The Latitude and Longitude of Human Experience In The Information Age.

The intrinsic value of our youth–where ideals beget hope, goals, and who we could become in life–and its diminishing returns are a brutal reminder of us in our heyday.  Enter nostalgia, the leading cause of alcoholism.  Okay, I probably can’t cite that as factual but it certainly could make sense.   Remember when hope, goals, and who we were, were as simple as riding the breath and not something we had to continually practice?

In a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, I sat sipping on a Shiraz and talking to two friends that recently discovered that they were eerily compatible and should date.  In talking about relationships and waxing philosophically about life, I made one of my most peculiar confessions.  I confessed to having strange sensations, which can only be likened to the vibrato of harp music within my soul, upon hearing certain types of information.

This phenomenon began in a geography class in junior high school during Coach Martin’s commentary of spatial interactions that lead into an example of tornadoes.  I wasn’t sure if it was hormonal or if I found Coach Martin sexy.  I hadn’t recalled thinking he was particularly fascinating before that, but then again I never had a vibration throughout my body to anything anyone else had ever said before.  I hung on to his every word, mesmerized at my own latitude and longitude of human experience.

It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my credit card company in college grappling with the consequences of default that the phenomenon occurred again.  Phone systems were much less sophisticated back then and actual people–the customer service type–actually spoke to you.

“Let me just verify that we have your most current information on file, Ms. Ben.”

Her voice wasn’t particularly nice, a Southern monotone, but as she launched into the verification of my identity the harp started.

“Your address is….”

“Your phone number is…”

“Your last charge was on..”

“Your mother’s maiden name is…”

She read off my information as I sat, vibrating from the inside, reveling in my personal information.  Was this a fetish?  I scribbled fetish on a post-it to research at the library later (pre-Google days). Was I a homosexual?  I scribbled homosexual down on the same small yellow paper.

“Ms. Ben?  Is this information correct?”

“It is, thank you.”

It happened several other times in college when someone spoke with  great intellectual gusto.  This type of massaging of my soul made much more sense to me–I clearly had a thing for intellect that was irrelevant of its host.

As the world moved into the information age, whoa, you can imagine my information-gasm. Everything and everyone of great intelligence at my fingertips.

I confessed to going inside the bank (when I never truly needed it) because at Chase their customer service advocates pull you to their desk in an effort to convert you from one account holder to multiple.  In this process they verify your information, and despite having been in there a few days earlier, I let whomever read back to me my most current information for the mere feeling it provides me.  I also confessed to most days feeling numb.  What was this weird physiological response to my identification?

“I totally get it,” my friend replied.  “It’s like a confirmation of your existence in this big ol’ world.”

All of a sudden, my confession made more sense.  It wasn’t weird at all, but simply my way of assessing my extrinsic value, and as a business student I can tell you it’s less valuable (than intrinsic).

A letter to a friend sent from my false self

Dear T***,

Do you ever have moments where you truly don’t know who you are?  Almost like a sinister version of yourself doesn’t want sunshine or happiness to be in your life?  Does everyone have this or am I currently what is considered lost?

Well, I hate this person and I’d like to make sure she doesn’t come around, but facing her is considerably frightening.  Who is she?  She’s been hanging around and trying to conjure up trouble around here.  In fact, I remember her from back in the day except back then I thought she was the coolest part of me.  She was a rebel, drinker, joker, adventurer, and drama queen.  She was cocky, attractive, interesting, complex, and irresistibly flawed.  She drew people in and could hang out with just about anyone, but she never could sustain anything with meaning.  Is she my false self?

My false self always seemed so much more attractive and relevant before now.  She hurt so many people who passed through my life, and I resent her for that.  However, she was such an important part of my growth that I’m also very protective of her.  Perhaps I also see this in others, which is why I’m so quick to forgive?  My false self has no accountability much to the detriment of my true self, who is left with the blame and abysmal guilt.

Well, there doesn’t seem to be much room for both of us, and I’m far too old to hang out with my false self anymore.  I should confront her one last time; truly I should send her on her way.  You see, other people would say ‘kill her off’ but realistically I’m afraid I may be addicted to her, and her psychological prowess requires premeditated measures.  Hence, this letter that serves as a vague pondering of the strength of my attachment to her and my ability, or lack thereof, to ignore her entirely.  I’ll keep you updated on any progress.

If I know her, which I do, she’ll simply watch from afar and check in with me at times she thinks I miss her; opportunities to influence.  All I can do is be true to myself and hope the charisma of my false self is never as real as the energy of my true self.

You mentioned your disappointment in my absence from ink, and between the lines of the letter you wrote you asked how I was.  How’s this for a letter? Until next time…

 

XOXO,

A.O.

 

 

 

 

Dear Jeffrey, 3 days until you’re 28…

I’ve learned that choices define you and (in more ways than even I can understand) others are contingent upon who I am to define parts of them.  Like you, Jeffrey, the choices you made while you were walking this earth presented choices that may not have been presented to me otherwise.  Some choices are poor and you can never take back, but at least they’re yours.  Though, a choice that takes away the choice of another is – in a lot of ways – a mortal sin that destroys the grace of not just the one left without choice but all those contingent upon. This becomes a domino effect of freewill genocide.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and sometimes I knew good-and-well I was making them (I file these under the ‘mistakes I knew I was making’). However, today my soul rings of the voices and experiences in my life that moved me…changed me in one way or another…leading me closer to my truth.  I’m no longer in a goose hunt for truth searching frantically for instant gratification at the expense of others.  Truth journeyed into my heart.  It’s within me already and so many others contribute to it.  In so long as I am honest with myself, I’m honest with the world and putting forth energy that builds meaning.  I admire you, Jeffrey.  The energy you put forth into the world had such unequivocal grace, and that choice defines me and has become my only weapon.

Eternally grateful,

Sissy

We are the architects of happiness…

It’s true, karma.  I go round ‘n round with it (no pun intended) because I’m impatient with a short fuse (and very human), but part of my core beliefs are rooted in this basic law of moral causation.  Without getting all metaphysically Kant and breaking down the foundational principle of morals, I’ll be the first to tell you that ‘What I ought to do’ isn’t always what I do and I certainly have reaped what I have sown.  I’ve also, in life, felt a great moral ‘duty’ and made choices that countered my desires or interest for the sake of Karma caching.  Karma can be defined by the cause and effects of any thought, word, or deed of moral and immoral volition.

“If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful universe going, it is perfectly clear to me that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust.” – Aldous Huxley

Alas, The Law of Karma is merely one of the many conditions of my own personal philosophies and one of the twenty-four in Buddhist philosophy.  Applying this to religion: Being created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and predetermines our future, or being produced by an irresistible Karma that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part, is essentially the same. The only difference lies in the two words God and Karma. One could easily be substituted for the other, because the ultimate operation of both forces would be identical.” (‘The Theory of Karma’ by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw).

I’m not writing this post as a teaching of any particular spirituality no matter how Buddhist-slanting it may come off. I’m merely writing this because this morning I woke up and made a dreadful call to the customer service department of my bank.  When the customer satisfaction representative (as they are now called, but as we all know they should – typically – be called customer dissatisfaction representatives) got on the phone I was fully prepared to launch into my unsatisfied customer diatribe, take down a badge number, and ask to speak to a supervisor, but today didn’t require packing the heat.  In a rare and tingly-happy-believe-in-the-world-again turn of events, he (why is it that we only remember the identifying details of those that wrong us and not those that generate goodwill?) not only satisfied the customer but he went above-and-beyond to set in motion the events of a brilliant day.  He not only took away a nuisance, he took away the entire burden and then wished me a blessed day. This first interaction in my day created a chain reaction of good and the well-wish to be contented and happy truly did generate not only that but also hope and a moral courage to validate these feelings for someone else.

The kind customer VERY-satisfactory representative inspired not only this posting – my writing – but shaped my circuitous thinking about something I read a couple of weeks ago that prompted an immediate reaction from me and in turn proved to be the gospel – Justine Musk’s ‘who is influencing you, and how? – three degrees of influence, your writing, and you.’

Even if you’re not a writer, you can certainly be inspired and THAT is categorically imperative for me to pass around.  (To get all Kant about it).

“All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.” – Buddha


Soul Thinker

When I was younger I used to think the Great Thinkers of Greece had the best life setup. As my ego overcompensated for the latent insecurity, I fully resolved that truly ‘making it’ in life was to have light bulbs illuminating you to the world. After the resentment of the non-famous trickled into realization, I wallowed in self-pity and I was pretty sure life sucked.

Once I got over the fact that fame wouldn’t come and knock on my door, I gazed long enough into the abyss to understand Nietzsche. I might have believed all of his philosophy but unlike him, my search for something great was inescapable.   It wasn’t until my brother left my life that I let go of all the above, picked myself up, and looked through new eyes.  The colors came back to life and I realized that sometimes you’re not meant to think so much, rather let your mind sit shotgun to your soul.

enlightenment

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