New Journey, Old Idea

For a while I have been brewing an idea in my head. First some context.

There is a concept that I figured out about a year and a half ago while on a road trip with one of my best friends. We were driving through south Utah on a winding road, looking down on a valley with cliffs to our right and Zion somewhere off to our left. For those who haven’t been to Utah, I highly recommend it: it’s nuts. Anyway, he and I were talking about our respective battles with depression and how so many people today deal with depression and anxiety. It struck me all of a sudden that people can either be above zero or below zero. This was as far as I got on this realization for a while.

Last summer and fall I studied abroad in New Zealand and for those who don’t know, I struggled with some of my most intense depression while there. If you want to read more about it, check out this post: A Short Biography. Basically, I was deeply questioning who I was and dealing with social anxiety unlike anything I had preciously faced. I was certainly in the negative, way below zero. About half way through my time there I conquered my depression by listening to what it was telling me. I needed to figure out who I was and how to have faith in myself. I needed to love myself. As I figured this out and returned home to my family I felt better than I ever had. I was jumping up and down daily with vast reserves of energy. I had never felt so alive and so excited. At this point I was positive, definitely above zero.

It was then that it all clicked. I realized that people should always be trying to go from negative towards zero or from zero, up. People consistently get knocked down and resilience is the quality that leads people to strive upwards regardless of how many times they have been knocked down. In this way, life is like a rollercoaster. There are lows that come unexpectedly, knocking us down the scale and there are ups that we work hard at. Sometimes there are even lucky breaks, although as the philosopher Seneca said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In other words, it is always in our control to work our way upwards, whether it be recovering (negative to zero) or growing (zero up).

Now that I have given some context, I will unveil my idea. I want to start a coaching-esque business to help people recover and grow. Wow, feels good to get that out there. I have always loved talking to people about their dreams, their passions, and who they are. I also love hearing about their challenges, problems, and emotional journeys. I am naturally talented at knowing what someone is feeling and how they can conquer their problems or continue their journeys upwards (I don’t mean to brag or be arrogant, but people have told me this over and over and I believe them). It is something I love to do, honestly. The idea that I could get paid to talk to people about their lives, listen to their ideas, challenges, and dreams, and then give them advice is mind-boggling.

Starting today I will be reaching out to coaches and therapists whose writing I have read. I will begin my journey to create an income stream doing something that I love to do that will support others, myself, and my passions. If you have any advice, let me know. If you or someone you know wants time to talk with me, let me know. I would love to get some practice in!

Email me here: frslash@gmail.com

Okay, sweet, let me know what you think.
-Fao

Day Four – Music!

I never realized how important it is for me to have a creative outlet until yesterday. Or rather, I never saw the true value in having one. Yesterday morning I was really struggling with some personal qualms and I didn’t know who to talk about them with. It’s not that I didn’t have anyone to talk to but I didn’t think anyone would be able to understand where I was coming from. So, I turned to music and wrote a song. As I wrote line after line, my true feelings unravelled in front of me.

Often when I’m writing I don’t know where I will go or what will be said, I just write until I figure out what I am feeling. In the past I have written fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and now music. Music is a different form of expression because it can carry a tune. There is power in choosing to use an Am chord instead of an F major chord. Each chord connotes emotion and when they are woven together with lyrics the potential for emotional impact seems to be innately simpler and easier to connect to than with other forms of writing.

Because I was able to let my feelings out in the form of a song and attach each feeling to chords and to notes, I was able to better understand how I was feeling. If you know me well, you’ll know that if I am almost always listening to music. I take music with me wherever I go. Honestly music is one of my most valuable companions. It supports my wellbeing in life. The music I listen to can affect my mood or help me move through bad times. I have a playlist for when I want to cry that without fail manages to bring tears to my eyes. Some people may be thinking, “Faolan, why would you want to cry?” I have found that when I cry I am able to let go of my sadness and get a better understanding of what I am feeling. Again, music is a connection to a better understanding of myself.

I’m not feeling like writing a super long blog today, so I’ll leave you with a song I wrote a few days ago!

Living on Borrowed Dimes

It’s not perfect by any stretch and I’m a bit nervous to share it, but what are blogs for if not being authentic and courageous with who we are?

All the best heading into a new week,
Faolan

Death and Life Living Fully

“Most people ebb and flow in torment between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet, they do not know how to die. Rehearse death. To say this is to tell [someone] to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave to fear. He is above, or at any rate, beyond the reach of all political powers.”

-Jeff Wheeler

I came across this quote in the book I am reading (The Blight of Muirwood) and legit jumped because of the profound and simple truth I believe it carries. So many people shun death, seemingly immune to the fear it can illicit in many of us. Over and over again I have seen signs that accepting death is the first step to truly living.

In a podcast recently (the better human project ep 64), Dan Freed was being interviewed. He told a story about conquering his irrational fears of death. He said that he would swim in the ocean at night, swimming perpendicular to the shore. I don’t know if you have ever been to the ocean at night, but it has a way of showing you just how how powerful it is. The ocean at night is overwhelming, mysterious, unreadable, and dangerous. It’s scary. He would feel the fear creeping into him, but he would keep swimming. One night he swam so far he could no longer hear or see the shore. He learned how to ignore the voice in his head that told him he would die. He conquered the fear of death by acknowledging it and having courage anyway.

Another example comes from the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#ck, Mark Manson. At the end of the book he is standing on a huge cliff in South Africa, Cape Town I think. He walks out to the edge of the cliff, slowly and surely, and his fears begin to overwhelm him. Every step closer to the edge he takes, his fears are elevated to higher dimensions until he is right at the edge. As he looks down, his terror in the face of death is overwhelming and yet he persists. He stares death in the face and beats it, by acknowledging it and moving forward anyway.

We will all die. This fact is really the only thing we know for sure. People may not like it, I’m sure not a fan of the concept, but it will happen. However, out of this realization comes the opportunity to truly live, to truly embrace life for all that it is worth. Without rehearsing death, as Wheeler puts it, we are constantly shrinking in the face of its vast and indomitable existence. In short, without accepting death and having courage in spite of it, we will live our lives never truly having lived at all (I feel like I am quoting something but I can’t place it. If anyone knows, let me know).

Every morning Steve Jobs would stand in front of his mirror and ask himself if he were to die tomorrow, would he be happy with what he was doing in life. Every day he chose to live in the presence of death, letting its existence empower him to live actively and urgently. We should all feel a little bit more urgent, not anxious, but steadfast in our goals. In addition to this, Jobs was able to better understand his level of satisfaction with his actions because when he veered off course he would know right away. He had a corrective mechanism installed in his life, powered by death.

There is certainly wisdom to be drawn from the question: What would I do if I were to die tomorrow? However, an often overlooked question, in my opinion, is: What if everyone else were to die tomorrow? This question, since I thought of it, has allowed me to be more present in conversations, exude more compassion for people, and truly listen with care and affection. Every moment matters. The questions, in conjunction, can lead us to a life lived more fully, both for ourselves and for others.

My greatest fear in life is to be on my deathbed wishing that I had engaged more in my life. I fear living a half-life. I fear that I will not use the agency I know I have to do what I long to do. In recognizing and respecting death, one can move beyond this fear and live a life otherwise impossible. I am not sure how to “rehearse death” but I will do my best to acknowledge its existence with the hope to live more fully, knowing full well that life can end out of nowhere.

PS. I had a magnificent conversation with a friend of mine after posting my previous blog and we came to the conclusion together that I am not opposed to living for the sake of being happy. I am opposed to living for the sake of surface level happiness. In my mind, happiness is low level and joy is more pure and better quality, but these are only my definitions (semantics). I never would tell someone that they have no right to feel joy, or even happiness. Pursue joy, pursue real love and have fun. Be warned of filling your life with surface level happiness though. Real happiness is found through hard work and comes in the form of joy.

Day Two

I said that I was going to write about passions and stuff today but I’m going to put it off until another day because I have other pressing thoughts to write about. This blog post is a brain dump. It doesn’t totally make sense to me, so it might not make sense to you. That being said, I would absolutely love any and all thoughts/feedback/disagreements/frustrations. I want to hear from you!

Happiness as a Goal?

Many people seem to think that happiness, as in the lack of suffering, is the goal in life. People constantly are aiming at what makes them happy. I have a big issue with this. Happiness is unsustainable as an outcome and is impossible to have as a life goal/purpose.

Happiness is not an end, but a choice. I am convinced that we cannot do anything to bring us happiness consistently and sustainably except to choose to be happy. Buying a new car might make me happy for now, but in a year, probably not. Being married might be the best thing for me now but in ten years, it could be the most painful. Happiness/the avoidance of pain is not a good goal. Everyone feels pain. Part of being human is suffering. There is no way to escape it, so don’t chase happiness highs. If you think that you’re happy all the time, you’re lying to yourself about some big things. Ironically, if your goal is to be happy all the time, you will become sad, because it is truly impossible to always be happy.

Choosing happiness now will not make you happy later. Suffering now, might lead to happiness later… but, it might not. We never know what will make us happy in the long run, so it is not a valid way to make decisions. Happiness should not play a role in any choice humans make. Again, happiness should not play a role in any decision. How then might we make decisions if not by choosing to chase happiness?

I believe in excitement. When people are excited, they are alive, their eyes are lit up, and they are struggling towards something. Excitement is fun, it’s energizing, and it’s healthy. Excitement is my north star in life. I firmly believe that excitement leads to fulfillment and to a life well-lived. Don’t get me wrong here, though: what we are excited about won’t be easy and it will suck sometimes. Starting a company is exciting to me. Writing a book is exciting. Are those things easy? By no means! Those things are going to cause me pain, I’m going to suffer and face challenges, and I’m going to be unhappy sometimes but it’s worth it, because I’m excited about them.

Again, do not chase happiness for it cannot be caught. Happiness is not a commodity that can be bought and kept. It is not an end goal. Happiness is a choice we make, it is a mindset we intentionally adopt. Instead, do something meaningful to you, follow your excitement. Follow what you’re afraid of doing because often when we face our fears we find the most excitement. Choose fulfillment over happiness.

Social Entrepreneurship?

Disclaimer: This is written as an exploratory, devil’s advocate type piece in which I am trying to figure out what I believe. If what I’m saying makes you upset, please talk about it with me! I’m ignorant in many fields, especially history and economics. I am by no means an expert in the following. I want to learn and grow and figure out the truth.

Okay, so, Social Entrepreneurship. I am in Bolgantanga, Ghana this summer working with a company that is connecting weavers in poor, rural villages with the US market. The goal is to alleviate poverty and raise these weavers’ standards of living. For years now social entrepreneurship has been my guiding light. It is the only thing I believe can save the world because it is inherently compassionate and generous. It requires empathy.

I can’t get into the details about my work here because it is proprietary. That being said, during my time, my perspective has changed about the effectiveness of “social entrepreneurship” and the companies that claim to be socially oriented. Let me lay out a hypothetical that I’ve been having.

First let me give an example of what many would call a social enterprise. Let’s say a startup wants to help people in rural Vietnam learn how to sell their bracelets to people in Europe for 5x what they can sell them for in Vietnam. Let’s say they go to Vietnam, build a team, train the artisans, and send the first shipment to their US office. Maybe they can work with 50 bracelet makers and can pay them each 10 dollars more than they could make otherwise. Now these 50 people can eat three meals per day. In 10 years maybe they can feed 1,000 people. This is good, yes? These people are social entrepreneurs because they’re helping raise the artisans out of poverty. Maybe. Maybe not.

On the other side of the coin, let’s take something that many think of as atrocious and awful: outsourcing in unfair work conditions. Let’s think back to the growth of China. Years ago they were a developing country, they didn’t have many factories, and they had a weak economy. Today, they are one of the biggest power in the world. What happened to bring them there? The answer is interesting. In my opinion one of the biggest factors is that richer countries, like the US, funneled money into their factories. Let’s take the famous example of Apple and it’s suppliers. Apple’s supplier in China had to install nets outside their buildings because people hated working there so much they tried to kill themselves. This is bad, right? The answer is not as obvious as I once thought.

Let’s try to think about these two situations objectively. The social enterprise is small and their impact is limited. Apple is huge and its impact is gigantic and fast. We don’t know what the working conditions are for the social enterprise, but I know for a fact that they’re probably not great. The people are still in poverty and there are still injustices, as much as we might like to believe the opposite. We know the working conditions for Apple’s supplier are horrible and it’s truly awful that people could be inspired to commit suicide.

But let’s think about the overall impact of both situations. The social enterprise will take years and years to do anything of real substance. Their impact will likely be small and within a certain area of the world. Apple, on the other hand, can shift whole percentage points of a country’s entire GDP with a wave of its hand. Apple can lift entire countries out of poverty and change the lives of millions of people. Even though the pain of working in horrible factories is bad, hateful even, did it not lead to the growth of China? Is Vietnam not following the same path?

Did we ourselves, as the US, not do the same thing. Think about The Great Depression. Americans endured horrible, horrible working conditions but on the other side was growth. Humans are meant to endure pain, to be resilient, and to grow. The more pain we can survive the faster we can grow and evolve. So really, who deserves to be called a social enterprise?

Concluding Thoughts

In the same way that chasing short-term happiness is an issue, chasing short-term alleviation of poverty might be as well. Who’s to say what companies deserve the title of social enterprise? Overall, I’m pretty confused right now about what I should be doing and how I can make an impact. What I do now is that all people struggle and all people have pain. Some people hunger for dinner, others hunger for love, still others long for easy outs. Life is not easy. To do something great for the world, it takes sacrifice and it takes pain. Humanity today is deeply uncomfortable with these concepts. We must learn to challenge our beliefs of what is correct and of where we are aiming to go.

In the US pain is hidden. In developing countries it’s in your face. In the US we pretend that we are great, we pretend that we are fair and that people are happy. Think about mental health, though. Is mental health not simply a manifestation of the desire to block out pain and suffering. We must acknowledge the truth and embrace the pain. We must make sacrifices for the future of our world.

Day One

Dear Readers,

I will be blogging every day for the next foreseeable future. I’m not sure what about. The goal is for me to write, write, write. I have always been inspired by Thoreau’s journaling practices but I get bored journaling because I like to talk about my ideas. So, I realized that blogging as a journal is going to be a two birds, one stone kind of thing. My long term goal is to be a writer of books–actual, factual paper books–that people actually read. It’s really hard to pull a book out of thin air, trust me, I’ve tried. So I’m hoping that by journal-blogging I’m going to be able to build enough material about who knows what to write a book! So here we go, day one. If you enjoy any of my blogs, please, please, please consider subscribing via email on the right –>

Identifying One’s Power Source

Recently I have been reading fantasy books by a man named Jeff Wheeler. I discovered him on the kindle store recommended section and I absolutely fell in love with his writing. In the last two weeks I have read nine of his books and I’m still going strong. In one of his worlds there is a form of magic. In this world certain people are “fountain blessed,” which means that they have special powers like foresight or shapeshifting. These powers are not always useable and have to be charged up, essentially. In one of the books, Wheeler writes “To know your power, you must know your passion. Is there something you have always been fond of? Some work that isn’t a chore or a trouble?” This is something that I have thought about a lot, but in terms of what is called “flow state.”

Flow state is described by Wikipedia as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” In the book, the main character’s source of energy is strategizing. When he is young, he builds elaborate domino patterns and towers to knock down. As he grows from a boy to a man, his activities change. When he is older he figures out how to win battles or outsmart people. We all have things that we lose track of time doing, things that light us up. For me, these things are writing, playing music (specifically writing songs), playing magic, hiking, running (if I’m in shape, otherwise it’s the worst), and long + interesting conversations. However, I would not call binging 5 hours of Brooklyn Nine-Nine flow state even though I lose track of time doing it. To be in flow state one must be challenged and enjoying that challenge.

In the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#ck, author Mark Manson stresses the importance of struggling towards something. He says that we all have pain in our life, it’s inevitable. The point, therefore, is not to escape pain or struggle but to feel those things for a purpose. Playing guitar is painful, it hurts your fingers. Running is painful, it is taxing and difficult. Magic is an extremely challenging game and requires struggling and thinking deeply. Interesting conversations require being open and listening. Are you seeing a pattern? Things that inspire flow state in us are not easy. To repeat for emphasis: True flow state can only be achieved when one is challenged by the activity but enjoys the challenge. In my mind, the ideal life would be when one is constantly challenged and solving fun problems and enjoying every minute of it (spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure that this is mostly impossible. Nevertheless, something to strive for).

So, what’s the point of me talking about flow states? Basically, our flow states fill us up with power, like in the book. I use the word power intentionally instead of something like energy. Energy comes from things like sleeping, eating well, exercise, etc. Power is something that imbues us with the ability to manifest our talents and skills in the world. It is what lets us work long hours at something challenging. By doing what we’re passionate about, we gain the ability to do the hard work to achieve our goals and to live for a purpose. Without making time or without access to our passions, we become dejected, bored, and depressed. I have been there. Often I forget about the activities that fill me up and don’t do them. These times in my life are always my lowest points. When I’m these periods I have an even harder time remembering to do what I love so I realized that I have to do what I love and what fills me up every day. I have to make time, intentionally, for these things or else I won’t do them.

Once we start doing what fills us up consistently then we gain the ability to manifest our dreams in the world. This is when the game changes from filling one’s self up to emptying one’s self out. Tomorrow I will write about how we can use our power to actually create in the world. I will also differentiate between doing something because we love it and doing something because that something is who we are and it is how we live.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

-Fao

PS. Subscribe via email if you enjoyed this!!! Check on the sidebar to the right for the link!

PPS. I’m curious about what some of your passions are. What puts you in flow state? Let me know below!

The Stranger and The Truth(?)

First off, the elephants pictured above have nothing to do with the post, but I thought they looked cool, soooo there ya go. Enjoy!

The acacia branches hung overhead, basking in the late afternoon sun. I was in Damongo, Ghana at a Catholic Homestay. In front of me was a shrine to Mother Mary that curved up about 8 feet, looming over her statue. Planted in basins in each side of the arch were more acacia trees extending upwards. I sat down on a fallen bench, really just a slab of concrete and closed my eyes, feeling taken by the energy of the special place. As I closed my eyes, I took some deep breaths welcoming in gratitude, compassion, love, and excitement into my life and releasing boredom, frustration, anger, and doubt. With my sight forsaken, I found my sense of hearing vastly improved and became aware of the plethora of sounds around me. There were birds calling in languages I had never heard, the quietness of the breeze settled around me. I could feel the energy of nature in every direction, without interruption by modern day distractions.

I was sitting peacefully in the sanctuary letting grace fill my soul when I heard a shuffle in the distance and was called to look. I saw a young Ghanaian man, maybe 5 foot 8 inches, dressed in light blue athletic shorts, a matching t-shirt, and a pair of black flip flops. He meandered his way closer to the shrine in front of me, his gaze catching mine. I gave him a smile and a wave and closed my eyes again in respect for his space. Immediately after closing them though, my curiosity got the best of me and I winked one open to observe his prayer. He closed his eyes and touched his heart, his head, and some other places. I’m ignorant to this type of prayer but I’ve heard of it before. Following his prayer he gazed at the statue, as if pleading for something that I could not name. I closed my eyes again and left him to his peace, sharing the space in commune with that which I cannot name.

After a moment my attention returned to the sounds around me. The birds still chirped and the breeze still blew. The air was warm and I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead and dripping down my face. My shirt began to stick to me. I struggled to listen to and feel everything without focusing on anything in particular. As the peace of the moment took me, a familiar sound burgeoned into life, jolting me back to reality. I placed it as the ground being swept with a broom. I opened my eyes completely and watched the man bend at a ninety degree angle and sweep the shrine of fallen flower petals and dirt with a makeshift broom of straw. He carefully made his way around the area of floor finding each petal, pausing every now and again to assess his work. I watched the whole time, letting the peace of the moment course through me.

I wondered if I should stay and watch or leave him be. For some reason, I felt I should stay. After he finished his sweep, he cleared the petals and put them in a bucket. He took the bucket and walked a distance away to give them back to nature. Then, he returned. The man sat down at the bench in front of me, beckoned by my smile and our eye contact. I said hello and introduced myself to him. He did likewise and said that his name is Bernard. He had a light accent and I could tell that his English would be good enough for us to talk.

Now that Bernard was close, I could see that he had warm eyes, a genuine smile, and a calm demeanor. I placed him at about my age of twenty-one, maybe a bit older. I assumed he was a priest or of some such position at the church and after our introductions, I asked Bernard where he lived.

He turned to me, his knees and feet facing forward, toward the shrine, and his body twisted back to look at me. “I am studying at the nursing school near here.” He pointed at a nearby building, his campus, saying “God has graced me with the opportunity to study here and for that I am grateful.” He came off as a very gentle human, especially after watching him spend his time sweeping the ground. I was surprised that he was not a priest and had no affiliation with the sanctuary, because that meant that he had swept the ground of his own volition. I felt grateful to be sharing space with him. He said that he would finish his education in three months and will have finished three years of studying.

I was curious to know more about this mysterious man in this unknown place and so I asked him what he does for fun. He looked at me, a sad smile in his eyes and said, “Oh not much. After class I will leave campus and go for a short walk, then come here and pray, and then return.” I felt unsure of how to respond, awed and impressed by the slow pace of life in rural Ghana. I didn’t think I could do it. Striving to bond with him, I asked if he played football (soccer). He said that he did in primary school but that he hurt his knee and hasn’t since, but that he loves to watch. With this connection, I settled down into our conversation.

I asked him his age and he said “twenty-five. How old are you?” I said my age, his junior. This is when our conversation became more interesting. He smiled at me with a look I could not read.

In explanation of his expression, he spoke. “Here, sometimes we have to drop out of school because we do not have the financial backing to continue. It can take many years to finish because every year we drop out, help our families, and then hopefully return the following year.” I told him that it can be similar in the US but that most people are able to finish at least high school.

I looked back at him, remembering his injured knee, and asked, “Bernard, why did you become a nurse?”

He brightened as he told me of his passion. “I love to help,” he began simply. “I see people struggling in hospitals and I want to help, so I became a nurse. It feels good to do good and when you help someone, they say thank you.” I felt a smile rise to my lips as I recognized a human walking down their unique path in life. An unshakable conviction gripped me. Maybe, despite all I have known, this man is living life the way it is meant to be lived. Doubts were extinguished and others awoke: What did this mean for America? Why are people so busy? Why do they chase money and power? Where does the ever-present anxiety come from?

I thought for a moment longer on my newfound understanding and then ventured, “you are lucky, you know. Many people chase what doesn’t matter: money, a new car, a bigger house. Many people are born, they strive for things that do not matter, and then they die. Not everyone has found a way that they like to give back, to make an impact.” I felt uncomfortable telling this poor man from rural, northern Ghana that he is lucky, but I felt the truth resonate with me and was inclined to share. I am glad I did. There is always a tipping point in conversations and relationships when the depth of connection extends beyond the surface to what really matters. Bernard and I had reached the tipping point.

After I said this, he began to share many things about his life and the lives of the people in his community. He told me how this community is a mix of many tribes and that people immigrated from far away. He continued and told me how there is not enough money and that people can only farm to live, making no money, trapped in a cycle of monetary poverty. I realized that without external connections there is no entrance for opportunities to come to these people. As an American I am surrounded by opportunities, constantly, to the point that it becomes overwhelming and yet these people have none.

Beyond money, he told me that the town nearby has many issues with water. The town is on a hill and thus a well can’t be dug because there is so much earth between the surface and the water. He told me that no money comes here because there is no water here and for life to thrive there must be water. He explained that when only the native tribe lived in the area, they could maintain health and balance with nature, but as more tribes immigrated, the balance shifted. Now the water in the lakes is undrinkable because the cattle of the new tribes poop in it. There are too many people and there is no water. He seemed to think that there was no hope, no solutions, and I reluctantly agreed.

A light suddenly clicked on as my favorite kind of question popped into my head: one of immense proportions, one with weight. I excitedly asked “What is your dream, Bernard? Would you aim to be a doctor?” As soon as I said it, his eyes betrayed a deep sadness and I realized that I had touched a wound. I caught my innocent mistake too late. I have found in my conversations in poor villages in Ghana that people sometimes don’t get the chance to dream. He sighed and slowly looked up into the trees.

He watched nothing for a few moments, gathering his thoughts and his emotions, and then said, “When I was young, I wished to be a doctor. It has always been a dream of mine; to travel and help people.” He paused and I could feel his thoughts aligning in his mind, coming together, drawn from ancient memories. “It can’t happen,” he said as he dipped his head in resignation. “There would never be the money for it. It’s simply too much, too vast a number.”

“Have you ever looked to see how much it is?” I gently questioned, unable to let go of my attachment to dreams coming true. I have always longed for people who dream to achieve them and I have been especially adept at helping people open their eyes to bigger possibilities for their lives. I hoped to do the same with Bernard. I was still too innocent then and, honestly, part of me hopes to always be so.

He sighed again, this time a small smile rising to his face, as he laughed and said “I have not. I fear the number to be too high.” I could feel his unspoken belief come through. He didn’t believe that it would ever be possible for him to pursue his dream.

I did not relent. “What about scholarships?” I asked enthusiastically.

“I cannot access them.” He pointed at his phone, an old one and definitely not a smart one.

I felt my assuredness in dreams coming true slipping away but would not yet quit. “Do you have computers in your school?”

“We do, many actually. But in my three years at this school I have used them only once. We have no network to connect to.” Finally my confidence was depleted and I was forced to acknowledge his hard truth: perhaps dreams cannot always come true. I felt my privilege weighing on me like a ton of bricks, crushing me. I wanted to help this man who I knew had a soft, gracious heart, but I simply did not know how.

I let my emotions guide me and shifted the subject of the conversation, asking him if his people are sad. I explained my question to him by referencing food, water, and shelter as the essentials of life. I was wondering if people here could be happy with only the simple things, the necessities. I needed to believe it for my own sake. I needed to know that despite it all, despite the isolation of rural life, that he and others could still be happy and fulfilled.

“There is more to life than food and shelter. We may not be sad every day but when there is something that we want that we cannot have, then we become sad. When we live in a place like this, there is nothing we can do to get past this struggle for food and water.” He referenced again how no one comes here because there is no water. He spoke for his people, from a place of deeply ingrained, communal thought. I knew that there was more here than I could understand at the moment. I thought of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, returning to my seventh grade social studies class. Here, I felt the beginnings of the truth itching at my mind. I couldn’t grasp it yet but knew the truth would come fully, if I continued searching. As I thought, we sat in silence.

Finally I turned to him, understanding where my previous question had gone wrong, and said simply, “Are you happy?”

He smiled at me brightly, the question catching him off guard after our serious conversation, and said “You know, you wake up in the morning and you are alive. You eat some food and you are alive. Every day I wake up and for that I am happy. People complain and complain, but to who? Who is listening? They will not help.” He softly tossed his hands into the air above his legs where they had been resting and continued, “It is enough to just live. Your life is in your hands. Do not complain, be grateful.” I was struck by the simplicity of his answer and it made me happy to know that someone for whom life had been so challenging could find happiness in the fundamental aspect of being. I listened to my own heart and found it resonating with the sentiment. Something inside me had shifted. It was as if clarity had struck me suddenly. The world was loving and I was swathed in a blanket life. I sat for a moment basking in this magical energy and then felt moved to leave. I thanked him for explaining his life to me, a stranger. I told him I was going, smiled, wished him well, and walked away. As I walked through the trees on the dirt path I felt his truth overcoming my listless boredom and aimless unhappiness. I looked around, marveling at the magic of existence. I felt my whole being swell and merge with everything around me. Each leaf stood out to me, every smell was welcomed, each twig crunched under my feet. I was truly present.

As I have thought back on this experience with Bernard and my emotions leading up to it, I have thought more and more often about Maslow’s hierarchy. In his hierarchy, he proposes a pyramid. There are five levels to the pyramid and each corresponds to some genre of needs that a human must fulfill before they can move up to the next level, the final level being self-actualization, enlightenment. I have always taken it to be fact that the higher on the pyramid one is, the better off they are. It has always made sense to strive towards the higher levels of the pyramid, escaping the needs at the bottom. To rise from the first level to the second one must have the basic necessities of life: food, water, sleep, etc. Bernard and many of the people of rural Ghana are trapped in this first level, fretting over where their water will come from. In our conversations, I sensed a new question coming to light in my mind: Is escaping the first level of the pyramid even correct?

In the book Ishmael, author Daniel Quinn elucidates his theories about humanity. Since reading it, I had not been able to shake this feeling that all we do as humans is for naught. He writes of humanity’s history, of our journey from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, and of the effects wrought from this shift. He explains that people escaped animal culture by growing our own food. Once we were able to store food for later and avoid the constant hunger nipping at our heels, humans were able to expand and grow as a species. Because we could grow and store food, we could expand our border and explore without fear of getting too big to feed ourselves. Many might look at this innovation as perhaps the greatest human invention of all time, but Quinn cautions his readers. He begs the questions: What if we were not meant to escape being hunter-gatherers? What calamity has been caused because of it? Are we not using too many resources? Is the Earth not dying because we hefted the human race onto a pedestal, self-proclaiming ourselves gods in a world of animals? Were we wrong to escape Maslow’s first level?

All my thoughts are finally starting to click into place. Perhaps Bernard is the lucky one. Perhaps the stress and anxiety of modern day, fast-paced America is wrong. Perhaps Daniel Quinn wrote the truth. It seems that although Bernard longed for his dreams to come true, his happiness stemmed from the simple things in life. Humans always seem to want more. It is our cardinal sin. Even Americans, graced with all manners of privilege and opportunity, seek the quiet of the woods, the stillness of the olden days. The agriculturalists find an innate truth in the value of being a hunter gatherer, striving only to live through each day. Just as those who live day to day long to escape their horrible struggle and have abundance. It seems that all of us are destined to seek that which we cannot have, forever, no matter how the world may change. It is the destiny of humanity to be unsatisfied, always seeking, growing, adventuring into the unknown. But perhaps there is a saving grace. Perhaps we can all find respite from the tumultuous existence we share in the little things, in the small moments. As I finish writing this, I think back to the sanctuary. I can see the sun shimmering through the leaves of the acacia trees. I can hear the tittering of nameless birds above me. I can feel the stillness of the moment, the peace of being one with what is and always will be.

I finally glimpsed the truth through the eyes of a stranger. Perhaps it is possible to find balance in this wild life: Balance between the peace of now and the possibility of tomorrow.

WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! No, but Really! It’s True!

It’s 3:48 PM on Tuesday the 16th of October, 2018. It is a beautiful day outside: the birds are singing, the sun is out, there’s a gentle breeze, and the spring flowers are astoundingly lovely. I am so grateful for nature and springtime and the sun and the clouds and the flowers! But, today, I am devastated, exhausted, and terrified.

I had been studying for a few hours and the tick of time reminded me to get my daily shot of Facebook scrolling in so I habitually popped open a new tab, clicked the F key, and hit enter. Boom, in. In under 5 seconds, I was interacting with the whole world. What did I see? The usual suspects: cats, political debates, and the like. But what was interesting to me was the substantial bulk of posts having to do with the environment, climate change, and nature. I clicked on video after video, watching them through and coming to the same conclusion – our world is dying and it’s on the brink of being too close to save.

I have taken classes on the environment, sustainability, and ethics. I am somehow the president of the SCU Sustainable Business Club that I have no idea how to run. The point is, I’m at least somewhat educated. I can spit facts out about where we’re at, about how one can help the environment, about what the benefits of not eating meat are. I’m not an expert and, in fact, I’m far from an expert. But, I’m an emotional being and I feel things deeply when I experience them. So, by 3:57 PM tears are falling from my eyes as the overwhelming sensation of hopelessness is washing over me, as if a great tsunami is growing right before my window insinuating the crashing demise that awaits me. I’m scared. I’m scared for myself, for the people who have less power than I, for the people who wake up in the morning only to find our trash washing up on their shores. I’m scared for the rich people who are too ignorant or greedy or even just stupid to realize that money won’t save them from this. I’m scared for humanity and I’m terrified because it’s up to us to save ourselves.

To be straight, factual, and very clear: Our world, Planet Earth is dying. Humans are sucking the life out of our planet exponentially faster every year, every day. We are burning forests, creating trash, consuming and producing meat, filling hills and mountains with trash, we are creating a planet of disposal. It’s as if we humans think we bought a phone that we can use and then replace with the newest model. It’s as if we don’t believe that the potential extinction of our entire race is imminent. It’s as if the fear is paralyzing us, forcing us to cast our eyes to the ground in shame and keep walking forward in life, refusing to take a stand. It is up to us, to every person to save our planet because it is dying and there is no one else who will save it for us. We are not going to fly to Mars. We cannot keep doing what we are doing. Period. Many scientists believe that the world is nearly beyond saving. We are at the precipice. We all have choices to make. Our daily lives must change, we must change, our society must change and we must make it do so.

It occurs to me that maybe we’re too late, that maybe the world is already beyond saving. This would be great in ways because we would be off the hook – we would be able to go down with the ship. But we don’t know if it’s too late or not – we still might be able to turn this thing around and that’s where the shit hits the fan. The scariest possibility to me is that the world still can be saved and that if we don’t do everything in our power to save it, it will die. I’m so overwhelmed by this. It seems kind of like the problem is too overwhelming to do anything about, so why do anything at all? But, what if the only way to literally save the world is to act in every moment with the intention that that action must save the world? What if by choosing to eat meat today, I’m just barely not making enough of an impact to reverse the end of the world? What if by choosing to create a stable life for my children and not fighting for the planet I’m actually putting them at risk of firestorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the unstoppable flood of trash into every nook and cranny of the world? As we use more and more resources and the world becomes less and less abundant, people will fight more, there will be more anarchy, more violence and war. People will die for our sins. So… What can we do?

Sure, there are the personal choices to stop eating meat products, create less trash, inspire those around us, or even start movements. But are these choices enough? I don’t think they are. Sure every snowball starts with one flake, so certainly these acts make a difference, but what’s really going to shift the tides? We have to change the game we’re playing. We have to escape the black void system we find ourselves in. We have to literally change everything including our own perceptions of normal before the world will accept us not as parasites but as symbiotes. We, humans, must evolve. I’m not suggesting growing gills or wings or learning how to live in space. We must evolve our minds, our mindsets, our capacity to dream bigger than we think possible. We must set out to achieve and create the tomorrows that we only are able to make if we act together, if we work hard together, if we come together as one people united by the imminent Armageddon that will rain hellfire on all of us. We must cease separating ourselves because of meaningless facets like color, intelligence, nationality, political affiliation, familial ties, gender, sexual identifications, sexual interests, level of disability, or anything else. If you are reading this, you are human. We are all humans and we must, I repeat, we absolutely must, inspire one another to act and to change the future of our shared fate to one of love, acceptance, compassion, and survival. We are all humans and we all have a moral obligation to ourselves and to our planet and to every living thing to dream big, to act big, and to make big positive changes.

3 Ways to Get Out of a Funk and Into a Funky Life

More than anyone else I know, I tend to have ups and down, slips and slides in my life. One week I will be a happy, confident, and on my game. I’ll feel like I’m on top of the world like I can do anything, make anything happen. Then, suddenly, I’ll slip into inaction, into comfort, into laziness and stagnation. This means that over and over I’ve had to recover from these down periods, which makes me somewhat of an expert (*cough* Yeah right! *cough*). Anywayyy, I hope that this can help some people!

I recently had this happen to me. A few weeks ago I was the happiest I have been in a long time and I was working out every day, eating well, drinking water, writing, reading, and really just hitting all the bullseyes. A few days later, I was staying up until four in the morning binging shows I had already seen, I was not working out at all, I was eating like shit, and I was being altogether pretty down in the dumps. I preferred to stay in bed all day with the curtains closed and the lights off than getting out into the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still would laugh at jokes on TV shows and have ideas about life, but it was off. It was like I was happily depressed. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but it’s a doozy. Getting out of bed was hard and there was no motivation to get out of bed, but in reality, there was also no need to get out of bed, so it was fine. There was nothing pushing me and I had the free time to burn, so I did. I burned my time. For about two weeks, I didn’t accomplish anything, I watched way too much TV, I ate canned food; it was a mediocre life. All of a sudden, again, I realized what was going on and change hit me like a very fluffy and well-intentioned freight train.

Recently I decided to get my life back together. A friend of mine sent me an audiobook to listen to by a really talented life coach. I started listening to it and immediately recognized two important things:

  1. I need to get back on track and I need to own my life as mine.
  2. I need to commit to staying on track and figure out habits that will keep me on track even when the going gets tough.

So today, I’m going to talk about some ways that I use to get out of bed and back into the swing of things in life. In the future, I will write a post about some habits I have been using to stay active and accountable to my vision for my future! On that note, Way #1

Way #1: Visualize. Whys > Shoulds.

This is the first step in any endeavor. Without a vision, there is nothing to work for, there is no purpose, no drive. So, the first step is to take a step back from everyday life and spend some time thinking about what is really important to us. For example, a few months ago I was experiencing one of my slouches in life. I was down in the dumps about life and myself and I was unhappy, self-conscious and full of anxiety – a veritable anxiety monster. So, what did I do to get out of it? I read a book titled Not Nice, by Aziz Gazipura. It’s a book about how we as humans tend to succumb to the pressures of society and the people around us – how we live because of the outside shoulds instead of the inside whys. Reading the book was challenging and made really internalize the fact that this life I am living is mine to make how I want. It helped me realize that I can set any vision for the future as long it is something that I authentically want. The book asked me the question: “What do you want?” I realized I that I don’t think about this question nearly enough and at that time, I didn’t actually have an answer. When it came down to it, I had no idea what I wanted. So, I found some paper and scribbled down some answers, I called my friends and family and consulted with them about what my dreams were when I was younger, and I did a lot of thinking, often emotional thinking. This process led me to find out that I do have dreams and visions inside and that I simply get distracted by the shoulds. How does one avoid the shoulds and work hard towards the whys? Realistically, there could be many many books written about this one, but for now… Check out #2.

Way #2: Owning my life. Becoming the captain.

The number of times I have said to myself “I don’t have the time or energy for that” or “I can’t do that, it’s too hard” is astoundingly high. I tend to convince myself that I can’t do something because I’m not in the right situation or because it’s too hard. This is something almost all of us do quite often. We are creatures of habit and when we habituate a reaction to challenges that tells us that we can’t beat those challenges, then we can’t. It’s as simple as this. What we think becomes reality. So, when I am in the dumps and when it’s hard to get out of bed, I remind myself that I am the captain of my ship, the director of my play, the king of my kingdom, and the master of my own destiny. This reminder helps me snap back to reality and remember that it’s up to me to make my life matter and make it what I want it to be. It also helps me internalize the fact the shoulds of life come from other people, who are the captains of their own ships, and that maybe the shoulds are good for them, but not for me. Another key thing to do when beginning the voyage as captain of our own lives is to get out of the house and stay out for as much of the day as is possible. Our spaces draw us in and make us comfortable. We have our nice blankets to curl up in, we have our snacks to binge on, and we have distractions out the wazzoo. On the other hand, when we are out of our houses, everything around us is an opportunity to engross ourselves in the present moment. This leads me to my next trick.

Way #3: Embrace today. Embrace now.

Many times when I am in a down period of my life, I tell myself things like: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” but as we all know, this almost always means… “I won’t ever do that.” The solution to this problem is to remember how wonderful our lives are and how our time is sparse. We have a limited number of todays to take advantage of. We will never have another opportunity to live today to the fullest… NEVER. Today is today and when it’s over, it’s gone forever. That’s just the truth. The other day, I blew my own mind when I was thinking about how much time each day I spend distracted by social media and TV. I realized that I watched about 2 hours of TV a day and was on social media for about an hour. This is 3 hours every day! Some days I would even spend way more time doing these things! I did some mental math and realized that three hours per day out of 24 hours every day meant I was spending about 1/8th of every day doing these things. This might sound okay, but then I realized, that if I spent 1/8th of my days this way, I was really spending 1/8th of my life this way. I was shocked and appalled with myself and the people around me. My life is more valuable than that. The average American male lives 77 years (wow young). 1/8th of 77 is about 9.5. If someone asked me, would you give away nine and a half years of your life for X, Y, or Z, chances are, I would say no! Almost 10 years of my life projected to be spent watching TV or going on social media. That’s just unreal to me. So, we must embrace today and spend the time we know we have available to us doing the things we really want to be doing, not falling into the habits of our addictions! We must embrace the harder things like reading and exercise and with time they will become normal. Be intentional, stay active, keep moving forward and remember that today is the only today ever and it’s completely up to us to make it what we want it to be. Every moment is an opportunity for intentionality.

I’m going to stop here for today. If you want to read my next post about this topic and others, click HERE!

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day! Remember, get after it and live your life! Go listen to some funky toons and do some dancing!

If you have any tricks for dealing with this kind of stuff, send me an email! I would love to hear from people 🙂

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A Short Autobiography

A Story

I grew up as a vibrant and passionate kid, always looking for some way to imprint my own personal reality onto the world, whether this was building a fort in the woods and pretending to be hiding from the enemy or creating my ideal character while playing Dungeons and Dragons. The world was my canvas and my brain was my paintbrush. I loved searching for tributaries with which I could deliver my reality into the lives of others. This has never gone away, but for a while, it was hidden. When I was thirteen, I enrolled in Monument Valley Regional Middle School, my first real public school experience. I had grown up moving from town to town, partaking in new but familiar forms of education in Montessori Schools, Waldorf Schools, and the like. I was creative, unique, and altogether a weird kid. When I entered into the abyss of public education, the creative bug I had was squashed by the vigorous factory-esque machinery of regimented recesses and silent study time. I lost my spark in the storm of the incessant buzzing of bees, who I thought held the keys to success. I chased shadows, silhouettes of my future self as I thought he should be – successful, popular, attractive, all the middle school attributes of greatness. I was entrenched in my own pit that I had been digging, seeking the treasure I thought lay under the Earth. For years I kept walking down this path, losing sight of the sun, the trees, unable to feel the breeze on my face or the warmth of a summer day. Each moment was spent in pursuit of this dastardly lie – that who I should be is defined by others, by the masses, by my parents.

When I arrived at college, age eighteen, I was immediately displeased, bored, insatiated. I had arrived at the palace of reason, the incumbent source of my success, and the next hoop on the destination map that had been found at the bottom of the aforementioned pit. I had reached success part one, I had been afforded the gift of knowledge and of learning. I did it… And yet I felt empty. It was lackluster, it was bland. I realized that the map had been a deception, written over the years by the controlling forces of society, the invisible hand of the market, I had been played. In this moment, college imparted its most important lesson on me: Any path that is not your path is a lie, any journey that is not your heart’s journey is a road not worth travelling… In short, one’s heart, passions, loves – these are one’s greatest treasures to be cultivated, protected, and finally shared with the whole world. College had forced me onto the path of wisdom seeking and of self-reflection. College had incited in me a spark, a seed, a growing maelstrom. For this I am eternally grateful, and who knows, maybe that’s the point of college.

So, for the next year or so, in the midst of discovering new classes, new friends, new excitements and remorses, I began growing my own tree, lost for half a decade, found once more. I sheltered it from the cold of the judgemental world, protected it from the speculation of those closest to me. After it had grown into a small sapling, I started to show it to people, share my tree, my fire, my storm. I showed it around and it shocked people, some hated it, some were scared for me, some looked upon it with awe and realization. I began imparting myself onto the world once more, as I had done when I was a child. I was again the creative, searching, excited, and wise child I had been.

Yet still, something was off, my heart was morose, a twisted knot like one on an old tree took root inside me, a constant reminder that I had yet to find the answers I needed. I was overwhelmed by sadness, I felt like I was wasting away, not letting myself grow, as if my sapling was stuck as just that, a young, inexperienced tree, unworthy of greatness, unable to create change. I was scared I wouldn’t grow taller so I took off into the world, searching for more nutrients for my sacred tree, fire, storm. I travelled to far away lands, walking the streets of Asia, longing to find a source for growth, some good soil, some good wood. I began to scratch the itch of my unconscious mind, learning about people, about myself, and about how everything is interconnected and how opportunities lie in every connection. The world began to take on a new light, I could see the next handhold on the wall I was scaling. I started to read books again, I consumed everything I could get my hands on, my eyes were ablaze with the passion of growing, learning, and becoming better. If there is one thing I can say about myself, it is that I am always striving to better myself, to beat yesterday’s me and grow into the best version of myself I can create tomorrow, sometimes to a fault. It’s a treacherous path.

Finally, I was back at school, trapped once more in the perpetual swing of society’s pendulum. I felt the boredom returning again, different yet stemming from the same source. I was happy, or rather content, with where I was. I was content, yet unfulfilled. I knew there was more, I knew I could be more, do more. I wasn’t satisfied. I lived in this land of lackluster for a few months as I waited for the next chapter of my life to roll around. I was transitioning, transforming, adapting, and it felt slow, arduous, and terrible. Eventually, I was off to study abroad in New Zealand, the land of elves, hobbits, dragons, Middle Earth. I was back on track, returning to my roots, or so I thought.

My time here in Middle Earth has been one of the hardest times of my life, and because of that, the period of time in which I have grown the fastest. I felt myself slipping away, I recognized that I had no purpose in life, no driver, I was empty. I identified that I was afraid to be myself, even the thought of being me, authentically, and without hesitation caused me so much anxiety I physically felt pain. Every moment was a scrape against the blackboard, a moan of the sick. I was dying, not living. So I set aside my responsibility, my friendships, my society and took off on the quest to find myself, my purpose, my heart. I devoured books about how to be confident, searched my soul for meaning, experienced the greatest moments of sadness I have felt to date, lost track of days and weeks and finally found myself sitting on a bench in the gardens crying as I finished reading the last chapter of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had read the book before all the way through and loved it, had my mind blown by it, but I hadn’t taken it to heart, I hadn’t recognized the truth it held for me. That sunny Wednesday afternoon I had finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and with that done I reread the last chapter of Zen. Things clicked for me and I realized that I had been lost, my soul had been watching me bumble my way around for years, yearning to reconnect, but knowing the time hadn’t yet come. I walked into the forest and looked up at the sky and time slowed down, everything became sharp – I could see each vein in every leaf – clear, sounds disappeared, and I felt myself descending into my body. With a metaphysical kathunk, my soul had been welcomed back into me. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I had put in the work of unravelling the knot in my chest, massaging my way through the growing pains, and after seven years of aimless wandering, I had been formed, wholly, once more.

Now, as weird as this all sounds, I think it happens to everyone. People lose themselves when they forget that we live to be a conduit for ourselves to manifest in the world, not for someone else to use. People are constantly ignoring their hearts in favor of the trend of today or the security of tomorrow.

I am an artist, a creator, an imaginer, a diviner. I am an inventor, an Atlas carrying the hopes of tomorrow. I am striving to change the world. Fear is an impediment, distractions, in any form, a cause for aimlessness. I have always felt as if my true potential is locked up inside myself, surrounded by walls or growing inside of a shell. I have always wondered how to let out the dragon, how to unleash the power. I can’t say I fully understand how yet but I can wager a pretty good guess. I believe that the power of humans and thus humanity lies in every individual’s heart, in their passions, in their connection to their loved ones, and in their innate desire to grow. When we, as humans, take the time to connect to our literal life source and when we commit to living life authentically, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know exactly what I want to do or how to answer the common interrogatory question of ‘how will you change the world?’ but I do know that I won’t stop growing and learning until I have lived up to my own insurmountable, mountainous intentions for my life.

Moments in Snowfall

I once walked home from my bus stop in the midst of a gentle yet commanding snowfall. In the snow I watched the echo of myself be left behind with every footfall. I was struck at the brevity of each moment, at the complex simplicity of time. In my past, I could see myself leaving an audible trace on the world. In the present, I had little comprehension of the significance each step would have on the trail behind me. In my future, a distant goal enshrouded by snowfall, and a blank journey waiting to be traversed. My present moment, beyond precious and yet gone in an instant, snatched by the ever-present past. This moment and each moment beyond, while short, merits such a true love, a love at first life.

The immensity of love, such an intense caress of emotion on my heart, is the kind that makes me smile for no reason but for lack of having a reason to not. This is the love that blossoms out of bravery – a courage to breathe in the rather ordinary smattering of moments that coagulate into life as if each individual moment has the best aroma ever to be smelled. To stop and smell the roses is to stop a routine not so much of ignorance but of ignoring – for in fact roses grow everywhere around us. In every moment there is an immense universe of truly deep beauty like that that lies in the petal of a single rose. Imagine, then, the significance of the lives we are honored to partake in. If every moment can be as full as a universe of moments and we have, simply put, an infinity of moments, then perhaps we have the key, the truth, dare I say.

I believe that in a moment lies a simple a truth. The characteristics that define a moment are infinitesimally small as well as indefinite in their constitution – any given moment exists once. This is the truth of life. We cannot relive moments and to regret a moment is to lose some number of moments in one’s future, moments that can never be changed, as they are lost to the past simply in their existence.

Do not let me frighten or discourage you, for we live in a world where there is profound depth, simplicity, and overwhelming loveliness. In each moment there is a world different than the world of the moment before. As I write this, the world is adjusting atomically, chemically, physically, emotionally, in every way possible, the world will change, and us in it. This moment is different than the moment before, for in this moment I am smiling as I immerse myself in the beauty of a new song, in the heartbeat of human passion that has made such incredible sounds, sounds that change the world, my world.

The key is not to fabricate incredible moments that we surround ourselves with but to appreciate the moments we have, as they are unique and beautiful like any other. The indiscriminate truth in life is that the future is open, unknown, blinding in its brilliance.

In a world where millions of snowflakes fell around me, I found a thought I at once treasured, an idea that I was sure I must keep safe until it developed. As I have grown, I have kept this moment close to my heart, and now I share it with you. In my snowy winter wonderland, what was my role? I have discovered that my role in this journey is to relish the truly immense reverence I have for each and every moment, given that it is my moment to live and that I can live it as me, Faolan.

The world is wide open. I encourage you to ruminate as I have and beleaguer and eventually conquer any resistance to accepting and loving life as it is. If you can do this, I have utter confidence that moments will become brighter and more full or color, and that the significance of every little thing, from a blade of grass with a droplet of dew on the end, to a cloud with the face of a dragon, to a sky as purple as a cherry, to the laugh of a friend will become more valuable than is even comprehensible. For me, I live as if every moment were not my last, but as though I must recognize the inexorable truth that moments by their existence are gone even as they are born and should thus be given the respect they deserve: one of a past love, as every moment should be loved.

I wish you all much luck in the snowfalls of life and may you find roses abounding.