blockage. It raises morale. What more do I have to say?! When you achieve something reward yourself. And please make the rewards as complex and engaging as your other goals. A reward goal isn’t very effective at motivating or maintaining momentum if it’s something like “Eat a piece of chocolate from the bowl in the living room.” Yay, you’ve done nothing. But if you make it something like, “Make a tray of chocolates from scratch” now you’re cookin’ with cocoa!

Final thoughts and missing pieces.
I’m going to bring this to a close now. I’ve shared enough of my personal nuggets of wisdom to get you going, either toward them or away. The important thing here is to always do. Always. Every waking moment should be dedicated to becoming something more…or at least something else. I was going to write a gigantic section on overcoming fear and embracing change, but those are each posts in themselves. But, regardless, you need to overcome fear. It will always be there until you look it in the eye and walk on through. If you don’t do this you won’t gain much of anything out of life. Embrace change. A lot of fear comes from the change that needs to happen to reach your goals. Change in the form of sacrifice and acceptance of the unknown are absolutely necessary in reaching your goals. Accept that. If you don’t, go ahead and forget everything you read here. You’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

Don’t be afraid to shuffle through purposes. If your life doesn’t feel right and you honestly can’t understand why, look at your purpose. Ask yourself if it was your choice or something that was handed down to you by your family or boss (or a past version of yourself) that you simply cannot relate to anymore. Upgrade it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Missing pieces. While I’m pretty good at getting things done there are a few areas in which I have to step up my game. One of them is overcoming fear (I can be pretty fierce and courageous, but I know in my heart that I haven’t even scratched the surface…when I do, expect that post). And there’s networking. Getting myself “out there”. I’ve had a lot of dumb luck with it but no set system yet. I’m working on it. When I strike networking gold there will be blog.

One more thing: this is a journey that will only end when you’re in the ground. There will always be mountains to climb and room to grow. Even as I sit here I know and feel that I am nowhere close to accomplishing the things I want to…and that’s exciting; a challenge that makes my mouth water and that I accept with everything I am. “This is just the beginning!” is my battle cry and I live for the adventure of what’s happening now and whatever happens next.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you’ve been inspired to some capacity. If not, my bad. Epic purpose-fail. Ha.

Questions/comments, lay’em on me.

Now back away from this screen, make a sick set of lists, and get your life on!

Universese: The Language of All Things

[I wrote the following essay about 3 years ago and while my opinions have changed a bit since then, I think there is value in the arguments being made even if simply to spark an opinion in the reader]

 

WARNING: This essay combines many facts that I have enjoyed as a part of my philosophy for many years intertwined seamlessly with theories I’ve concocted within the past few weeks (or even while writing this thing). Also be warned that this essay works under the assumption that Earth is the first and only life-bearing planet in the universe (something that I myself highly doubt and don’t feel affects the points to be made in any strong way). This is my elementary attempt seek out what connects us (humanity) to the vastness of the universe and how that relationship affects our lives and future.

 

…..

 

I’m in the middle of a science and philosophy kick (which explains my writing this in the first place as you’ll soon see), delving just a little into collected works written by and about some of the top intellectuals past, present and future. Whilst careening through a world of theory after theory (some of them even fascinating) the thing that continues to catch my attention the most is not what is being said so much as how these doctors and masters of their fields are saying it; billion-dollar words to express and explain ideas in ways that only those on their own realm of study, their peers and intellectual equals, can fully comprehend. In this way, knowledge becomes much like a fancy car or new iPhone is to others; a shiny and coveted something or other occasionally used to boost ones own self-esteem since they possess it…and we don’t. The one major difference here that separates a 2010 Mercedes from a the latest theory on the application of stem cell research is that intellectual discoveries serve as mental stimulants to society, challenging the mind and bringing forth a series of opinions and arguments that eventually foster growth. In short, and to get to the point, it is the duty of those who know to teach. Scientists, philosophers, psychologists…and those in tune with the inner-workings of the Universe.

 

Theories and hypotheses are the inventions of mankind, long ago made inseparable from the man-made words that brought them and continue to bring them into reality. But what about the sorts of things that are beyond words? Those that have existed since the beginning of time and are far bigger than anything our minds can fully comprehend. The Universe- and I mean this in both the sense of planets and stars and everything that exists as well as I do the energy that gave birth to the cosmos and therefore is a part of all of us and connects us to everything. This collective energy is the central vein of all existence and is able to be tapped into a number of varied and fascinating ways by all of us (and just as some of us are better singers or biologists, some of us are better than others at this as well). And those few truly versed in the pseudo-language of “Universese” must try our best to take what we are given by the powers that be and use them for the betterment of our world.

 

As I’ve mentioned at least five times before in previous essays and obnoxious rants, The Universe is not be to humanized like so many do to God (‘God’ and The Universe are one, by the way). It is not one thing, but everything that was, is and will be. It is not perfect nor is it imperfect, it simply is. It is ever-growing, ever expanding and becoming more and more with each passing second. It cannot hate or love. It cannot hope or doubt. I understand how these preceding sentences can be upsetting (sacrilegious to many), because millions of people rely on some almighty benevolent force who understands them- even when no one else does.  But, people! The Universe understands because the Universe is a part of you! You ARE never alone! It is our primary provider and here’s how…

 

The Universe’s prime function is to expand and continue its quest to become more. Suns were born and suns died, taking out entire planets with them. Asteroids annihilated spatial bodies that took billions of years to form, but still, overall, expansion continues. Sometimes the greatest destruction can result in the most growth, creating a chain of events that the usual way of things would have never yielding, resulting in something completely new. Something the Universe had never seen before. Enter: Earth (or Earth’s equivalent(s) some lightyears away)

 

There are always an interesting series of feelings I get when thinking about our little green planet. I start by thinking about myself, my friends, my job, my family, that restaurant I like around the corner. And then it branches out like wildfire in my mind and I am overwhelmed with all the plants and animals and landscapes and history and technological advancement and war and music and it’s so much to take. Too much to take! Next I remove myself from our atmosphere, into the Milky Way and beyond, and see Earth as a tiny insignificant speck in an infinite sea of black holes, quasars, suns and supernovas. For the first time it seems so small; so meaningless in the great scheme of things. (This is the place where many people stop, but oh there’s one more absurdly important step…)

 

There are billions, BILLIONS, of planets in the known universe that have been coming and going for trillions of years, moving and grooving to the beat of the usual course of things- and out of all these planets and countless cosmic scenarios, out of every corner of every place that science has allowed us to see- only ONE place has life -abundant life: Earth. We are an anomaly, a freak accident. We are the next evolutionary step. Tiny as we are, we’ve got the Universe’s attention, like the Universe’s core is one of those novelty plasma globes and our planet is a finger placed firmly against the glass.

 

It was a long time coming, but the Universe did something new and unexpected. Teeming with life and diversity and energy, Earth is a major focus of the Universe from a growth perspective. With the creation of Life, the Universe soon experienced the first glimmers of conscious thought through its children, the earliest proto-creatures and through that became a part of it alive itself. Evolution continued to test and rise to the challenge eventually resulting in the crown jewel thus far: humanity.

 

You. Me. Us. Wow. I mean, really…wow. Living. Breathing. Feeling. Thinking. Complex. The Universe’s most noteworthy accomplishment (that we know of). We are the favored children of the Universe, displaying our omnipresent parent’s knack for mass creation (invention), destruction and chaos-gone-good-or-bad. But as is the way of most offspring, we humans put our own spin on things, taking the energy that created and connects all things and morphing it (as we evolved from atoms to cells into free-thinking social mammals) to a set of complicated brain signals simply called ’emotions’ that act as outward signifiers of our inward states so that others might help to remove or perpetuate them. These emotions fuel our deepest fears and desires (or are fueled by them) and give us the ability to identify and actively alter the state our world, i.e. to create our own destinies.

 

For the aforementioned reasons the Universe’s relationship with Earth is as unique as the planet itself. There is a very real and special connection existing between the two that is more evident in some areas than others, a global consciousness that can be seen, for example, when animals sense a storm approaching when there are no visual signs. Sadly, for most humans, the millennia-old separation from nature in exchange for a dependence on our own inventions and self-importance have separated us from these instincts. Though that same high-functioning brain of ours can allow us to have a more personal relationship with the Universe, which brings us closer to the point…

 

The basic collective consciousness, that which connects humans (and sometimes animals) to each other on a level deeper than that of our own subconsciousness. This is a part of those versed in Universese that allows for such phenomenon as shared dreams, telepathy and various levels of empathy. Deeper still is the global collective consciousness that attaches us to the entire earth as it does with the animals, but our minds allow us to take it a bit deeper to global precognition. Skipping a few of the between-consciousnesses, the rarest and greatest of them all is universal consciousness, this one dealing with the ebb and flow of all things in existence. Allowing people to sense the goings on in distant planets and any supernovas or asteroids headed our way. Perhaps even altering the very laws of physics through telekinesis (a boy can dream, can’t he?). The Universe attempts to protect and lengthen our existence through these gifts. And this is all well and good, but the real problems arise when trying to explain so metaphysical a ‘science’ to other people.

 

Belief, the ability to accept or reject something as true, is a cornerstone of our mental experience based on socio-cultural stimuli and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, society does not readily accept Universese as a viable option. If someone were coming up to you shouting about a volcano that was going to engulf the world in eight days you would be a little skeptical. It is no secret that Universese can sound an awful lot like crazy.

 

An even more dangerous roadblock comes from those who speak the language itself. Because the energies that fuel precognition (which is merely a hyper-awareness of the Earth so acute that it can predict what each living and nonliving thing will do and project an image/feeling in your mind), dream sharing, empathic animal- and ghost-whispering (reading the emotional codes of the mind and translating them into recognizable words) and more is so closely related to the energies that allow us to feel joy and anger it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a real run-in with Universese or mistaking excitement or depression combined with stray thoughts as a real vision and not just normal mental image, daydream. If people want to see signs, they will see signs. People believe what they want to believe, an affliction that affects us all without proper inner-balance and/or grasp of Truth.

 

The practitioners of Univerese are a diverse bunch. They have a higher universal energy level than most people which can actually result in electrical problems in their vicinity when emotional (I’ve seen it and done it and it’s weird). They usually have a sort of glow that can’t be seen but can be felt by the average person, something beyond words that draws you to them. They experience one or two or more of the areas governed by the collective consciousness on a frequent level (as we are all high-functioning beings there are many who will experience a flash of Universese a few times in their lives- more if they are open to it. Through prayer, for example). They can be unrealistically lucky at times, but also seem to be live a life of more chaotic twists and turns that tend to test them for what is to come. Letting the Universe in lets it all in. They tend to have a knack for multiple arts, including the art of conversation and manipulation. They are usual pretty good at detecting one another. Some had a hard childhoods that literally forced them to escape deeper into their head while the mind was still forming and find the Universe hiding in there. Indigo children would be a way of thinking about it in modern terms, including a general awkwardness when dealing with (oppressive) social norms.

 

As I said before, to the expected dismay of many, the God that so many of us envision is actually no  more or less than the Universe. And amidst the many arguments that could rise up from this statement comes the question of morality. Many religious folks say that without their version of God there would be only chaos and evil, that God is inseparable from morality, a debate that has shaken the philosophical world for thousands of years. If the Universe is as unfeeling as I say it is (though it is ‘aware’ of feeling through us), then how can we possibly care about how well we treat our neighbors? What’s stopping us from stealing the new tractor our neighbor bought across the street? I’ll tell you: Universal Morality.

 

The Universe, like I said before, exists to expand and to become more than it is. Before Earth came along this merely meant birthing stars and galaxies of different shapes and sizes. Simple enough. Then comes Earth and a bunch of little cells and things. The pieces are different but the game is still pretty much the same: expand and become more. Cells multiply and evolve. Reptiles, fish, birds, mammals, strength in numbers: the importance of working together emerges in living things and therefore makes the universe aware of it. In humanity this brings forth the tribe mentality then the rise of the civilization. Brotherhood.  Expansion. Becoming more. As in space when planetary forms collided so did/do these civilizations, each scenario yielding destructive results. Death on this level surely stunts growth, removing branches that could lead to more possibilities. In short, war goes against the function of the Universe. Humans have the power to think on their own and can choose war or peace. Discrimination or equality, the former leading to dead ends and stagnation and the latter leading to shared ideas, mutual development and love. Love, the ultimate result to understanding and togetherness which fosters new ideas which foster growth (knowledge is fundamentally the same as ‘becoming more’) is therefore in agreement with the Universe. The Universe does not love but it is aware of love through us and works to preserve it (through Universese) as it is the fastest way to growth. Love of oneself, love of each other, love of the plants and animals, love of the Universe, which leads us directly into the meaning of human life (an answer that is not as complex and unreachable as many might think). The Meaning of Human Life is to use our free-will to preserve our fellow living and non-living things and work together to create a place of peace and discovery. In short, the meaning of life is love. It is the Golden Rule on a global- a universal scale. It is the only moral needed and all other things flow from it. Many fundamentalists and politicians attempt to project their own image onto that of a god and inflict upon the world a multitude of rules that stand in the way of our growth as a people and therefore a global love. The Universe does not need to be praised. Love does. And this is done by praising and supporting our fellow women and men who work for a better today and tomorrow. This is our earth and it is drifting into shambles. Only together will be be able to set things right. This is the major burden that those teachers of Universese must bear and are given the stuff to counter if only more people would listen.

 

We are chosen to save the world through a deep commune with it and others like us, to lead, to fight for what is right just as scientists must save the world through experiments and invention. And, yes, we are human and these gifts can be used morally (for good), immorally (for evil) or not at all. There will be battles to come unlike anything we as Earthlings have faced and we had best be prepared to face them as one or else become the ushers of our own destruction in direct violation of our place in the Universe.

 

Thresholds and Breaking Points

There’s no great surprise in my saying that life comes accompanied by a roller coaster, jam-packed with every twist, turn, loop-de-loo, and technical difficulty you can conceive, not all of them bad, most of which we are fully capable of coping with in time while keeping true to our usual selves. It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s not what this blog is about.

Thresholds and Breaking Points. Our human selves, the ones we’ve been dealing with for years, cultivating for years, sometimes witnesses a total shift in self, usually brought on through some form of tension which roots from a powerful emotional stimulus. This total shift, infusing us with abilities beyond those of our normal selves, can be perceived as either good or bad. When good we call them, letting loose or breaking free. When bad, we call them lapses of judgment or my controversial favorite: temporary insanity.

There exists an invisible barrier that separates our usual self from the ones we become. This barrier, or threshold, differs from person to person. A timid girl is dragged to an wild dance club by her outgoing best friend. She watches with a potent blend of jealousy and shock as the best friend dances without restraint in the arms of strangers, laughing and thrusting about without a care in the world. Normally, the timid girl wouldn’t dream of joining in, couldn’t dream of joining in. She had placed a set of blocks up early on prohibiting her from such uncalculated and free actions. But as she watches her friend, the beautiful men seeing only her, beads of sweat rolling down their bodies under the multi-colored spotlights, the jealousy, the desire, creates a sort of tension that grows and grows and boils and boils until- POP -the girl throws caution to the wind and joins her friend on the dancefloor. She’s never felt so alive. Breaking free.

A boy, small for his age, finds himself friendless and awkward in the seventh grade. Every day he is picked on by the popular kids, but he ignores it, keeping to his sketchpad and doodling out his feelings of being unwanted, unloved. Then one day a bully steps up to him and tries to snatch the pencil from his hand while he’s drawing his latest piece and- POP -the boy lets out a scream at the top of his lungs, jumps out of his chair, throws the chair to the opposite end of the room, and stabs the bully in the arm with said pencil. Temporary insanity.

First and foremost, these reactions are in no way the manifestation of something that is separate from our core beings, nor do they come from nowhere. Obviously the idea of dancing freely and attacking the bully had been building up in the girl and boy respectively. There exists an invisible barrier that separates our usual self from the ones we become. This barrier, or threshold, differs from person to person, but it is an integral part of who that person is.

Much like when something is stuck in our throats, it is our body’s natural reaction to choke and cough it up, when tension or discomfort rising this breaking point is reached and a strong emotional response surges in order to quell the tenseness. Choking isn’t something our body does on its own, but it is a physical survival tactic. The breaking point, this loss of control, is our body’s mental survival tactic, a last-ditch effort for giving us what we secretly want.

Having said all that, it is truly amazing how good we feel after breaking free, how terrified we are after a stint of temporary insanity (there are few things more frightening than being afraid of the monster within). Following each there is always the choice of whether we will continue to explore this new internal world or struggle to push it back where it came from. Both extremes are dangerous as the former runs the risk of forgetting that there was probably a reason why it was hidden away in the first place, the latter merely avoids a problem, allowing it to grow until it bursts out again in any of an array of potentially violent displays. Instead of taking extreme measures, it is best by far if we use these breaking points as portals of self-discovery to neglected areas of our personality that, much like a chicken bone stuck in our throats, are yearning for our attention so that we might fully live. Question where it came from, why it came, effects both positive and negative, and how it can be successfully integrated or removed from the person we wish to become (be it through practice, thought, prayer, meditation, and/or psychiatric help [for extremely negative situations]).

Discrimination I & II

DISCRIMINATION I

originally written Winter ’04

Not too long ago I attended a school-sponsored event with a friend. A few years past, October 1998 to be exact, some kid was dragged down, beaten to near-death, and left to die; hung on a pole in the middle of a farm in Wyoming. What could he have done to deserve such inhuman treatment? What horrible thing did this young man do to suffer that that? I’ll tell you what. This kid didn’t do anything. He didn’t rape or kill or lie or steal. No. This kid, this human being, was gay.

The person who came to talk with us at this school-sponsored event was the kid’s mother. This mesmerizing woman used the grief and the agony, emotions that could have easily ripped her apart, and transformed it into something that pushes her to strive for the betterment of mankind. She spoke of hate and discrimination of all sorts and ways to become aware of it. About half way through her presentation an idea surfaced in my brain; one she touched upon briefly a bit later: There are people who hate. Whether it was learned by friends or family or society doesn’t really matter. They hate. That’s that. There are also those who do not hate. I consider myself one of those people. But what good am I, what good are my beliefs, if I do not use them to better the world in which I am a part of? What good am I if all I do is think “That’s wrong” and “They shouldn’t be doing that” if that is all I do. I was given a gift. I write. Occasionally, I even write well. And, right here, right now, I intend to use that gift to share my beliefs with whoever’s willing to hear them.

Discrimination, prejudice, hatred is everywhere. So is GOODNESS, HOPE, COMPASSION. Don’t forget that.

I am Trystin. I am a German-, African-, Cherokee-American among other things. I am a person. I am weak and strong. I am friend and enemy. Brother and son. I am a voice…

Every day I receive these awkward looks. Every week I receive these venomous words. Because I do not dress or walk or talk or act what is socially accepted as “black” I receive these things, but I do not accept them. The hurt does not stick. It does not govern me. I am who I am. “Are you gay?” Yes, I prefer writing and theatre over football and beer. No, I am not. I am who I am. Sometimes it’s not easy to maintain what is it that makes me me; an odd shape that does not quite fit the mold and never will. As with most desirable things there are undesirable obstacles, and if you want something enough those obstacles will not matter at all. I desire to be me and that is what I will remain.

There are people, people as close to me as my own family, who tell me that I’m blind to the hate that is in the world; that I don’t realize it’s there. I know where it is. I see it just like everyone else does. I just don’t let it control my life. A life dictated by the way you are viewed by others is no life at all. Do you know what it is? It’s called “slavery”.

My minor experiences with the darker side of humanity are nothing in the greater scheme of things. All in all, I have a good life. I exist in an environment of social growth and sufficient amounts of acceptance. I am surrounded by the opportunity to forge my own destiny. My experiences are nothing, they are NOTHING compared to those people who are gay or black or Mexican or Asian or physically “abnormal” and exist in a world where these things are absolutely unacceptable; where, because of one tiny part of them, they are forcefully annihilated, bit by bit, emotionally, physically, mentally. Just think, somewhere, as you read this, there is a person, a human being, an evolutionary brother or sister, who is just…wonderful. They’re full of life. They’re gentle. They have huge dreams and aspirations. They feel. They love. They learn. They sing. They have a smile that turns night day. But none of that matters. None of that matters because their skin happens to be a different shade of brown or they happen to be attracted to a different sex than you are or they are physically “imperfect.” So many, many amazing things that contribute to this person or people and it is all taken and thrown away because of ONE. INSIGNIFICANT. TRAIT. Disgusting.

It’s just…disgusting.

In conclusion I want to first thank you for reading this and gaining an idea of where I stand in order to perhaps figure out where you do. There is hatred and prejudice in this world but this is not a world of prejudice and hatred. There is more good on this planet than bad, of that there is no doubt in my mind. It’s just that the bad, and those who promote it, are the ones voicing their opinions the most and, consequently, they are the ones being heard the most. That is why I wrote this. I wrote it for me so I could, even in some small way, affect at least one person out there. I wrote it for you, hoping that you would maybe acquire the urge to…see. To see what is wrong or right in your own mind and to decide what you can do to make the world better for yourself or anyone else who might need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.

A simple, “Hello,” can fill the lonely heart with more joy, more of that satisfaction of being noticed and needed than the average loved and accepted could comprehend. Trust me. I know.

I am Trystin. I am a dreamer. I am an artist. I am a voice. One voice…

of many.

Listen to everything. Believe in yourself.

-Stay cool. Good bye.

DISCRIMINATION II

“Close to Home”

Originally written Summer ’06

            Not two years ago I wrote an essay. It was fairly short, fairly simple, with a message that got straight to the point. It was titled Discrimination and its main purpose was to spread awareness of prejudices arising from differences in race, handicap, and sexual preference and saturated with a desire to make a positive change in the minds of readers. The essay, sent to every name on my email address book and eventually placed online for all to see, was met with a resoundingly supportive response. Friends old and new, family, and complete strangers seemed moved and entirely behind the words of acceptance and equality throughout. Discrimination was covered very generally, speaking about things on the grand scale, not so much locally. I mean, its easy to watch Oprah and say that picking on some kid with Tourettes is wrong, but when that same kid moves next door, when the distant becomes within arms reach, how will you act when the opportunity of prejudice comes close to home? Thats what Im here to write about today. And, just as last time, the motivation to write this at all was brought on by a very real event. Whereas Discrimination occurred in response to an interview with the mother of a person tortured and killed for his preference, this sequel essay is in response to responses to a major change in my own life. Most of you might know, but many of you do not, that I, Trystin Bailey, have a boyfriend. I am, for all intents and purposes, gay.

            My boyfriends name is Joshua Quay and he is, without a doubt, one of most wonderful things that has happened in my life. He is everything Ive always looked for in a significant other. A sense of humor. A unique outlook on life. Creativity. A personality that is conducive to my own inner growthand my own to his. When we look at one another there is love in our eyes. Were he a female, all would be fine (barring the fact that no one has a problem that he is a different race than me). If people were commenting on my life from the other end of a big screen, most with a mildly open mind would think nothing of it. But when friends, co-workers, neighbors, family come into playthe rules suddenly change.

            Keep in mind that this essay is in no way only about me. This is about the world just as before.

            When people are faced with something they dont understand one of their first reactions is fear. And fear often breeds hatred, because whats easier when it comes to dealing with something we dont understand than to tear it from our lives? Whats easier when dealing with a person with Downs Syndrome than to throw them away to a mental facility for the rest of their lonely life? When your best friend of ten years tells you that they’re gay, why not throw the Bible at them and abandon them in their time of need? Or how about seeing an Indian man, a person you don’t really know, in a convenience store and shooting him in the head in the name of patriotism? Granted, the last example was a little extreme but we live in an age of extremes. You get the picture.

            The time is now to practice what you preach; to live your life the way you are so quick to tell others to live their own; to accept those who are not so quickly accepted for reasons over which they have not much control.  Those who are physically or mentally handicapped are still human beings. They are not lost causes. They are not novelties. They are not this week’s garbage. Treat them like human beings. Racism is and always will be dumb. It should have ended eons ago. Race is only skin deep. Everyone is the same inside. People of different cultures should be welcomed into our lives. We should take the unique opportunity to learn from them and grow as individuals. Just because one person happens to be attracted to someone of the same sex is no reason to remove them from your life. For many, their justification for such rash actions are religious. For those people, let me put it this way. God is love. God lives in each one of us. If we share our God-given love with whomever, man or woman, we are sharing God. Anyone who stands in the way of love stands in the way of God and promotes hate.

It’s that simple.

            Issues such as race and religion and sexual orientation are some of the major emotional triggers of society today. And what makes these issues different from other ones such as murder, rape, and tax evasion is that the only reason they cause problems is because of our inclination to close our minds to the new, the different, instead of embracing it, learning from it. So long as no one is getting hurt. And we must take our open minds into our homes, our schools, our neighborhoods, our governments and put our beliefs to good use, standing firmly behind them in any situation, instead of pointing them at a sad discrimination victim on the distant world of The Montel Williams Show. Josh and I are very much happy; very much in love. Our relationship will last quite some time. The next step is not in our hands. It is in the hands of those we call friends, family. It depends on their strength to look beyond the familiar and accept the fact that things change, evolve, in ways unexpected, though, when you take a closer look, beautiful. Take interest in the customs of your new Puerto Rican neighbors. Invite the blind kid from school to a party this weekend.

Make a move.

Make a difference.

Make your world

Love.

 

Now or Never

It’s no secret that a lot of things are in a bad way. The economy’s out of whack, cutting jobs and raising prices and sending the overall morale of a people into a nosedive. We’ve got this war on our hands and this whole political shift of power, hope-filled as it might be. Oh! Oh! And let’s not forget that ever so tiny addition of our own personal problems going on in our own heads and our own lives. I’m not saying that these are the worst times (Who the heck am I to say that?). All I’m saying is that change is needed, and I’m not talking that political definition which usually results in what would be the equivalent of replacing a few loose nuts and bolts on the Death Star. I’m talking a complete overhaul.

You see folks, tens of thousands of years ago a bunch of early men and women, directly following that “hunter-gatherer/ everything is magic” era, started forming civilizations and coming up with a bunch of really (and I mean REALLY really) retarded ideas as to how things should be run. That’s when mankind and their not-so-hidden desire to be “god-like” gave birth to the whole class system thing, judging success and power by how much higher your position was than some other guys’. They discovered early on that boundaries and limitations were to be made between peoples because as long as they were maintained, the lower classes could not rally up against a tyrant that could be so easily thwarted otherwise. But boundaries and limitations weren’t enough to do the job on their own. Nope, punishment was crucial in making sure folks would “know their place”; a system based on scolding wrongdoers instead of rewarding do-gooders. In other words…man discovered the greatest weapon of them all: fear.

Fear. Fast-forward to the present tense. It rules everything. EVERYTHING! Fear of getting caught, fear of disappointing someone, of failure, of rejection, of trying something new. This is what we’re taught; what we’re raised on: a political, social and religious trap we step into the moment we’re born. Religion. Organized religion, to be a bit closer to what I mean. Boy oh boy, how I could go on about this forever. About the use of fear to force a group’s interpretation of an ancient moral code. What is the Devil, what is Hell, if not the biggest freakin’ religious (and political- don’t pretend it’s not) scare tactic ever concieved. Like I said, I could go on…and I will in a bit. Now or never, right?

Let’s take this global playing field and zoom in a bit to what’s really important: you. The individual. The government, the afterlife, art, the environment: these are all mind-bogglingly massive ideas that are so steeped in their own paradoxes and problems that we as single souls cannot even begin to adjust, alter, or destroy our perception of such things until we know ourselves. And we cannot even begin to know ourselves until we learn how to be free.

FREEDOM. Capital letters. Important freakin’ word. We are the products of our society. Anyone who tells you any different is an idiot. Society shapes us, gives us those boundaries and limitations, fears, initial wants and needs. We are spoon fed a big box of planks and nuts and bolts and a manual on how we are expected to put it all together. It’s as simple as that. But true living (never to be confused with merely being alive), true experience and growth can only come with seeking out that elusive and beautiful “something more”. In life we are given countless opportunities to gather more pieces, be shown more manuals. We have the option of taking them or leaving them. Our decision should be the result of a series of educated guesses and checks and trials and errors that result in us finding out exactly who it is we want to be. Gather your parts. Make new parts. Become your ideal self. And do not (I repeat, DO NOT) use someone else’s manual, because someone else’s manual is just that. Not yours. It can never be fully fulfilling (or, I should say, fully freeing) because you are trying to fit your unique one-in-a-trillion self into someone else’s design. It’s cramped. And here’s the part that gets people’s underpants all up in a twist: There is no manual more dangerous, more deceptive, than that of the organized religion.

Rrrrreligion. I told you we’d get back to it. Prepare to feel strongly. Heh. Religion is an entire set of rules, views, and beliefs that have been wrapped into a nice little package for you by the hands of powerful dead men claiming to be guided by a greater being or power of some sort. Be it a royal family living at the top of a mythical mountain or a carpenter’s son who can return from the dead, they are stories passed on by men to explain and control in the easiest way possible. And the only reason the gods of Olympus seem ridiculous and the magic Jew does not is because of thousands of years of mental conditioning (not to mention the powers-that-be marketing Jesus in contrast to the usual fear-tactics, despite that being the inevitable result of all Western religions). I think Jesus was a great guy with a great manual. But it was his. Not yours. Do I think religions do good? Of course they do (so do politics)! But they also promote isolation (whether they intend to or not) which promotes a sort of closed-mindedness towards people of other faiths or belief systems. And in a world where togetherness is not only a goal, but an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY, that’s just not going to cut it anymore. But at the end of the day, Christians and Atheists and Scientologists can dream of a world where everyone agrees with them all they want. It ain’t happening. Acceptance and finding a common ground is where it’s at, people.

I got a little global on you there again, so let’s zoom in one more time and briefly talk about one of the keys to a perfectly beneficial life: BALANCE. Living any part of your life in the extreme will blow up in your face eventually. It’s a fact of life. Just look at the infatuation phase of any relationship. Either tone it down or it’s over. Balance, that yin and yang, complete internal and external equality, is what we seek. Between thought and action, war and peace, fear and courage, logic and emotion, introvert and extrovert, follower and leader…science and religion. There it is again. I fully believe that there is something far greater than what we know to be real, the organisms and physics that science is oh so eager to explore and dissect. Just look at how biologically perfect life is. The environment, symbiosis, photosynthesis, plate tectonics, the birth of stars and planets, mitosis, carnivores, volcanoes, tides and how each and every one of those and a billion more things are so intricately connected, so perfect, that there must be some unseen force of origin. Some energy that is beyond us. And why can’t it also be the core of whatever it is that causes a mother to just know when something has happened to a child, dreams to give glimpses of the future, and prayers to be answered where science and logic say that the fight is no longer worth fighting? Call this thing God or whatever, but don’t let someone convince you that it has any human feelings or prejudices. It’s beyond our pettiness. Heck, insects are beyond our pettiness! Anyway, balance. Good stuff. Everyone’s is different, but you’ll know it when you find it.

Question everything. Don’t take that rather short sentence lightly because it could damn well be the most important sentence in this whole thing. Questions are the only road to answers. Don’t hold back…now or never.

So let’s say we’ve gathered all of our parts and we’ve drawn up this lovely manual to our specific specifications and we’ve built our ideal self. Congratulations! Your journey has just begun. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll gladly tell ya! I’ll start off with something that for some stupid reason people find so hard to define: The Meaning of Life (Ooo! Ahh!, right?). Well, in case you haven’t heard me spit this out before, the meaning of human life is LOVE and GROWTH. That’s it. That’s all. Like I said, we’re all connected. And as such, we have a responsibility to the land we live on, the animals we share this land with, the plants we share this land with and, of course, our fellow human beings. Each and every one of us has an unimaginable effect on all of these things and through love, we can make it a positive one. (PS, you don’t have to like something to show love toward it…Got it?). On to growth. Existence is a series of beginnings and ends, mostly circular, but each rotation is slightly different than the last. From protoplasm and Pangea to dinosaurs and sea monsters to skyscrapers and capitalism. Life is birth, growth, and death. It is an evolution of species and ideas. What does not change for the better will come to an end. Reconnecting this with the beginning of this paragraph, the point is this:

Your manual is never complete. Your journey never ends. Write that thing down in pencil because you will erase, rewrite, and in the darkest most desperate times in your life, you will have to tear that piece of philosophical paper, that blueprint to your individual religion, into pieces and start over. It can be stressful and terrifying and come out of left field, but change or die and never betray who it is you want to be. Hope is great as long as you don’t put all your faith in it, because then you become a slave to the future, while letting the present (the only place a change can happen) slip through your fingers. Whether a bump in the road to something eternal or the alpha and omega itself, this life is the only one we’ll ever have like it. Our homes, our friends, our enemies, our chances to make a difference. This is it. Things are rough in a lot of ways, yeah, but focus on the good and you’ll be fine. Focus on your individuality and you’ll be free. Focus on a better today for the world we all share, and your life will have meaning.

It’s now or never.