A Prayer For the Human

Dear god,

Please allow me to be the best human I can be today, and please grant me the knowledge to understand and accept the limitations of my small and unimpressive existence, so that I might use these tiny moments in the best way possible before my share of time is over.

-With Love,

KP

Forgiveness is Freedom

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I was raised Catholic; on a scale of 1-to-Natural-Family-Planning, I’d say we fell somewhere roughly in between always eating fish on Fridays and reenacting crucifixion scenes in school for fun.  Catholicism didn’t turn out to be the right match for me, but it did introduce a subject that has followed me and evolved in my life as I’ve gotten older–forgiveness.

The problem with the Catholic idea of forgiveness for me was that it seemed to be about forgiving other people because the creator had forgiven you (basically for just existing), and I didn’t quite understand this logic.  It was as if forgiveness was owed as some sort of karmic debt to a mystical Don Vito Corleone I had never met and didn’t understand what I had done to piss him off.  Hadn’t he adequately punished me enough when he decided that I would be born with the hair of the lovechild between Gene Wilder and Harpo Marx!?  unnamed

(For the record, I was really unattractive between ages 1-25.)

Seriously, what had embryonic-me done that was so bad that I was in this constant state of reprimand?  “You embryonic glutton!!  Your glucose consumption has reached heights of the likes never seen–repent now!!”

(I actually googled “embryonic gluttony” to see what would come up; I can’t believe I had the nerve to do that knowing what the internet usually yields.  Here is a picture I found:)

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In all seriousness, I have never felt that forgiveness is something you owe to anyone, actually.  What I have found to be true in my life, is that forgiveness is ultimately about myself, and not anyone else.  Being able to honestly and fully forgive has come down to allowing myself to finally be freed from negative influences in my life, and also being able to forgive myself for whatever negative beliefs I held about myself or my actions.  It has nothing to do with being noble, or “choosing the high road.”  It just came down to getting to a point where I could let go of the things that were weighing me down.  I think maybe for some of us, that point comes quickly, for some it takes much longer, and for others, it never comes.  It doesn’t make us better or worse for however long we take, or don’t take, we are the ones who ultimately have the key to lessening our suffering.  Everyone experiences life in their own way and in their own time, and I can only speak from my experiences, but I offer these words up to anyone dealing with similar issues, or anyone just looking for another viewpoint.  Or anyone who really just wanted to see a side-by-side comparison of me, Gene Wilder, and Harpo Marx.

Even though my days of crucifying my friends for fun are long gone, I think there are important takeaways from many world beliefs, regardless of whether we identify as religious/spiritual/Pastafarian/whatever.  Suffering and learning to grow from it is a universal component of being human, and ultimately, part of building our ethical character is that we have to learn what works best for us in order to do so.  In the Bible, one of my favorite passages remains Ecclesiastes 3:

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

We forgive in our own time, and we accept the freedom it yields in our own time.

Weirdmaste, my friends.

-KP

The Irony of Intolerant Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

So I just ate a bag of chocolate–ok, not the whole bag, but I definitely just ate a whole bunch of chocolate, and it was delicious.  And it kind of went like this, minus the throwing-up-on-the-carpet-part:

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I really just wanted to share that picture with you all.

Anyhow!  Good evening and Weirdmaste to all!  A friend posted a “weirdmaste” image on Facebook recently and I thought that it was pretty spectacular, because I am all about honoring the weird here at KP.  I mean, one of my childhood heroes was Weird Al Yankovic.  Let’s be honest—UHF should have won an Academy Award for awesome (and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it).

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It’s time to spin the Wheel of Fiiiiissshhhhh!!!!

But I digress.  Actually, I wanted to touch on a more serious topic tonight; Facebook is an interesting animal.  Most of us use it to showcase the positive aspects of our lives: travel, engagements, weddings, children, pets, how we didn’t get fat after high school, how awesome and perfect our lives are–spoiler: they’re usually not as exciting and perfect as we try to make them out to be…and maybe we only take carefully angled pictures and use Instagram to filter out the wrinkles (and adult acne, for some of us).

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But we can also use Facebook to spread information.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the information itself.  In certain areas of the world where information is limited to the general public by government, the advent of social media has proved to be a highly effective way for connecting and furthering causes, such as the push for civil rights in Middle Eastern countries.

Facebook also allows us to see many different opinions, and this is where the topic for tonight’s entry comes into play; the irony of intolerant tolerance.  I claim to be a highly tolerant person; I think all humans deserve to be treated with equal respect, regardless of gender identity, race, age, nationality, body type, etc.  However, I still find myself critical of others at times, and I know part of learning to be tolerant is allowing others to be who they are, even if I don’t agree (although some people…just, no):

 

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Give me back my rainbow, damnit!!

I’ll never forget, I knew two people who had a very tumultuous relationship because one was Catholic and the other was Protestant.  As someone who doesn’t follow any set religion, I didn’t understand why the two had such a difficult time, because I thought it was silly to be so divided on what I considered “trivial” issues.  One day, while on my soap-box of “How-I-am-right-and-you-are-silly-and-your -problems-are-silly-because-I-don’t-understand-you,” the girl looked at me and said, “You know what I really dislike?  Non-religious people telling religious people how they should think or feel.”  And she had every right to say that.  I had no right to lecture her on my beliefs.  People are entitled to believe what they want, and as long as we are not harming others or supporting causes that harm others, etc, we should be free to our own beliefs.

100% absolute tolerance might not be a completely achievable goal, but as long as we are actively working toward a greater understanding of others, we will progress as a human society.  We can practice tolerance by stepping outside ourselves and trying to see things from another’s point of view.

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Thoughts?

Reflections from a Failure

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I started this blog in 2011 because I had experienced something which, at the time, was traumatic.  I was also experiencing high levels of stress at work and had forgotten how to use creative outlets to reconnect with the world.  It’s very interesting to look back on the last three years and see how I have grown, what lessons I have learned, and recognizing that life is very cyclical.

Writing has always been an important part of my life, and it is only recently that I have begun to share that with the world.  I don’t think anything I write is exceptionally special or earth-shattering, but I realized that the reason I was reading books wasn’t only for the sake of reading a book; it was because I was trying to connect with what the author was really trying to say.  I don’t think writing is necessarily a choice; it’s more of a compulsion.  Anyway, what I’m really trying to say here is that I write because I hope that someone stumbling upon this diary can find some solace in the words of a stranger, and to know that as humans we are really very interconnected.  It’s scary and intimidating to lay your inner thoughts on the line, but this isn’t about showcasing emotions like cakes in a bakery display; it’s for those that need the connection.  Somewhere, someone has felt like you.  Maybe I have felt like you–maybe you have felt like me.

I was inspired by author Jo Coudert’s book, Advice from a Failure, when I wrote this journal entry.  I offer up my reflections to anyone else who has felt something similar at some point.

***

11/10/14

I have searched and cried and prayed, and whatever god exists, exists without bias, and without human mind.  At least without a human mind that my simple one can comprehend.  Instead, there is a god–maybe like the ‘god of small things’–who exists somewhere deep inside.  “Here am I,” it says, small and far away.

And here am I, small, and tiny, and afraid.  My tiny life is no greater, and no less than any other tiny life in this world.  And maybe I have failed, maybe I have failed countless times.  I have failed to be so many things, and to have met so many expectations, and I have failed to have continued to see the Way.

Maybe I failed because I wasn’t small and neatly packaged enough.  Maybe I failed because I came with too many stipulations and too much necessity for compromise.  Maybe I failed because I was not strong enough or maybe because I was too strong at times.  Maybe I failed because when I was rejected and turned away I could not leave well enough alone with dignity.  Maybe I failed because I wasn’t something else entirely.

But I am this thing; I have always been this, and to deny it is to deny myself.  And if all else changed in the blink of an eye, I would be left with just this.

It is not love to deny the self, or to feel quashed and trapped because of the desire to quell the self for another.  It is not love to deny what we are.  So, to stop pursuing love is to find it.  To find it in those who have always loved us, despite our faults.  To find it in the small acts of kindness we ourselves can attempt to offer, the compassion we can attempt to give.  In the ability to look at our fellow man and not judge his or her shortcomings, but to feel only compassion and empathy for all who suffer from this human condition.

And, finally, to hear the voice that says, “Here am I,” far away in the depths within, and to answer, “Here I am, I will never leave.”

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Recently, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and, as always, he doesn’t disappoint.  What I like best about Murakami’s writing is that it is filled with philosophic, historic, artistic, and musical references.  Somehow he is able to take things that have struck a chord with him in his own life and apply them to his writing.  His works are also usually laden with psychology woven into them, and subsequently open to interpretation.  Sometimes his concepts are strange, but he is able to showcase the human experience very well, and in my opinion it is by the open-ended aspects and the non-definitive.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking recently, reflecting on my experiences the past year up till now, and a certain part of the book really resonated with me.  One of the main characters, a boy who calls himself “Kafka,” is staying at his friend’s isolated cabin, which is filled only with survival necessities and books.  Kafka begins to read a book about a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked to find the “final solution” for the Jews.  Eichmann was very systematic about it, considering financial costs, the cheapest methods for the transportation and disposal of human bodies.  He was given a situation and mapped out the best possible, practical way to complete the task.  The shocking part is that Eichmann never questioned the morality of any of it, and when he was tried as a war criminal he was lost and confused.  He was just following orders; he was just being a good officer.  The boy, Kafka, finds a note his friend has penciled in the book.  It reads:

“It’s all a question of imagination.  Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.  It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities.  Flip this around and you could say where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.  Just like we see with Eichmann.”

I thought about this and I realized this concept is a major part of understanding the human condition.  Not everyone shares the same reality.  Our reality is shaped by our own consciousness; this may very well explain the source of all human suffering.  With regard to relationships this can be expressed as: Not everyone views love the same way.  We can beat ourselves up time and time again, we can cling to the past and think of the should’ve-would’ve-could’ves, or we can cut ties with those who have hurt us and accept that the way to heal is to just leave and move on.  Because people experience reality in different ways, we can not expect them to suddenly see and understand our reality.  There are people who will never see things from our point of view.  There are people who will never know how cruel they have been to us.  And it’s not our responsibility to tell them time and time how they hurt us and expect them to magically turn into someone else.

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In Kafka on the Shore, the concepts of God and Karma are very present.  They tie into everything; our relationships included.  Two quotes that have struck me are:

“If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” 

“Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” 

I don’t know if I believe that everything is fated, or even what really exists within the universe, but I know that if we shape our realities from our own consciousness, while I have the faculty to see what would be poor choices for my physical and mental well-being, I am going to try and make the wisest decisions I can.  I am not going to worry about the choices of others.  Maybe my suffering in this life is caused from some karmic debt, maybe not.  Regardless, when it comes to people who treat me poorly, I will do what I know to be the wisest decision in this life I live now:  I will let them go completely.  

If a person treats us poorly, it is their karma, not ours.

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Purgatory is only Temporary.

Today I spoke with a very close friend of mine, and we had a long talk about some of the issues we both face.  I am not ready to share with the world some of my deep, dark secrets, because I don’t feel comfortable revealing that side of myself just yet, but some of what we talked about was about relationships.  We talked about how work has had me traveling for months and how it has felt like the echoes of my last relationship have been heard loudly everywhere.

K said to me, “It’s like you were in Purgatory.”

And she was right.

 

Neil Gaiman says it best, “I think hell is something you carry with you.  Not somewhere you go.”  I have never had such a jarring emotional experience of that magnitude before in my life; maybe some people can brush this sort of thing off easily.  But for those unfortunate, overly-introspective types like myself, it’s not that easy.  I still, months later, ask myself what I could have done to have been enough.  I know, rationally, the answer to this question is simple: NOTHING.  People who want you to be part of your life make you a priority.  They don’t push you away, they don’t disrespect you by being dishonest and secretive.  It doesn’t make this any easier to swallow, and we still beat ourselves up because of their betrayal.  Even as time passes, in the words of the late Maya Angelou, “People will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

The pain is still there and I know it will be there for a long time to come, but I also know that Purgatory is only temporary, and now I am here in Hawaii to start a new life, and the ghost of the man from my past can not come to these shores to haunt me.  This is a place of healing, and I concentrate on trying to let go of the hell I have carried within me for so long.

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For anyone out there going through something similar…if you don’t think it will end…I understand.  It’s not over for me, but I can finally see the beginnings of the road to healing.  The pain lasts a long time, but we don’t have to be buried under it forever.  There are still beautiful things to be seen, and we can find an abundance of kindness and goodness in the people who continue to stand by us and support us.  Our worth is not defined by those who have treated us badly, or the poor relationships we once were part of.  

 

Our worth was and always will be determined by ourselves.

 

It is Well with my Soul

I recently finished Dr. Terry Gordon’s book, No Storm Lasts Forever, a diary he kept throughout the first few months following a tragic accident that left his son Tyler paralyzed.  Dr. Gordon is one of those rare individuals who can draw insight and wisdom from life where many see nothing but random occurrence.  Although my storm is very different, and not in any way comparable to Dr. Gordon’s, it is still a loss, and it has caused me to experience the various stages of grief.  When we experience loss, it opens up a void within us that can become susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions.  I myself am a victim of this, and recently have been plagued with my own fears and self-doubts and questioning of my path entirely.  I do know that ultimately it all comes down to this: we must be the heroes of our own stories in order to save ourselves and come to peace.

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In 1873, a man named Horatio Spafford decided to send his wife and their four daughters on a trip to Europe.  They were to sail ahead of him, as he had to deal with the aftermath of real estate investments that had been destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871.  Tragically, the ocean liner his wife and children were on collided with another vessel and sank.  His wife survived, and from England sent her husband a telegram that said, “Saved alone.”  Spafford then sailed to England to meet her, and as his vessel passed the place where his four daughters had passed, he penned the words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Loss is so painful to deal with; and as I journey through these days and weeks I can see that although I may be training my physical body to become strong, I have been neglecting my mind.  There is a psychological term called, “rumination,” in which we let our worries overcome us.  We must be strong and not let ourselves be sucked into the vacuum of despair.  In the words of Plato, “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.”  We either come to terms with our respective lots or we are destroyed by our own sorrows and insecurities.  And in destroying ourselves, we destroy others along with us.  I wonder what sort of world this would be if every man was able to come to terms with his own demons.  I imagine there would be so much less suffering.

Finally, to close with some wise words from Rafiki:

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