Things I Believe…

It can be a wonderfully freeing and empowering exercise to enumerate the contents of one’s beliefs, distilling them to a core essence.

It is also a practice in vulnerability, to expose something so personal to others.

In that vein, I submit the following:

I believe in helping people become happier, and healthier, better able to achieve their goals and uncover their unique talents.

I believe in the exchange of ideas, in the value of critical thinking and the ability to empathize with others. Open discourse and a deep knowledge of our own selves and the beliefs of others presents alternatives to violence and leads to meaningful relationships and deeper contentment.

I believe that a healthy diet that minimizes sugars and animal protein releases our bodies and our minds, allowing us to feel better, more energetic, and to better pursue the things we really care about. We also are able to free ourselves from a systematic enslavement of our bodies by food and drug companies.

I believe in taking risks and pursuing individual and common good together. I believe that we can and should produce goods and services using our individual talents, and discover ways in which we may support one another in a way that allows us to flourish together.

I believe in the triumph of love over all else, including the constructs of division and power we at times (mis)label as morality. True morality is a responsiveness in the moment to unique circumstances and cannot be fully encapsulated ahead of time.

I believe that true individual growth occurs at the liminal point between what we know and what we don’t know, and we experience this growth in the tension between the two. If we already know the answers, we are not growing; if we abandon all that we know, we abandon the work of integrating all that we have learned into the mystery of the unknown land ahead of us, which leads to growth.

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And What of the Beginning?

In the graded drive. The pulpit lies. The open door. The grave pit. The arbor house. The empty swing set. The kids at play in the yard. The crops yield. The fertile field. The faraway war in a faraway land

–comes home.

The murder in the yard, the bloody feet, the skies are full of cries and smoke. Hand on neck, sister against sister, brother against brother, they assault one another in fear and ferocity, to right wrongs of the past on all sides.

The sun sets on the prosperity of humanity.

And we learn, and we put away the things that are killing us, we decide to not kill one another. We put down weapons and pick each other up. We apologize and brush off the blood debts of old. We replace what was stolen, repair the broken, set aright that which was upended. We align one with another, accept our unity, set ourselves to doing right, bless one another and lift our hands. We exalt the weak and helpless. We humble the powerful.

–Into this light, the shadow speaks, and appears among us.

The serpents call. The naked showing of the dark executives and kings. The agents of death are flushed from the forests, from our homes and our businesses, from our animals and our artifacts. We see them for what they are, and they plead with us to stay, but we do not listen. We usher them into the vessel that sails the black seas, and send them off into the abyss of space.

Then the stars above begin to fall, and the earth itself is rent apart, and the fires of stone bubble up upon us. We see the trees turn against us, and the beasts leap upon our friends. The birds pluck out our eyes and carry our children away. The giants of the sea erupt onto shore and consume us–wandering in a daze. The air becomes a poisonous orange mist, and the sky unfurls the penetrating gaze of what had always been staring us down.

Exposed, diseased, afraid, scrutinized, we melt like snowflakes on a glowing coal.

And we weep and weep, and cry to ourselves alone, having no one to console us. And we wail to we know not whom, wishing for our sisters and brothers to hold us. Our bodies are crushed into paste, and burned, and scattered, and we float upon the winds which singed us, we mix with the waters that plagued us, we hide in the land that purged us.

We are the wind in the wind called wind;

We are the waves in the waves called waves;

We are the dust in the dust called dust;

We move now the mountains, for we are the mountains;

We move now the seas, for we are the sea;

We move now the sky, for we are the sky.

All that we are and have ever been we know as we.

The fire upon the hearth in the shelter of the cave is we, and every part between.

The Things Parents Don’t Tell Their Friends Who Are Expecting

Before I even begin this, I want to make two things very clear:

1) I love my wife and daughter immeasurably, and I am grateful for every moment I can spend with them

2) There are many, many wonderful things that come from marriage and parenting which people can and do talk about.

The thing is, at least for us, we don’t remember anyone talking about what it’s like–really like–to be relatively young, recently married, and parents.

Maybe they did. In fact, I’m sure someone did. Or tried to. But we couldn’t understand what they were trying to say. Perhaps they just didn’t want to scare us too much before we were ready for it.

This gets me to my point: there are things about being a parent that you don’t talk about with people who are about to be parents. It’s just not–polite.

My wife and I attended a symphony fund raiser hosted by a local brewery. We went with a colleague of mine and his wife, who are expecting their first child any day now.

We had our first child about a year ago. So there was a lot that we said to them about what to expect.

–There was much more that we didn’t say.

Back home over beers, the battle to put our daughter to sleep now victorious, my wife turned to me and made a lucid comment:

“If we fought like we do now back when we first started dating, we probably would never have gotten married.”

It was honest. And I wasn’t a bit upset by it. In fact, I very quickly replied:

“If we fought like that back then, we should have broken up. We didn’t have any real problems or issues to fight about.

Getting married, having a baby, living through that–that’s serious shit. That’s where the real fights come from.”

We thought about how impolite our conversation would have been to them. How anything unlike encouragement it would sound like. More like foreboding:

Congratulations! We’re so happy for you guys.

Just so you know, it was definitely the hardest and most miserable experience we ever had.

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Consuming and Producing

I started this blog because somebody who I take to be very successful told me to.

He said it was the single best thing he could recommend for people trying to figure out who they are and what they can do with their lives. It was how he turned his life around, and is now how he finances what sounds like almost an ideal lifestyle to me.

An unexpected side effect of trying to churn out consistent–stuff (I won’t call it content yet, since it’s not much more than a dignified journal right now) is that I have been exposed to other people with other blogs that have already found their slant.

One of my favorites has been Dave Barnart’s Blog, written by a Methodist pastor who ministers to those who are “burned out” by church in the traditional sense.

He also is a self proclaimed feminist and champion of the LGBTQ community.

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There Was a Bear In My Dream Last Night

Driving home–my parents home.

I turn onto the main road. Looking over my shoulder to check for traffic, I catch sight of the back of an enormous, lumbering, black shape heading into the brush.

I’m aware of how small my car is. It feels sluggish to get away. Will he crush me in the car?

I get home, run inside. I need to lock the doors.

He’s coming.

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Can Comparing Life to a Video Game Help Us Imagine the Supernatural?

I read an article tonight about angels, speculating about their ‘transgender’ or ‘genderqueer’ characteristics.

When I think about things like this, esoteric, mysterious things, I end up making the world sort of like a video game to accommodate these other experiences.

In a video game, we are aware of an inner and outer reality–we live in the outer, and engage in the inner.

The inner reality has its own rules, and is much more limited in its scope. Its rules are more rigid, and there are fewer and more clearly defined consequences.

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Are You Anemic to the Good Life?

I was moody today. To the point where someone noticed. I got caught.

It took me until 5 to realize it probably had something to do with not eating lunch.

But I’m in sales; I DON’T eat lunch a lot of the time.

Then I thought about how I may have not been eating enough for the last few days. I probably was a little anemic as I get used to this new lifestyle.

I went to a local cafe which, like many in Asheville, are at least vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly.

As I was eating my tofu taco with tofu churizo (chur-E-zo she corrected me), I told myself to be conscious of what I was eating. To identify what I was eating. The ingredients, the flavor.

It was then I made a connection about being aware of your life ingredients, too.

I felt a little anemic to life as well.

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Lifestyle Update: Going Vegetarian and Dropping “Added Sugar”

My friends will tell you what a bore I can be.

I like things just so. My ideas are like elaborate crystalline sculptures–they can only come out one way, and often, that way isn’t vocalizeable.

When someone is talking to me I close my eyes–so I can focus on what they are saying, and tune out the other voices in my head.

I also close my eyes when I give an answer. I was told that this is an energy saving technique: our visual processing takes up almost 80 – 90% of our brain power, so this is a natural way to boost our ability to think.

A lack of energy resources became a big problem for me this past year.

My daughter was born. There were other things going on to, but as far as providing context, this is the most important detail.

I became a totally different person: a grouch, anxious, angry. So I started making changes.

The best thing I’ve done is have change my diet: I’m now vegetarian, and I’ve become “added sugar” free.

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What Does It Take to Change Someone’s Beliefs? A Discussion On Homosexuality and Assumptions

I read about a church who, upon discovering that a member of their youth had come out to his friends at a recent retreat, immediately banned that boy and his family from attending their church.

My wife read this, too, and was upset about this. She said that if she heard about something like this happening, she would feel like she needed to say something to someone, maybe the church elders at that church, and tell them how unfair they are being to that boy and to their mission as Christians to support everyone and to love them unconditionally.

We all have been in situations like these, where you feel compelled to stand up for what is right, to voice your beliefs in hope they will do some good to that person or in the world in general. Of course, the other person is also acting out of their just as deeply held beliefs.

If you are wanting to change a person’s beliefs in order to change their behavior, you must get deep down to the point where that belief begins.

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Can You Turn Lust Into Love? On Transfiguring the Passions

I haven’t found a good copy of the Philokalia, the anthology of the saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, for the Kindle. I did find Philokalia: The Bible of Orthodox Spirituality by Anthony M. Coniaris with the subtitle as Orthodox Spirituality for the Lay Person and it has been a marvelous text in itself. It functions almost like a daily devotional for me, with short, poignant sections mostly quoting the saints with glosses on either side as well as contemporary anecdotes and writings from everyone from Carl Jung to C. S. Lewis.

In rediscovering the work of the desert fathers, which I studied at length in undergrad at the University of South Carolina under the guidance of Dr. James Cutsinger, who is a world renowned expert in the Perrenialist philosophic tradition and practicing orthodox Christian himself, I appreciate now how systematically this tradition approaches the spiritual life. There is rich tradition here of people tirelessly mastering their own bodies and thoughts while mapping out what today we would call a psychoanalytic record of the way evil emerges from our hearts.

Today I read a section about how Christianity does not attempt to do away with passions–taken here to mean vices or sin–but instead channels their disordered energy towards God, thereby transfiguring them into virtues.

A few of the most helpful excerpts are here:

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