Monday, November 15, 2010

Nomad (part 1)

I've spent a lot of time recently worrying that I will never be what culture defines as successful. It's an odd kind of worry, because in all honesty I don't really care if I have the wealth and stability that I've been told is success. What I'm actually concerned about is that what actually motivates me in life will lead me to something that will alienate me from my friends and family.

I want to write that it feels good to type that, but it's not true yet. It will feel good to publish it and actually put it out to the world.

This concern is part of the cloying fear that has been keeping me up all night recently. Insomnia is like an old glove in a lot of ways. I can feel it coming, and I have a routine that gets me through it, and I've developed just enough ways to mitigate the consequences such that I can skate by for one more day. To think I used to live like this all of the time. When I think about that way of life I'm filled with a deep sense of compassion and pity, but the person I feel so moved to help is my past self. And in a way it's my current self. I can, and have, and almost certainly will, say that I have overcome anxiety/depression/insomnia/panic attacks/etc, but I've come to realize that this phrasing comes from thinking about it as a disease, and not as a matter of mental health. Overcoming insomnia is kind of like overcoming muscle cramps. Muscle cramps aren't an inherently bad thing. They're there to tell you something about the way you're using your body, and they should be respected. Insomnia is the same thing. Something about the way I'm living isn't working the way I want it to, and as a result I'm unable to sleep.

I've spent a few years now learning a lot about psychotherapy, which is why it's so embarrassing to say that I'm only recently embracing the idea that saying something can be soothing. As far back as I can remember there have been ideas and insights within my own mind that I have been aware of, but unwilling to think aloud, much less say aloud, because I couldn't stand to face them. They are things that I don't want to admit to myself. I would bend over backwards, usually metaphorically speaking, to try and correct the problems that lead to these thoughts, all so that I could resolve them without ever having to expose them to anyone. And that's really kind of stupid. My Bushido book, which I think I mentioned in the post prior to this one, advises time and time again to seek the counsel and advice of others. I'm not exactly sure what advice, if any I'm going to be seeking, but I know that if these matters remain trapped in my head they aren't going to change. So with that I'm going to return to what all of my blog posts end up being, a grand theoretical discussion of something with personal relevance in which I make sweeping claims about how it may apply to humanity.

I'd also like to note that I have a vague suspicion that this kind of writing is how religions get started. Someone talks about their own ideas in the context of Humanity, or "The good people," or just simply "The Chosen" and before long their pope of this or that movement. Anyway, moving on.

As I sit here at dawn, a time that is sacred to me, and think about this, I realize that there are a few things that I'm going to have to discuss. The first is the idea that I may have a kind of fear of success, and the second is the matter of the Sacred, and faith, and probably a number of other words that will be capitalized in meaningful ways.

I'm going to get to all of that later though. Right now the sun is rising, and I have things to do. To be continued.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

My Feudal Lords

It's been a little over six weeks since my mother visited. I don't get to see her very often, and it was a welcome opportunity, but it left me wondering things in an odd way. More recently a family emergency prompted a trip to Sacramento, and ended up raising this idea again.

The thing that's linking both of these events, for the purpose of this writing, is that both of them lead to a massive gain in material wealth. I gained a laptop and a PS3 Move from the first, and several thousand dollars from the second.

Were I capable of not thinking deeply about these things they would have simply been a bit of welcome largess, but some combination of guilt, and my normal lack of such fiscal liberty have made me into someone who considers such prominent gifts very seriously, and it was from this that I gained great insight into the nature of Bushido.

I've been reading about Bushido a fair amount in the last five or six months. I haven't been reading heavily, but I have a book of Bushido wisdom that floats around and I read a parable or two every few days. I've always had a mixed relationship with it. I have a great respect for most of it, but the role of a Samurai as a retainer has never truly synced with me until now. Recently I have come to a greater understanding and I've come to understand how it applies to my own life. The people who have given me these gifts, and those upon whom I am dependent, are my Feudal Lords. They give me direction, and they give me the power and resources to pursue that direction, but I'm not directly bound to them. It's not a strict power structure, like a boss or a superior officer, rather it's a gentler system in which they are my backers and my teachers. Nor is it a strict contract of service. I'm not being paid directly to do some job, I'm being supported to fulfill a role. They empower me and give me counsel, and in return I carry out their will, using the endowments they have given me. When I'm looking at, or thinking about these gifts, things which go far beyond my living expenses stipend, I remember this.

The laptop, which I'm writing on now, could be turned into an excellent gaming PC. It won't be. It could follow in the footsteps of all of my previous computers and be slowly corroded by the dubious practices involved with acquiring music, videos, and software at no expense, but it won't be. Instead it's being used for media, but nothing potentially damaging to he machine, and for work. My first priority when I set it up was to make sure it wouldn't get infected, and this is the only computer in decades where I've paid for high quality security software. This machine isn't just a computer, it's a gift from my Feudal Lords, and like a horse, or a Daisho, or any other bit of equipment a Samurai might be given, it has to be used with them in mind.

I considered this when I first set up this computer, and like all computers it asked for a name. This name would only really matter if it were being designated in some kind of network setting, but to me the name holds great symbolic meaning. This is why this computer is named Koku. Technically a Koku is a unit of measure, but it was also once a unit of currency, with one Koku being worth enough rice to feed one person for a year, which according to wikipedia was set at around 330 lbs. I have been told there is a specific term for the stipend a Feudal Lord gave to their Samurai, but I don't know it and have had no luck finding it, but I do know the stipend was commonly given out in the form of Koku. So this computer is named Koku, because it, amongst the other things I receive, was given to me by my Feudal Lords, and I'm keeping their will in mind when I use it.


Ever since I returned from Harmony hill I've had this sense of being lost. Like the life I'm living is not where I'm supposed to be. It isn't always on my mind, but in the quiet moments when there is nothing to distract me it come back. This isn't right. This is destructive, this isn't enough. It haunts me and I know in my heart that it's true.

But you know what turns out to be really really easy? Running away from your problems.

I've done that a lot of my life, and not in the traditional ways. You see I grew up with a computer, and the internet, and video games, so my ability to escape reality was greater then at any other point in human history. My life has offered me countless opportunities to escape my life, and by and large I've taken them.

And it needs to stop. It really does. And not just because of how damaging it is to my soul, but because of how pathetic it's become. People have developed new ways to stay comfortably numb, they've perfected the internet into a machine that can consume hours and hours of your time, all while making you feel like you're doing something, and slowly killing you inside.

So am I swearing off the internet? No, that would be crazy. Getting rid of games and computers would be like throwing out my car because I don't think I'm getting enough exercise. The device isn't the problem, it's the way it's used.

And to be honest, I fully intent to keep video games as a big part of my life. It's my culture, and I really genuinely enjoy them. They aren't even inherently bad for you. What I need to do is avoid the ease of escape. This, in large part, is about getting rid of the stupid little flash games on facebook and other websites that can chew up hours at a time while you do some little thing over and over again. The rest of it is about time management, and getting more done, and not letting the little things slide.

How do I do this and make it stick? I'm honestly not 100% sure yet, but I think it may start with dramatically reducing the role my desktop PC plays in my life. To start with it's a hulking noisy behemoth, but mostly it's that 90% of the things I do on a computer that are good for me I either can do, or already routinely do on my laptop. I have this idea of getting rid of the chair in front of my desktop, so that it's not longer comfortable to use for long periods of time, but I'm not sure how well that will work.

I'm not sure how far it goes from there. I just know that it won't be easy, but it will matter, unlike the things that are.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Wayne Miller was, and is, a Legend. I say this not just because of his incredible exploits on the battlefield, but because of how I know him. I know him through the stories about him. Most of these stories are flashy and violent and classified by the U.S. government, but the stories that formed my real connection to him are about who he was as a man. The stories of working with his own hands, of living with simplicity, and of being direct and honest. I may be romanticizing things, but I see the aspirations I hold for myself in him.

I saw him, this Saturday, and though his body is still alive, his life is finished. I think if he had the coherency to think about it he would agree with me. I also think, as does my mother, that he would be staunchly opposed to the agonizing extension of his mortality that he's undergoing, but it's not my place to do anything about that.

There is another Legend I faced this weekend, and that is the legend of my ancestry. I draw on this a lot, and my connection to those who preceded me is something that is continuously important to me. The truth of these people, when I see them in person, stands in stark contrast to the legend. But this is the truth of what it means to have nobility. One's bloodline is only a measure of ones potential. It means that I too can be Legendary, and it means that I could fall just as far as my uncle Kelly.

And this is the lesson of the Legend of Wayne Miller. I can talk about him doing simultaneous ambidextrous marksmanship, but that story would be incomplete if I didn't mention that he had been handling a firearm since he was a child. The peerless warrior and the simple man are one in the same. It is that simplicity, that patient honest work that made him as skilled as he was. He was born with tremendous potential, but it was the lifetime of effort that made him legendary.