Fyodor Dostoevsky Finds the Meaning of Life

“It was this parable of transgression, repentance, and forgiveness that he wished to leave as a last heritage to his children, and it may well be seen as his own ultimate understanding of the meaning of his life and the message of his work.” -Joseph Frank

As Dostoevsky laid knowing he would likely not survive for long, he asked that the parable of the Prodigal Son be read to his children.

“…you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger brother was lost and now he is found.” Luke 15:11–32

Most men, if lucky enough to grow wise, will admit they are the embodiment of the “prodigal son”–having wasted most of what life afforded them. But, there is much wisdom gained from a life considered “wasted”. Who is the judge of waste? How can anyone claim enough wisdom to know what is the value of a life lived? The parable of the prodigal son is about forgiveness. It is about wisdom just enough to know the nature of our humanity. To those who dare to judge, be it they are fine, accomplished and appear beyond reproach, the father says–you can have whatever else remains; know that we must rejoice the return of your brother who was lost.

Sister or brother–prodigal son, or prodigal sister–maybe we start from our “self”–and the need to forgive ourselves. If I am lost, I would rejoice just to be found. I hope to find you. I hope to be found by you.

Dostoevsky’s short story–under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, happens in waking hours of a suicidal man who later falls asleep and into a dream. When he wakes…he is no longer in the same state of mind. He has found the meaning of life, and it is itself–living.

A while ago, not yet had heard or read this short story, I told my youngest daughter about a revelation–that the meaning of life is “just living itself”. If you watched the recent movie “Soul”, it hints at the same–that life itself is a blessing, which comes close to the same idea. However one comes to this, if you do, it is liberating. I do forget this–this gem of a finding–every day–a hundred times a day. But, I hope I am lucky enough to remind myself of this and go back to it a hundred and first time each day too.

Today was 4th of July…

Today was in many ways a wonderful 4th of July. Woke up not too early or later; around 8:00am. As usual walked to the front and back yard and listened for birds. Have this new app on my phone that is associated with a university research project in Germany where Ornithology students are trying to catalog all song birds around the world essentially. It is so cool. You record the birds you hear singing; you easily cut a snippet of the audio file, which by the way, you can visually see on the screen a sort of image of the sound waves represented–again, very cool–then submit the sample for analysis on your phone. It comes back with an answer pretty quickly. You cans save it too if you like. It tells you in various degrees of certainty what species of bird was singing in your sample. It also provides a link to the scientific name with a photo and any and all information you want to follow to learn more, if that is what you want to do.

I then brewed a large pot of Arabian Mocha Java I bought yesterday from Peet’s my favorite coffee chain, and relaxed for a short time sipping very delicious black coffee and skimming through my news on the phone, or thumbing through my August 2019 copy of Motor Trend; one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Something about car fantasies and reading the related articles allows me to escape reality of all the bad news that compete and push their way into my consciousness every waking minute; especially these days with the estate of affairs in the country.

Today I tried hard not to let the clown occupying the house that Abraham re-built worm his way into my mind and onto my beautiful 4th of July canvas. I failed. The little dictator wanna be was having his military parade–I did think about that. I tasted bile and almost forgot about all the birds and the delicious coffee. But, I resisted and did not let it poison my time and attention.

Moving on; later, I assembled a new charcoal grill, helped make a wonderful meal; of course mostly just rested on my laurels for having assembled the aforementioned “grill” and enjoyed the amazing cooking of my chef level spouse. She spends part of her time here, and the rest with her mother who needs her more than I do–always did. We have a large gas grill sitting and waiting in the backyard. She just had to get a charcoal grill, and to be honest it does taste different–so I suppose we are lucky to have both and enjoy them. Drank a couple of classic golden color Anchor Steams while engaged in the above; took a glorious afternoon nap, and enjoyed our backyard and the beautiful South Bay sunny weather.

More coffee after the nap; good conversation with the kids; my older daughter and her boyfriend; nice young people both. I then gave them a ride and dropped them off to watch the fireworks on a nearby lake; picked them up later and brought them back.

Idyllic day almost…Try as I had, I could not avoid at least thinking about the following:

  • The over two million Chinese Muslims who are being culturally erased, physically rounded up in places that cannot be called anything but concentration camps euphemistically referred to by the Chinese government as “reeducation” centers or some other nonsensical name. The children are being separated from the parents to make sure they will not learn their ethnic language, common history, stories, and well; what made them unique human beings.
  • When I dropped off my daughter and her boyfriend I suddenly realized it was a crowded place, in a country where any nutcase can buy and carry an assault rifle and I had no control over a very real and valid fear that while improbable, there was yet a chance something might happen to the child I love more than my life a thousand times over. If that does not suck to have to think about, I do not know what does.
  • A degenerate, ignorant, rude, crude, selfish narcissist was still president of the most important democratic experiment of the last five hundred years. Enlightenment has given us a great political and social opportunity to build something to be proud of–despite all imperfections we suffer of course, which are a usual part of our human frailties. Now, resurgence of ignorance and fear might be able to take that gift away from us. The damage is to some extent done already. Every dictator emulates our president, and is emboldened to do evil in the light of day without apology–too many examples to note–and our president is actually envious of these little dictators who admire and love him, because try as he does we still are good enough to not easily let him have his stupid way with everything. Those who support him are guilty of a bigger sin; silence in the face of constant undermining of checks and balances, integrity of laws and thereby weakening our democracy. No wise ally will ever easily trust a society that every four to eight years can change direction so radically that stability would never be within acceptable boundaries.

So, I had a great day–a wonderful amazing fortunate 4th of July…yet marked by the solemn realization that I am a Citizen who was an Immigrant; I know deeply what we have here, and what can be lost. I pray and will do what I can to at least stop this run-away train of idiocy, fear and ignorance. I am lucky enough to be a Californian. I hope we can pull all of the united states out of this muck next election. We will see.

What “words”; I am.

I–have found I am; because you call me.

How else would I be? but, reflections of words in your eyes–on your lips; in your mind.

A father; I am.

A friend;

A paired; unpaired someone; I was, I am.

An expectation; someone. Always–I am

A here, but there, or somewhere else someone;

A brother;

A counsel;

A teacher;

A man…I am–hope always becoming.

A poet?

A song–

A john…an Ahab…a name.

We are each–a spark — flying away eager–we hope a trip to Jupiter–

Away, on a beautiful warm summer night, campfire–the desert breeze dancing on our skin–face–breathing each other, or just I, ourselves

We are all here now–but now just passed away.

–Just trying to look in the mirror.

This is now–I always like being here.

——-

Been a while!

imagesJust do it! Nike has not been right about much recently. But, their old motto still rings true. Been asking myself every night why I don’t just sit down and write a few lines here. My last post is a couple of months old. I came to a couple of great reasons.

One of my recent reads has been Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six volume epic “My Struggle”; have finished two and made it to about middle of the third book before took a break from it. They call the genre many different names; to me it is about honestly on massive doses of steroids–no self censorship whatsoever. Since it is his own life story, this extreme honesty makes it hard to imagine as a style of writing that comes easily, and yet it is so powerful that once you do read it you do not want to read much else–at least for a while–till the effects have worn off a bit. It is limitless courage and also lack of care for what anyone else might think–especially those he cares most about; his own close family members. In a way this is the sort of abandonment Siddhārtha Gautama committed when he left his young wife and newborn child (if it is true). He chose to get on the road and eventually became the Buddha. Siddhārtha committed the ultimate act of selfishness. He left a young wife and a child to go pursue his own ends. That road led him eventually to Nirvana. Knausgaard’s extreme honestly sacrifices his connections and some of his love, if not all, to pursue his own need to write as he did. It is an ironic act of honestly to pursue one’s own chosen path even if along with your own nakedness you also bare souls of others.

Once I decided to write that way I stopped writing. I considered what it means to bare your soul in extreme honesty. I could not do it, and at least thus far have not been able to. For most of us, this level of self exposure and vulnerability is not even something we can show in our private diaries. I hope I can get there, because I can see how amazingly liberating it might be. Whether it makes good writing, as always, depends on the writer. Not everyone can be Proust. But many can try.

Anyway, I did not start this blog for any particular reason except to write something–here is “something”; even if it is about why I have been unable to bring myself to write for a while.

As for the other reason I have not been writing; just the same old procrastinations; lazy haze of watching time pass with what we think is more important than simply “being here”–work; chores; more work; and …at this rate any life will eventually come to an end.

Do…”something good”

Every day I wake up, get ready, and go outside to do what everyone has told me all my life matters. I actually think it does. If for no other reason, because there are people who depend on me for being out there. I have a small operation; five or six staff, a partner. We serve a lot of people. We do make a living, but take on so many clients who would be turned down in almost every other place we know of.

I do not talk about what we do here, because I decided I wanted this blog to be anonymous. Who cares who I am? No one should. The only thing that matters is what we do–any of us. I am not saying individuals do not matter. I am saying individuals should not do anything for self-recognition and promotion, unless it allows them to help many more people. I actually think celebrities who help different causes need to be recognized, because they do have a capital in their name recognition they can lend to helping others. But, for someone like me…does it matter who I am? What my name is? I think not. If I ever thought my personal identity could promote helping others I would advertise it aggressively. In the meantime we will stick to just doing our work. By the way, only part of my work is really helping others. The rest earns enough to subsidize our needy clients. So, some of my work is about shaking my head in private, charging a really high hourly rate from those who both need and can afford my help, and comfort myself in the solace that I do that part of our work to pay the bills, support my family, and continue to be able to help those who do not earn in a week what I charge in a couple of hours otherwise.

We are all passengers on this journey. We cannot trust our ability to leave any mark that can survive us, but maybe for our children, if we are lucky to have any, and…our words..if they are written, even more so than if they are recorded.

I write this because I feel we have a duty to write. Who knows? Maybe someone–even if just one other person–can be inspired to do…something good.

What do you wanna do next my friend?

Refelcting Mountain Lake

Where do your views on work and life complement one another?

Work should be the extension of life or life itself. But, for most people bringing that about is only an impossible dream; or at least they think it is. Most work is done as an interpretation of what “survival” means to us personally. For some, it is as basic as food, shelter, health, and if we are lucky, love. For others, nothing is enough–“greed” is not the subject of this post, but some people have no conception of what the estate of our existence truly is. We all are born and just as surely will some day die. “Death” is just a word, but “Life” is everything. “They” live as far away from the “Truth” as one can get (Yes, there is a “Truth”). They want what they have, what they can make or get, and whatever they can take, steal, or swindle from others; all to just leave it all behind when they die.

True measure of our “Work” is what we leave behind-our legacy. But, it is also measured by how we create our legacy. What we create and leave behind includes more valuable intangibles and material possessions (our “toys”) do not matter to anyone else for long anyway. Ever seen the artifact in a museum that is labeled, “Male, figurine, 1500 B.C.”? History leaves most of us anonymous. Unless we get that, we are lost.

Work should be viewed as what occupies our time when we engage the world beyond means of “survival”; though survival is our first job.

Work “should be” what we can do in this life to leave it better than we found it–

Where my work views and life views compliment each other is where the lucky few reside; it is where one can make a living doing what is loved, or almost always loved.

Where do they clash?

They clash between finding myself working for a living,  and working on what I love is just as derivative of our needs. We call it “money”–it is an invention; a contrivance; a tool. It is a thing agreed upon, but of conjured value in human society. How much paper do you recycle each week, if you do recycle? The only difference between the fast food paper wrapper you dispose of and the hundred-dollar bill you protect so carefully in a leather pouch called a wallet, is the value the members of any society have agreed to bestow on that piece of paper. The value is an “agreement”; the substrate is the carrier of that value, so is the ink, the design, the selection of people whose images we choose to print on this designated paper.

I like this valuable paper; it has become the symbol and extension of what any human needs to “survive” here. But, somewhere along the history of our evolution we went from hunting for food to buying it. In between those two stages modern concept of “work” came to be. Why? Because we specialized into a thousand occupations and started exchanging what we each do with each other…to live; to survive.

My Workview does not always clash with my Lifeview–only when I despise what I do, and when I work only to get paid. We all at times might have been there. It is a soul crushing business to have to survive doing something we hate. The closer the two ends of “work” and “love” are to each other, the more the likelihood that we would find “bliss” before we turn in the keys and leave the hotel.

Does one drive the other? How?

Depends on the timing and when you ask this question. When you are young, you work to make some money, gain some experience; maybe pay for your education. Once work becomes the occupation of adulthood, it becomes imperative to engage in work that is driven by what we love to do. If that is not possible, then to try and come as close to this state as we can. Not to do so is a recipe for “misery”

Most of my life so far, I have lived as I have wanted. What I have done to facilitate this has included occupations that I sometimes loved, sometimes liked, and a few times I tolerated.

The minute I have realized I am in a state of “toleration”, I have switched careers. It is a tough road, but a necessary one to walk if you feel compelled to be genuine. It also takes planning, self-reflection, willingness to learn with humility….and continuously, and…it takes patience.

Once again, I am standing and reflecting at one of those cross-roads. As I sit here writing, and listening to some amazing Blues music, I am on my way to what I will choose for myself to be next.

 

 

 

Lifeview Reflection

LifeviewNow its time for the second part of the “Designing your Life” exercises. The first was about Workview; now…”Life”

 

REMEMBER, this is “my” exercise. My answers are not right or wrong. They are just how I view my world. The questions are designed to have any answer each person chooses to give; then reflect on the answers as its own learning experience. I also took an quick advance peek in the book. What comes next is to examine how one’s Lifeview may connect to the Workview for the same individual.

Why are we here?

No clue. I think it is much better to just accept that we are, and start creating some meaning and answer to the “why”–that is what humans have done throughout our known history. The results have been a real mixed bag of good and evil. I am hoping the meaning I create, or find, will be “better” as my life moves forward. Since I am not exactly a spring chicken, this becomes even more important, because time does not stop for us to find out why we are here–it just moves on.

What is the meaning or purpose of life?

We cannot be sure that there is “a” purpose–maybe many; maybe none, and life just “is”.   I heard the following phrase is written in some form in the Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism. Though I am not certain of the source, I believe the words to be simple and responsive to this question. Leave the world better than we have found it; that is our purpose. I cannot find a better answer to why we are here. Anything beyond that will have no practical meaning, and I for one want to give some meaning to the world I came to before I leave it.

What is the relationship between the individual and others?

The different answers to this question have created every variation of society we know, or will create in the future. It has affected every aspect of our lives; especially our view of “wealth and economy”, and “spiritual” world views. I am among those who believe we are all connected together; including the animals, trees, even the stones and the earth we thread on. This means we are each equally an “individual”, but not, and we are each “everything there is”, but not.

I still pray though not quite sure if it has, or needs to have, a specific intended audience. I do it to satisfy a need that feels personal and has to be attended to. So, I make up my own prayers. My favorite one is, “I am no one, I am nothing; I am everyone, I am everything”. I think it grounds me in humility of always knowing hubris is evil, but we are all the most important thing that has ever lived, or ever will. We are each a link in a delicate and boundless chain-mail; we each hold part of the fabric of life together.

Where do, family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?

Family is about “love” and maybe “loyalty”; country is about “contribution, co-existence, social values, and moving the society forward to a better place constantly”, the rest of the world, I do not see as separate from my family or “country”. I have had more than one country in my lifetime. I have come to honestly feel like I belong to the world, while I value and promote the “living and evolving” nation-state. As a species we are not ready for Star Trek’s version of a unified planet yet, and so we have to protect the pockets and seats that represent our best human values in politics, civil freedoms, forms of government that answer to the people, inclusion of all humanity for what they know, do, and contribute, and not what they look like or color of their skin; diversity means fostering the peaceful and steady evolution of the humanity, promoting environmental protection and upholding value of the life of other species; and that includes trees, plankton, as well as that ugly cat in the neighborhood that needs some food and kindness when you can deliver it.

What is good, and what is evil?

As a student of ethics among other subjects, I would answer that “good and evil” are both distinct and discrete, like “right” and “wrong”, but connected by nature; and if we were to use a visual depiction to show this, it would look like a ring–half dark and half bright, but without either half you would not have a complete ring.

As sentient beings, when born humans are incapable of  starting life as “good” or “evil” and do not know “right” from “wrong”. But, are each individually capable of both. How do we know “good” from “evil”?How doe we learn about them? That is a much better question. Our personal, familial, and societal values differ depending on the variables that place us physically in the world–somewhere. Thankfully, it seems, like the idea of “God”–even as we struggle, accept, or reject that concept in so many way–our better values are somehow hard-wired into our very existence. But, so are the seeds of evil. Unless we foster and “cultivate good stuff”, evil may fill the vacuum.

Is there a higher power, God, or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does this have on your life?

I do not know. Today I definitely think there is not “a” God–in that singular way it has been expressed in the most popular monotheist religions. When I say I do not know, I mean to describe this general lack of knowledge of whether existence came from “nothing”, and knowing that nothing is still something–something awesome and great I have noticed too–although my mind cannot describe it in my human ways. I have decided to leave that question alone. Not that I did not struggle with it, and did not spend years adhering to it in one form or another. But, in the end I have decided I do not need to believe in a “God” to struggle with learning what is “good” and “bad”. That should be enough–no matter if there is a God, or not. I just want to leave this world better than I have found it. Is that not as godly as anything can be?

What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?

Meaning. What ties all expressions of our existence together is our extreme need to find meaning, and our worst fear is the opposite being true. I choose to believe this life is here to allow us give meaning to the world we observe and reflect on.

Vernal Equinox: Spring is here…

http://www.forestwander.com

There are two days in any year when the day and night are equal in time; perfect equilibrium of dark and light. The moment this happens is called an “Equinox”. The one that occurs right between winter and spring, is scientifically known as the “Vernal Equinox”

I have always called it “NoRooz”, two words, “New” and “Day”. Happy Spring! For over at least 3000 years so many people, in one way or another, in the open or in secret, have celebrated it. “Happy Spring Peeps! Happy Nowruz” This is one new year event that makes some scientific sense to me at least; even as I love all “new year” celebrations.

ver·nal e·qui·nox
ˈvərnl ˈekwəˌnäks,ˈēkwəˌnäks,ˈekwēˌnäks/
noun
noun: vernal equinox; plural noun: vernal equinoxes
  1. the equinox in spring, on about March 20 in the northern hemisphere and September 22 in the southern hemisphere.
    • Astronomy
      the equinox in March.
    • Astronomy
      another term for First Point of Aries (see Aries)

You Reap What You Sow

DT1567Say you take about twenty-five (25) years and just tolerate innocent ignorance.

Say you realize the innocent are ignorant and try gently to move them in another direction after you have cuddled and protected them for many years. When you try, you will find out it is a tad bit too late. For a quarter century you allowed the “ignorant” system to take root and foster its growth. The resistance you will face will be ferocious, illogical, emotional and very strong.

This will cost you….personally. They will misunderstand you. They will think of you as a “know it all” who wants to teach them a lesson they do not need to learn–an “elite”; maybe even a “coastal elite”. It will cause distance between you and some of them, and those who sympathize with them, even as you love them individually. It will not be pleasant.

I have no idea if this is worth the price. I do know it is a price I have to pay, because my very nature says to …”do something!”…and I always do. I wish I knew how to have done it when it would have had more of a real effect.

I was going to quote the Bible here, but after I read what was available, I decided it was all fostering “ignorance”.

 

 

 

My Workview Reflection

Reflection

I am in the midst of reading and exercising “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It is intended to literally help you design the life you want “now”, which may change from time to time. As it opines, the life you want is not the same when you are a teenager, a working young adult, and later if you are lucky enough to be an “empty-nester”.

I have reinvented my life several times; sometimes moving from a place of fear; sometimes ambition, and always because I wanted to–it was a decision. Taking risks to overcome your fears requires embracing them and squeezing them to death. Chasing ambition is not a sin when it is done with good and worthy intentions. Change takes courage, unless it is hoisted upon you, which it often is. But, if we learn that reflection is helpful, as opposed to obsession, then we can have some control over how our life might change.

I am reflecting on whether I know enough about my own life to redesign it again. I would never say one last time, because I know that is foolish. Once you have gotten used to knowing and acting on a desire to change and better yourself in any way, you know that so long as you are alive, some change is always feasible.

Reading the book on designing your life I thought would be appropriate, because as a lifelong learner, and a teacher, I am always open to someone teaching me the ropes in something I want to take on that will save me time and trouble. It is time well invested. Either at the end of this book I will say wow, I knew all of this already (Fat chance!), which means I will be free to make my own plans as I always have. Or, it might teach me how to go about my next re-design armed with some new knowledge and a tool box I did not have before (much more likely outcome).

I am not sure if I will do these exercises from the book in public. But, if I think I want to, I might post them. This one I am about to do is “Workview Reflection”–off to exercise peeps!