Friday, October 9, 2009

ebb and flow

yin and yang, pause and movement. Writing flurries are drifting by the window. When will i forgo the forgone conclusions and fly away, weightless? Writing reality is inherent to each day, but writing fiction could mean fame or being locked away. Writing reality to live reality .... is that crazy?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Love is in the air...

My sister's wedding was Saturday. I cannot express how awesome, how surreality-shattering it was. I knew heading into the weekend that the reality of her getting married had not really hit me yet ... as if there's something one should feel, and that feeling was missing. While taking photos of the reception, hanging out at the reception dinner, & taking photos of the wedding, I don't believe it'd hit me yet. Then, while standing on the concrete rim of a memorial behind the chairs, straining to gain elevation and the best angles for shots, I looked down from Micah and Reggye's smiling faces to their clasped hands... her thumb never ceasing, always rubbing his hand. I almost lost it.

We definitely have a great, great, grand, expressive & loving family. Being present to celebrate their love was a true joy, and I hope their love proves over the years to be a clear example to others. They are so sweet on each other.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reality is plagued by a dearth of indefinition. All humans, as existential and purpose seeking creatures, define reality around us, define reasons for emotions, define good and evil, define our reasons for getting out of bed in the morning.
In trying to live life open minded I have spent the past few years of my life weighing the visions of truth I've created, and finding out what other people see as truth. This gives me great respect for everyone, as well as an increasing distance from what I thought was truth.
Where is there meaning? Where is their true recognizable value in the world? Where is there open-minded focus on making the world a better place, with no care for making a buck? To them, I would give my dollars.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Incubation methods for writing

In speaking with my cousin, who is writing a fiction, I realized some of my methods in approaching my fiction works that would help him. I admonished him: Ask big questions! What do I want the reader to think/feel/experience in this story? When they set the book down, how should they feel/react? Do I want them to love this character or hate them? Or both? Do I want the reader to catch on to a certain part of the plot early on, or could I conceal it for impact value later on?

Another thing I admonished of him was to just ask the questions and let them be. Do not rush to answer them immediately. Let them incubate & let the answers rise up by themselves, whenever, wherever.

Every moment of every day is a learning experience. When you see particular conflicts between people, how do they maneuver the storm? In the clan of people you see every day, how are their characters? These things are always pertinent to your writing. To quote from Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, what we search for in fiction is not so much applications to real life, but the epiphany of truth. We draw on life, the legitimacy of people, their characters and struggles, and in fiction we use these experiences to deliberately craft a moment of truth. You can be as candid as Ayn Rand in presenting your vision. You can present a cloudy vision of truth with no apparent sharp corners and defined dimensions as the whole point [punny, indeed]! You can conceal a tiny bit of beauty amidst battlefields, and the contrast clarifies unparalleled messages.

In writing, and in life (more importantly), we have to ask ourselves big questions. I think we should share our big questions with each other more often. It is always a good practice to think about your life and what you want out of it. Ask big questions! It is always good to share the big questions you have with friends, as such mental intimacy is rare and helps us to think more compassionately of each other and our struggles. Also, in hearing another person's big questions we realize them. If we have never conceptualized that sort of curiosity it becomes aware in us. We learn a new dance move.

I am still working on my Robotchicken dance. The gals dig it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My clan: the Family

As I have grown up and done some soul searching, I have lamented that I do not keep in touch with a lot of my family as much as I feel I should. I have made great attempts and remedying this! I have known for a bit of time about myself that writing someone has a different feel to it than simply writing for writing's sake, as in a piece of fiction. I have so much more heart right now in my letters to friends and family than I do in my 'writing.' So, with regards to the discussions I usually hold with different family members in person, over the phone, through email, I am now going to start writing some of them in journals-of-sorts and send it to them for them to write in as well. Mutual journals.

This thought was also spurned on a bit by my conversation with my grandfather. He has rigorously completed authentic historical research in trying to track down long-dead segments of our family tree. He has, for a few years now, seen different paths of names and families as far back as sources in different town records and diaries of the North East can reveal. When I was talking to him over the phone this past weekend, I commented that starting this blog would be a transfer of medium from my attempts at diaries. I usually stop writing in them. He immediately pleaded that I not give up the effort to keep a written, personal diary. He cited a diary's immensely personal tones being a good family gift, and said to even write down the most mundane of details that strike you. The mundane is an aspect of wonder to those people decades away from now!

The wisdom of what he had to say seems self evident. In all the manners I am trying to establish better ties with those around me and to learn their wisdoms, I say to people with my wide moon eyes [link: tenth segment, With that Moon Language] you are important. This life is important; can I learn from you? My whole idea for a non-fiction writing project of trying to assemble different wisdoms and life outlooks of normal everyday people is exactly therein encapsulated by a diary, but extended... their musings, their soul searching, their taking-a-stands. The respect and interconnectedness of it as a family tradition rings beautifully.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Being present, aware, & satori

A twitter friend of mine, AlexShalman, posed a question about what motivating self talk people use in order to achieve a goal. I told him, I think if you need self-talk you've already lost. There's only loud quiet and peace as you set your eyes and step towards it!

Twitter is, after all, only expressive within 140 characters. This is a more developed response.

There is a Japanese Buddhist concept spoken of in Bushido: The Way of the Samurai, called Satori. Reading from page 18 [Square One Publishers, 2002]:

[A samurai of satori is one who].. after going through a crisis, makes the most of his experience; he is also the one who can use his forethought to quickly settle problems in case of an emergency. Accordingly, we call samurais of satori those who can come to conclusions before meeting tens of thousands of matters.

Non-satori samurais might be able to come up with a make-shift solution, but this is achieved merely through good luck.

Those who do not scrutinize everything before the events occur may justly be called samurais of non-satori.

Regular people are capable of satori as well, for those non-samurai reading this. Satori is purpose, itself. When you have internalized a purpose and keep it in diligence as your aim you are satori.

There are three direct steps to finding satori.


Why is silence a virtue? There is a dizzying array of life & wisdom around us. To busy your mind speaking out loud or in-loud means those words carry greater weight than all the world present to you, which is often not the case. In silence we can listen & seek. In speaking we present to the world. This is a necessary skill, but you must tangibly have a sense of responsibility for your words, and a sense of satori in their needing to be aired. Otherwise, busy yourself with listening.

Why silence? Because there is an outside. This outside is wise. With enough listening and watching, you'll realize without this outside I cease/am not. This outside is within me and I am within it. I am the outside. Take comfort and meditate here constantly. Strive to know your-outside-self.

Awareness and presence through silence is favored by Eastern philosophies whereas Western philosophies usually do not consider it. [The Essential Crazy Wisdom, by Wes Nisker, 2001]

"Reason is the true self of every man, since it is the supreme and better part." Aristotle
"Stop thinking, and end your problems." Lao-Tzu

Practicing just being present and aware will begin the process of clearing your mind of our many developed neurotic tendencies; it will also begin to give you a better understanding of what in life is essential.

Assessing the 3 Realities

First reality: In the existentialist vein, we each are constantly creating a 'reality,' our reality. Man names a self and learns a self separate from the universe around him. He is the journey-weaver, pit band, and unwitting critic of his own stardom (in his reality). To be separate is to transcend, he thinks.

Second reality: The collective of realities of all different people and wisdom gleaned of consulting other peoples' opinions. Humility, and the search for the

Third reality: The unspeakable; we will be naive of this reality until we are all-knowing. Yet, it is.

In describing the second reality, page 39 of Bushido speaks of consulting others for ideas and learning from their wisdoms on the matter. Often one cannot see a situation so objectively as others standing on the side. A path pursued with these multiple wisdoms, it says, is like a strong rooted tree whereas a path pursued by only your own wisdom is like a rootless tree. There are countless other times Bushido emphasizes learning from others, as well.

To realize the frailty and inadequacy of the first reality, your own, is a good thing. The second reality is a never ending journey of finding, piece-meal, glimpses of the third reality. Constantly being aware of the three realities will also help you to assess what is essential in life.

finding Satori: setting your aim/purpose

Before finding satori, you must find your clan. 'Clan' can take many concurrent meanings. It can stand for the universe itself, all life within it, your family, expert kazooists, and your day job all at the same time. Random selections from pages 5-6, 10-11:

As a retainer to this Nabeshima clan, you must devote yourself toward the studies of your own country... the general drift of clan studies is to trace the history of a particular clan back to its foundation. By following the general drift, we can credit the present prosperity of our household to its founders... Due to their power and authority, our clan has been prosperous and secure, and it has had no equal up to the present time.... Both at the time of plain clothes (peace) and the time of helmets and armor (war), it is sufficient for both high and low to revere the founders and their offspring so we can learn from their examples. Then we (present samurais of the clan) will be able to manage everything without fail... Once you have mastered the practices and habits of our own clan, you may learn other ways as a pastime, for your own amusement. But, when you come to think of it, there is not a problem that cannot be solved with the help of this knowledge (of our own clan). Those who neglect this study of our own country would not be able to give a word of reply to such questions (asked) by members of other clans, as: 'What is the history of the Nabeshima clan?' or, 'How was your clan established?' or, 'You have been reputed to be the best spear-thrusters (warrior-samurais) in Japan; but what are the details of your distinguished military service?'
...Be firmly resolved to offer yourself in your service so that you can make up for the favor (privilege) of being a member of this clan....
... no spirit and no talent is necessary so long as you have the ambition to shoulder the whole clan by yourself, so to speak, to carry the burden alone, if necessary.

When an idea expresses itself to you that would benefit you and your clan, take it up! From page 32,

"It is not because Confucius had tried to master the way, but it is because he had set his heart on learning at the age of fifteen that he became a saint," says the scholar of the clan, Ittei Ishida. In other words, you can have correct satori the moment you have set a definite aim in your life for the first time, as one of the Buddhist scriptures says.

In discerning what is really important in life, and who/what your various clans are, you have already defined many purposes to your life. You need not look further. The final essence of satori is keeping this purpose real, in a manner Bushido clarifies as 'thinking lightly on serious matters,' page 21-2.

Think of serious matters in a light manner... Think of trifles in an earnest and thoughtful way....
There are only a few considerations that are serious for you. You can make your decision about these few serious matters beforehand in ordinary circumstances. Accordingly, you previously think about these serious matters and then you have only to take out the previously arrived at conclusions when you need them. On the other hand, if you are not prepared, then it will be difficult to think lightly of grave matters when you meet with occasions on which you have to make an instant decision. At such a time you will be unable to hit the mark.

Being satori is a constant state of awareness of self and of others, and knowing what purposes you are to follow. In planning ahead of time the proper courses of action you can then simply clench your stomach and move forward with acheiving your aims. Page 21:

Your life is something you build every day. You must convince yourself that you have surpassed yesterday. And tomorrow you must feel that you have surpassed today. In this way there is no end to your mastery.

As with any theoretical mindset, this is all logically sound in theory. Incorporating it piece by piece into your daily life will be problematic and you will stumble, but it will help you in the long term. These principles emphasize strongly making your purposes real with definite, tangible progression.

So, Mr. Shalman, this is what I mean by loud quiet, peace, setting your eyes, and then start walking. I hope you and the only other reader find it meaningful! And I wish I would have put this much enthusiasm into papers I wrote for college! Now, if you will excuse me, my agent's ringing. It seems we are making headway on my plans to be the first Kazooist to play at Carnegie hall.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sleep Experiment

I've had many strange sleep schedules throughout the past few years and some enabling perspectives on what people call 'oversleeping.' I electronically stand here before you proclaiming, there is no such thing. What's that? A fan of Nietzsche? OVERSLEEPING IS DEAD.

A certain sci-fi book I read years ago gave me the foundational idea for the 'sleep experiment,' and a quick perusal of the interwebs does not reveal the title. Its jist was that aliens in a flying saucer came to earth during relatively primitive times compared to today. I cannot remember if the setting was a hundred years ago or a few hundred, but imagine pitchforks against aliens.... and the humans won! They took over the spaceship and flew back to the home planet, and won the battle there too [we're always to fight with aliens, it seems]. The rotation of their planet transpired in something substantially more than 24 hours, and the humans adapted to longer sleeping and waking periods.

During the almost-decade in which I ran competitively, it was apparent that consistent good amounts of sleep [and lack thereof] affected both the ability to rebound from hard workouts and performance in races. The ultimate proof came during college in which I was rebounding from a substantial injury and had no deep base of distance training from which to spring into harder workouts. While I had always focused on completing the coach's training plan entirely, I was now focused on on keeping a healthy circadian rhythm [and indulged in catching longer nights whenever possible]. In four months and with no base I was in the best shape of my life. In every event I ran I broke my pr [personal record/best].

The principle I tested was sleepHrs-to-awakeHrs proportions. 8hrs of sleep and 16hrs awake is considered a healthy proportion for a 24hr cycle, or 1:2. During that period of focus would often sleep 10-12 hours, which were the proportions 1:1.4 and 1:1, respectively. Lately, with getting back into running while biking a good amount each day, I've kept a 1.1:1.3 proportion typically, i.e. 11sleepHrs to 13awakeHrs. Springing from the sci-fi book's example, I decided to start an experiment with respect to the length of a sleepHrs-awakeHrs cycle and extend my cycle to 36 hours with one caveat: I only have the freedom to do this in the 72 hours beginning Fridays when I get up for work and ending Mondays when I wake up for work. I regret I cannot fully throw myself into this sleep strategy 36/(4 & 2/3). Alas! Work requirements stipulate otherwise.

Exercise will be a necessary part of this experiment. In order to sleep for such extended periods of time I will have to drain my body. The first two proposed 36hr cycles actually aligned quite well with the framework, this past weekend: 23½hrs awake, 12½hrs sleep [36hrs exactly, and not over-fraught with exercise so a typical sleepHrs-awakeHrs proportion, nigh 1:2], then 19½awakeHrs and 14½sleepHrs [only totalling 34 hours, but much closer to my aim for the 36hr cycle of a 1.1:1.3 proportion, or 19½-16½].

It is easy enough to talk quantities and theory of the experiment but I feel much safer about the qualitative side having gone through the first 72-turned-70hr period of testing it out. I was sleeping so often previously at the 1.1:1.3 ratio that staying up 23½hrs was tiring but easy compared to other times I've done it. Staying up for that long was only to try and instigate a longer period of sleeping to follow and hopefully I can more naturally assume a longer sleeping period in the future, as I continue the experiment on future weekends. I can say that today I felt physically great.

In the spirit of making language & definition your own, what do you think a 36hr cycle should be called? I am resisting the corny attempt to claim it a 'daay.' Something phonetically distinguishing would be probably be helpful.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

drum roll, please...


Blame it on the bloggers I've been put in touch with over the past year, blame it on the instincts as a writer, or blame it on the penchant for keeping journals and then slowly losing focus... I feel the need to keep a focused and detailed account of beauty that happens across my path in life.


POIESIS: The word poiesis is beautiful: ancient Greek, "a threshold occasion: a moment of ecstasis when something moves away from its standing as one thing to become another." From a caterpillar to a cocoon & a cocoon to a butterfly, poiesis is everywhere, in both simple atoms bonding and in those things alive... in the words and thoughts we share budding to dreams & taking flight.

UPSILAMBA: A subtle creation of Vladomir Nabokov's, in "Invitation to a Beheading." The society condemning the main character Cincinnatus is said to be incapable of understanding this upsilamba. Reading from page 23:

"...Those around him understood each other at the first word, since they had no words that would end in an unexpected way, perhaps in some archaic letter, an upsilamba, becoming a bird or a catapult with wondrous consequences. In the dusty little museum on Second Boulevard where they used to take him as a child, and where he himself would later take his charges, there was a collection of rare, marvelous objects, but all the townsmen except Cincinnatus found them just as limited and transparent as they did each other. That which does not have a name does not exist. Unfortunately everything had a name."

The last two lines are particularly insidious. Nabokov's tale is precise with regards to Cincinattus's crime: he dared to think for himself, and he dared to think those things not already named. He dared to think upsilamba! The phrase is revisited in Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran." Nafisi was a teacher of literature in Iran, but she was so much more than that. She spoke of her early affection for revolutionary ideals and then the realities of life after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In speaking to her students about upsilamba she asks them, what does it mean to you?

Although Nabokov only describes upsilamba as an unexpected letter with which to end a word giving rise to glorious consequences, I think Nafisi found upsilamba within herself and hearkened. Although her vocation was teacher of literature, it was as a compassionate human being understanding the nature of ideological suppression that she invited her close friends (out of her students) to her home to read Lolita and other banned books. This was a crime they all could have been jailed & beaten for, but upsilamba, that personal gravity of truth, spoke too clearly to the group in her home. I think upsilamba is a personal singularity of truth. I think upsilamba is a seeker of definition. You can choose to listen and pursue truth actively or you can choose to just get by and ignore such lofty ideals as truth, and just drift through the motions of life without any need for comprehension, meaning, or purpose.