Back to Basics

In an earlier post, I wrote that most people learn to see the world from the ideas they’re taught, instead of “the undeniable aspects of their own experience.”

Yes, there are undeniable aspects of our experience. Do you want to explore what’s undeniable, what’s real, what’s unquestionable? Do you want to get past the crap that has been shoveled into your head since you were a child? Want to see the world, its wonders, and all the people in it afresh? Are you sure? Don’t answer too quickly. Courage is required.

Because when you learn to look at the world and not your thoughts about the world, it might be surprising. And when you learn to look at yourself instead of your thoughts about yourself, it might be more than surprising. It might even be frightening. Or not. But you won’t know until you look. Hence, the requirement of courage.

This has been known for millenia. According to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus cautions:

Whoever searches
must continue to search
until they find.
When they find,
they will be disturbed.
And being disturbed, they will marvel
and will reign over All.
—Thomas 2

Purpose

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m beginning to have a renewed sense of purpose after three-and-a-half years of not really having one. At that time, I had an momentary experience of nothingness, which I’ve called “the suck” or “the empty ​​​​holodeck.” It not only shattered my concepts of God, but also left me without a sense of purpose.

The experience was freeing in some ways: I felt free from being watched by an omnipresent eye in the sky, and it completely blew away what I call “the personal metaphor”—thinking of God as a “person” in some way, however abstract, with desires and feelings similar at some level to ours. Also gone was the assumption that the world was “real,” in the ultimate sense. The only thing left was that I still seem to be “here” (whatever that means), and that I still experience the appearance of a world around me. What I had in place of “God” and “the world” was a mystery: what causes the experience of there being a world? What does all this come from?

And though that was a bit disorienting, it was definitely freeing. It cleared my head by rendering almost every religious and philosophical debate moot, except for the few things that really matter, but which can’t be answered by the mind, anyway.

Religion was cleared away in a instant, with certainty, such that whenever I hear any traditional appeal to higher authority; “the Bible says…”, “the Church teaches…”, “God wants…”, I have to smile (or I have to remind myself to smile!) and remember that almost everyone naturally bases their fundamental assumptions on memes they’re taught, rather than the undeniable aspects of their own experience.

(On the other hand, don’t think I became an atheist. To me, the popular atheists of today have a pathological lack of curiosity and might as well be dead when it comes to investigating reality. Dismissing literalistic interpretations of sacred texts is child’s play, but where is the interest in the big questions? What causes the universe to appear? What caused the Big Bang?)

So how does this all relate to me losing my sense of purpose? Simple. I had found my purpose in my beliefs, and when my beliefs were gone, my purpose went, too. Hence, “the suck.” So for more than three years, I’ve been drifting in a sense. Now, that isn’t as bad as it might sound. I’ve generally been happy, only rarely depressed. But something has been missing; I’ve felt a lack of motivation, certainty, purpose. It felt a little bit like I was in a fog, because I couldn’t find my “purpose” or “destiny,” and had a feeling that I needed that to be really happy.

I’ve recently started seeing things a bit differently: that not having a predetermined purpose means freedom! There is nothing written anywhere in the cosmos that declares “Jon Zuck is to be such-and-such and do this or that.”

I am free to create and choose a purpose, follow it, change it, resist it, not have one, whatever, but I definitely feel more rooted and alive with purpose than without.

One thing that’s coming into focus as a part of my purpose now, is a desire to help improve the world where people are suffering. Years ago, I was active in Amnesty International as a “Freedom Writer,” petitioning dictators around the world for the release of prisoners of conscience. Then, for several years while I concentrated on the inner quest, I only supported Amnesty financially. Now, I’m wanting to be more active again in influencing this world I’m experiencing, and I’m getting a bit more active with Amnesty again.

A few updates

Sorry for my long absence. Really, I am.  A lot has been going on:

  • I lost Talbot in late April.  He was hit by a car, and I felt so bad about his death, that I really couldn’t write about it then.
  • I went to the US Esperanto Congress in St. Louis and had a wonderful time, and made some new friends.
  • I visited my Dad, and helped initiate him into the world of the Internet, the Mac and the iPhone.  In turn, he gave me an iPhone, and taught me a bit about riding motorcycles.
  • I’ve begun a new approach, (yes, again!) to my weight-loss goals.  I’m using The Gabriel Method and I Can Make You Thin together, listening to both CDs daily. This is quite a bit different from any other approach I’ve tried, as the focus is on re-training appetite itself and getting the body to want to be thin, shifting the burden from the conscious mind to the subconscious. If you like, you can follow my progress on my reviews at Amazon.com.
  • I haven’t actually been completely silent on the interWebs. I twitter.  If you’d like to follow me, I’m frimmin on Twitter. (Big surprise, huh?) However, don’t expect very exciting tweets from me.  I mostly use it as a public IM with friends.
  • I’ve taken up geocaching.  It’s cool that the information age is giving birth to some new hobbies that take you outdoors.
  • After 3½ years of spiritually floundering, I’m discovering a renewed sense of purpose. More about that in my next post.

Re-Centering

A good friend of mine told me that my mother’s death would change me. He was right.

I’ve found that I’m re-prioritizing things in my life. I’m wanting to integrate into my life more of the things that I’ve neglected and strike a better balance. One of those areas is the body. Seeing death up close has reminded me that this body only lasts a relatively short time under the best of circumstances, and I’ve not been giving mine the best. So in addition to my semi-vegan diet, I’m exercising more, and I’m currently in training for a 5k run in early May. (Man, have I got a long way to go!)

But things are already progressing well. I now can run 1600 meters (that’s a mile for my fellow Americans) without pausing or feeling exhausted, and I’m getting a little bit closer to getting back into shape every day.

I’ve also become aware of how much of my life has been spent sitting on my butt in front of computer screens. I really want to reduce that a bit. I’m not talking about changing my work, but I might be talking about changing my play. Parkour, anyone? Of course, I know I’m not ready for that yet. (Emphasis on yet.)

Her Passing

My mom passed away Sunday evening. She had been hanging on, despite the fact that all of us had individually encouraged her to let go. However, when all three of us–my brother, father and myself–did so together, and assured her that nothing, not even death, can break our bond to her, she left quickly.

My brother and father had to take a phone call in another room, while I sat by her bed, held her hand and sang to her. While I was singing The Sloop John B., she quietly stopped breathing.

I want to go home
Just let me go home,
I feel so broke up,
I wanna go home.

Please keep my family in your prayers.

Thanks.

My Mom

My mother is dying. Although I try to be very personal and open on my blog, this is something I haven’t wanted to put out there till now. She’s been very sick for the better part of a year now, often in great pain, and in and out of the hospital several times. She’s made her wishes known that she wants to die naturally without artificial life support, and we’re respecting that. She’s coming home tomorrow.

I had the good fortune to visit her a week ago during her last, short recovery. We had some good times together and I am so grateful I had the chance to say goodbye while she was conscious and lucid. But just four days later, things changed dramatically. The doctors today said she probably has less than a week.

If this request resonates with you, please pray for my mom, Corrinne, that her transition may be painless. And also please pray for my dad, Lloyd, and my brother, Bob, and myself. This is a difficult time. Thank you.

My Vegan Trial

Today is the last day of a 21-day trial of a vegan diet.  Overall, it was far easier and more satisfying than I expected it to be.  In fact, there was only one day in which I was really disapponited I couldn’t eat something non-vegan; that was my boss brought in some delicious muffins his fiancée made.

Why did I do this? I needed to change some things in my life desperately.  I began the year with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high LDL cholesterol. I’ve been obese for many years now.  I need to change and obviously, everything that I’d tried before wasn’t working.

I can verify that I’ve lost six pounds, and that my blood pressure has gone down significantly, and I expect that the other numbers have as well. My energy has been higher, my thinking clearer, and I’ve had less a tendency to “crash” when I get home after work.

Besides health, another thing that interested me in a vegan diet are the environmental benefits.   The overwhelming amount of grain grown in the world (not just the US) is fed to livestock.  If you think that beef cows graze grass on farmer Jone’s ranch, the reality has been quite different for a long time. I’ve known that the deforestation of the Amazon has been caused by farmers burning trees to create more farmland, but I didn’t know until recently that that great rainforest is being burned mostly to grow grain for beef cows.

In 2006 a United Nations study affirmed that raising livestock for food contributes to massive deforestation and climate change. If the existing farmland of the world were re-purposed to feed humans instead of cows, pigs, and poultry, not only would be there far more food than we need, but we’d soon be converting vast quantities of it back to its natural state.

So, am I going to stay vegan from now on? Probably not in the strictest sense.  I’m not an absolutist.  I might have some dairy now and then, fish from time to time,  and meat occasionally. But I’ve no doubt that my daily meat and dairy habit is over, and good riddance.  I feel better than I have in a long time.

Buddy



 


Last Monday, I lost Buddy. Apparently he was jumping from a tall wooden fence, caught his paw on a shorter, chain-link fence, lost his balance and broke his neck. I’m certain I found him only a few minutes after he fell.

Other than a instant of having a cut paw, I don’t think he felt any pain. I, on the other hand, felt quite a bit.

Simply put, it tore my heart out to lose him.  I cried a river the night I found him, and when I buried him the next day. But even though he’d be alive still if I hadn’t start letting him out six weeks earlier, I know I made the right decision. The last six weeks of his short life were simply packed with joy.

Buddy

Remember when you came to me,
Barely more than a kitten?

Remember when you were at first frightened
of the big black cat in your new home?
And how soon you became friends and brothers?

Remember your aikido matches on the living room rug?
Your daily lessons with Talbot,
Throwing you as you’d try to lunge at him unseen?
You a white blur, him, a black,
together a yin and yang of fun and fight.

Remember how you enjoyed sleeping next to me
And telling me that when the sun comes up,
I should too?

Remember the massages I gave you when I came home?
Kneading the loose skin between your shoulders,
putting my hand on your back
and beaming all the love in the world to you?

Remember discovering how wonderfully warm a seat
my monitor was,
with the benefit of putting you in petting reach
while I surfed the Web?

Remember rocketing and ricocheting from room to room,
inviting Talbot and me to the chase?

Remember watching the great outdoors on the windowsill with Talbot?

Remember when you decided to seize your freedom
by breaking the window screens?

Remember the first time I let you run and play outside?
How I told you to be careful? How worried I was?

Remember jumping and landing vertical on tree trunks?

Remember the food you killed and brought home to me?
Four squirrels and a pigeon, Buddy, mighty hunter.

Remember how the neighbors laughed
to see you come running at my call?

Remember when you were kidnapped by a do-gooder
who thought you were lost?

Remember how you left, jumping off a fence, and onto a cloud?

I will never forget.

Bonan nokton, mia kara katetĉjo.