The Sea Inside

My soul is always rising
with righteous indignation
swelling like the sea with
power and momentum

Impossible to contain or quiet
any attempt feels like an attack
on the very moral fury that
has frothed the foaming waves

Wrestling with water
just adding to the flood of feeling
lashing out at the perceived inner oppression
of my own attempts to foster peace

Internal justification is not enough to quell
the violent current of painful passion
as though a feeling that is valid
must require direct action

Levees of logical pleas create
different ripples of unbridled rage
the audacity of any intention
to hold myself back

You cannot stop the ocean
and there is a sense of pride
in having the courage of conviction
a will made stronger by the moon

But saltwater eats away at the shoreline
and erodes everything that it touches
my brain and body were not made
to endure this endless, stinging submersion

The Density of Suffering

There is this weight
that presses me down
into the thick clay earth
the undercurrent of awareness
of all the souls left unseen
the immensity of the masses
subjected to bone shaking suffering
the surreal recognition of
the world somehow still turning
despite the violence that lurks
just below the surface
the colossal cruelty of humankind
how can a system so monstrous
continue to exist without consequence
how could justice ever hope
to tip the scales back from
what we've collectively done
what we continue to do
the inexplicable gravity of grief
overlooked and unacknowledged
left alone with this deep knowing
an anchor of unbearable anguish
I am helpless to lift from those I love
the gut wrenching screams of billions
kept hidden behind closed doors
cannot distill the poison these sins
spill into every particle of air
apparently no peace can prevail
until we all choke
Be Their Voice – Protect the Innocent Original, 2021

Cheat

I make myself sick
with secrets
deceptions meant to
bring me peace
justifying the ways
I try to cheat
agonizing over lessons
I should have learned
a long time ago
I'm lying to myself
as much if not more
than everyone else
the jolt of exhilaration I feel
when I come out unscathed
pales in comparison
to the wretched fear
that consumes me
in the moments before
why do I keep trying to
outwit the scales of life
to prove karmic justice
does not exist
when I feel it
in the marrow
of my bones

Politics

No one deserves to suffer
I thought this was something
we could all agree on
someone working full-time
should not have to live in poverty
this too, I assumed was an opinion
we would all share with pride
oh, how horrified I am to know the truth
that these thoughts are controversial
that so many actually disagree
there are really people
that think suffering is right and just
when it's others, that is,
never in regard to themselves
because they know the intricate details
of why they made their worst decisions
while looking outward, they assume
steps are taken for shameful reasons
selfishness, laziness, carelessness, and malice
are explanations for other's actions
even though the same acts 
are certainly due to different motivations
by those who lay these heavy accusations
against their fellow men
for some people its very important
to know that someone else is below them
fuel for the fire of their delusion
that despite it all, circumstance, genetics, environment
it was their indominable spirit that overcame
that they are special, strong, resilient
that others simply don't have the will power or desire
to make a better life for themselves
and that they should suffer for their shortcomings
if only as a reminder that life is fair
by some warped definition of the word
it's more important to believe
they earned their good fortune
than to acknowledge
the random, cruel hand of fate
and use their blessings
to lift others up into the light

Sorrowful Sunrise

Let the tide swallow me whole, like morning light through windows. Let that dark water take me home.

Where We Went Wrong – The Hush Sound

The sun slowly rises dispelling the peaceful blackness of night. The stillness, the contentment of mind that lingers on the edge just before consciousness fully reemerges, is stolen in an instant. It is replaced by the heavy weight of memory. It is replaced by the knowledge of the day that came before and the pain that has waited for us patiently throughout the night. It slips back in under half-opened eyelids. It stings like the prickling of so many tears. It throbs in synchronization with the dull ache in my head.

Glancing out into the dawn, snow falls in heavy clumps, coating the earth in a sheet of white. Frail flowers that sprouted too soon suffocate under it’s weight. A few days ago spring had arrived. Now even the weather emphasizes the shift in my personal reality. Winter is not yet over. Tender hopes smothered in harsh contrast with new sorrow, like the creaking skeletal trees against the pure white backdrop.

There is a sharpness of focus that comes with suffering. Pain paints the world in vivid color. Each moment feels crisp and inescapable. There is a sense of complete surrender in despair. Sometimes it feels good to lie down under the wheels of life and let it pass over you without resistance. To accept that there is no escape from the bitter taste of mourning. To submit to the violent pangs of unavoidable loss.

Sorrow seems like a homecoming. Drifting back down to the place where I belong. There is a sense of peace, a strange comfort in that belonging. There is justice in this pain, because I deserve it. It seems my soul is only suited for suffering. Happiness and love are substances that were never mine to hold. They are too slippery in my clumsy fingers. The struggle to hold onto them is a cruelty I can only subject myself to for so long. Now I can finally rest again. I have finally come home to the stillness, to the hollow space at the bottom of everything.

MLK Quotes and Animal Rights

If he were still alive today, Martin Luther King Jr. would be 91 years old. Insane to imagine this man is only one year older than my grandmother. How much more wisdom would we have been able to gain from his presence on this earth had he not been assassinated? What would his opinion be of all that is happening in our world today? I would be so interested to be able to hear Dr. King’s perspective of the animal rights movement. After reading dozens of quotes from his writings and speeches on Monday, I was deeply touched by how many of these statements could be attributed to the oppression of other animals as well as to the oppression of different groups of people.

I’d like to think that because of the obvious similarities between all forms of oppression, he would be a supporter of animal liberation. Yet my cynical side doubts that would actually be the case. He may even take offense to the comparison as so many people seem to do and seek to distance himself from this even less well-received movement. Despite what he may or may not have added to this important conversation, I still think the comments he did make about social justice can and should be applied to the plight of all enslaved and/or subjugated beings.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote is definitely one of my favorites. This expression covers so much of what I feel about society today. Dr. King was a very hopeful man. He hoped against all hope. I do think he believed deep down that we would one day “live together as brothers.” However, I think it’s pretty obvious which end we’ve chosen, and it’s not brotherhood. It is my belief that our selfishness, ignorance, and greed will surely result in us “perishing together as fools.” Whether you want to apply this to the pandemic and our piss poor response or use it to reference our propping up of animal agriculture and its huge influence on climate change, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction, the ending looks the same.

If we can’t give a damn about others enough to stop spreading disease all over the world to suit our own convenience, we will surely perish. If we can’t respect the life and liberty of other beings enough to stop enslaving and killing them for a “yummy flavor” we will most definitely all perish. If it were only the human race that would be affected by the latter demise, I would say “good.” We deserve nothing less. At the very least, I will take comfort in the fact that you cannot get away with such atrocities forever. There will be consequences. And we will soon meet the ultimate consequence for our selfishness, our greed, and our infinite stupidity as a species. It will not be a tragedy either. It will be our due. It will be the ultimate stroke of justice to end our pathetic existence on this world which we do not deserve to be a part of.

A lie cannot live.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s Not Fair

One of the most common and recurring whines I’m sure we’ve all uttered in childhood is, “But it’s not fair!” Only once we’re older to we really realize that life isn’t fair. As children, though, we are told to “play fair” to “share” and things of this nature. We learn the moral value of justice and fairness, expecting the world that taught us these values to actually embody them. It’s no wonder that there is such friction and frustration when we go out into the world only to find that these lessons were all just talk.

I’ve always felt like most people make peace with this inconsistency more easily than I have ever been able to. I constantly feel victimized and cheated by small injustices we all face every day. I become especially exasperated when I think of the injustices of society as a whole. Even when I know that this period in history is a lot more just than it has been in the past, I can’t seem to let go of the idea that it should be better.

I constantly catch myself playing little mind games to even the score when I feel like I’ve been cheated out of money or have been treated unfairly in some way. The absolute madness of Comcast charging me $15 for a “self-installation” fills me with so much anger that I instead force myself to look at it as if the “free” product was what was $15. If something bad happens to me, I think of all the reasons why I must have deserved it. I’m always tallying up the score in strange ways like this in order to make myself feel a situation is more fair than it actually is.

For the longest time, I thought this was an excellent way to handle the injustices of the world. If I can play around with the facts in my head enough that I end up finding some sense of peace then all the better. However, just the other day I began to question this process of mine. Why must I make everything fair? After all, I know full well that life is not fair. Is it really doing myself any favors to pretend otherwise? Maybe instead I should be working on learning to sit with that unfairness.

It also occurred to me today just how hypocritical I have been in this regard, as we all tend to be honestly. We never scream “it’s not fair” when the scale is weighted in our favor. If I find myself on the beneficial side of an unfair arrangement, I feel rather pleased. I don’t feel any need to examine it or balance everything. Yet, if I’m the once short changed I am appalled and outraged. I feel helpless in the face of the big, bad, corrupt, unjust world. When I do something well, I expect to be rewarded in some way by the world. Yet when it comes to all the terrible, selfish things I do, I don’t expect punishment.

Most if not all of our suffering in this life is brought about by reality not living up to our expectations. By finding a way to make things always seem fair in my head, all I’m doing is subtly reinforcing my believe that the world should be fair. I think it’s time that I work towards accepting things even when they aren’t. Eventually there will come a time that no amount of mental effort will allow me to balance the scales of my life. It may sound depressing, but one of my new mantras is going to be “life isn’t fair.” I want to learn to accept this fact so that I am not crippled by my reaction to this part of reality when I inevitably encounter it in the world. Not only will practicing this new mindset of surrender and acceptance help me mitigate my anger at personal as well as societal injustices, it will also help me avoid internalizing a lot of the bad things that happen to me. Just because I experience some type of awful loss, doesn’t mean that I deserved it, nor does it have to be the end of the world, when things don’t go as I think they should.

How to respond to tantrums - Harvard Health

Enneagram Personality Tests

I’ve always loved taking personality tests and reading my horoscope. I’ve never really believed that they were scientific or fully accurate, but like tarot cards, I still think they have value because they reveal to you the way in which you view yourself. This is reflected back to us by what parts we agree with or identify with and which parts we don’t. Besides, everyone likes to learn more about themselves right?

After hearing about the enneagram test on a podcast, I decided to take a free one and see what it had to say and what I may be able to learn about myself from it. This test groups everyone into 9 different personality types. I actually ended up getting identical scores for both types 5 and 1 on one test, with five coming out slightly ahead of 1 on another site’s test. After reading the breakdown of these types, I definitely identify most with the type five description. Now, whether you believe in these types of tests or not, I want to break down my results to explain how regardless of if it’s true, it has allowed me to learn more about myself.

The gist of type 5s are that they love to obtain more and more knowledge. They have a tendency to obsess and isolate because of this. They really prefer to have a large knowledge base before publicly commenting on any topic. Their quest for knowledge stems from a sense that they are lacking something and not as capable as those around them. Their hope is that if they learn enough, they will someday find that missing piece keeping them from integrating with the rest of the world. Their biggest challenge is balancing their personal pursuits and interests with maintaining relationships with other people.

This description fits me pretty perfectly. I believe even in an old post where I listed my values, knowledge was near the top. My intelligence and collection of facts and information is one of the few aspects of myself that I truly take pride in. One of my coworkers has been making a lot of jokes and comments about how smart I am lately and he has no idea how much that really means to me. Despite valuing my intelligence and diligently working to always expand it, I still fear that I am not as smart as I hope I am. Receiving that validation from others is very comforting to me. It is also true that I have a hard time not always putting my private goals and pursuits ahead of spending time with other people and building meaningful relationships.

Reading the description of type 1s actually made me really sad. Basically it says that type 1s are perfectionists. They are unreasonable and often unrealistic standards for everyone in their lives, especially themselves. They have a very strong sense of right and wrong, with little room for any grey areas. They are often irritated, annoyed, and unhappy when the world is not able to live up to their standards of the way things should be. They can be important contributors to change in the world as they are willing to make huge personal sacrifices in the service of what they believe is morally right. While they feel very deeply and are passionate people, they do not express this side of themselves to the world. For this reason, others can perceive them to be cold and unfeeling.

While I do agree that this type fits me like a glove as well, I don’t think it bodes well for me in the grand scheme of things. My one disagreement would be about having unreasonable, unrealistic standards for other people. While I suppose I do expect a lot from people at times, I never really think anyone will be able to meet those expectations, and I don’t hold it against them. However, the same cannot be said for my expectations of myself. I do tend to think that no matter how much I do or how much I improve, it is never enough. Yet, it’s hard for me to even admit that a lot of the standards I set for myself are too high. It feels much more natural to believe that I’m simply not good enough, and that’s the real problem. It feels weird to think of myself as a perfectionist, although other people have told me I am. I just imagine a perfectionist to be someone who is pretty close to perfect in most of what they do. To me, I am so far away from where I want to be, it sounds ridiculous to call myself a perfectionist. I do have a strong (mostly black and white) sense of right and wrong, but I don’t really see myself as a particularly “moral” person. I think I do a lot of very awful things in my own self-interest all the time. I just beat myself up for them later more than someone else might.

With the insight from these two different personality descriptions, I am able to integrate key points to form a clearer image of my strengths and weaknesses as a person and how I might improve my life and relationships. At the very least, it helps me get an idea of the way others perceive me. Granted, a lot of these things I already know about myself, but still it can be helpful to see them reiterated from a third party. As a younger person, or someone who hasn’t done a lot of self-reflection though, this information could be a valuable first step towards understanding yourself.

A few of the things I’ve learned from the enneagram test are firstly, that I am doing enough. I am good enough. I know enough. I shouldn’t be deterred by my high standards and expectations. There’s not anything inherently wrong with having them, as long as I remember that I don’t need to meet them to feel worthy or accepted. If I can overcome my fear of failure and insufficiency, I will be capable of making a truly significant impact on the issues that matter to me. I’ve also learned that it’s important for me to practice stepping out of my mind more regularly and being in the present moment instead of lost in my own inner world.

I encourage you to take a free test yourself here. While this website has a free test, it does not allow you access to as much information about you type results. Once you know your type, I suggest you go to this site to read about your type in more detail. (They have a test, but it isn’t free.) If you decide to take the test, let me know what your type is and whether or not you think it’s an accurate description of your personality. What do you think of these tests overall? Are they accurate and reliable? Yes? No? Does it matter? Would love to hear some feedback. Regardless, I hope you have fun and gain at least a little insight into who you are.

The Enneagram Personality Test: Exploring Your Mind – The Horizon Sun

My Values

I’ve never really taken the time to sit down and really think about what my values are in life. I have always been a very passionate, outspoken person when it comes to my opinions and beliefs though. Today I wanted to get more clear about what exactly it is that matters to me, so that I can better embody and serve those things every day. I’d like to come up with five values to always keep close to my heart as I move through this world.

1. Justice

When I think about values, justice is the first thing that comes to mind. I have always been unable to tolerate injustice. I guess I never really grew out of that phase of childhood where you constantly scream, “It’s not fair!” I’ve learned that life isn’t fair, but that never stopped me from wondering indignantly, why not? I used to be a very patriotic child as well. I was so proud to live in a country which I had been taught valued justice and freedom above all else. When I came to find that actually wasn’t quite an accurate portrayal of America, my patriotism faded, but I held fast to those ideals. Justice is even one of the reasons that I am a vegan. Not only is it horrendously cruel and idiotic to treat animals and the planet the way we do, it is also extremely unjust for us to place our species above all other beings.

1. Non-violence

My next value is one that comes from the Yamas in Yoga philosophy. Non-violence goes farther than simply not physically fighting people. Violence can exist even in small actions. Our words can be violent, the way we treat our bodies, buying animal products, etc. I’m still learning every day how I can better embody the essence of peace and compassion in everything I do.

3. Nature

I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “value,” but for my purposes, I’d also like to include nature among mine. The natural world is the most beautiful, precious thing that has ever or will ever exist. I was lucky enough to grow up with dense woods and a stream practically in my backyard. The happiest moments in my life have all been enjoyed outside among the lush green abundance of this living, breathing world. I believe this is also a dying world due to human interference, but nonetheless I hope to honor and protect it as much as I can while I’m here. I’d at least like to do as little harm as possible. I know I still have a long way to go in this regard. Perhaps one day I will proudly include myself as part of the zero waste community.

4. Creativity

Creativity has always been one of my greatest joys. I have loved to draw, write, and make things from the moment I learned how. There is something so miraculous in the act of making something from nothing. Our ability to imagine and create such a myriad of different things is maybe the only thing I do marvel at about humanity. It is possibly our one redeeming factor. Not only do I love to create, I love to watch others create as well. Few things get me more excited and interested than seeing what other people are able to come up with. It is like being able to see a glimpse of that person’s inner world. I love to be surprised at the fascinating things others make that I would never have thought of. It is such a shame to me to know that some people go their whole lives believing they “aren’t creative.” I believe that everyone is creative by default. Society has unfortunately led us to believe that we must be exceptional at things like drawing, painting, or writing in order to do those things at all. I love to encourage the kids I work with to keep creating even if they feel they aren’t “good at it.” Creativity is about self-expression and enjoyment, not talent.

5. Knowledge

The fifth and final value I want to talk about today is knowledge. Learning and intelligence are two of the most important things in my life. I am always eager to gather more knowledge for myself. I truly believe that the more we know the better, as individuals and as a society. One of my favorite things to do is read. It’s amazing how much I am able to learn and discover from books whether they be fiction or nonfiction. It is also a delight to share any new information I happen to gain with others. It’s unbelievable that no matter how much knowledge I accumulate, there is still an unlimited supply of new things to learn.

——————

For now, these are the five values that I want to focus on. I am hopeful that know that I’ve written them down, I may be able to be more mindful of them as I go about my day. What are your values and why? Do you think you are living by those values? Why or why not? How might you better adhere to your own values in your every day life? Let me know! I would love to hear what kinds of things are most important to you.

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Moral Ambiguity

I have been reading Les Miserables for the last few days. I am incredibly shocked that I never knew it was a book as well as a play until now. I was really missing out. Anyway, I have just finished the chapters detailing Jean Valjean’s (Monsieur Madeleine’s) inner turmoil regarding the right thing to do in the case of his mistaken identity. It is truly a very interesting philosophical question. On the one hand, it seems clearly “right” to clear up the misunderstanding and spare this stranger a fate he does not deserve on your account. However, should Monsieur Madeleine give himself up as Jean Valjean, would not even more people be made to suffer as a result? After all he has practically created his own society. All within that society benefit from his presence and guidance. Not least of which, Fantine, who should surely die without ever seeing her child again if he goes to Arras and interfere with the trial.

This section of Les Miserables really highlights the complexities of morality. The “right” thing to do in life is quite often unclear. I can see why Monsieur Madeleine wrestled with this problem as he did. I still don’t really know what I believe the truly moral decision would be. If it were me (myself being nowhere as upright and honorable as Monsieur Madeleine) I would have allowed the trail to go on. I would have felt terribly guilty, but I would have also felt guilty if I would have decided to leave my community and poor Fantine in order to save a stranger whom by a terrible twist of fate was mistaken for me. In some ways, both decisions are moral. And in other ways both are selfish and unfair.

I am very interested to see how Monsieur’s decision to go to Arras works out in the end. Will his conscious be pacified? Or will he suffer with the consequences wrought on M- sur M- and Fantine? This painful reflection of life’s more difficult moral questions is undoubtably one of the reasons Les Miserables has earned it’s place among the great works of history.

One would hope that merely the resolve to be “good” would be enough. Yet we see that even that does not nullify all of problems laid before us. Sometimes there is no “right” answer. Sometimes no matter what decision you make, someone will be made to suffer because of it. Even the decision not to act can result in grave consequences as in this case.

What a complex, confusing, and often cruel world we live in. There is something truly incredible about seeing that so perfectly reflected in a novel. To be able to hold these heavy problems in your hands. To see the inner struggles of another and know that we are not alone in our own. To have such strong concern and sympathy produced for a fictional character. The written word is an awe-inspiring thing.

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