Soul mates do more than relate

pexels-photo-556667 (1)

You suffer an overwhelming sense of loss. Loss of a job perhaps.

An acquaintance relates to your loss. Something similar happened to him.

A friend sympathizes with your loss. He recognizes and cares about  your pain.

A soul mate empathizes with your loss. He knows you so well that he can place himself where you are. He understands and feels your pain.

Relate

A drifting moral compass

pexels-photo-697662

As you approach the magnetic north pole, your compass becomes less accurate. By the time you are on top of the pole, the compass tends to drift. The compass loses its direction.

The same thing can happen to your moral compass. The closer you become to an issue, the more your moral compass can drift. Perhaps you are a politician or business person where the common practice simply is to claim every expense whether related to your activities or not. This seems fine since everyone else you know does the same thing. No one raises a stink.

Until finally a whistle-blower comes along and brings this to the public’s attention. Now, once you back away, get a bit more distance, the accuracy of the moral compass increases.

You may not notice an ethical issue until you pull back and start to include other perspectives and viewpoints. You start asking the typical man or woman on the street about your ‘common practice’. These people confidently state that claiming expenses you are not entitled is wrong. All of a sudden the lack of an accurate moral compass becomes more apparent.

So ask yourself, if your actions hit the front page of the newspaper, how would the public react? If you think they would respond negatively, then rethink your actions.

Compass

The Bliss things in life are free!

pexels-photo-339620Joseph Campbell opened my eyes in that following my bliss puts me on a life track that has been laid out and waiting for me. The type of life I ought to be living becomes the one I am living. Living a blissful life becomes the journey.

A blissful person lives a magnified emotional state of fulfillment and happiness. I believe this comes from the all of the smaller collected moments of life as they continue to happen.

Helping your neighbour shovel his driveway.

Donating to charity so that a village can dig a well.

Giving that time and attention to an elder that is lonely.

Listening, really listening to someone in pain.

Delivering those food and clothing hampers to those in need.

If we help others, then we move towards becoming the people we always hoped we would be.

Bliss

Timmy, did Lassie fall down the well?

night-garden-yellow-animal

I led another daring rescue one time. Spoiler Alert. Everything turned out fine. I say led since my dog Seamus started things off, but otherwise he didn’t help very much outside of emotional support. And really that’s what he does all the time, so there was no increased emotional support.

During the summer, fall, spring and perhaps winter, I engage in my favorite activity. BBQ. One fall day, I moved hamburger Wednesday over to hamburger Thursday. So I attempted to minimize the charring on the various pieces of meat for people wanting theirs’ medium and those wanting well done. This activity normally included beer, but I minimize, ok abstain, completely now. The sound of sizzling meat filled the air.

Our backyard contains an extensive network of gardens and raised beds. The pond in the corner holds my various goldfish and comets. Basically carp. A large pump circulates the water and causes it to cascade over a small waterfall. I find the sound quite relaxing.

Our golden retriever, Seamus sat on the deck, Sphinx like, looking into the neighbors’ backyard. A wire fence encloses the backyard and vines and cedars provide sufficient privacy. You can sort of tell through the fence that the backyard neighbors keep a swimming pool going. Their large yellow lab sometimes goes for a swim. A delicate thing he is not. His front legs would come to the surface to be plonked back down. Sort of like your younger days when you used to dunk your younger brother.

Instead, Seamus, continuing his sphinx pose, watched their lab circle around the outside of the pool.   I could see him occasionally through the fence. Over top the cacophony of sounds, meat sizzling, waterfall falling, lab scrabbling, I heard a much smaller series of plonks. But my attention was constantly drawn to increased sizzling whenever a fire erupted.

I suppose the intuitive part of my mind sensed something was wrong. Seamus’ favorite activity includes ping pong back and forth barking with the neighbors’ dog, but both distracted. The smaller plonk sound grabbed my attention, so I walked over to the back fence and peeked over. Now, I think we own this fence since it seems similar to the one at the side yard. But the previous owners must have tried to make their leftover fencing fit since the top of the fence does not have those nice round tops, Rather, they sheared the tops off at an angle. This converted the nice neighborly wire fence into something like suburbia razor wire.

Approaching the fence carefully, I grabbed the least flesh and tendon rendering part of the fence and looked over the top. I saw that the neighbors’ Yorkie going for a swim. I found this surprising as I didn’t think Yorkies liked swimming very much. But I did not know much about the topic. Much like my lack of knowledge about worms.

I scanned the perimeter of the pool and quickly surmised that there was no easy, or any, access for this little dog to leave the pool. He needed help. I momentary wondered about the social and cultural norms of jumping into the neighbor’s pool. I decided that the situation overrode all of that. It seems longer reading about it, and critics might be thinking the word interminable comes to mind, but the entire process could not have taken more than three seconds.

Remembering the suburban razor wire, I dashed to the garage and got my step ladder. Leaning the ladder against the fence, I climbed to the top. Now, at this point I thought some gloves would have been a nice addition. I grabbed the top wires carefully, there is no other way to handle razor wire, and I clambered into a vault position and balanced at top since straddling the top did not appear to be an option.

The next required leaping clear of the fence and landing on the concrete. Dropping six feet onto concrete should be something that all 60 year olds should avoid, but there was no avoiding this and no backing out. The landing came off fine but continued until I came to a complete stop. Sort of frog like with my butt bouncing off the concrete and slapping down my palms.

The Yorkie managed to swim now to the side of the pool and scratched away at the liner, He remained a good nine inches below the pool deck. I ran to the far side as this seemed much better than jumping in. I grabbed the little guy with only his head above the surface, bulging eyes and pounding heart. He shook uncontrollably. Me too by this point.

I walked over to their house and knocked on the door. The Yorkie’s owner became understandably quite distraught when I told her what happened. She thanked me profusely. She offered to let me walk through the house back to the street. Getting back to the BBQ, I could now hear more sizzling, became a priority. Going through their house would require going around the entire block before getting back to my home. I elected the proto-superhero exit. By this I mean a superhero before they received their powers or after they lost them.  Remember how lame that guy was before being bitten by the spider, irradiated by gamma rays, or fused with machines. So visualize them climbing a wire fence. So I gamely clambered back up the fence, without the ladder which remained on the other side. My neighbor started to look a bit more concerned about a 60 year old climbing a razor wire fence. I contained my own concern since successfully getting over the fence became paramount with a watching audience. I managed to hoist myself up and avoid being eviscerated on the top. Putting my foot on the ladder on the other side helped my balance and I could climb down. Jumping back to our side would have been softer with the dirt gardens, but by no means safer. Jumping would mean landing on the field of my wife’s hostas. Even the razor wire seemed a somewhat better alternative. Quicker and done, so to speak.

This shows how connected we can be with all living things if we paid attention. I try to reconcile this with my constant desire to eat meat products. Our backyard neighbors rewarded my wife and me with a nice BBQ set, spices and sauces. So my angst continues as I look forward to the next outdoor cooking season.

The Joyous Flow of trying to sidekick someone

pexels-photo-356147Flow describes the state of being blissfully immersed in a task to the exclusion of everything else, including one’s self. Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist introduced this concept back in the 70s.

I have felt this type of bliss just a few times. Decades ago, I competed in my very first karate tournament. I had just gotten my green belt, and I appeared to be the only one at that level. All the others had blue and heaven forbid, brown belts. They were like demi-gods back then. The black belts had their own special time and location.

My nervousness approaches extreme levels. We engaged in some preliminary sparing at our own club, but I had never been in a real tournament when people were planning to give their all.  The rules were fairly simple. The first to two points wins. Don’t hit anyone hard.

I found my assigned ring and they called all the names. I answered to mine with the standard OSS! Which can be used for yes, no or present. The word OSS symbolizes the attitude of suppressing your emotions and to preserve through all of the training. Similar to the army slogan. Karate Strong!

We do the traditional bows to each other and to the judges and line up outside of the ring. The ring comprises of tape on the floor of the gym that the competition is being held. Makes getting in and out way easier.

We all wear the white sparing gloves. They do protect the knuckles somewhat, but since you are not supposed to actually hit anyone, they don’t serve any other purpose. They work most of the time. The one time they didn’t resulted in one of my knuckles residing in my palm ever since then.

I don’t recall anything from my first four fights except that I managed to win them somehow. The fifth and final fights sticks in my mind. My opponent was a brown belt, and tall and athletic looking. I tried not to get somewhat too off-balance from the fact that he had more skills, musculature, and experience. Meanwhile, I felt exhausted, pained and severely bruised. I had banged my toes against harder objects like knees and elbows all afternoon.

We both bow to enter the ring, and come up to our own line. We then bow to the referee, and to the judge and then to each other. The referee says Hajime, I feel an additional spike of adrenalin as the fight starts.

Csikszentmihalyi suggests that there are five basic aspects of flow.

Firstly, intense and focused concentration on what one is doing in the present moment. In the middle of a competition, the last thing on your mind is that project due tomorrow. You are totally focused on what you opponent is doing, and you let your own body take care of itself. You can’t think and hit at the same time. Although Yogi Berra was not thinking about throwing punches when he said that.

Secondly, there should be a merging of action and awareness. My opponent steps in with a kick and I quickly block and respond with a reverse punch. Just a half point for me since the referee perceives that the technique may have been less than perfect or that it may have partially blocked.

Thirdly, there is a loss of reflective self-consciousness. You are no longer engaged in a competition, you essentially become the competition. Constant repetition allows you to react without thinking. I sense an opening and respond with a quick roundhouse kick. Another half point for myself.

Fourthly, a sense that one can control one’s actions. I normally have the traditional anxiety interacting with people, but the moment I enter the ring this all falls away. The rules are certain and the objective is laid out. This is totally different from social situations where you don’t know the rules and you don’t know what the objective might be. My opponent wins the next half point.

Fifthly, there is a sense that time has passed faster than normal. Time becomes thicker and denser. The bouts are generally two minutes. My opponent wins the next half point again. We are now tied where one more well executed technique would win the match and the division.  I glance over at the clock. Thirty seconds remain.

Lastly, the experience of the activity becomes intrinsically rewarding such that the overall goal just becomes an excuse for being there in the first. So if winning falls away, and the focus becomes exercising the best technique you can, then you have entered the flow. The match starts once again. With my left side forward, I start to compress myself smaller. Like a spring. Every m  scle become galvanized. I imagine the tiger behind me as I try to jump a chasm. I bring my right knee up and launch myself directly at my opponent with a right straight punch. This catches him completely off guard and he rotates around to try to evade me. This becomes a mistake as now I can punch his unprotected side.

The referee throws himself between the two of us and calls the fight. I am awarded an ippon, a full point and the match.

I don’t recall the awards ceremony, or the little trophy they give you afterwards or even being happy about winning. The goal completely disappeared. But that one technique became burnished in my mind like another tattoo. I am sure that the surge of neurochemicals such as endorphins, dopamine and serotine were responsible for my feeling good about it and for a short time after.

The recollection does come in handy on occasion when I am doing some bench presses and I want to squeeze out one more rep. Putting your all into something becomes easier with a visualization and an extra little shot of adrenalin.

Part of the flow includes a balance of skill level and challenge level. You can be easily overwhelmed by a foot sweep and the balance would be gone. The challenge can’t be so far above you that you are too anxious about even being able to succeed.

My own challenge appeared to be above me, but not so far above that it seemed impossible. Once again, the struggle becomes more important than the destination.

Does Happiness come from others?

youth-active-jump-happy-40815

I read that happiness can come from other people. Your significant other and friends should make you happy.  Certainly marriage makes everyone happy. Either in its creation or its destruction. Those that ride the razors edge and are unhappy with it, but can’t move to destroy it are caught on this nasty razors edge. I would suggest making a choice. Choosing the status quo is not a real choice.

Studies[1] indicate that our happiness depends upon other people. Good social relationships consistently predict a happy life and form a necessary condition for happiness.

But can you be happy by interacting with those you have not meet before?

Strangely enough, helping other people brings me a type of joy. Whenever I leave Costco I scan the parking lot to see if anyone is in need of my particular superpower of being overly insufferable.

One time I hit pay dirt when a mother with two young children was trying to load up her SUV when it was raining. Not so much a problem, but the lift on the rear lid was broken so the door was resting on her head. This gave my father-in-law and me an opportunity to hold the door and load the groceries. A two for one!

We could look towards history for examples to emulate. Perhaps we should say that we could look backwards at history for examples. Things always look better in the mirror. Caution, items may appear more romanticized than what they actually were.

We would look for a time when socialization reached its zenith. So before smart phones. We should also look for a time when fewer predators chased us and pillaging was minimized. I will have to go with Aug 15-18 1969. It was a tough slog up to then, and it has been downhill ever since then. Yes, the Woodstock festival was the happiest time in the US. Good thing we have photos on our smartphones to reflect. For everyone else that missed this weekend era, I would suggest going camping with the family with no power supplies and outside of cellphone coverage.

Experts suggest examining our relationship with other people to look for happiness.

 

Happiness/Unhappiness from within

pexels-photo-718899Recently the main focus has been trying to be happy from within. That mediation or other similar forms of therapy can bring you happiness. Or at least let you let go of things that might be getting in the way of your being happy.

 

Can we find happiness from nothingness? This is the existential option. Friends! Friends! I don’t need no stinking friends! (Bit of a line from a movie about deputy badges that I have always taken to mean that righteousness comes from within and not from a further regulatory authority. But I am drifting.) So, can you be happier alone? Or at least use that aloneness to step up and join the world.

 

A quick search provides countless APs that will send you cheery and uplifting messages that you could share with a friend, if you had one. So we are getting ahead of ourselves.

 

Some happiness aps are merely free and set out path for you to follow to reach your goal. Another AP allows for in-app purchases. This is a sneaky way for you to increase your happiness feedback by purchasing awards to encourage yourself to be even happier with unbridled consumerism. With this logic, all billionaires should be so ecstatic that they would have to be tethered to the ground. Alas, this is not the case. There must be more to happiness than just money to buy stuff.

 

Most inspirational quotes revolve around the main theme that somehow happiness comes from within. So we merely have to draw it out. Sort of like coaxing a deer out of the forest. And we all know what happened to Bambi’s mom when that happened. Or at least we assume we know. Like all the best tragedy, it occurs off screen for better dramatic effect.

 

Or happiness can be found within, and we simply have to let go, or for more reluctant egos, carve off parts that are blocking the happiness within. This journey within appears to be taking greater effect in today’s world.

 

One can begin to think that maybe happiness does not want to be found. And if you did find it, perhaps it was better left there. Sort of a be careful what you wish for. The pursuit of happiness makes us happier than actually achieving happiness, which might be more depressing in the long run.

Happiness/Unhappiness from the outside

I can easily recall the worst and best of times of my life. And they all involved other people. Some of the obvious picks are some people that are somehow in charge of some aspect of my life that I cannot simply get back. This mainly includes my surrounding environment. Such as repair shops. Or airline lost luggage counters.

pexels-photo-278312

Let’s first start with Hell is other people.

There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!  This quote comes from Satre’s play “No Exit”. Satre’s existentialist stance did not make him a people person. But he threw one hell of a party. Or rather, his parties were in hell. 

I was trapped in a hellish situation one time. Like when I was trying to enjoy Avatar at the same time that the person beside me wanted to enjoy his fast food hamburger. The assault of all the senses over a period of an hour as he slowly relished his simulated food product (Condensed Reconstituted Artificial Product or “CRAP”).

First we start with the smell. This CRAP smells good for about one minute, then the same smell takes on new dimensions. All of them hell like. Imagine being trapped beside this slowly descending smelling piece of CRAP for the next hour.

Then there was the sound. The slow uncrinkling of paper. So stealth like. Perhaps he was hoping that no one was noticing his transgression of bringing in a foreign piece of CRAP. In any event, he unwrapped his CRAP so slowly that you wanted to grab it from him and fling it across the theater.

Next came the slow sound of slowly biting off a piece and slowly machinating the CRAP for the next minute. CRAP is basically predigested, so chewing would seem to be redundant. One would think this was prime rib that deserved the extra chewing assist just to savor the aroma.

The next sensation was touch. I didn’t actually touch the burger as so much as a piece of greenery flicked off of the paper and hit me. The next touch was only imagined. My fingers around his throat. But this never happened. My lawyer would have told me to stick with that amnesia approach.

Avoiding crappy people would be an easy to gain a level of happiness. But another level of happiness can come from people that can make you happy.

 

Untethered Mind 2

pexels-photo-269334

So the real journey probably began when I turned 35. Not a significant birthday, but I remember starting to read about a whole series of ideas looking for answers. I didn’t even know the right questions.

Sort of a C. W. Lewis approach. If you don’t know the question, then any answer will do.

I remember distinctly when the right question finally appeared. Joseph Campbell discussed the question in this Power of Myth series with Bill Moyer. The way Campbell phrased the question left a tattoo like print in my memory. Campbell said that we should not be asking about the meaning of life, but rather what does it mean to be truly alive.

Having a nice answer to that question right up front, would be somewhat anti-climactic. So, at the end of this story, as long as I remember to include it since it will several months before I work my way to the end, there will be a map. Follow the map to a man. This man will give you a key. Not a real key since who knows how many people will come along, so really it will just be more information. The information shall be key in sourcing some facts, leading to knowledge, and eventually wisdom.

This really means that no one has a hot clue on what the answers might be. So no, there is no map at the end of this story. Sorry if you flipped to the end to see. Good to see you back however.

So I wrote this to give some insights to things that surround us. Some of these things you may not care about at all, like free trade. But trust me, these things care about you. And they watch.

Many things impact how we think and ultimately what we do. I include essays on issues that occupy my mind and ultimately some of my behavior.

I enjoy writing of all types. I adhere to the concept that you must guide the reader as much as possible. If they stop and think, WTF, then you have made their work harder. But be prepared. Sometimes the logic process appears to drop out the bottom. Sometimes we may have to leap across small bottomless crevices. Sometimes I may tell you to run as fast as you can and don’t look back. During those times I am just kidding. This is just a story. What could possibly happen?

Untethered Mind

pexels-photo-269334

I tethered my mind one day, but by the time I got back, it had wandered off.

 

This is not the same as losing one’s mind since I roughly know where it is when it managed to untether itself. I get texts every now and then. Credit card statements keep appearing. If I arranged a personal line of credit for it, then who knows where it might end up.

I have noticed that you can meet an old friend or acquaintance and predict fairly well how they will react? They can easily start with a good smile, handshake or hug, make good eye contact and start socializing? I have always admired that quality. I always make a mental list of things to do. Enter, smile, eye contact, ask some personal, but not too personal question, and then finally get on with what my purpose may have been otherwise. Of that short list of five things, I often get the order wrong. Perhaps someday.

I refer to this ability to react within a certain range of emotions or activities as being tethered. Someone you can depend upon to react or think in a certain way. It can be comforting. I seem to have to recall how I reacted or thought previously so as not to throw others too far off their stride.

When writing, always write about what you know. Or so I have read. So, obviously, I should know my own mind best. Or so I would hope. But, then how would anyone else know since I am writing this down.

When does a journey start? I suppose it does start with a single step. But when do you know when you are starting a journey as opposed to stepping out for a carton of milk? Both could be called journeys, but you would be reluctant to mark down the milk journey as being significant. Unless the milk journey turned into a real journey.

TBC…