March 13, 2007

Tell Those Questions I Have No Answers

I listen to most of my music at work in between classes, and the music I’ve been listening to a lot of these last few days has been the new Albert Hammond Jr. solo album, Yours To Keep. It is thirty-five minutes of easy to swallow, but harder to digest pop songs. I catch myself singing along to the sweet sugarcoated songs, only to stumble on lines like:
Our problems, time will have to solve them someday
I find something comforting in listening to music that sounds like a lollypop but is filled with gravel. I can’t get enough of this album, I suggest you test drive these songs.

The last few days, weeks now, I suppose, I have been caught in strange web of revolving moods. I am either in a constant state of heightened euphoria or a crippling low-flying funk. As soon as I feel that I am depressed, I look up and see that there is not a single thing in my life that could be “better.” But then when I start to feel that perhaps my life is perfect, I start to ask myself if this is all there is. Is this all I was meant to be doing? I am Slowly learning that this sensation of spinning from one opposite to the next is no cause for concern, but that it is normal and right. It has taken me thirty-two years to figure this out.

I guess this is the very nature of dialectics, a philosophy I have been casually studying since I saw Half Nelson. The philosophy, as I understand it, states that we are never happy or sad but that we are always happy and sad. We must simply always replace the word or with the word and. I think this logic gets to the root of escaping the feelings of disorientation I have been experiencing. There is also a Zen quality to the phenomena of understanding that although it appears there are two opposing forces working in everything in the universe, they are in actuality the same parts of one force. The world is one; we simply try to transform it into a duality. Instead of trying to escape a funk or stay in moments of joy we have to realize that they are both present in every moment, every experience; we must learn not to become attached to either state, because if we do, we will suffer from the loss of one and the presence of the other. Like a spinning wheel, we must allow each emotion to take its course and accept that both euphoria and sadness will lead to the blending of them both, and this merging of opposites actually makes up the entire universe. Everything is made up of two opposing forces. It is unwise to try and force a split. So I am happy and I am sad- all the time. I am glad to have learned that this is okay. I will expend less energy trying to escape my funk. Instead, I will enjoy it and see what I can grow in its soil. This post is but one example.

In other news, I am reading a book called Mindful Politics about merging politics and Buddhist practice. It is a collection of essay by people who have experience with this process, people like Thich Nhat Hanh and Jerry Brown.

We are processes not products,” is the line that has captivated my attention the most thus far. The gist of the essays is that we cannot change the world, or our communities until we have freed ourselves from the very things we hate to see in society. You cannot carry anger, fear, and a sense of duality into the world and expect to rid the world of these very same traits. One vital lesson I am learning is that you should enter every argument or situation openly, not with a solution already in mind. This is very difficult for me, because I usually enter a debate with my mind already made up. George Bush is a bastard. Period. No room to argue. But it is this very stubbornness that is blocking up the system. He is both good and bad. My job is to simply see how we can find a way to exist in the same world as he does in peace. This is not easy, but going in knowing he is only bad is not the path toward peace. Trust me, this is just as hard for me to take as it must me for many of you, but I am learning that this is the right path. Whether he is good or bad is irrelevant. I haven’t posted many political posts lately, because I am reevaluating how I look at the world of politics, but I am realizing that it is much harder to comment on the world when you cannot take a side. There is no right or left. There is right and left. The secret is finding a compromise that will allow us to live in peace. I am hoping to learn more about this course in the future.

I am also beginning to recognize that perhaps, the very people I consider enemies (conservative, greedy, ignorant, violent republicans) are actually suffering too like all other beings. They need my love, just as much if not more, than their victims. This is a hard pill to swallow, but we must remember that we are all processes not products, right? I love you Dick Cheney, and I am here to help you find your Buddha nature when and if you are ready. I know that you are suffering from insecurity. I know that you are afraid to truly be yourself because of the environment you grew up in. I know that you wish you could love your daughter because she is gay not even though she is. I know you wish you could love more fully, and so, I want to declare to the world that I love Dick Cheney and want to help him. (I know it is hard to even look at this man, but it is our hatred of him that feeds hatred as a concept. Loving your enemy is the fundemental first step in the non-violence philosophy. Promote non-violence-Love Cheney.)

What else is there to say? I just saw Little Children and loved it. Once again proof this film is proof that we are all broken and that is okay. Being cracked is the reality we face. Broken people are not flawed. This is the way we are, every single one of us. We simply spend our lives fiddling with the pieces. We do not fiddle to fix ourselves; we simply go through the motions of manipulating the broken pieces, because that is how we learn and grow. I want to declare that when I say we are broken, the term is meant to be considered in a positive light. Because if we were not broken, how could we examine each tiny piece? We would be one piece and that is a product, and I think I have made my point: we are processes. Anyway, see this film. It illustrates the complicated nature of the human being in a beautiful way. I have found that art reflects our broken pieces in the best ways possible.

My class is about to start, and I must be getting back to work. My students are turning in some amazing poetry these days. I am not sure if I am teaching them anything or simply showing them the route to the pool of poetry that exists out beyond the_______ (fill in blank). Either way, I love the fact that it is a Tuesday afternoon around 2pm, and I will sit in a room with fifteen thirteen year olds and talk about the ability to convey reality to others.

Later, I will go home play with my daughter, feed her dinner, bathe her, and put her to sleep. I will then crawl into bed and sink into my book. Optimistic of the lesson I will learn there. I will share them with you when I can. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Albert Hammond Jr says:

There's something about you, that I know so well
Tell those questions I have no answers
I wish that I could sit in the sun
I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?


  1. bz- i am going to agree with you :) i have been coming to terms with having a great life and sometimes feeling overwhelming sadness. sadness over things which i have no control- my mom's health, the state of the world, losing the scales from my eyes about the land of my birth- you get the picture. it has been a journey for me to allow myself to grieve- and not push those feelings away. i am now on a journey to allow myself to feel joy again. sometimes i ask myself how i can be truly happy when there is so much misery in the world and our world may not exist the way it is now in a few years if we continue on this path. i don't have an easy answer to that- other than i have to let myself feel some joy in where i am and who i am and what i am doing- or i will implode- and what good does that do anything. anyway, not to ramble but you just summed up so well what i have been thinking. i have been listening to my 'pop candy' too- james blunt. his 'back to bedlam' cd is amazing but i truly love 'tears and rain'- it's my favorite. youtube it and take a listen if you want. as for the poetry- people need a conduit for their creativity- and if you show them different ways- they will use them. young minds are so amazing because they aren't tainted with all of the hang ups that adults have- and their perspective is very different- on many levels. keep up the good work!

    thinking, feeling life
    climbing up and sinking down-
    soaring above free

  2. Much as I respect your right to your beliefs - I could not possibly disagree with them more.

    We all have the ability to choose our emotional responses. Most people choose to allow others, or fate, or circumstance to sway them to one choice or another, but in the end, you choose to be overwhelmed by sadness or happiness. Taking responsibility for one's own actions, including emotions, is one of the most self-freeing acts one can perform, in my own opinion.

  3. We all have the ability to choose our emotional responses. Most people choose to allow others, or fate, or circumstance to sway them to one choice or another, but Taking responsibility for one's own actions, including emotions, is one of the most self-freeing acts one can perform, in my own opinion.

    Sewmouse, I was not saying that we do not choose our emotional responses, but rather, I said that often times choose so enthusiastically that we become attached to one outcome or the other, to the point where it causes us to suffer needlessly. You said, “in the end, you choose to be overwhelmed by sadness or happiness.” Again, I think you choose to become attached to the idea of one or the other. Not many people would choose to be unhappy, so why does it happen? I think that if people saw unhappiness as a natural side of happiness and were not attached to one outcome or the other, it would be easier for them to maneuver through their emotional minefields.

    I completely agree with you when you say, “Taking responsibility for one's own actions, including emotions, is one of the most self-freeing acts one can perform.” The whole point, I feel, is to be mindful of the emotions as they rise, give them the attention they deserve and move on. Often times, I feel people cling to their happiness or depression, afraid to let go. This is not taking responsibility; this is born of attachment.

    Thanks for your comments.