Saturday, August 22, 2009

Castles Made Of Sand Intro

Don't blink or you'll miss it. Just the intro to Castles Made Of Sand. A signature Hendrix intro and as usual, a damn cool song.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Parting The Seas Of My Own Arrogance

Been doing alot self observation lately, the internal variety that is taught in Buddhist philosophy, not the kind that involves long periods of gazing into the mirror, although I'll admit to doing a bit of that also. After you've done this for any length of time you begin to notice the habitual patterns that arise, the conditioned responses that automatically occur without any effort or will on your part. In my experience - and I'd venture to say that the experience is universal - this is a guaranteed way to discover some very unsavory aspects of yourself. When you begin to look, you will probably not like what you see.

The practice of sustained self observation is only useful under the condition that one is willing to be brutally honest with ones self. To whatever extent possible you have to view things as a disinterested third party; it's impossible to do this fully but you do what you can.

One of the things I have noticed in myself is the knee-jerk tendency to be critical of people and situations. It's just before the moment where I have the ability to give conscious thought to what's occuring, it just arises instantaneously without me having any say in the matter. It doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it happens more frequently than makes sense. I've questioned where this tendency comes from or what might explain it, and though I can't say for certain, I'm thinking that alot of it has to do with being a part of a culture that places such an emphasis on competitiveness and the pursuit of perfection and achievement. We are all products of our culture and being one up or somehow better than the other guy is a huge part of ours.

Whatever the reason for this snap criticism, the fact is that it is there. As part of this process of constant (or as much as possible) self observation I've developed an ability to catch myself in the act and though at first it was a little disturbing, it has now become amusing. I've gone just past the stage of judging myself for being judgemental and I when I see it arising I almost laugh outloud at myself for being so mechanical and predictable.

I have to qualify all of this by saying that I have by no means overcome this nasty little feature of "my" personality (the words "I" and "my" should probably always be in quotes but that would start to appear a little ridiculous). However, as part of doing this something more positive has come out of it as of late, and that is that immediately after the act of recognition, and equally as effortless, feelings of intense compassion and empathy spring up. So the funny little process goes from instant judgement or criticism, to instant feelings of warmth and kinship towards the individual or situation in question. Funny.

The fact of the matter is that we are all up against a great deal in this life. The primordial obstacle is the exact same for all of us although it manifests itself in a different ways, whether it be fear, judgementalness, arrogance, low-self esteem or whatever. Some of us eat or drink too much. Some of us criticize too much. Some of us are overly concerned with our own little selves at the expense of others in our life. Some of us self destruct and others destruct in a more outward fashion, taking others down with them. Pick your poison; this is how it is.

An expanding awareness seems to offer some remedy to the situation, but only in conjuction with other things. A sustained effort at intense self-awareness and self-honesty, it would seem, necissitates intense self-compassion also. Otherwise an enormous amount of self-criticism and self-pity are sure to follow, both of which are a form of violence and narcissism in their own right.

In writing this I'm thinking of some lyrics from Bob Dylan, something like:

"My back is to the sun, because the light is too intense; I can see what everybody in the world is up against..."

Yep, it's like that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ben Gets A Camera

A snippet of me messin' round on the git-fiddle. More to come as I get better with the camera and better with the git-fiddle.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lo, I Am Here

It's been a long time, too long, since I've been here. It would appear that I have abandonded my blog like a foreclosed home. But nay, I am here. College basketball cajoles in the background, and I am here. The sun is descending against the backdrop of the evening breeze; the pollen stirs, the wasps stalk the crannies and nooks of my lonely porch, and the hornets congregate between the slats on the gable of my garage. And I am here. The dog, in all her glory, looking forlorn and wistfully in my direction, lays flat on the floor. She wants a walk. She desperately wants a walk, and as benevolent owner, her only hope of getting said walk, I am obligated. She wants a walk in the way a crack addict wants another drink, if you get my drift. (And I know you get my drift...I just got back from the gym, how could you not?)

With my poor, beloved, and desperate dog in mind, I shall cut this verbal meandering short. May these words find you well, dear blog readers...


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Listening To The Wind

I’m resting quite contentedly in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia this weekend. The air is cold but it’s pure. The stars are overwhelming. The silence is breathtaking. The only sound is the wind that comes whipping across the mountains through the mostly bare trees and the mountain laurel. It is a sound that speaks directly to the soul. There is wisdom there; something deep, primal, and ancient. If silence is the best teacher, then the sound of wind is the runner up.

I live in a different world than this. Being here makes it easy to understand that we have lost some essential bit of knowledge that was probably commonplace among earlier civilizations. We live in a time where the living of one’s life is entirely externalized. Time, as we understand it, seems to always be working against us. We engage in war with the inevitable. We reside almost solely on the surface of our own humanity and as a result we feel as if we are under constant threat. Fragility, insecurity, and despair stalk us like a malevolent shadow.

Profiteers and others in position of power exploit this condition. They emphasize the trivial and nurture our affinity for the superficial. They convince us of things that are absurd beyond measure unless viewed solely from within the context that they have created. And oddly enough, “they” are really us. The lower nature that dwells within all of us combines with a cunning and ruthless determination and personalities are born who worship at the altar of personal gain. Some of them even make human sacrifices there. Even more sacrifice themselves there.

Life in the ancient world was surely brutal in its own right but we have different demons to contend with now. In the absence of the sacred we are left with the cruelty of an artificial reality, a world that never sleeps; a television commercial that won’t turn off and can’t be muted either. Turning inward is a rare act of rebellion. We can look around and see the results of living in such an externalized way. We can feel the effects in our own body and we can witness the thoughts that have been implanted into our consciousness by parasitic outside agencies.

But here in these mountains the static starts to clear. You are surrounded by the sacred. You realize how small you are. You realize how petty and insignificant your problems are. Interestingly, you are also empowered because in connecting with the sacred you become aware of the part of yourself that is also sacred; the part that has been covered up by the virtual reality of modern urban life and the make believe concerns that accompany it.

Simplicity. That’s what I get out here; the feeling that so much of what is essential comes down to simplicity. Keep it simple stupid. I think of a line by Ramana Maharshi, something about how what we really are - the Self with a capital “S” - is more like a feeling than a thought. It’s pre-thought. That’s where the sacred lies. It’s simpler than thought. Thought is too clouded with self-importance and unnecessary complexity. It’s too busy there. I think of another spiritual teacher who talks about The Art Of Do Nothing. That’s a wonderful and practical piece of advice but has nothing to do with being a couch potato.

I’m returning to the metro-life tomorrow but I’ll be taking these mountains with me. It’s clear that the part of me that recognizes the divine sense of wonder in this setting is just as capable of recognizing the divine beauty in any and every setting. It’s just a matter of tuning in to the right frequency. So I’ll get back home and wake up early in the morning at start fiddling with the dials again, tweaking the controls a little each day until the static disappears for good. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the off switch.

I can’t think of any better way to conclude this train of thought than this Zen poem that I came across years ago:

The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Playing Air Guitar In The Shower

So it’s 2009. I know how disappointed we all are that 2008 is over. We are equally as disappointed that George W. Bush’s presidency is over. It’s been a rough ride but an era of jack-assed stupidity seems to be coming to a close. Or does it? Something is over. Something new is beginning. It is as it ever was and what is really important is the fact that it’s always actually right now. I love the simplicity and smart assedness of this kind of a comment. 2008 is over. Bush is out. Ben is now 32. But guess what folks, it’s still just right now and when it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters.

I’m not really one to write blog posts about all the mundane details of my day to day life, partly because it feels a bit presumptuous to assume that my life is that interesting, and partly because I’m more interested in experiencing my life as it happens rather than spending much time reliving and documenting it. And also because I doubt any of you give a shit about what I had for lunch today or whether or not I had trouble locating my car keys this morning. If those kinds of things about another person’s life actually do interest you then, friend to friend, Iet me suggest that you seek some psychological counseling because that can’t be healthy.

However, having said that, sometimes you just sit down to write without anything particular to write about (like now) and the little goings on of your life tend to come out. It’s been hard to actually sit down and do this lately. There are so many areas of interest out there and try as I may, I can’t cover all the territory I’d like to in any given day or week. Of all things I am taking guitar lessons now. I’ve messed around on the guitar for years now and I can do fairly well but until three weeks ago I didn’t know the major scale from a fish scale.

Now I’m diving into the world of music theory and one particular character trait in my personality is becoming very clear to me. I don’t precisely know how you’d word it but let’s just say, whatever the endeavor, my tendency is to attempt to run full speed prior to learning the basics of walking. Occasionally I succeed at this or get somewhere in the ballpark of it, which leads to interesting results. This guitar thing is a great example. I can do some advanced things but am quite baffled by the fundamentals and I’m kind of having to learn it backwards now. That’s alright though.

The bottom line is that I like to cut out the fluff. So much of life is fluff, and by fluff I mean unnecessary bullshit that you needn’t waste your time or get involved with. If one is not careful, one’s life will be dominated by fluff (unnecessary bullshit). Now a more critical perspective on this approach would be to say that I try to shortcut everything. That may be so. But…I believe there is a shortcut to everything, or almost everything. A better way to say it is that I believe there is a direct route to most any destination. There is also the non direct route which, for whatever reason, seems to be the most popular. I’m being vague here but I know you get what I’m saying.

It’s been tempting to write more about politics but the more I’ve delved into it, the more of a quagmire I realize that it really is. Now I can make my point and back up my positions and that can be fun but I would love nothing more than to get over the need or desire to prove how right I am on any given subject. That’s just an ego thing. It’s a game. It doesn’t matter that I’m right. I like the challenge of a good debate but still, just more ego. What’s the point?

Does this mean I won’t be taking the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh crowd to task when the opportunity presents itself? Of course not. But I won’t be making a career out of it, although that would be both easy and fun. Because of the fact that it’s so easy and fun, there are already a million other people out there doing a fine job of it.

Okay…I’m rambling here, doing a little self-analysis too. There is neither time nor topic for a serious blog entry right now but I did want to check in and wish everyone a seriously happy 2009. It’s bound to be an adventure.