I've been away again. I'm consistently the least consistent blogger in the world, I think. My blog continues to get hits everyday, usually for my post about man nipples. But I've been away from all things online and social recently. I've been through a dark couple of months.
I'm not sure what to do now. I'm going to do what seems to be the next most sensible thing: start blogging again, and perhaps a little more seriously than I have in the past. I feel confident in my blogging skills, and, I think, with a little extra effort on my part, I might be able to leverage my limited skill and my readership into something bigger. I feel confident in little else.
I'm in school this semester. Again. I made the decision to go back to school based on a lot of factors, but the biggest of those factors was a financial one. In retrospect, I wish I would have made a different decision. I'm looking for some gainful employment in the town I'm living in, and have given up on school in general. There's a possibility of me returning to the halls of academe some day, but I think that it's a slim possibility.
Summer is coming. I'm glad about that. I've gotten to walk barefoot outside again for the first time in several months. The first couple of times I took it easy. Then one day I walked all the way to school at a good clip, which is about a 45 minute walk. This yielded some gargantuan nasty-ass blisters on my feet. The blisters forced me to stop walking barefoot for a couple of days, but now the blisters have popped, hardened, and sloughed off, leaving new, leathery skin to walk on. Actually, I popped the blisters myself. I put a pin hole in each blister and then squeezed them. The puss shot out like water out of a Super Soaker, which really appealed to the little kid in me. My mother thinks I am crazy, I guess, and rolls her eyes or sighs audibly when I tell her that I'm going for a walk. "He should be doing other things," I suppose is what she is thinking. I'm happy less often today than I was six months ago, though. I have not wept tears of joy spontaneously in a long time, and walking barefoot in the sun listening to some Indigo Girls or some dirty dirty dub-step is one of the only things that brings me any closer to that place of joy today.
I've read a lot during my absence from the internets. I read some Noam Chomsky (he's the best), some Alan Watts, some Emma Goldman, Gandhi's interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, several writings by Leo Tolstoy, a short book that was sort of an instruction manual on how to implement an anarchist social revolution in France, The Hunger Games, some ancient Chinese philosophy, some Tim Leary, some Terrence McKenna and even the Gospels of Matt, Mark, Luke and John.
Here's how this happened. I was reading about various peaceful folks online. I found myself reading the Wikipedia article on Gandhi. I was surprised to see, in several places, Gandhi described as an anarcho-pacifist. That is to say, he believed ultimately in the abolition of the state apparatus through peaceful means, and, further, he believed the state to be the source of a bulk of the world's violence. I was elated by this. I consider myself some sort of anarcho-pacifist.
Further reading showed that Gandhi had had correspondence with Leo Tolstoy, the writer of War and Peace and other novels. The information they had shared had been in relation to peace, austerity, and anarchism. This prompted my research into Tolstoy. I had known little about him before, aside from the fact that he had wrote War and Peace and that, while a classic, it was a ridiculously long book.
I came to discover that Tolstoy, in his old age, had found his life of decadence and wealth (afforded him both by inheritance and by a lucrative writing career) to be the source of his spiritual pain and the source of the literal pain of the poor peasants in Russian during the latter portion of the 1800's. Reading on, I was amazed to discover that he had become so dissatisfied with his wealth and the wealth of those around him that he had given all of his estate to his wife and children and taken to working in the field with peasants chopping wood and learning how to make boots. I had never known anything about this man, but as I started reading some of his later works, I was moved in a tremendous way. Much of his thinking paralleled my thinking in the moment, and I felt as though I had found some kindred spirit through the pages he had left behind.
After reading the Bhagavad Gita as interpreted by Gandhi (which I was absolutely blown away by, and which also paralleled a lot of my current ideals) and subsequently having read the stuff by Tolstoy (specifically What Then Must We Do? and A Confession) I became compelled to read the Gospel of Christ. My immediate compulsion, in fact, was to read the entire New Testament. I have yet to do so, but I did read the four Gospels. Interestingly, although having been raised Catholic, I never read the Bible. I find this to be common among Christians and former Christians. This is a fascinating anomaly to me, as it seems counterintuitive that so many people can profess faith in a man's divinity without having ever even read the closest thing we have to an account of his life.
My interest in the Gospel came primarily from Tolstoy's fascination with the "Sermon on the Mount," which is the main teaching that Christ was supposed to have given to his followers. Tolstoy was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church for his writings and views on Christianity, as his interpretation of the Gospel led him to believe that Christ himself was something of an anarcho-pacifist. Reading the synoptic Gospels affirmed to me Tolstoy's belief about Christ's message. To clarify, the synoptic Gospels are the first three, Matt, Mark, and Luke, and are the most relevant, as their narratives are very parallel and they were most likely written before the Gospel of John was. The Gospel of John seemed, to me, wildly different, and much of it seemed as though it were written as a response to various questions people would have had about the relation of Jewish law to the new Christian theology at the time. John seemed like a weird sales pitch, to me.
I don't have any beliefs that I would call religious, and my interest in the words of Christ is a philosophical interest. I find that lifestyle the prescribed by Christ in the first three Gospels is indeed one of complete pacifism, extreme physical austerity, and overwhelming love and forgiveness. It was funny to be reading all of this during the Republican primary race, in which a big group of Christian men seemed bound and determined to do everything they could to violate pretty much everything Christ ever said. I wonder if those gentlemen have read the Gospels? Are they reading a special Gospel I haven't heard about? Or perhaps dyslexia is to blame for their gross misinterpretation...?
While reading the Gospels, for a couple of reasons, I decided to start going to mass on Sundays with my mom (and sometimes dad). The biggest reason I decided to do this was that I wanted to be able to share a spiritual, meditative time with my family, and it seemed like the easiest way to do that was to go with them to their place of worship. The second reason was that I had become so enamored with the philosophical prescription of Christ, which was almost precisely the philosophical prescription of Tolstoy, which was almost exactly the philosophical prescription of the Bhagavad Gita, which was almost the exact philosophical prescription of an ancient Chinese thinker named Zuangzi, that I wanted to go hear someone explore the Gospel orally in real time. I left all of my prejudice behind, put on some nice clothes, and dove in. I've really enjoyed it. Sometimes the sermon the priest gives is spot on and completely in synch with the things I had been reading and learning. Occasionally, the sermons veer off into weird territory about homosexuality's sinfulness and the like. I take the palatable with the not so palatable, and enjoy the art and ceremony of the Mass. I don't think that my parents expect anything from me in this regard, and I believe that they are happy to share their spirituality with me in any way, even if it is on an academic and philosophical level. This has been a positive experience for me.
Along these same lines, I decided to give something up for Lent, which is a general Catholic tradition. My parents almost never eat meat on a Friday. Not just special Fridays, but on all Fridays. Since I had been experimenting with fasting and trying to reduce my meat intake anyhow, I figured it would be interesting to get in on the Lent thing by giving up meat all together for 40 days. When I was a kid, I would half-heartedly give up something like candy for Lent. Giving up meat has proven a hell of a lot harder. I had one meat relapse a couple of weeks ago, a moment of weakness involving some hamburger. But otherwise, I haven't eaten meat since the Lenten season began. I like to consider the story of Christ wandering the desert in his ascetic meditation for 40 days and 40 nights. If that really happened, that would have been a lot harder than 40 days with no meat.
All of this reading and thinking, coupled with some of the revelations I made about life last summer and autumn, have led me to a great interest in asceticism and even in monasticism. I have read a lot about various monastic traditions, from the Desert Fathers (possibly the very first Christian monks, a group of men and women who wandered around in the deserts of Egypt with next to no possessions, praying and meditating and pushing their bodies to the limits of physical need) to modern Buddhist monasteries that exist here in America. I frequently think that, if I didn't have so much circumstantial chaos in my life right now, I would be happy to give myself to a monastic life, where celibacy, silence, meditation, prayer, reading and writing would be the most important things in my life. But, alas, I'm no good at celibacy, my circumstantial life is a true mess, and I think most monks have to profess a faith in some specific kind of religion, which I cannot.
I'm apprehensive about the future. Where I once recently had overwhelming confidence that everything would work out, I now feel increasingly pessimistic. I have been beating myself up badly over the decision to return to school. Various bills become late, then past due, then severely past due, as the student loan money dwindles away. I feel like a pathetic shell of myself when I worry about money. One of the loudest voices inside me tells me that I ought to just declare bankruptcy and start fresh, because the hole I dug for myself with my previous way of living seems too deep to crawl out of. Considering this, and considering the general nature of the world and of my consciousness, my mind has ventured on occasion in the last few months toward self-destruction, namely in the form of the complete surrender of suicide. Obviously, this is not an appealing option. I had a brief discussion with a friend about the moral quality of suicide. He told me that suicide is selfish. I don't believe that there is a universal objective moral quality to selfishness, but I suppose for me personally selfishness is not something I want in my life (anymore). I am a person who has been entertaining fanciful thoughts of killing myself since I was very young. I also feel that, outside of the realm of severe alcohol abuse, I have never even came close to actually wanting to die, and have never made even a half-hearted attempt at ending my own life definitively. It's a little awkward mentioning all of this here, but I just wanted to let any interested party know what's been going on with me. No need for alarm, I'm not a danger to myself.
All sadness/depression and spiritual philosophizing aside, I'd like to take a moment to re-assert myself.
I'm Charles. I believe in peace and pacifism both as philosophy and as literal prescription for personal behavior.
I believe that love can change the world, and that without rapidly changing its course to a path of complete love and forgiveness, the human race is destined to live a little longer here on this planet, discovering new and more efficient methods of separating and killing one another, and that at the end of that period we will experience complete annihilation at our own hands.
I believe in intellectual and spiritual (or psycho-social) plenty, and I believe that physical austerity is probably the most efficient means by which to attain inner-plenty.
I believe that I am surrounded with other human beings who love me and care about my well-being and are willing to go to great lengths to see me happy and successful in my endeavors. I believe in romantic love, although I believe that human culture has gone to great lengths to prohibit and pervert the ideal of romantic love, which I believe is healing.
I believe that I can change the world for the better, but that it is my choice to do so or not, as opposed to some sort of fateful imperative.
I believe that when I judge people, I sacrifice my ability to love, and that when I hold grudges and sacrifice my ability to love, I sacrifice the most meaningful or perhaps the only meaningful thing in life, which is my ability to be content in the moment.
I believe that objective morality does not actually exist, no matter how many philosophers, both religious and secular, want to try to say that it does. In place of morality, I try to see things as either constructive to the human race or destructive to the human race. Good and evil are subjective constructs used to separate humans from one another, whereas love and forgiveness seem to bind people together in a constructive manner. I may call things "good" or "bad" on occasion, but what I mean is that things seem either, in the case of the word "good," optimized for human longevity, or, in the case of the word "bad," optimized for an early end to the human race.
I believe that through technological advancements, some of the people alive today may be able to live indefinitely. My belief is that through other technological advancements, the veil of judgement and misunderstanding can be lifted from the human race, that we might know one another more fully, which would lead inevitably to lasting peace.
I believe that governments are the primary source of violence in the world, and that the human race can exist easily without the dark shadow of government cast upon its face.
I believe that to live in modern times, particularly in the Western world, is to be at constant battle with one's will, or conversely, to completely succumb to the forces of consumerism and hedonistic, pathological greed.
I believe that I am supposed to write, and I hope that somehow I can be granted a reprieve both from the state and from my overwhelming debt so that I might someday soon be free to wander in the sun, to write what I think is important to write, and to love.
I've also come to believe in labor of the body, and look forward to being employed to that end. I believe that to labor with one's body is a form of austerity that brings about inner-peace, and I hope to never again find myself in a place where I am completely free from expending my body in order to sustain myself and those close to me.
I believe that the world requires immediate change if humanity is to survive itself.
Through all of this, I have retained this thing that I discovered last summer: I feel best when the word "peace" is on my lips and the word "love" is right behind it. I feel best when I am helping someone else. I feel best when I am giving something away. I love all human beings, and seek to reduce my judgment of any of them.
I'll write again soon. I don't know what I'll be writing, but I will just keep writing. I'll talk more specifically about what I've gotten out of some of the stuff I've been reading, and I suppose I'll talk about the news. I will attempt to harness my sense of humor in digesting what I see around me, but I should be clear in telling you that it has been a lot harder for me to be "funny" as of late because I feel that so much of my sense of humor comes through the harsh judgement of others, and the use of harsh language, which seem taxing to me. I'll still probably say shit like "cock-ass-butt-salad sandwich" and I will still probably say stuff like "Obama is a warmongering criminal who assists in coercing a nation of beautiful people into participating in the murder of children," but I don't want my use of harsh language or my stinging indictment of political or public figures to come across as absolute judgment. I feel bad for Obama, and my senses and knowledge tell me that he must be a long way from psycho-social contentment or non-transient happiness. Despite his distasteful prior action, I would love to meet the guy and tell him that I love him as a human.
If you are down with the stuff I've been talking about, I'm open to any help you can offer me. Link to my blog, let me write a guest blog for you, tweet my URL, or anything else. I'm interested in taking this blog thing a little more seriously now than I ever have in the past, so any advice would be appreciated. You can check out my tumblr here where the bulk of my online writing and thinking has been for the last several months. Talk to me on Twitter, if we've never been acquainted. I want to meet you and know what you think about the universe.
Oh, and as a reward for anyone who actually took the time out of their day to read this long meandering post, here's a little cartoon I drew and put up on my tumblr a while back. I suck at drawing, but I quite liked this one anyway. Leave me a comment if you think I should keep writing.
(click image to enlarge)
I love you all. :-)