My Dear Friend Gerard recently gave me some very good advice about traveling. He said, under absolutely no circumstances should you start a blog.
As a result, I am dedicating this to you, DFG.
Some things I write here may be updates on my travels. Most of it will likely have nothing to do with traveling. Writing helps me think. Part of this is an exercise in finding safety in vulnerability: having a public space to express my private thoughts and holding nothing back. Also, I just feel like it.
Welcome to Shakespeare for Dogs. Hi. Have fun.
I’m starting off with the groundwork of where I’m at, for my own benefit and for those who have asked for explanations of what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and where my head’s at right now. I keep promising to get back to all of you on that. There’s a lot to tell, I’ve said. And there is. Let me tell it now:
When I was 14, I was sitting in a Starbucks in San Diego, and it occurred to me in a crushing wave of emotion type way that I would never become an intergalactic hitchhiker. Yes, I’d always known that. It wasn’t something I’d ever particularly thought I would be. But in that moment, I really felt it. That the option of intergalactic hitchhiking would never exist for me, bar some miracle advancement in science, was, for some reason, overwhelming at that time.
This, and other memories, keep synching up and making sense in ways they haven’t before. It’s all been some long beginning, and each of those moments has led me to here. Now. Writing this. Hello.
What’s happened is, I feel like the long beginning has come to an end. The questioning and exploration, realizations, truths I’ve learned have all clicked into a framework that fits like floorboards in the house of my existence. I’ve gathered enough pieces to build something sturdy and without too many gaping holes. I’m on a mission to find and fill the holes I might have missed, smooth out the flooring and start building up.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- There is no objectivity.
Or at least, absolutely no way to be certain of objectivity existing. No objective truth, no objective reality. Or, what is true for you is not necessarily true for anyone else. Your red may be my green.
My friend Kathleen used to say, “A equals A, you can’t argue with that.”
You can, and I am.
A doesn’t exist. More to the point, you have no way to truly know that A actually exists. You can experience your perception of A, operate as though A exists, but what you think is A might be my Z, or the color purple, or a dragon. Everything we perceive as fact, as reality, even something as basic as gravity, is nothing more than a utilitarian agreement on what most people perceive to be true. Gravity may exist. It’s probably wise to operate as though it does, but a thing holds as scientific fact only so long as it has yet to be disproven.
Accept that what you think/feel/believe may be the core of who you are, but it may not be true, in general or for anyone else.
- Two contradictory truths can both be true.
Or, things that seem incongruous from one angle can be identical from another.
A teacher I had in high school described it to our class like this: there was me, ultra-liberal leftist, and a girl whose name escapes me now, right-wing Conservative Christian. We fought about everything. We saw eye-to-eye on nothing. Absolute opposite ends of the spectrum, except for one thing: We both agreed that politics was really, really important. Two points at zero and a thousand on the x-axis can be in the same plane on the y-axis. When trying to understand a contradiction, bend it around the next axis.
Like, the human experience is real, and it is Maya.
Douglas Brooks says, “I am not you, I am like you, I am nothing but you. They are all true.”
- Everything is okay.
Credit to Bella for articulating this one for me. What I mean is, everything is acceptable. You’re entitled to every feeling. Every single one. Even if the cause seems implausible or insane, there’s a reason behind what you feel, and in that context, the feeling makes sense.
It’s like, you’re allowed to be happy with your body as it is. You’re allowed to want a boob job. You’re allowed to feel genuinely happy about getting a boob job. It’s all okay. There are no rules.
- Give yourself the freedom to not.
Alternately, in order to do the thing (from a place of consciousness and agency), you have to be fully able to not do the thing. Sometimes, you have to do the opposite of the thing. This one I thank David for.
The year I spent living in Shoreditch, my main interests were getting fucked up and not giving a shit about anything. Probably the only thing I gave a shit about was feeling shitty about how I no longer gave a shit about anything. Then, it shifted. I came back to being me, passionate and alive. I used to regret that year. After moving away, getting my head on straight, finding my fire again, I felt horrified in myself for taking such a turn away from the person I am and want to be.
That year was my chance to fully go into not being me, to being the opposite of me, in order to fully come to a place of being me. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there.
- You don’t need to take everyone with you.
This is twofold. Everyone’s on their own journey, doing their own thing, at their own pace, in their own way. Also, you don’t have to explain yourself to everyone, or anyone at all.
“I am under no obligation to make sense to you.” (Cheers, again, Bella).
The people you want to understand you may never understand you. The people you think could never get it may miraculously get it.
The point is, you don’t get to choose as much as you think you do who comes into your life, how, why, what role they have, how long they stay, and when and why they leave. The same goes for everyone else. You’re obligated to no one, and no one is obligated to you.
- Don’t try to control the narrative.
Some people will love you, some people will hate you, and it will likely have nothing to do with who you are.
There’s a scene in X-Men: First Class where Mystique, using her shapeshifting powers to look like regular human Jennifer Lawrence, is lifting weights. Michael Fassbender drops the weight on her and bam, she has to change back into blue Mystique form in order to concentrate all her energy on holding the weight up. And he says to her something along the lines of, You’ll never achieve your full potential if you spend half your energy trying to look normal.
Because the great and terrible thing about other people is that you can’t control them, or how they feel about you, or how they react to you, or how they see you. They will always have their lenses: pasts, memories, judgments, biases, tastes in front of their eyes when they look at you.
You can’t choose what role you play in someone else’s life, what story they tell about you. So just don’t waste your energy on it. You can only take your own actions on board.
- The point is to relate.
I really feel like the meaning of life is to relate: to understand, speak back, and understand again from there.
Humans are no longer driven only by a need for biological procreation. As a species, we’re trying to work towards procreation of knowledge and experience. To pass on knowledge and understanding so that the collective level of groundwork is raised and we can continue to build up. To share in mutual connection, a place of two beings understanding each other so fully that for just an instant, they are harmoniously one.
Like grey matter wiring into synapses, understanding and speaking back creates pathways between beings in the whole universe like cells in a brain. The more we do it, the more we all grow, the faster the growing can continue.
- Feeling something out is usually more helpful than thinking it through.
Sometimes things make sense rationally. To me, rational sense means it fits in the context of the stories you tell. Sometimes, things make sense in a way that doesn’t really make sense. They just feel right.
There may be a grand plan and/or it may just be that the conscious mind is the tip of an iceberg and millions of cues are picked up by our unconscious minds that drive us to that feeling of something being right or wrong beyond our ability to reason it out. Call it instinct, intuition. Your gut knows you better than your head does. Follow it, because what feels right may not sound right to your logical mind. But what feels right is usually right-er.
- Everything you do is selfish and that’s okay.
Alternately, do what serves your needs.
Giving money to charity is selfish. You do it because it makes you feel good to do it, or feel bad not to. Or because you care. Because YOU care. You have a need to do it.
Selfishness is not a negative, or a positive, it’s just the only thing you can do. The tension is between what our needs are and what we think our needs ought to be. Check in, feel it out, don’t think it through. Ask for what you need. Give yourself what you need. Take what you need. Be what you need.
Some things that seem like they should serve your needs will do the opposite, and vice versa.
- Break the lenses.
Question everything you think you know, about yourself, about everything. Doubt it all. Try the opposite of what you think you should. Stretch your mind further than you think you can, then stretch it further still.
We’re all so caught up in the stories we tell about ourselves and each other, the ideas we have of ourselves and the world, the biases and the lenses we put on, the hierarchies and structures we exist within, the systems that confine us and tell us what we are. There is so much in this world that attempts to define you, categorize you, place you in an order. But that order is extrinsic, imposed from the outside.
The way the chaotic branches of a tree are perfect order unto the natural world, and the assembly line of an industrial plant looks like order but is utterly unnatural. Assembly line order is fragile, organic order is antifragile (thanks, Nassim Nicholas Taleb).
When you break the lenses, erase the narratives, tear down the walls, blow up the hierarchies, destroy the structures, you are left with what looks like chaos. Because true, organic order looks like chaos to the rational mind.
- There is a natural harmony to all things.
Even when that harmony looks chaotic, things are fitting into a pattern. Synchronicity, destiny, whatever you want to call it. A harmonious order that is natural and aligned by its own collection of truths.
I fully believe that when we tear down the structures that keep us from our own truths, when we find the reality of our own needs and serve them, the serving of those needs will find itself in harmony with the serving of the needs of those around us.
Following intuition, feeling our way out of problems, tapping into our needs, will lead us to live harmoniously. All of us, everywhere. The whole universe.
- What you wish to do, you first must be.
Sing that awful MC Yogi song with me: You gotta be the change/that you want to see/in the world/just like Gandhi. Yes, Gandhi is both cool and problematic etc., anyways.
Growing up, my mom talked a lot about stages of social and spiritual evolution and the process for it she instilled in me looks something like this:
Stage 1: Chaotic survival. Think humans on their own in the wild. I am. I breathe. I eat. I shit. I exist. Like, I have needs, on a basic survival level.
Stage 2: Extrinsic order. My mom calls it Tribalism. Hierarchy, proscribed roles, the initial structures we build, defining difference, making sense of ourselves in contrast to one another. Like, I have order, I have a sense of self in contrast to you.
Stage 3: Individualism. Tearing down the structures, return to chaos, each person coming into their own truth. Finding yourself, over and over again. Defining ourselves not in contrast, but in the wholeness of who we are and accepting that that wholeness sometimes is in contrast and sometimes is identical and sometimes is similar. I am not you, I am like you, I am nothing but you.
Stage 4: True community. Harmony of unique needs. Organic order, emerging out of chaos. I am, we are, those two things are one, and that oneness is wholly natural and fulfilling.
A girl asked me recently if I thought I knew my purpose in life. I said yes. It’s to herald/shepherd/help humanity go from stages 2 to 3 and lay the groundwork for stage 4. Because I really believe that that is possible, and happening, and never not going to happen. It will be hard. But it’s pretty much what I think I’m doing on this planet.
I know the goal, just not how I want to get there. I’ve tried on all kinds of career paths (journalist, human rights lawyer, novelist, organizer, professor, filmmaker) always expecting that the reason none of them fits right is because I haven’t found the right fit yet. But my career for me is just a tool, not the end goal. The work I do is a means of making the changes in the world I want to make.
How naïve to think I could figure out how to make those changes in society without first learning how to make those changes in myself.
- It always comes back to balance.
The question I most often find myself stuck on these days is whether doing this work on myself is enough. Can the stage 2 to 3 to 4 transformation of the human race really be done only from the inside out? Will there be a time when a critical mass of people will have done the work (to break the lenses and destroy their relationships to the structures imposed on them) that there’s a natural tipping point and it all flows into the next wave of existence?
I believe that in some ways, yes, that will happen. But I think the work has to go both ways. We have to work on ourselves, from within ourselves. We also have to break down the systems that exist outside of us, that are greater than the sum of their parts, the Marxian superstructures that confine us to our roles and make doing this transformative, evolutionary work more difficult for ourselves and so many others. Do it from both directions.
Go up the mountain and into the cave, come back to the village, go up an even bigger mountain (thanks again, Douglas Brooks.)
Like, I can meditate and find God all I want, and that’s good and righteous, but children are still dying in Syria, police are still shooting DAPL protesters with water cannons in freezing temperatures, climate change is still a thing. My self is both me and the world, a wave and the ocean, changing one changes the other, but the change has to come on both sides. There’s too much urgency, we’ve fucked up our planet and society too much to not do both.
When trying to decide if this way is right or the other, which angle is more important, which end to veer towards, the answer is always, annoyingly, hilariously just fucking balance. And not just in the sense of walking the line, in the sense of balancing extremes. And a balance between walking the line and balancing extremes.
So. To bring this all back.
This is a travel journal, in the sense that it’s a journal I’m keeping whilst traveling, but it’s not really a journal about my travels. Because I’m going traveling, but that’s not really what I’m doing.
I think of myself more as an intergalactic hitchhiker, wandering around, trying to encompass the whole of space and time, seeking answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
I’m erasing the stories I’ve always told about myself that I am on a career path, I am prestigious, I must be working towards something that looks grand on paper at all times. I am going traveling because it intuitively feels right. I am going traveling because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and always been scared of doing.
I’m not trying to find myself. I’m trying to lose everything I think is myself. I’m trying to feel out what self exists underneath all the stories I tell about myself. I’m trying to find a home in myself.
I’m becoming the change I want to make in the world, figuring out how to do it, if it’s possible, writing about it, and maybe coming up with tools to make it easier for others to do the same.