The Wandering Monk

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Friendship and Legacy

Beba was my friend and a great man of true kindness and compassion.

There are some people in the world that live their lives from the inside out.  What I mean by that is that their points of view begin with themselves and then expand outward.  This lends to the idea that their considerations will server the self first, then those nearest second, and then others further third, and so on.

Then there are people in this world that see the world long before they see themselves.  They are those diligent parents that save their whole lives for their children.  They’re those selfless souls that will and regularly do give the shirt off of their backs for the sake of making others’ lives happier or better.  They’re those who sacrifice personal freedoms and privileges, time and energy, for the sake of improving the quality of life of those around them both in big ways and in the smallest gestures.

Beba was the second kind of person and very few people I’ve met have inspired me to respect someone as completely as him.  I met him when I was ten years old.  His family moved a lot and he was only around for a few years before he moved away.  We kept in touch for a time but in my youth and because I was not as thoughtful as he was, I did not maintain our contact as diligently as he had tried to.

I haven’t seen him since but during the brief time we knew each other, we were inseparable.  For years to come, he would have a place in my mind nearly daily.  His nature was so different that I couldn’t shake the idea that I needed to try to understand it.  His selflessness wasn’t just uncommon in a worldly sense, it was completely foreign to me at the time.  I had never met someone that was that way before.  Perhaps this impression is what made it resonate so clearly to me.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time searching for him in my adult life, but I remember so little about important details about him.  I don’t know his last name, or if I’m even spelling his first name correctly.  I don’t know where he moved to (and where he’s moved to since).  I don’t know anything about him beyond the time I had with him.

Since then, I’ve resigned myself to cherishing the memory I have of him.  The lessons he taught me were part of the groundwork foundation that transformed me into who I am now.  Now I’m in my thirties and the inseparable friendship I had with another boy for a short time when I was 10-12 years old still has meaning to me.

Another friend I recall at around the same time was a man named David Richardson.  He and I were also good friends.  He moved away as well, but he had invited me to his birthday party later in the year.  His friendship, like Beba’s, was invaluable.  He had an intelligence that was obvious right away, a strong and forgiving heart, and a nature to him that seemed to radiate all the energy of a good person.  Where as with Beba, my thoughts of him are that he was always thinking of others in a compassion and service capacity.  With David, I always regarded him as simply a thoughtful, perhaps introverted, friend who wasn’t absorbed into his own headspace.

I write all of this for a few reasons.  First, I miss those two and I hope that I am fortunate enough to some day meet them again and thank them for everything — no doubt they don’t even know the impact they’ve made.  Second, because reflecting is a past time of mine and finding lessons, meanings, patterns, and truth in experiences of the past is what I believe we have any recollection of the past all for.

Both Beba and David shared a kind of personality that I define as being the truest piece of humanity in all of us.  Often there are those who dismiss their fellow man; they degrade others, wall themselves off, or think selfishly about what they want and nothing more.  Imagine if you or I had only ever been exposed to such a person or such a perspective.  Imagine if the Davids and Bebas of the world did not teach us the contrast.  I shutter to think of the result.

It’s possible that I will never meet Beba or David again.  It’s possible that some unfortunate thing has happened to them and one or both of them aren’t with us anymore.  I pray that isn’t the case, but my point is that if it were, I may never know.  So, with that in mind, all I have of them regardless of their current fate, is their legacy.  Even as children, they have left behind something that lasts.  The ripples of their actions continue to pulse and glow, even after they stop making them.

Ask yourself what your legacy is going to be.  If you have children, are they a part of that? How do you view the casual human being on the street? How do you interact with your Facebook acquaintances? How do you treat that man in the elevator or at the gas station?

These are all small actions, seemingly insignificant.  But I am learning more and more that who we are and how we are remembered rely almost exclusively on those small actions.  There are likely only about 4 or 5 moments in your life that can be considered definitely life changing.  Yet, when people think of you, they will not think of those moments, they will think of the sensation the entire idea of you brings.  That sensation is sculpted by how have interacted with you.  A person may remember another person as being a great friend, even if they can’t readily give examples of why.  A person may remember another person as courageous, even if they don’t recall an instance of them being that way.

This is because our emotions and our memories are intricately linked.  How something makes us feel is directly tied to how a memory is stored — and even if it is stored at all.

If you’ve ever seen Inside Out, each memory is a colored ball that is fueled by a particular emotion.  Sad memories were blue, happy memories were golden yellow.  When your impression and emotional feeling of a person is the foundation of your memory of them as an idea, as a person, and as an influence in your life, then what that person makes you feel most prominently, is their legacy to you.

So bring joy and happiness, selflessness and sacrifice, courage and support, to all those around you.  You never know when you’ll be the random person in a person’s life that ends up changing them in the best and most amazing ways.


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America: Past, Present, and Future

I’ll forewarn you that this is a political-esque blog post.  To spare many of you from the pain or engagement of it, I’ll also be posting another post today on another few thoughts I’ve been having.

Here in this post, however, I’d like to talk a little bit about America, our values and what I believe it takes to be a leader in today’s country, both big and small.  I’m not authority on any of these topics, but I do have a view on the world, and I’ve been placed in positions in my life that demand the qualities that I will be talking about.  I hope you’ll read through this post and take the time to discuss it with me in the comments.

First, let’s talk about America, big and small.

America is a beautiful place.  I don’t just mean that from a culture or even a physical standpoint.  I don’t just mean that philosophically, or idealistically.  I mean that all encompassingly. The world has seen many great countries and, like great men and women of the past, they have shaped the world we live in today.  Because there are so many of us and because we have such profound impact on the world around us, the world simultaneously carries every possible perspective: scary, large, small, daunting, boring, magnificent, and unpredictable.

America’s fit in this is a powerful one.  Idealistically, America dons strong morals and raises them as a shield both in our own defense and in our justification for attack.  Like its people, America tries to embody what it believes in and it can’t stand idly by while immoral actions happen.  Whether you agree that this is something we should or shouldn’t do aside, that we feel this way at all speaks for itself.

America is also in the unique position to be a world leader.  We have those who can equip conviction and go to length unimaginable to accomplish their goal in the name of freedom, moral fortitude, or defense of an ideal.  If I had to summarize the character of our country, I would say we are idealists whose actions are based on moral ideals.  We justify our every thought and action based on what we perceive to be the most correct.

But we’re also hypocrites.

I don’t know mean that like we’re bad people, just that we’re people in general.  Nature doesn’t have perfection but often, human beings get so caught up in the conditions and criteria of “right” that when a deviation of this perspective happens, no matter how small, we criticize it as being wrong.  Therefore, “perfect” becomes “doing the right thing 100% of the time”.  No matter how you define perfection, we won’t ever get there.  I may have strong moral foundations but I violate them just like anyone does.  I don’t like it, I don’t mean to, but sometimes I do.  Sometimes I do it even as I know I’m doing it.  I do this because somehow I’ve managed to convince myself it’s necessary.

I digress, but this will come up later.  Suffice to say that America, like human beings, does our best to uphold a moral code and sometimes we do it great, and sometimes we don’t.

The past is an interesting thing.  If you’ve been alive long enough to remember some of our previous presidencies, I ask you to take a walk down memory lane with me.  Remember when George W. Bush was elected?  During his entire presidency, he was criticized and inflamed.  We talked about how terrible every decision he made was.  We scrutinized his every word, action, idea, and policy.  Nothing he did could be good, because everything he did pissed someone off.

But when his presidency was over, and President Barrack Obama became our President, all that seemed to stop.  Now it was President Obama’s turn to be scrutinized.  His every policy, choice, and idea was deemed horrific and terrible.  I consider myself disconnected from the current of social-movements.  I don’t do things because everyone else does them because it’s too easy for the wrong thing to become popular because someone with charisma made it sound good and recruited enough people to generate the snowball effect.

That said, even as I witnessed some of the decisions that President Obama made, I found myself making snap judgements.  I’m glad I caught myself and did my own research, and remained unbiased.  After I did my own research, I sometimes changed my point of view, and other times, enhanced and finalized a more complete point of view that was founded in the original one.

The Present

Today, Donald Trump was elected to become the President of the United States of America.  Over our election season, we’ve seen terrible sides of him that terrify the American citizens because we can easily see decisions he may make given the character he’s demonstrated.  Further, we worry that he will become a mascot for America, altering the world’s views on what America stands for, what morals we value, and what comprehensive philosophies we will be define for in years to come.

Personally, I am not a fan of Mr. Trump.  Likewise, I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton.

But I am a fan of the American way of life and of the freedoms that we have — contrary to the ignorance of our people when it comes to being able to acknowledge and appreciate those freedoms.  Nevertheless, Mr. Trump is now our President and the country must now face this reality.  There are only two ways we can do this:

  1.  With fear.  We will continue to perpetuate our assumptions that Mr. Trump will be a terrible leader and will create an image for our country that undermines freedom, liberty, and equality.
  2. With unification and hope.  We take this fact for what it is and decide that no matter what, we are a people that must stand together.  We must face challenges head on, both big and small.

The Future

I can’t say what will happen in the future.  Perhaps our fears were misplaced.  Perhaps the political game was designed to stir the emotions of the people and the actual actions that are taken aren’t nearly as extreme as they were presented to us as being.  Perhaps we were over-reacting.  Or perhaps we weren’t.

No matter what, if we allow our fear to drive our decision making process, we will only ever destroy our chances for hope.  If we define our lives through our stances and our character, let it be the ones that allow us to stand against the challenges we, as a country, face, and not the ones that come from internal bickering and infighting.  Agree or disagree with a political decision, but stand behind your leaders even if you didn’t get your way.  Do your best to enable the progress of your community and your nation.  If we can do that, no single man or woman, no matter what chair they sit in, can change what America stands for.

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Many Voices, One Hand

I’ve recently finished re-reading my favorite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I’ve read it dozens of times and each time I have learned applicable, profound lessons in my life that I had already known but had somehow forgotten.  Lessons I had realized on some level but never truly faced or realized until I was at a place in my life to face them.  Each time I’ve read the book, it’s been as though I had been reading it for the first time.

The premise of the book is simple, beautiful, and endearing.  It follows a young shepherd boy through Spain and begins with a recurring dream he has.  Even when he was young, he followed his dream instead of doing what his family wanted him to do.  He was supposed to be a priest, but he decided to be a shepherd instead.  He had done it for only two years at the start of the book, but in that time had mastered everything there was to know about being a shepherd.

Beyond that, he is met by an old man who teaches him about omens and spurs him towards his personal legend.  It’s as much a journey of the heart, of dreams, and of learning the language without words and about the soul of the world.  The book takes place across Spain and Africa, across the desert and eventually in Egypt.  But all the while, he encounters omens that direct him towards his great path and tests to ensure he has learned the lessons given to him.

We encounter various religions in the book but it is also inferred that all is written by one hand.

I am not a theistically religious individual.  I believe in the nature of things, in omens, and in following the signs and the language of the world — I had long before I had read The Alchemist but that it spoke so clearly to the things I felt in my heart is why it became my favorite book.

But when it comes to the topic of God, every possible flavor of response can be found easily.  Indifference, disdain, reverence, and more.  The world is teeming with people who follow the single path of the God of their chosen faith and, it seem that lately, rise up against those who don’t believe in the same exact version of God that they do.

I have found that this book adequately balances the existence of multiple faiths with the singular suggestion that all that occurs is written by one hand.  My theory is that we all interpret what we encounter slightly differently and that the personal legends — the things that a person is meant to do in their life — sometimes involves the teaching of these encounters to others so as to nourish the soul of the world with happiness and to bring awareness to the language of all things.

Consider for a moment that all the world has uncovered the same concept regardless of how geographically dispersed they were.  We all perceive the language of the world — and we all feel the energy of the soul of the world.  When we think of the world, we see it based on what we see in the world itself.  Violence and hatred colors the world with dark colors and makes it feel hostile and dangerous, but this makes the light of positive actions that much more influential and powerful to us.  When we live in utopia, the slightest misdeed can feel amplified by the contrast of its environment.

But learning this language is perhaps one of the most important things a human being can do.

We can never find our personal legend if we don’t know to follow the omens and to listen to our hearts.  To those who have never done this, the very notion my seem absurd.  But to those who have seen this and felt this, they know that they are being guided by the hand that has written all — of God — of the Universe — of the Soul of the World.  If we call it Jesus, or Allah, or whomever, or if we divide it into as many or as few Gods as we like, it all comes back to the same notion — there is a single hand that writes all things and that sets a path before us all.

Have you ever perceived coincidence that seems eerily placed to be at the perfect time?  Perhaps cause and effect demands that it could only have ended that way, but the irony of many encounters begs us to look deeper.  What some say is the voice of God, others call the omens of the world.  Coincidental and seemingly unrelated things that send you a message that ultimately guides you towards your true happiness.

In The Alchemist the boy is at a very low place.  He weeps at the situation and has lost hope.  Then, somehow, he perceives his world differently and asks Urim and Thumim to tell him if the wisdom of the old man is still with him.  He’s told yes by way of them falling through a hole in the pouch they were in.  When we watch the omens of the world, we can slowly begin to see the meaning of all things.  Intuition becomes a moment of clarity where we peer into the place where all things are written and some deep part of us perceives it and that knowledge is passed to us without it ever having encountered our traditional senses.

So no matter what you believe in, I think that we are all asked to internalize the language of the universe however we’re able, and not condemn others because their way is different than our way.

One last thought:  Many religions say “The one, true God.” in some way or another.  I wonder if it is not suggesting that the one, true God is the hand that has written everything and the prophets of those who have come in that hand’s name all represent that hand — with only different words and paths to it — and that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and more all see the same hand, but speak in different voices.