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January 11, 2011 / Daniel Fox

The Poetic Journey

A few weeks ago I dusted off my old songwriting hobby to see what would come out of me at this stage of life.

What I found was that my predilection for precise language made me a shitty poet. I wanted to write the most accurate words I could to describe the ideas the songs were exploring. What came out were preachy, jagged words that seemed to be written by a 60 year old autistic engineer.

I only realized this when, while making up a yet-to-exist second verse on the fly, the line “My heart will be a graveyard for your ghost” came out of my mouth. I recorded it, but it bothered me to no end.

Heart? Graveyard? Ghost?! What the hell? And the language is not even all that floofy, but still.

I was irritated, but why I was irritated wasn’t obvious for me. So I sat on it for a few days.

BEING RIGHT
First of all, I noticed that I have this driving desire to be right. I’ve found that the more accurate my words are, the more I can cover my ass if I get called out for a potential misunderstanding of an idea.

There’s something so satisfying about being right. It’s not satisfying on the deepest level, but on the level of ego and mind. Few things in my daily routine match the dopamine release and self-satisfaction of RIGHTNESS.

But that dopamine release isn’t from the accuracy of an answer. It’s a smug disposition toward the vast mysteries of the world and the wonderful complexities inside other people.

The disposition of knowing the answer, keeps the most childish parts of me alive. I become the 8 year old who is just learning the elusive concepts of right and wrong and who has not yet grasped the difficult complexities of life and the plethora of motives that drive our behavior.

CONCLUSIONS ARE A DIME A DOZEN
What I want is for my disposition toward questions to be that of a journey. For me, the journey lives in something akin to poetry. The poetic way has the liberty raise more questions and avoid  the most direct route. It can waste time, be confusing as hell, open to misinterpretations, and for certain, alienate the black and white thinkers around you.

In a day when we self-select into our chosen media outlets, social circles, books, blogs and hidden Facebook friends – we’re in more control than ever of the world we want to see. We can choose how concrete we want it to be and we can choose how much mystery we can accommodate.

I’ll raise a glass and drink to raising my tolerance for poetry and mystery and write a drinking song along the way just for fun.

January 1, 2011 / Daniel Fox

2011

My goal is to begin being aware of myself as subject, instead of as an object.

December 22, 2010 / Daniel Fox

Things Change

When I was a kid, I used to think that other people didn’t really exist. But rather that they were illusions put here for me to navigate.

Now that I’m an adult, I believe that I don’t really exist as any kind of concrete significance as an individual – and that the only real thing to navigate is figuring out how to stop navigating.

Still odd, I know, but I’m on the other side of it now.

Oh, also, you probably don’t exist either. Merry Christmas.

🙂

December 20, 2010 / Daniel Fox

Via Negativa

There’s a mystic Christian practice that I was introduced to several months ago, and it’s brilliant. It’s called, Via Negativa (latin for negative theology) or Apophatic theology.

The practice seeks to illuminate God through all the things it is not. Being that the fullness of whatever force, being, consciousness or personality (or lack thereof) is obscured from human understanding either in whole or in part, negative theology stands as a practice most closely associated with a modern day renunciation of idols or graven images. Except instead of little statues as symbols, we renounce the weak symbols that are our words.

From the ever-authoritative Wikipedia entry:

…human beings cannot describe in words the essence of the perfect good that is unique to the individual, nor can they define the Divine, in its immense complexity, related to the entire field of reality, and therefore all descriptions if attempted will be ultimately false and conceptualization should be avoided; in effect, it eludes definition by definition

So what is Negative theology in practice?

  • God is not good – Because good is a word that represents an idea that humans use to test things we come across and by definition can not reach to a being like God
  • God is not loving – Would we really know what love is on that level?
  • God does not exist – The idea of existence is either far too small, or absurd when applied to God.
  • God is not Jesus, Vishnu, or Allah, etc. . . – Even if you think it is, it points to the truth that what you know about these avatars is an incomplete story formed of words with varying levels of agreement on context and meaning.

The point of Via Negativa is to flex your brain and faith muscles to expand one’s ideas of the Divine. It offers no answers, but is rather a journey of discovering your own restrictions and biases around the ideas of the transcendent.

My favorite examples of pop Apophatic Theology

In John Lennon’s God, he employs a similar idea and it’s repetition and variation make it very much like the practice of negative theology. In this case John Lennon is more directly exploring his own being and identity and not the Divine. Take a listen.

December 17, 2010 / Daniel Fox

The Absurdity of World Peace

Just because something has never happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I mean, if Mark Zuckerberg can build at $16 billion company at 26 years old, surely we haven’t seen everything yet.

One thing we sure have never seen is a world without war. But never seeing a world without war doesn’t mean it can’t be obliterated forever.

 

THE RESTRICTIONS
There’s really no rulebook that says we must have war – and any book (holy or otherwise) that implies that war must exist is toxic to our world our health, our spirituality and our shared humanity.

For too many years we’ve given too much credit to our authorities who describe the nature of humanity as inescapably sick, vile, violent and bent on destruction. Could our experience of continual fighting be little more than a grand self-fulfilling prophecy?

REACTING
Have you ever heard that phrase “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior”? It’s a pithy phrase whose logical conclusion is that you, us and the world are all hopeless. In the current state of our human experience, it’s often proved true. But it’s only correct because we’re not really convinced that it can go any other way that the way it’s already gone.

But there’s something more to share here: Extant in the unrestricted imagination of a human is the ability to create something apart from any reaction.

Right now, our culture only knows how to react to war. We keep it justified and alive in our conversations. We can even keep talking about ways to mitigate it, to change it, to make it more humane or have less of it.

Or, a few of us can start to throw off the restrictions on our imagination and engage in thinking of a world filled with peace.

Then, we’ll start talking about it. If enough of us begin dreaming and talking, the absurdity of proposing world peace begins to diminish.

What happens next is that the larger conversation begins to tip in that direction. The dreaming of a few has turned into the talk of the many. At this point, the climate of what’s possible has completely shifted, and the only thing left to do act on what we all want. Sure there will be details to hammer out. I’m certain I’m understating that. But that’s the easy part once the attitude of the world really changes.

So, does it sound crazy to say we can have world peace? Right now, yes, I think many people would say that they’ve stopped believing it’s possible. But what the masses regard as possible or impossible has little long-term bearing on it actually being so.

 

December 8, 2010 / Daniel Fox

The Meaning of Cars

I bought a new-to-me car 3 weeks ago, and I really like it. It’s a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0L with turbo and the cold climate package in a nice dusty blue.

The day after I bought it, I felt like hot shit. In fact, I felt like hot shit for about a week.

I showed everyone I worked with and felt completely annoying. I couldn’t help my excitement. The concept of me owning the car said something about me, my values, my taste and status. The stuff gave me something to point to and tell others who I was. I examined all the things I thought this car meant about me as I drove it that week.

That I was a successful, quirky & unique, fiscally smarter to buy used and shunned the ostentation of better known luxury brands to “keep it real”

I like the car, don’t get me wrong, but I realize this is all just total bullshit. NO ONE thinks I’m any of those things when they see me on the road.

THE EBB AND FLOW OF IDENTIFICATION WITH STUFF
I heard it described the other day that it’s somewhat common to have an ebb and flow. An ebb of identifying ourselves with things, -isms and values, roles and stations in life and then to flow into an awakening to our value as humans apart from all of those things.

In my weaker moments I want you to see me as all the best things my house, car, business, family, clothes, activities and beliefs represent about me, but in the end even the deepest insight about my differentiation as an individual is just superficial.

OWNERSHIP IS KIND OF A JOKE
So now, I have a few pieces of paper that constitute enough proof that I have taken ownership of my Saab 9-3. The bank, the dealership, and I all agreed to a set of terms including payments and penalties – and by agreeing (which is feebly represented by me writing my name on several sheets of paper) we have come to grant me ownership of this object.

It’s shaky enough ground considering how much I owe the bank to say that I “own” the car. To then say that it means something about me is a huge stretch at best.

December 4, 2010 / Daniel Fox

Poof, Nothing

When our second child was born (via Cesarian), I was present in the operating room for his birth. I was, um kinda shocked to look over the blue curtain shielding Amy’s face from the surgery to find the doc pulling out what looked to be precious internal organs from my wife’s body aggressively.

(Turns out, he wasn’t pulling needed organs, but rather afterbirth. So, still super bloody – very gross, but totally fine, medically.)

What  surprised me, not having much of a medical or anatomical background, was the amount of space UNDER our skin. There’s actually a decent amount of room in us! Maybe even for an errant junior mint as was part of a classic episode of Seinfeld.

Even MORE room?
Now, get our your imaginary electron microscope, stick your hand in there and tell me what you see.

If you’re looking into an atom, what you’re probably seeing is even more space. Just about 99.999% of us is empty. It’s not just us, It’s everything.

EVERYTHING IS NOTHING!
. . . or at least everything is nothing except .001%. And even that might be nothing! (Vibrating strings of energy? I’m not sure. I won’t pretend to understand the details.)

Could it be that everything and nothing are the same thing? We’re already 99.999% of the way there. Colloquially, I don’t think anyone would fault you for making that claim casually.

“Thanks for the whole ‘deconstructing everything’, jerkface!”
I think about water or air when I get to this level of thought. Where does one body of water start and another body of water stop? Like a river pouring into the ocean? There’s no great answer because the words and concepts we have for where something begins or ends on that scale aren’t enough to describe it. It’s a problem with the limits of language.

Just like the river and ocean, we have the same difficulty describing where one body begins and another ends on a subatomic scale.

We breath in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, exchanging the very material that is our constitution with every breath. Yet, on the most easily observable scale, I am me, and you are you, and that’s a relatively static idea.

We are Everything, We are nothing
The concepts we rely on to function in this world break down when measured using different scale tools. Sub-atomically we may be nothing, but measured in distances of light years, all of us as individuals seem to constitute only one small body.

With that, I think I understand what the Hard Rock Cafe meant when they said “All is One” – at least enough to enjoy a burger on vacation.

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