2013-01-25

Language

Lithuania 2010
Language is only meant for small things, like asking for more tea, or telling the postman that your package is fragile. It can sometimes be stretched for things like telling someone they mean a lot to you, or expressing anger at injustice.
Even in those cases, you feel the unheard tremors more than you understand the words.
When it comes to feelings that shake you, I believe they shake everything. There is no need to be able to explain to someone how much they make the spot directly behind your belly-button feel all shaky and discombobulated, and your thoughts fluttery and disorganized - just feel it near them, let there be silence, and all will be understood.
I think we spend a lot of time drowning everything out with words, because we feel like they're more definite, more controllable, more easily understood as intended, and instead, we cripple ourselves by never training our sense of intuition or whatever you want to call it. The way we understand the connections between things.

The Connections Between Things.

"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean – 'tame'?""It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
How else do we know a person than to 'establish ties'?

Language is for knowing about things. We can describe all kinds of things in words - gray, hard, rough, heavy, 1 kg, 15 cm long. But those things are not a rock.

You don't know a rock until you pick one up, heft it in your hand, roll it around between your palms, perhaps throw it as far as you can, back into the ocean.

You don't know a person until you've held them, pressed against your chest, your right hand cupping the back of their head, your left pressed against the small of their back, holding them against you, in complete silence. And what is more concrete and knowable than that? Is the word 'love'? Is the word 'hug'? Is a sonnet you write with the best intentions in mind?

No.
"My life is very monotonous," he (the fox) said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."
The Connections Between Things.

We understand through silence in part because we're mostly made of holes, and we find it easy and natural to seep in a little. Deeper with prolonged contact. It is the most deranged and dysfunctional human for whom other humans mean nothing. Granite. There is a reason it is cold and hard. Extremely tiny little holes. Nothing gets in or out. But humans are a largely fleshy race, full of giant holes, and we leave our mark on each other. 
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."
This all happens mostly not with words.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."
Control. We like control. We like to feel like we know what will happen tomorrow and the next day and 5 years from now. The problem is, we all like to be on the giving end of control, not the receiving end. Humans don't take control well. In relationships, I think what this means is that we become the most strongly connected when we move alongside each other, naturally, not forcing the other to follow any path, simply experiencing life together. Don't go to someone's house and order them to arrange it like your own house. Rather, invite them into yours and let them feel welcome, as if they should be there.
Then Almitra spoke again and said, "And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
If we follow the advice of the prophet, we lose control over the other person, whoever they are. The only way we can control is to make them dependent on our own bread, our love, our cup. If we allow the other person to be their own, autonomous person with their own sovereign will, and they take up that challenge, we lose certainty. In silence, we simply allow them to be, rather than to control what they think, feel or believe with words.

Think about your relationships - do you want them to be based on control, really? Beyond your fear of loss, would you rather have a relationship based on imposed bonds, or a relationship where you choose to stand closely beside another human, who also chooses to stand closely beside you? Do you want to have control taken from you, or would you rather give it, a bit at a time, willingly, to a person you trust?

Get used to silence. Get used to feeling what is around you with your eyes closed. Get used to the hum of another person's skin against yours, the gentle pressure in the chest of two spirits embracing in sadness, the expanse of breath and tingling excitement of two spirits touching fingertips as they soar through the air, celebrating life, the sound of nothing but your heart beating.

Get used to yourself. Dig deep and find out the little bits of you. Get to know them well. Be an expression of yourself. That's all you have to do.

2013-01-16

Back in the Saddle!

Ahhh, that's better.
My bike was in the shop for a day getting a bit of a tuneup. Whenever I'm without it and I have to leave the neighborhood, I remember just how efficient a tool a bicycle is, as taking the bus or the streetcar, though nice sometimes if I want to read, takes much longer and is so much less flexible if I need to make multiple stops. I'm glad to have Beatrice back, and feeling better than ever!
Cruisin'

2013-01-14

Snow!

A little snow.

We got about the only real snow we've had this year today. Nothing stuck, but it looked nice on my coat :) Unfortunately, all the melt is going to be a sheet of ice in the morning. Yay Portland winter :)

2013-01-11

The Importance of Receiving

Love.
In our society, we talk a lot about giving. We hold it up as a positive character trait, a morally good thing to do, a socially responsible thing to do. We say that a relationship can't last unless both people are willing to give.

I'm not arguing with any of that, but we don't often talk about the necessary corollary of giving: receiving.

It probably has a lot to do with trust. Just as it requires trust to give something intentionally and honestly, it requires trust to unconditionally receive. You have to trust the intention of the person giving, because in order to really receive, you have to open yourself up to the gift and the giver. I feel like this is very important, as it ties closely into many aspects of a relationship, and in some ways, defines how we relate to other people.

Not surprisingly, we tend to not be very good at receiving. We get embarrassed by compliments and try to explain why they aren't true. We feel reluctant to accept gifts, or guilty if we don't also have one to give. When it comes to behavioral interaction rather than physical gifts, we switch so immediately into having to give that person something back, that we can't properly appreciate what they have done for/are doing for us. We feel guilty if we are ever receiving without giving.

Here is why I think this is important to talk about and work through. Receiving is as important a part of any relationship as giving, because in receiving intentionally and unconditionally, you are completing the act of giving.

Think about if your significant other compliments you on how beautiful you are. There are a couple of options. You can feel embarrassed and play it down or try to change the subject, in which case the compliment kind of falls flat. Or, you can unashamedly let yourself feel really good that this person who you obviously like very much thinks you are beautiful, let it hit you right where you can feel it. Imagine the joy your partner experiences when they see your eyes light up.

In a very similar way, if someone important to you decides to give you a gift, there is probably a good reason for it. Either they found something that really reminded them of you, and it made them happy and they wanted to share, or they wanted to make you happy by giving you something you would enjoy. There are also a couple of options here. You can feel guilty you didn't get them anything, and try to apologize or explain or find something to give them in return, and essentially completely forget about what they gave you. Alternately, you could simply focus on their act, and the thing they gave you, feel honored you are enough a part of someones life that they think of you in their daily life, and simply accept. Again, I feel like the enjoyment of the person giving is completed by an intentional and unconditional acceptance of the gift.

The same goes for someone doing something on your behalf - let's say just for example, you're applying to get into school somewhere, and they go out of their way to go to the school and make a good recommendation, to highlight why you would do well there, and you end up getting in. I think most peoples' initial reaction upon finding out what they did would be to feel somewhat guilty, and we would try to tell them they didn't need to go to all that trouble, to inconvenience themselves so much. But here's the thing: they intentionally inconvenienced themselves to give you a chance. Think how happy they will be when you celebrate together that you got in, that what they did for you made a difference in your life, and that you accept and appreciate their choice to help you.

Because sex is a way of relating to other people, I think this applies there as well. Sex is another instance of giving and receiving between people, and I think it is important to be able to separate the two, and to at least at times, strictly focus on giving, or strictly focus on receiving. It is important to be able to be in the moment, to be able to focus on intentionally and unconditionally giving or receiving without worrying about what might turn the other person on/off, what kind of scenarios you might want to play out or whatever. Just simply focus on that moment only and give/receive it with pleasure. Imagine the delight of your lover when they see the flush in your cheeks as they kiss just the right spot, or how excited they will be by seeing your obvious, unabashed enjoyment of what they are giving you. Just let go and let them in.

In all of these cases, receiving completes a circle of interaction between people. It serves an equal and complementary role to giving and it not only allows the person receiving to accept pleasure and happiness, but completes the pleasure and happiness of the one giving. Try it out sometime with someone you trust. When they give you something sincerely - a compliment, a gift, a kiss, whatever it is - accept it completely unreservedly, and see what happens.

Neighborhood

It's showtime!
It's nice having a neighborhood theater you can just walk a few blocks down to - and in those few blocks, cover about 5-6 restaurants you could have dinner at before the film.

2013-01-08

Who we are, and what we do.

So many of us try to define who we are based on what we do. I believe in the opposite, that who we are defines what we do. I feel like this is an important distinction to make, because people do a lot of things due to external pressure to try to be something they are not, in hopes that it will change who they are, and people get very afraid of doing certain things, because they are afraid it will change who they are. There is a lot of subtlety here, and I will try to handle it with as much care as I can. Ideas are delicate, and sometimes require gentle handling to make it to their destination intact. Keep in mind that I'm speaking from my own experience, and that the ideas expressed here are the conclusion I've come to from ruminating on my experience. I don't mean to say that I am absolutely right, simply that this is how I currently see things.


I believe that who we are defines what we do, and not the other way around. We spend so much time trying to group each other into categories based on labels, so many of them centered around what we do. Cyclist, cook, photographer, businessman, writer, artist, computer nerd, etc. We are an overly controlling society, making laws that force people to change behavior to fit a certain morality or set of social rules, as if that will really change anything fundamental. I come from a church background that also places huge emphasis on behavior modification. Very few people in my experience as a teenager and adult in the church were concerned with who/how you were, as long as you behaved properly.

There is an issue of intention. People do things for different reasons, and I believe this plays a major part in this issue.

Some people try to change their behavior in order to become something else because there is external pressure to be something else. In this case, to me it seems that all you are doing is changing your clothes. Put that person in a different social situation, with social pressure to be yet something different, and they'd just change clothes to a different style - which means that this behavior change is not changing who they are. They are simply reacting in such a way as to relieve the social pressure on them in the most expedient way. I think we all do this at times, and certainly in our society, there can be major pressure to deal with if you are anything left or right of the sort of 'approved' normal.

Some people want to change their behavior in order to become something else because they feel the internal motivation and desire to do so. In this case, I think more what is going on is that this person is feeling the desire to more fully realize the person that they already are. They are looking for quantitative change, which means exactly that who they are is defining and refining what they do.
One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...
The issue here is that you cannot really know a person based on what they do. It's much too simplistic to view them that way. Of course, sometimes we have to, simply to be able to communicate at all - we have to settle for a label or a generalization. But in general, the only way to know a person, is to know the person. In order to understand a person, one must spend time with them and get deeper than just doing similar things. I can participate in many of the same activities as another person: let's say cycling, photography, cooking; and also have many of the same character traits: let's say sensitive, opinionated, active sense of justice. This will not mean that we are the same. We could be vastly different people, despite these outward similarities, and this is what I think really belies the idea of our actions changing us on some fundamental level.

So I guess it kind of comes down to this, for me. We are who we are, and over the course of our lives, we can try to stifle and cover up who we are (and there is sometimes immense outside pressure to do just that), or we can nurture and grow it, and more fully develop it. Either way, we are either simply hiding or uncovering the essence that is already there, not changing it.

2013-01-03

Responsibility

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

The above is a quote from the book The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It's talking about how, when you become close to a person, when you develop a relationship, a connection, when you give parts of yourself to each other, you become responsible for that person.

This applies to any relationship, romantic or otherwise.

We've been watching a lot of Japanese anime and drama the last couple of years, and this seems to be a recurring theme in many of them. The fact that, when you are in a relationship with someone you can't simply act as if you are autonomous. You can't do whatever you want, you must depend on each other, and you must realize that you are responsible for the other person.

I feel like this is a really important part of relationship that we often miss here in the U.S., because we are taught independence and autonomy to the extreme, at the cost of everything else.

It's important to know that it can be good to depend on the people who you love and who care for you - for help, for advice, for comfort, for companionship.

It's important to know that you can't simply make major decisions as if they only effect you, because you become responsible for the people close to you, and what effects you effects them. This also means that you have to bring those people into your life and have their input and encouragement and that you must walk together with a sense of purpose.

One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...