Cross My Heart and Hope to Write


Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Recipe For Happiness

Just breathe.
Whatever it is… it will be alright.
It will pass.
All that matters is this moment.
Right now.
All that ever was… is now.

Too much of our life is spent worrying. About who we are, where we’re going, what to do. It is a burden that has been bequeathed to mankind ever since the conquering of evolution, for we are still perpetually tethered to our animal nature. There is worry all around us, about petty things, trivial things – superimposed synthetic obligations irrelevant to the achievement of happiness. We live in an externalized, globalized world in which the self is tossed to the wayside in favor of ephemeral boon. We hold onto contentment for a brief while, until something else perceived as worthy of our worry comes along to take it away from us. Most people spend all their lives trapped in this cycle of worry. These people think life is a bitch… but a dog is a man’s best friend.

There is a key to escaping this madness, to freeing one’s self from the maelstrom of being, a formula for the achievement of contentment. It is not a simple formula, but it is far less complicated then the chaos of life. It will protect you from the hardship of existence and keep you safe in the arms of positivity. Think of it as a recipe for happiness. We will need a list of ingredients:
  • 1. It starts with a realization. Fourteen billion years ago, our universe burst forth out of nothingness. Soon (in the cosmological scheme of things) light began to pervade the nubile universe, impregnating it with simple atoms like hydrogen and helium. These simple elements coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies in which the heavier elements like carbon, oxygen, and phosphorus were synthesized. Perspective here is essential. This means that you arebillions of years in the making. The atoms that compose your body can be traced back to these primordial wombs. Furthermore, every few years the atoms in your body are cycled out and returned back to the Earth, into the clouds, animals, trees, and oceans. Atoms from these, likewise, are incorporated into your own body. All of this is to say that you are the Earth; you are the universe and everything in it. You have touched distant worlds and are intrinsically connected to everything. You matter. You are bigger than you could possibly imagine.   
  • 2. Yet, remain humble, because we are also incredibly small. Just like you, everything else is composed of the same pervasive elements. You are never alone, because structurally we are all the same. Flowers, fish, mountains, seas, we are all one race of universal inhabitants. We inhabit ourselves. Set this idea aside for now. It will be important for later.  
  • 3. What makes us unique are our experiences, our memories, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our regrets. Combinitorially, there has never been nor ever will be another you. Even identical twins, who’s DNA is exactly the same, possess vastly different personalities. Indeed, the atoms that compose their respective bodies are not the same and the random mutations present on their skin, the freckles and beauty marks, battle scars of existence, attest to the fact that they are their own person. The blue prints are the same, but the materials are dissimilar. You own your personhood; the self is entirely yours, so long as you recognize the face staring back at you in the mirror. You are in control of the person you are and no one can claim ownership of that but you. No one. Together, these two facts attest two others.
  • 4. You are perfect and beautiful. This is undeniable. The atoms that compose your body at this moment are present nowhere else in the universe. Your experiences, your memories, your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your regrets make you you. You are perfect because you have never before been proposed and never before realized. There has never been nor ever will be another you, therefore you are a perfect example of yourself. You cannot be flawed because there is nothing to compare your imperfection to. You’re perfectly imperfect. Likewise, you are beautiful because beauty cannot be determined by an aesthetic comparison. Because there is nothing to compare it to, your beauty is also perfect. You are perfectly beautiful. Because the atoms are constantly cycling out of you, you are constantly being reborn, your perfection and beauty replaced with perfection and beauty. Your uniqueness is perpetually becoming and being realized in the same instant. The idea of beauty as in the eye of the beholder is only a state of blindness. Beauty can be found in anything and everything. So long as you seek to recognize it, it will be found. 
  • 5. Because we each own ourselves, our beauty and perfection is likewise our property. No one can lay claim to it but you. Other’s opinions on the matter are, essentially, meaningless. You will always be perfect and beautiful, but should you see imperfection or find yourself not beautiful, you have two choices: To change what vexes you or accept it as it is. Many people fret over their regrets and mistakes, things that have happened in the past that cannot be changed. These events contribute to one’s uniqueness, but many see these as flaws in one’s character. In such instances, because you cannot change them, they must be accepted as they are, embraced as a part of you, and used to better your present state; we learn so that we may improve ourselves. No matter how helpless a situation may seem, there is always the opportunity to learn from it. You may not be able to change what happened, but you can change your actions to better the future. As for changing yourself, there are many routes to improve something about yourself, but sometimes the easiest is simply changing the way you see yourself. It is one thing to get healthy, but it is another to try and change the way you look because of how people see you. Before taking any action, always ask: “Am I doing this for myself or for others? Am I doing this to make myself happier or to make others happy?” Always choose the route that preserves your contentment and leads to the achievement of the next ingredient in this list.
  • 6. Having truly grasped the previous five concepts, no good recipe would be complete without love. We are taught on television, in movies, in music, in literature, that love is something found between two people and once our other half is found, happiness can be achieved. It is a sad irony that we continuously search for love outside ourselves, when it needs to be found within us first. Someone else will come along later. The happiest relationships are those in which both parties love themselves completely and each other equally. Love of the self is the strongest foundation you can build. It will protect you from all of life’s hardships and any danger to contentment that comes your way. Once fortified, it is stronger than diamond and gentler than silk. It is like an endless reservoir of positivity, enriching your life and guiding your choices. Learning to love yourself is one of the greatest lessons of life, one that many people go without learning. To achieve it requires discipline and the revelation of the previous five ideas. It should be your ultimate goal. If ever you are sad, ask: “Do I love myself?” Continue to question, wonder if you love yourself completely, challenge it, until the answer “Yes” is grasped with certainty and confidence. That endeavor will direct you, communicate to you what you need to do to better yourself. No matter what, love will keep you safe.   
  • 7. To return to the second ingredient, because we are all made of the same elements, and typically share in similar experiences of heartache, hope, and regret, show kindness and compassion to all things, for they too struggle. Do not look on others with zealous desires of means to an end, but seek to find the beauty, perfection, and love within them. Having a secure foundation of love, founded on the realization of your uniqueness, beauty, and perfection, will guide your actions and will steer you towards goodness, truth, and happiness. Every action should be done in the pursuit of truth and honesty. We all share in our being – having been gifted with the opportunity to exist. We exchange building blocks so that we may build ourselves anew. Every moment is an opportunity to start over. Every inhale is laced with possibility and every exhale infested with your love, such that we each control our reality. You have the power to change the world – all you have to do is change the way you see it. There are opportunities for love, for beauty, and for perfection all around you. Finding them and letting them enrich your life requires looking within and finding happiness and positivity within yourself.  
Realize that we are all one in our possession of existence. Bigotry, ignorance, and hatred are the externalized shortcomings of the self. Learning to look on yourself with positivity, contentment, love, beauty, and perfection will give you the ability to look on others with the same light. We must strive to create a species that lives this way; a humanity of goodness; if every man, woman, and child can be taught to love themselves, everyone will learn to love everyone else and see them for who they truly are. We are united in our struggle in life, but life can be a beautiful experience if we realize we are all in this together, every one of us, every last atom in this incredible universe.

Many find peace and contentment in the arms of an omnipotent God, while others find the same fulfillment in the presence of a purposeless universe. Conversely, many continue to struggle to find happiness, even with the guidance of religion. Regardless if you are Christian, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, or Muslim, this recipe can be applied by anyone. Goodness is independent of creed, culture, and race. The desire to find happiness is universal. The acceptance of God’s love is no different from the acceptance of your own. Given that all religions or spiritual speculations contain similar if not identical trends in doctrine, subject matter, or ritual, it seems that within all of us is a sliver of God; that a part of every human being is divine and that this is what has led to the development of religion. As with all faith, belief must begin within. Worship yourself before you worship anyone else.
Om mani padme hum. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Hand You're Dealt: If I Looked Like What I've Been Through

Don't hate the hand you've been dealt. It is your gift, your plight, and it is up to you to use it to better yourself and the world around you. Greatness lies on the outskirts of suffering. Struggle is the guarantee that the direction you are going in is the right one. Nothing grand is achieved without effort. You are in control of your destiny; you can get out of this mire, this bog that imprisons you. The chains that bind you are figurative for a reason.

I have seen men claw their way back from the brink of self-destruction. No string of bad decisions is beyond repair. We all struggle - often through similar situations, experiences, and tragedies. Telling your story can empower others to tell theirs, to create a network of support, to provide an example of how you can save yourself and others from the demons that haunt each of us. Remember... there is always someone who will miss you in the end. No one is forgotten and evil is always conquered by good. Always.

After being diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, I grew up among a lot of kids with dubious futures. Many have gone on to lead beneficent, productive lives. We are survivors. You are a survivor. We each carry the battle scars of our own personal civil wars, but we don't always wear them with pride. Our medals, our purple hearts, hide just beneath the skin - the silent aggrandizements of our perseverance. Own your struggles. Use them to make you stronger. To make us stronger.

What would you look like if you looked like what you've been through?

I must stress that I do not condone self-harm. Please never hurt yourself. Seek help.

If I looked like what I've been through
I'd have the face of a woman
and a man
contorted into a kind of in-between
delicate and masculine
with eyes that pierce and lips that tempt
with a jaw of glass that slices like obsidian
and a brow that collects beads of sweat
where ideas fall to their deaths

If I looked like what I've been through

my face would be scarred with age 
ancient memories tucked under my tongue 
to escape is archaic speech 
wisdom exuding, 
bleeding through childlike curiosity 
a fascination 
that hints at an old soul
inside a young heart

If I looked like what I've been through
I'd have a heart where my brain is supposed to be
I'd have a brain where my heart is supposed to be
and they'd constantly be switching
thinking, feeling
fighting for what is right
neither able to decide who is winning 

If I looked like what I've been through
I'd be dressed in a three piece straitjacket
with cufflinks
dressed to the nines in a canvas tux
with the images that cloud my mind painted on
a metaphor for my artistic fervor
my former affliction replaced with a brilliance
no less insane

If I looked like what I've been through
I'd have cuts so deep in my wrists
my hands would bend back as if attached with hinges
I'd have bible pages rolled up and tucked inside the veins
unfinished poems
dollar bills
that I'd unroll from time to time
to remind me
to hold on

If I looked like what I've been through
my blood type would be ink
and you would see it coursing
in sentences and verses
just beneath my skin

If I looked like what I've been through
my skin wouldn't be able tell you what race I am
but you would still judge me
I'd have the misplaced morality of a Christian
the pantheon of a Hindu
the hope of an atheist
and the history of a Jew

If I looked like half as much as I've been through
I'd only be half a person
an incomplete masterwork
a magnum opus
loaded only with dummy bullets
I wouldn't have half the passion
that bleeds like beads of sweat from my gaping pores
in rivulets of syntax
that I dab with looseleaf paper
to preserve
what I've been through

If I looked like what I've been through...
you wouldn't even see me
you would only see the things that make me me 
but they are not me
I am so much more than what I have been through... 
I am infinitely stronger