52, the magical age of awareness (lets hope).
My writing and photography has been absent for months in part due to the stress of caring for elderly parents and dealing with hospice. Gritty, physical never-ending work involving fencing, barbwire and driving steel posts into drought hardened dirt in 95-100 degree weather hasn’t helped either. Puncturing blisters, sweat, sand and red clay mixed into a sandpaper per like coating on my skin are not conducive to writing at the end of the day. This combined with changing diapers, monitoring prescriptions with doctors all sucks the energy out of life. The eye-opener for me was hard to describe. A girl whom I loved deeply, who made life magical and was the first woman I ever fell in love with died tragically in an accident as I started college 30+ years ago. This past week her younger sister, experiencing another tragedy reached out to me. That was very strange experience.
But I can share that it made me think about the choices I have made since she died. Why I never married, wanted a family and why God denied me children. And why at the age of 52 having no one to help me with my parents or drive me to a hospital for surgery. All of those things which led me to where I am, none of them are pretty.
Realizing after high school my experiences at Auburn University were an exercise in superficiality. I did the college-boy fraternity thing, the play golf thing, the run wild and drink experiment with drugs thing. Dress impressively, immerse myself in economic opportunity and let my education decision reflect that. This led to being in business and the entrepreneur thing. But I knew inside this was a shallow, hollow way of being. I really knew nothing about what it meant to be alive. People value others by what they could do for them. Opportunities evaluated by what it afforded them. My own habit is letting people use me and my creative work for their own gain. Or as my ex calls it, “letting them steal your thunder”.
Finding the world passionless I quit and sold my business. I spent a year studying woodworking and reading Thoreau. Then graduate school and learning how to draw. Somewhere between architecture, hand planes and wood chisels I learned to listen to the grain of wood, ponder the decades the world spent making what I was seeing shaped in my hands. That’s the moment everything changed. No choices I made subsequent to that realization made any sense. No patrotic belief however misguided ever morally justified.
My working conclusion 52 years in is simplify and strengthen the life force that we all contain. Unlike the tree’s corpse we call “furniture” what we leave behind in death is not clear. Just a hunch and nothing more, but we may just become part of the energy itself. At least the part thats called “consciousness”. What we contribute to that force makes every moment we live meaningful as we collectively determine what the world becomes.
The hard part is organizing life once you realize this, the pragmatic decisions, what you do for income, those people you are close to and how you spend time alone. Life becomes something to explore, not accumulate or rely on material things that insulate me. Moving forward, and what will be the theme of this blog, is understanding what to do to strengthen one’s inner life force. The first step is realizing this can even be a choice is the hard part and that took me 52 years and the regret of losing a first love. I know I am tired of being judged for what I think, not accepted for what I look like. Real spiritual strength is not caring about any of that but being who God made you.
Most can agree any living organism (I am still not sold on the fact soil, air and rocks are not living organisms), has a life force of energy. Chinese tradition refers to this as Qi (pronounced “chee”). Evangelical Christians refer to a Holy Spirit, Indians “Prana”, the Greek philosophers called it Pneuma, Jews call it “Ruach”. Anyone being objective realizes they are all speaking about the same thing. It’s not seeable, not measurable and but definitely felt and it’s influence observed. Assuming this life force is real I am going to experiment with and document my attempt to enhance that connection. My plan and questions I will ask are as follows.
Forest gardening. In addition to eating organically can I develop a fall-winter forest planted garden that can be foraged daily providing fresh greens and root vegetables? The assumption is always a this is in a garden but I am curious whether wild untouched soil rich in a hardwood forest provides better - more absorbable nutrients. Is this healthier even though production might require acres to what would be a 10x20 raised bed? I’m going to focus on quality of nutrients not calories and seek the unseen energy. Nourishing our physical body as it is unaltered with chemicals or GMO foods in a manner that deeply respects this is healthy not just for the physical body but mind.
Barefoot. Steve Jobs determined that going barefoot had therapeutic effects to the body and mind. So I’m going to explore what footware minimally protects my feet but connects me to the earth and follow whats loosely called the “Ancestral Health Movement”. There is a lot of evidence this changes our bodies. If it changes our bodies its reasonable to think it can change our minds. Read Christorpher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run”.
Clothing. I’m going minimal so laugh. Not nudist but surfer shorts, Simple organic cotton and hemp shirts.Try to feel temperature not insulate myself from it. I’m not going to let myself freeze but the idea is to be connected to the biological world around us not create a barrier from it. Feeling the world change moment by moment is something our bodies are designed to do. Dulling these senses down probably dulls other processes we don’t fully understand.Wim Hoff, a marathon runer who runs in snow barefoot has proven our exposure to cold stimulates our immune system and improves the quality of focus and memory.
Practice unconditional love. We tend to allow ourselves to connect to those that fill some need. Most mammals are this way, we should expect ourselves to be no different at an instinct level. Our consciousness or soul as a religious person might describe it, makes us capable of a very different way of being. I want to expand this consciousnesses on a daily basis.
Read others notable thoughts deeply, take notes scribble questions seek out the footnotes and scour the bibliography. The re-read it. My list starts with Nozick and Jung, I will see where they lead me.
Play with animals! There is a reason that most animals , especially mammals developed a language of play. Humans are a anomaly as they culturally believe it is childish. I’m going to make it a point to play with my animals daily.
- Continue asking hard questions. Those being: Does life have meaning? Are there really any objective truths? Is free will even plausible? Are there limits to our abilty to understand things? If so can A.I. remove them? Is the earth’s biological health better off if humans are absent?
So if you are reading this and think I’ve lost it …farewell. I will take a thousand over fifty thousand followers any day. Being on the right path is what counts not how many agree with you. I have a funny feeling that the world is miles away from the right path at the moment.
In sum this is what I know… Life is cruel and magnificent, somehow (if you believe in a higher power) we exist to navigate life’s path. If it has purpose then it can’t be to simply please ourselves.
This is where I am…..at 52.