Saturday, December 17, 2005

Self Knowledge

I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flatter'd its rank breath, nor bow'd
To its idolatries a patient knee,
Nor coin'd my cheek to smiles, nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

I have not loved the world, nor the world me -
But let us part fair foes; I do believe,
Though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things - hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful nor weave
Snares for the failing: I would also deem
O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve;
That two, or one, are almost what they seem -
That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.

-Lord Byron

When I was young I readily identified with Byron’s words from Childe Harold, because I knew myself to be distant from those around me. Although I’ve lost the adversarial posture I once had with the world, my concerns still are rarely those of my peers. I have come to understand that although their thoughts revolve around things such as careers, assets, social standing and politics, mine generally arise from concerns about finding and understanding a path of righteousness. I carry with me idealistic baggage of how things ought to be, but my actions are no different than those who do not. I have lived a selfish life no different than those who have spent their years accumulating wealth, or following fashion trends. Sadly, I’ve held disdain for those whose apparent concern for the world goes no further than their front door. Who am I to pass such judgment? Not only is my vision incomplete but I’ve been mistaken as to its vantage point. I feel as though I have let many opportunities to put portions of the world back in order, slip though my hands. How many times have I’ve walked away from people whose story I felt uncompelled to hear because my self centered high mindedness. How many times have I knowingly caused harm to others because of my arrogance? How many times have I said too much and done too little? The lens through which I view the world has seen its reflection. Too long I’ve dwelt in the comfort of my mind, avoiding that which is uncomfortable. Too often my heart has stood silently in the shadows witnessing the wrestling match between my intellect and my instinct. Have I deluded myself into thinking that my beliefs have an intrinsic value outside of my mind?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Stomach ache

This morning I woke up at 5:30am with a pain in my stomach. I remained in bed, trying to figure out what was causing the pain, of course I thought it might be something I ate the night before. All I had was a cheese sandwich and some french fries from a diner in Philly and I was feeling fine when I went to bed several hours after consuming the meal, so I doubted that it was food poisoning. It must be something else I thought to myself. I figured I would do extra bokken strikes to try and work out what ever it was that I was feeling. Usually my energy levels are low when I wake up so I practice my suburi and it has a way of invigorating my body and mind, so since I was feeling ill this morning I figured that I would practiced an extra two hundred strikes. The bokken strikes woke me up but the knot in my stomach still persisted. I bathed and prepared a breakfast but had no appetite to eat. I went downstairs to study until the library opened, then walked to the library and continued my studies. In the afternoon I called my fiance hoping that talking with her would make me feel better, but the conversation was strained and ended somewhat abruptly. It was as if I hadn't had the energy to carry a conversation and was simply going through the motions without much thought, I couldn't really understand what was being communicated. I got back to my studies and started thinking about what I was feeling, and it hit me. I realized that my mind had been so involved in my preparation for my exams that I lost the connection with the world around me. This morning when I awoke I was aware of the pain in my stomach but my thoughts were about how it would effect my studying for the day, when I made breakfast the food was not appealing because I was to busy thinking of my studies to realize the value and pleasure of eating a home cooked meal. When I was speaking with my fiance my mind was on my studies and how the time speaking with her might be better spent studying. In all the instances I lost touch with reality that there is nothing more in life than that which is in front of me. Even as I write this I could be spending the time studying but I now understand that in order to live life I've got to stop worrying about things and just pay attention to what I'm doing.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The first snow of winter

In my new home town the first snow of winter has fallen. It is an extraordinary experience to wake up in the morning to a city blanketed in white powder. Fresh snow has a therapeutic effect, it has the ability to make even the most derelict of cityscapes into a soft wonderland. With the beauty of snow comes the harsh reality of winter. The homeless, the weak, the old and infirm are all in a risk of elevated harm that comes with the snow. In the animal world winter is trial for which only the strong and well conditioned survive, this strengthens the species for continued survival against future winters, just as a cunning fox guarantees the proliferation of cunning rabbits. Unlike the animal world, we do not have predators to contend with, and the survival of our species is not at risk with the seasonal changes, so what benefit can we derive with the coming of winter? Let me suggest that winter can be seen as a test of our humanity. It gives us an opportunity to reach out and help those who may need the help, it can allow us to demonstrate that which defines us as human. Whether it's a monetary contribution, a donation of time, or the giving of additional respect and courtesy to those who are less fortunate, the necessity of compassion should not be underestimated, nor should the benefits.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On a train

I’ve boarded a train that will take me to visit my sister in NY, on the train I saw some kids that reminded me of myself. I wondered what the future would bring them and what they might bring the future. These are my thoughts.

When I was young I used to get a pleasure out of offending or shocking people, in part it was due to my desire to gain attention. My hunger was fueled by the sense of loneliness I had as a kid, my mother laden with the burdens of raising four children alone was always busy and my father was absent, except for the occasional weekend visit. My brothers were so distant in age that my connection with them was tenuous and my sisters, were my sisters, and to a young boy they were not the ideal play friends and besides they had one another. Because of various situations my family moved around quite a bit, often I would be made to change schools, which made my ability to make good friends difficult. I was an ill behaved youth, and for a time I fell in with the “wrong” crowd because they gave me a sense of belonging and attention that I felt I had been missing. I noticed that they too were all products of missing parents and unorthodox upbringings. My history was the tamest of the group, their parents where drug addicts, spousal abusers, criminals etc… Often our conversations would revolve around how difficult we had it compared to others. In retrospect we often overlooked what we had that was good, like our health, opportunities for education, and the fact that our basic needs were met. Our society’s fetish with material wealth and extravagance has made people forget or fail to recognize the importance of the immaterial and mundane. It has taken me a long time to understand this. In my group of friends at the time there was an underlying sense of anger for not having a “regular” life. That anger manifested itself in antisocial and criminal behavior. I was fortunate enough to have had the seed of military service planted in my mind as a young child, so instead of diving into the acts of self destruction that my friends were doing I chose the path of military service. In the military I strove for attention and recognition, not by offending or shocking people but by leading as an example of military discipline, I conditioned my body and character to exude the desired military traits. But what was at the heart of this desire for attention? Was it a need to be recognized by others in order to validate my own existence, to affirm my uncertain choices, to quite my fears? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is fine to be recognized for doing things, but that the recognition should not be the prime reason for doing them. The sooner we can shed our desires for seeking attention and recognition for their own sake, the sooner we can focus on doing things that are genuine. What’s genuine? I think the answer to this question must be arrived at independently for it to be of any value.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parting Thoughts

Below is something I wrote when I left my Aikido Dojo. For those who don't know Aikido, is a martial art that strives to achieve balance, like all things in life its purpose is that which the practitioner ascribes. A "Gasshaku" is like a training retreat or period of intense study, "Uke" is the person who is having a technique applied to, "Nage" is the person applying a technique, a "Dojo" is a training hall, and the word "Aikido" can be translated to mean "The way of harmonizing universal energy".

Parting thoughts I’d Like To Share

For the past 18 months I’ve been given a gift from each of my training partners. I cannot underscore enough the deep appreciation that I have for all of you. If I would have to categorize the most valuable thing I’ve learned while training at the Aikido Institute it would be the knowledge of who I am within the context of the Dojo, which in itself is a reflection of society. All of you have imparted knowingly and unknowingly lessons to me in patience, attention, communication and humility. Few training days have gone by where I didn’t realize or was shown how I could improve on my character. The technical aspects of moving with grace and power are what brought me to the door. They appealed to my lower self, the aspect of my identity that seeks to look good, have control and gain power. At first this was my only motivation. But something gradually changed. I began to recognize something that was of greater value in the daily training. This realization began last year when I was sweating it out and getting thrown around at the Memorial Day Gasshaku. I noticed that within the transaction between Uke and Nage something was being communicated. The information was transmitted in the various amounts (and absence of) tension, resistance and power during the execution of techniques (this is a poor explanation but I hope you get the point). I began to feel what I believe to be my partner’s animus, a clear sense of who they were at that point in time. I’m sure many of you have made similar discoveries. Over repeated transactions with the same people I began to recognize patterns in the information they transmitted, I believe that to be their true character. Observing this made me reflect more upon my own self and how I could improve my techniques to be something I’d be grateful to receive. The Dojo is a special place, it is unlike the rest of the city where we can hide behind insincere words and actions. On the mat sincerity can easily be discerned, not by the eye or ear but by the heart. Over the past 18 months my technical abilities have gone from rough to less rough, but more importantly I have been taught an invaluable life lesson.

Thank you all,

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My breathing meditation

As a high school student I attended a seminar on alter states of consciousness. I recall clearly the frigid motorcycle ride from where I was living in Martinez to Berkeley. At that seminar I learned how to enter a state of self-hypnosis. At the time I was also very much into lifting weights, like most young men I wanted to be big and strong. You may be asking yourself what in the world do these two things have in common. It's actually very simple. One of the keys to the techniques I learned while attending the seminar was how to breath deeply without tensing up. I actually discovered the technique on my own while lifting weights in the high school gym. After high school I entered the Marine Corps where I applied the same technique to running, with the exception that my breathing would be to a specific cadence, step-inhale-step-inhale-step-exhale-step-exhale. I was certain to always create a very low sound with each exhale, the sound would allow me to focus on the breaths and take my mind away from the exhaustion and pain I might be experiencing. Once I left active duty I started my academic career and one winter a friend and I got jobs at a ski resort, I became grossly involved in snowboarding and once again I used the same breathing technique when carving the snow. My best memories of snowboarding are when my mind, my breath and my body were moving in unison down the hill, during these experience's I would set a rhythm in my mind and move my body and breath to that rhythm. What great fun it was.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I don't know.

The details of last night are slowly coming back to me, I spoke with my girlfriend early in the evening, cooked a dinner of mashed potatoes and green beans, did some studying and light reading, performed my bokken strikes and began my breathing mediation as I have been doing for the past several weeks before falling asleep. But something was different, something happened that was unique. As usual with my breathing meditation my physical body entered the usual state of relaxation and my consciousness began to settle. The only thoughts in my mind were of breathing in the universe and breathing out the universe and the only stimulus I encountered was the sound of the air rushing into my nostrils. The tactile feeling of my body started to fade as superfluous thoughts of the day diminished. It was at this point that my experience departed from the norm.

Before going any further let me preface this with the fact that I was most likely asleep by this point as I often do fall asleep while I mediate, the only difference is that I usually don’t have dreams that are so vivid and rich. Also this is the first time I've ever been able to clearly recall the transition from being awake to being asleep.

As I lay in my meditative state with my eyes closed I started to feel as if I was being reoriented physically, it was if I were slowly rotating and my head was the axis point. I didn’t want to break the experience by opening my eyes so I kept them closed. I may have been a little anxious of the situation because I developed a sense that someone familiar was beside me which was comforting and peculiar because I didn’t know who it was. I could still hear the air as I breathed in and I could feel the coldness in my nostrils caused by the influx, but it was more of a detached feeling than before. A transition occurred and I felt as though I was young boy on my father’s sailboat, a 34 foot sloop aptly named “Yesterday’s Dream”. I could hear, see and feel the greenish bay water gently striking against the ship’s hull while the bow cut softy through the waves. I had the feeling as though my dad was on the boat, but I don’t recall seeing him. I actually don’t recall seeing anyone, not even myself. I felt as if I were a detached observer of the solitary sailboat as it made its way across the bay. My perception gradually changed from the boat to the horizon, it was the San Francisco bay, with the exception that the coastal areas and surrounding hills were lush with greenery, absent were the bridges and buildings which are a regular feature. Although the situation was odd, I felt a familiar comfort and peacefulness through out the experience. The experience of time passing while on the boat is most perplexing, because I feel as though and have the memory of sailing across the bay for a few days, but not once did the sun set and the trip usually can be accomplished in an afternoon. What is most hard for me to reconcile about the sequence of events is that the memory of being on the boat is just as fresh and real in my mind as the hours I spent studying this afternoon at a cafĂ© in downtown Philadelphia.

How can we differentiate memories of dreams from memories of waking life? I know that I haven’t been on my dad’s boat for several years and that I will never see the San Francisco bay area in the condition I discribed above. But the experience seems too real to not take notice of. I’m sure that the memory of it will eventually fade away like all my memories do, only to be partially recalled when I look at this entry someday in the future. I don’t think I’ll ever make sense of what happened, and I’m not in a rush to either, because I when I woke up this morning I felt great and my mind was filled with beautiful thoughts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


If time is infinite and the number of sequential events is infinite, then wouldn't it be correct to say that every sequential event (including the absence of a sequential event) will occure, has occured, and is occuring?

If time is finite can the amount of sequential events be infinite?

If time is infinite can the number of sequential events be finite if so, would that mean that sequential events repeat themselves in the exact same manner over time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Daily Routine

Wake up 7:00am
300 Bokken Strikes
Brush Teeth
Walk to Campus 8:00am
Attend Class
Walk home
Lunch 12:00pm
Walk to Campus
Walk Home
Dinner 5:00pm
Walk to Subway
Subway to Philadelphia 6:00pm
Subway to Home 9:00pm
Walk home
Call Girlfriend 12:00am
Brush Teeth
100 Bokken Strikes
Breathing Meditation
Sleep 1:00am

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I spent the past weekend enjoying the company of my family and friends. On Saturday night my mother cooked dinner, a Herculean task as there was eleven people in all. We reminisced about the past and spoke of our future plans. The conversation was light and hardy and as with all of our family gatherings there were many laughs and smiles. After dinner the topic of my blog came up, a laptop was pulled out and several of my siblings read it for the first time. It appears that my memory is faulted, and that in my post "Fear Fear", I painted one of my brothers as being misguided in trying to teach me to swim. The real culprit that threw me in the pool and created my water phobia was in fact the same guy I punched in the groin in my post "My last day as a twenty something". Whether or not I was thrown in the pool after the punch in question could not be determined, but in either case I think both incidents can be chalked up to karma.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Is this me?

A friend passed me a link to a personality test ( , I think it's similar to a Meyers Briggs test. I scored as an INFJ, below is a discription of this personality type.

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists -- INFJs gravitate toward such a role -- are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.

INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of 'poetic justice' is appealing to the INFJ.

"There's something rotten in Denmark." Accurately suspicious about others' motives, INFJs are not easily led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time. Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.

INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately.

Writing, counseling, public service and even politics are areas where INFJs frequently find their niche.


Monday, October 03, 2005


Last week I got a haircut down the street. It was just your regular run of the mill barbershop complete with a rotating red and white poll. I wasn't expecting much, just the standard trim. No one was in the shop except for a solitary barber and a small color TV. I sat down for my haircut and we talked a bit about the city and how it's been going through a revitalization, he would speak a few words to me in Spanish and I would answer in English. He keyed in on this and asked about my background and we started talking about our families. He told me about his thirty four year old son who had died four day's prior after a four-year battle with cancer. I was speechless. The only thing I could do was to ask what his son's name was. He told me, and then showed me a picture. His son was not much older than I, and bared an uncanny resemblance to a friend back home. He shared the details of his son's life and how he's been trying to cope with the loss. I could see the pain in his eyes, hear it in his voice and feel it in my heart. The haircut was finnished, but I stayed and listened. The helplessness was almost unbearable. I searched my soul for something to say but found nothing. The more he spoke the more I could feel the rawness of his grief. He tried to maintain his composure and I pretended not to notice the tears. It ended in silence with an exchange of money. I shook his hand and gave him a hug in an attempt to close what I had opened. Trying to maintain my own composure I walked home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fear fear.

How many times have you said to yourself, "I won't do this because I'm afraid of that"? I know I've said it a few times. When I was in junior high school I used to be horribly afraid of the water, a result of my brother's well intentioned but misguided attempt at teaching me to swim the old fashion way (a.k.a. the sink or swim method). It was a deep-rooted fear that kept me aware of even a bathtub's depth. But one day I overcame it, not because of courage or bravery, but because I was more afraid of something else, the prospect of being ridiculed by my peers during the freshman swim class. To a thirteen-year-old boy, what could be more frightening? So the summer before I entered high school, I allowed a larger fear to motivate me to overcome a smaller fear. But it was too late. By that time I had already missed out on many summers at the beach, or on the lakeshores where I would confine myself to a shallow prison. Our family vacation in Mexico I spent in the confines of a hotel swimming pool not more than twenty yards from the Pacific ocean, all while my siblings frolicked in the warm mexican surf. During the summer trips to Lake Tahoe I would sit at the shore watching my family swim freely in the pristine waters. Those days are long past, but I still confront fear everyday. The only difference being that I now have knowledge of the greatest fear.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I wish I had some insight to leave on this blog today. I'm simply reading and listening to music. The weather outside and inside is beautiful.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Enter the eye twitch.

About a year or two ago I was under a great deal of stress, not just the run of the mill, "someone key'd my car" type of stress. The type of stress that when you go to bed at night (if you can sleep) you wake up in the same exact position and your muscles are still tensed up. There I was, all stressed out and for some funny reason I developed an annoying eye twitch. This thing bugged the hell out of me and it had me worried. What if it progressed and my whole face started to go into spasms, I’d be screwed. My fear of having some sort of nervous disorder led me to seek the help of a qualified professional. I went to see a doctor, actually a doctor of law, but he was more like a psychiatrist. I’d tell him my problems then he’d tell me his and I’d always walk away feeling better. So I walked into his office and I told him that was under an inordinate amount of stress and that I developed an eye twitch that will not go away. He smiled and said, “ahh… the eye twitch. Mine started back in law school and it’s been with me ever since” then he gently rubbed his left eyebrow. I couldn’t believe my ears. This freaking thing is going to be with me for life. He continued, “it’ll grow on you and on the days when it’s not there you’ll miss it.” At that moment it started twitching. I think it sensed a kindred spirit, or the stress of being disfigured brought it out. Strangely enough I saw my friends left eye begin twitch also, it was as if they were communicating. Fortunately, I was able to work through my stressful situation and the twitch went back to where it came from. Now, I’m in law school and I’m waiting for it to make an appearance. So far nothing, but then again, it’s only the third week.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My last day as a twenty something.

In two hours the world will have seen the last of Fred the twenty something. I'll now be the Fred the thirty something. Who would have thought I would have made it this far. It seems like it was yesterday when my I punched my mom's Swedish boyfriend in the groin. I was five years old and they were horsing around. He was holding one of her legs up and she was hopping around on the other to keep her balance. I thought my mom was in distress, so I charged up to the guy like I was the bionic man. I put all 40 pounds of kindergarten strength and inertia into my little fist and let it go with a vengeance. Needless to say he let go of my mom and coughed up a testicle. Why do I bring up this story you ask. It's actually one of my first memories and it's illustrative of my love for my mother. Although tomorrow is my birthday and cause for celebration, the person who really deserves recognition and celebration is my mother. Not only did she go through nine months of hell, several hours of extreme pain followed by 18 years of hardship, she did it all while teaching me about life. It may have taken me years to recognize the lessons she taught, but they were there. So what ever your impressions are of me and any blessings or goodwill you'd like to direct towards me, please forward them to my mother.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good thing I'm not in med school

These are two of my favorite jokes, they are entirely acceptable when told at the dinner table and I happen to be the only person there. I'm putting these up because my good friends have written to me pointing out that I've gone off the deep end. I guess by looking at my earlier posts one could say that I'm well on my way if not already there.

A man walks into a doctor’s office wearing nothing but Saran-Wrap wrapped around his torso. The doctor looks at him from head to toe and says, "I clearly see you're nuts"

Another man walks into the same doctors office and says, "I'm a teepee, I'm a wigwam, I'm a teepee, I'm a wigwam” The doctor ponders this a second and says, "I see you're problem, your two tents"

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Might makes ...

Today in class we discussed authority and the underlying theory that, "might makes right". From my limited understanding it can be boiled down to this. A governing entity can exert authority (might) over the physical body of people or their property in their geographic area of control to establish order (right). When power is exerted in this manner it is considered legitimate. An example of illegitimate authority would be if the King of France told the people of England that they can't eat fish on Fridays. Since the King of France has no means of enforcing the law on the people of England then his authority is deemed illegitimate. But if the King of England proclaimed that fish on Friday was a high crime, and could send to the stockades persons caught eating herring with their Friday tea, then the King of England's proclamation would be considered legitimate. Essentially the act of enforceability is what separates legitimate and illegitimate displays of authority.

Now comes the great question which I'm sure has plagued many philosophers and first year law students such as myself, how does "rightness" come into play? Should the maxim, "might makes right" be changed to, "might makes enforceability, so do it or else". If an institution has dominion over my body and property, does that make it's laws and actions "right". Of course not, everyone knows that "rightness" is painfully subjective. So then what are we left with? Can we legitimately decide on our own, absent institutional powers, what is "right"? If legitimacy rests on enforceability, then who (or what) has the greatest ability to regulate our actions?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Good v. Evil, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)

There are those who like to look at the world as being influenced by a struggle between Good and Evil, some even take it a step further and prescribe "forces" to these two words. We've all heard the terms being used by the pundits, politicos and holy persons on all sides. If I had a dime each time they were spoken, written or otherwise transmitted to me I'd have a lot of change, but if I had a dime for every time someone has taken the time to explained to me what Good is or what Evil is, I'd hardly have enough for a cup of coffee. Who or what has the authority to decide? It is easy to scoff at such an elementary question regarding the meaning of Good and Evil, which is why I believe it is often overlooked. But if you’re living your life while seeking and avoiding these things wouldn’t it be wise to explore their meaning to the greatest of depths? For all of our benefit do not turn it into a meaningless philosophical exercise, but continually hold your ideas of Good and Evil up against your own life. How ever brutal it may be don’t stop asking yourself, “why?”

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Are you ready?

"I'm getting ready for oblivion" was one of the last things my father said before his death. He was on his deathbed and in less than a day he would be gone. My brothers and sisters had gathered at my aunt’s home to comfort my father in his last hours. His body and spirit were separating before us. Our emotions ebbed and flowed as he wandered in and out of our world. That afternoon he kept repeating to himself in a low soft voice, "I'm getting ready". At the time I didn’t have the courage to question him or to ask anything of him. But my sister who had always had an insatiable curiosity asked, "What are you getting ready for" and he answered.

In that twilight hour before he departed from the form in which I grew to know and love him. He proceeded to ready himself for the inevitable. I stopped thinking along time ago of what it meant to prepare oneself for the oblivion. The only meaningful way to prepare for it, is to live.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the beginning there was the Word.

Before night and day
before good and evil
before form and meaning
before logic and chaos
before you and I
stands the Truth.