Advice and Idleness

Lately I’ve been thinking about life decisions. I find myself reflecting back to when I first arrived here. On the flight between Atlanta and Charleston, I had a long conversation with another passenger. As our conversation ended, I asked for an opinion. I said, “if you could give advice to a younger person, or younger version of yourself, what would you tell them?”. She said:

“…it’s best to keep many opportunities open when you’re younger. Try to keep many possibilities in your life. She also said that even if you’ve gone a long way in your journey, sometimes you find that you’re on the wrong path. It’s okay to restart or go a different direction. […]

The last words roll around in my head, “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”. She spoke with regret for cornering herself, and although she didn’t specify what it was, I knew that didn’t want to feel the same way.

Those thoughts have returned and I question if I’m taking the right path. Maura O’Halloran gave up her life in Boston to move to a monastery in Japan. She did this back in the 1980s when her only communication with family or friends was through snail mail or brief long-distance calls. I cannot imagine the amount of courage it took for her to leave everything she knew.

David (AWOL) Miller quit his stable job as an engineer to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The hike is 2,100 miles long and takes between 4-6 months. While this journey happened in 2003, he didn’t carry a cell phone or have regular connection with his family. It was his first major hike and he didn’t know what would happen. He had faith that it was something he wanted to do and that it would bring him happiness.

Robert M. Pirsig took his motorcycle across the country from Minnesota into California in the 1970s. Hunter S. Thompson hitchhiked through South America in the 1950s. Twyla Tharp moved across the country to escape her family and to eventually start choreography. Bryan Benson and his girlfriend rode their bikes between the Midwest and the West Coast. How can I see these figures sacrificing so much for a dream, while I sit here and idle?

Internally I return to the advice I received on the plane… “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”… Maybe this path wasn’t the correct one. Perhaps now is the only time to change it. I read letters from last year when I had the same thoughts. So is it time to cut the line and change paths?

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P.S. The Danish song “Tomgang” by Shaka Loveless is stuck in my head. Why isn’t this genre popular here?!

 

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You cannot pass your Realizations to Others

Everyone looks at the world in a unique way and understands it from their own perspective. We know where our life is going and we look ahead at our own path. When we do this, we neglect other’s paths. Each person exists in their own world, oblivious to the real world in front of them. By focusing on our own life, often we think that others are walking with us in the same direction. However, this is not the case, everyone moves in their own way.

Your goal in life could be to make a lot of money and retire into a pleasurable life. Every day you focus on building that dream and walking down that path. You go to college for a profession that will assist in this ideal and you spend most of your life working until your retirement.

Another person’s goal could be to see the world. Each day they focus on traveling and how they can support it. Instead of going to college, they choose to be a waitress at a restaurant. This job provides them with enough money to travel to a new place, where they can get a new job until they leave again. Everything they do is about experiencing a new place. They don’t understand the concept of retirement because their goal is to travel over their entire life, not just later in life.

Imagine these two very different people go to a bar. They sit down and have a drink together. The conversation builds until they start talking about their life. The traveler doesn’t understand the worker because her only focus is on traveling. The most pleasurable thing for her to do is to find a new place to live and experience. On the other side, the worker can’t understand this because it’s a dream for the end of life. How could they abandon their life to visit new places? How will the traveler ever retire?

We look at the world from our own perspective and often this means that we neglect others. The worker may see the traveler as “irresponsible” for moving but the traveler thinks the worker is too “uptight”. Immediately there is a difference between these people: all the worker’s actions support their retirement while the traveler just wants to explore.

Both of these people only look forward on their path, the actions they take will only benefit them. The traveler won’t benefit by taking the worker’s characteristics. His path leads to retirement, not world exploration. Therefore, both will be unsatisfied by taking one another’s path.

This isn’t a difficult concept because we know that everyone has different goals in life. We understand that what works for you may not work for me. This is because we’re moving in different directions. So why is it that we treat others like they’re wrong for their actions?

We all exist on different levels of consciousness, with a different understanding of the world. The traveler understands how to live off $15 everyday to save for moving. The worker knows how to dedicate himself to his job and secure his retirement. When the traveler speaks to the worker, she doesn’t understand the other person’s skills. She assumes that worker knows how to live off $15.

When she gives advice, she acts as though it’s easy to live on such little money. For the worker, this would be incredibly difficult. He’s used to working and spending much more money. Their skills don’t line up and the advice may be useless.

Now apply age to the equation and it become much clearer. If you have a 25 year old explain how to live independently to a 15 year old, they’re going to be a lot of confusion. The younger one doesn’t understand how to live alone, nor can he learn by being told. He has to figure it out himself.

The knowledge you have is only useful in context. It’s not usable for people who aren’t ready for it. The traveler can’t understand the meaning behind work until she becomes curious for it. The worker can explain it to her because she won’t understand it. He’s trying to get to retirement, so the meaning behind work is obvious. She had to find her own context to why work is important to her.

This is why you can’t tell a person something they are not ready to hear. It goes over their head and often ends in frustration. The only thing you can do is intrigue thought and questions. Other people have to walk down their own path to their own dreams. You can’t tell them how to arrive or which way to walk. Your advice only has context for what you understand.

The purpose of this long post is to show you that there are some things that you can’t intellectualize. You can explain a concept to another person for hours but unless it has meaning, it will remain useless. Meaning is something you cannot supply, the other person has to be intrigued and apply it to their path. Everyone moves in their own way.

Here’s a quote recited by the Dalai Lama:

  “The Buddhas do not wash away the karma of other beings,
    Nor do they remove the consequences with their hands;
    They do not transfer their own realizations to others,
    But they reveal the truth that liberates beings.”

The only way you can help others is to provoke that questioning behavior. To make them engage in their own though and come to their own realizations. You can’t tell a 15 year old what it’s like to on have $50 for food or what it’s like to work 40 hours a week. That’s something they have to experience. You can provoke them to question what it would feel like but you cannot give them your understanding. You cannot transfer your knowledge to another person.

By leading your life and following your own pursuits, you will find that others can learn through you. Your actions cannot be fully understood by others but they can intrigue thought. You can’t give them your thoughts but you can excite them to find their own thoughts. To find their own way down their own path in life.

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Following Your Dreams

As humans we relate through emotions, whether that means sharing laughs or sulking against the world together. A side effect of being able to pair up with others, is taking on the each other’s problems. Often times, when we relate we become defensive over one another: “if you mess with my friend, you mess with me too”. While this connection is great, we need to make sure that we don’t confuse our dreams and ambitions with our friend’s.

What I’ve found is that I can learn what motivates other people easily. I learn how the gears work and I try to drive myself with their ambitions. Friends of mine were ambitious about going to college (as much of the population is) and it started to wear on me. I started to think that the only way I would be happy was if I went to college too. Photographers that I’m friends with decided to become freelance artists and shifted their work towards commercial art. Most of their work became weddings and senior photos. So I started thinking that the only way I could become a freelance artist was if I shifted to wedding and senior portrait photography.

The difficult with taking on other people’s dreams is that when you achieve them, you don’t get the satisfaction of doing your own thing. When you follow someone else’s dream, you neglect what you need. What you need is to follow what you want to do. You don’t want to feel unfulfilled but how can you feel fulfilled doing something that you’re not passionate about?

Deep down, the comfort you find within yourself stems from having a purpose for what you are doing. When what you’re doing doesn’t have a purpose or bring you fulfillment, you suffer internally. You may not notice it at first but living someone else’s dreams leaves you feeling empty inside. That rush of excitement isn’t long-lasting or deep-rooted.

Take some time out of your life to reorient yourself towards your ambitions. Write out a dream list of everything you want to do. Don’t neglect anything. This is an exercise I do weekly with whiteboards hanging on my walls. Currently I have 6 whiteboards in my room for various things. The one to my immediate right is called “The Crazy Board”.

On “The Crazy Board” I write everything that “if I could have it, it’s here”. It consist of interviews with famous musicians, photographers, reviews of movies and photo series. It also has simpler ideas like featuring some of my friends or asking questions to people on Facebook. Unsurprisingly, travelling often appears on this board. It’s a board of everything that I want to do at any given moment.

All week I add to this board and at the end of it, I erase it. The things that keep coming back are the ones that are important for me to do. If I continue to write “travel to Iceland” for a month straight, I know that it’s something I’m serious about. If the interviews with celebrities fall off the list, then they aren’t as important. They’re not a consistent dream of mine. Basically, the things that disappear are things that I can live without doing.

With how short life is, prioritizing and finding your own path are of the utmost importance. We’ve only got 80 years to live and we can’t spend the whole time dreaming. We also can’t spend the whole time living someone else’s dream. If you find something that you really want to do, you’ll find a way to get to it.

Don’t worry if your dreams are different from everybody else’s. Other photographers want different things out of life than I do, so of course their dreams are going to be different from mine. If you want something unique, you’re going to have to do something unique to get it.  Just follow your own unique path and you’ll be surprised where you end up. There is nothing more fulfilling than following your dreams.

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Concepts of Love

After reading some of Osho’s work I feel like I’ve become more comfortable with being single and alone. Osho writes about how our relationships with other people teach us that all relationships are flawed. When we come to this realization we reach a critical point where we learn independence and love. We realize the facade that we put onto love and break free from it. We think that love is so much different than it actually is.

In truth, love is an expression of happiness and joy. We wrap our ideas around love and think that it’s something to be contained or controlled. Love cannot be put into only one place. That is a form of an ego because we want something in return. We want to love a person and get their feelings back. Real love is a joy of life and fills all areas of one’s existence. When we’re in love, we spread it into everything. We can’t give it to only one person, we show it to everyone – it’s too much for a person to contain.

People confuse the concepts of love and intimacy. Love is a passion for life and a joy that one gives to the world. Intimacy is the physical closeness between two people. When we are in love, we can share our love in intimacy but it doesn’t require it. Our love is already there and bubbling over. You can love without being intimate. Love is a joy and passion for life, not something that can be directed at only one thing.

I’ve come to grips with being single because I’ve realized that the things that I want from somebody else aren’t things that they can give. I don’t want somebody to be close to, I just want that joy and love of life. When I’m passionate and living life fully, that hole in me disappears. I’ve realized that what I’m looking for is something that I have to find myself.

We confuse all of this in our heads and think that the only way to love is through another person. That’s silly. Love is so much more than being passionate about another person. It’s so much more than physical or emotional closeness. When I’m feeling alone and wanting to be in a relationship, I’m seeking fulfillment. I want somebody to myself and to be exclusively with them. I want to contain that joy and put it all in one place but it’s not a place that I can put joy into. Joy and love aren’t something to be controlled.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a long time, I’m fine being single. I don’t want or not want a relationship. I’m finding joy in my own life and pursuing the things that I’m passionate about. I no longer need to find that through someone else. It’s kind of weird and liberating at the same time.

Also, not all of this is Osho’s concept but I wanted to bring up that I was reading through some of his books. I’m amazed at his work and the more that I read, the more I feel connected with people. I find a different kind of joy reading through his works. Many of his books are free online at OshoWorld.com . Check them out!

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Paths

There are billions of people on this planet with an infinite amount of possibilities tied to each one. One of them could lead this generation to its peak or start a complete new social system. A story of a child could inspire millions to change the way they live their lives. None of us doubt this power that people carry over one another. We all influence each other tremendously.

What most people neglect to think about is how much of a role we play in the world. We get so wrapped up in the possibilities that everyone else carries, that we forget we’re part of it. We forget our own potential and only focus on everyone else’s.

This is incredibly dangerous because when we mistake other’s paths as our own, we lose ourselves. Both our purpose and our sense of self.

Instead, try to find what thrills you. What makes you talk in conversations? When a group of people are talking, when do you jump in? Is it about sports? Art? Music? Kayaking? Traveling? What lightens your face and motivates you?

When you find what drives you, start moving yourself in that direction. Your sense of self is infinitely stronger than how others could direct you. Find your path and follow what you are passionate about. There are billions of people on this planet doing amazing things, and you’re a part of it. Your path builds this world up. By following others’ paths you make the world less. You lower the potential.

There is no greater joy than following oneself. Find your passion and don’t look back.

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Finding Yourself

Everyone is searching for their sense of self and who they are. It’s the constant struggle of the mind to grasp what it is and what your purpose is. Each person’s journey is different. And this journey can only be accomplished by yourself. However, other people can walk with you, not on the same journey but to accompany you. They cannot force you to walk in any direction but they can be there for consultation. Today I feel like I was there for somebody else. Sometimes that’s part of our own mission. And for that I feel accomplished.

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