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.