Reaching for Reason and Hope.  

Most of my posts seem to be me exploring my inner emotional life in one way or another, and that exploration, in some form or another ends up with depression. I wish I could say "most of my posts lately...", but that is not the case. It now seems to be a permanent facet of my adult emotional life. Of course I worry that is had been so long that it is more of a habit than a reality, but I am not sure that is the case.

I feel anger slipping out every once and again. When I think on something that concerns me, something that seems amiss, I worry it like a stone in my pocket, until I find myself having angry conversations with imaginary people in my head. Not the schizophrenic conversations, as in hearing voices, just the everyday scenarios people play in their heads about what should have been done or said or felt, etc.

At the root of it now, all of it, all of the depression, worry, anger and whatnot seems to be frustration with the course of my life and my feeling of helplessness over things and upcoming issues that I do not think I will be able to prevent. Imagine a ship's cabin standing on a bridge and seeing an iceberg slowly approaching—one that will definitely sink the ship. It's too late to change course, the engine room isn't responding to directions, you're just drifting to disaster, unable to stop it. That's a pretty good metaphor for much of what I think I am experiencing.

We live in interesting times where chaos and contention seems to be a rule. Everyone and everything is caught in a whirlpool of anger where they project their fears and concerns into a ball of concentrated hatred. You see it happening all around you. You know it's wrong, but you can't seem to be able to stop it. No one listens to you. They're so wrapped up in their fears that nothing breaks through the cocoon.Sometimes, I am the same way. Except that I refuse to hate anyone else except sometimes myself.

And that might probably be the root of most of my trouble. Part of my own frustrations, angers, etc. is my belief, as solid as any, that I am not worthy of acceptance or praise. I feel like I have tried my best and lost. I was naive and let opportunities fly by thinking that I had an unending series of chances. Frustrated then, I fought against what I thought were injustices or unfair circumstances, only to make choices that did actual harm instead choosing to let those imaginary harms go.

The thought I have in my best moments is essentially this: if I nurture positive, humble beliefs about myself, maybe I can forgive my own mistakes, learn to be detached from the imaginary outrages that seem so real, and be the man of virtue I wish to be. Easier said than done, of course. It seems that this is a daily battle. And one thing about my personality that is a long-standing issue is that I easily give up when I perceive I have failed, when all my negative biases about myself are confirmed, and then, feeling like I have slipped back to the beginning, have even less resolve to continue to fight against bad habits, negative thoughts, less motivation to make good choices based on reason and hope, rather than fear and anger. 

14 September 2018

Fires continue to Burn 

The fires in the Northwest continue to burn making most of the valley smell like a campfire, or the inside of a barbecue pit. The weather apps on ones pocket phone notifies us of "smoke" as our local weather. Not "Cloudy." Not "Chance of Rain." Not "Freezing Fog." But, "Smoke." That's a new one for me.

It also happens that just as these fires pour out the ash into the atmosphere, fires that are hundreds of miles away and largely unseen except for dusty atmosphere along the horizon, I have been thinking about my own life and how it feels that something hidden in me is on fire somewhere, pouring out the haze of smoke into my thinking, clouding the normal hopes with a dusky uncertainty about whether or not I can overcome the challenges I perceive.

Therefore, I have been thinking hard about the many choices that we make, how despair is the paralysis of the spirit, and that keeping oneself healthy emotionally and mentally better equips us to face the difficulties that we encounter each day.

Another thought. Today, I was trying to think of a metaphor. For example, a man may be such an expert at building a house that there is nothing he does not know about the subject, and there is nothing he is not capable of doing in regards to houses. He may have all of the money and tools he needs to accomplish the task. Every material may be laying at his feet. There is nothing stopping him from building a house. But if he doesn't want to do it, he doesn't start. Then, imagine him standing there, a time passes.Then a day, then a week. After a time, guilt and worry about not doing something he could actually do sets in. The worry and guilt build, and the task which could have been simple, seems harder than every. Eventually, the worry and the guilt are replaced by shame as he tries to hide from himself. The job becomes a reminder of his failure. Then, that shame and failure becomes despair, and he is spiritually paralyzed by the whole affair. Maybe even lost.

Of course, one who is healthy, and not haunted by those inner weaknesses wonders why he did not just do it. It was a simple matter in the beginning after all. But, life presents us with problems and challenges before we are even clear on what those problems are.

End of History 

Yesterday, I had the strong feeling like I was living at the end of history. The red sun because of the haze from the fires in California, the bizarre news stories and contentiousness on the television, the heat of the day (hotter than it has been), and all of the artificial ways we use to mitigate the heat with air conditioners, and avoid the conflicts on television with denial, gave me this odd feeling. I know every society on earth has believed themselves to be the pinnacle of history and development, and for a time, they were. The 1100's, 1762, the middle 1830, 1982 - each were the most advanced for their day, and had difficulty imagining what was the come.

And here we are, living in this science fiction reality, where the earth seems to be burning up with either fire, heat, or anger.

My realization that I cannot prevent any of this societal drifting into trauma is humbling and sobering. My life of insignificance and wasted chances make the same thought utterly laughable.

It really does feel that we're out to sea, the waves are tossing back and forth, land is out of sight, and all we can do is keep floating, sailing, fighting to remain upright as we are tossed back and forth.

09 August 2018

A Meditation on Failure 

The past three days has me trying to think deeply, often when I am in the car, about all of the ways things do not go the way we intellectually intend them to go. I really chew on some of these thoughts trying to pin the thought thread down as best I can, but the markers will only go so far until I have to retrace the thread back, repeating the thoughts again, trying to push them farther. Writing them down is better because I can follow the breadcrumbs so to speak. I still have not trained my mind enough to think solidly alone like I want (or seem to want to.)

Right now, today, considering the past three difficult days, I've been thinking about illness as a metaphor for some spiritual maladies. I know that, physically, one can come down with a minor cold or a terminal disease. Everyone, no matter how long they live, is bound to have at least one illness in their life. Yet, if they care for their physical condition, they can usually avoid the most serious illnesses and diseases. However, if a person actively seeks out unhealthy conditions, lives in mold or is always covered in dirt, eats the wrong things, and never exerts themselves, they will more easily ruin their health and maybe end their life.

It seems to me that this is a metaphor for our spiritual difficulties. Everyone, no matter how long we live, will experience a problem or a moral dilemma in their life at least once. My biggest ones so far came in my late twenties and all of my thirties. Perhaps, if one is of a mind to care for themselves spiritually, they might be able to recognize the spiritual principle at work, or discover the missing virtue and try to remedy the problem. Maybe the practice of meditation is necessary to help recognize these problems, or to reinforce the healthier thoughts. However, it also seems clear that chronic neglect of spiritual health can lead to more serious trouble, or maybe even spiritual death. How else could one describe a person who is consumed by selfishness, bad behavior, and things such as causal lying if not as a person who is gravely ill spiritually? A chronic lack of compassion or self-awareness might even lead to a permanent state of spiritual death? Is that how far this metaphor goes?

Could someone, gravely ill in this way, find remedy and recovery? It would seem that if we use life as model, then the answer could be also yes, but it also suggests the seriousness and the difficulty. Such remedies often need careful, regular, and determined treatment. Bones need to be set for casts. Surgery scheduled to remove a cancerous growth. Sometimes, it  also means a new diet. Sometimes, it means better exercise.

But then, sometimes a person afflicted by spiritually illness lacks the means to heal themselves. An unconscious, physically ill person isn't really able to eat or swallow a pill by themselves. I suppose this would mean that, in some cases, it is necessary to reach out to the spiritually ill and help them find the strength to recover, advise a course of treatment.

I often lose hope when I find that I have not lived up to the standards I have set for myself. Mom has told me in the past that I am too hard on myself. I cannot believe that. If anything, I have been lax in some of the things I know I need to do. Many times, I turn to the family trait of psychological denial. If I pretend there isn't a problem, maybe it will go away. Also, if I know that I have failed in some regard, I lose the necessary motivation to continue forward in my efforts to counter the behavior or impulse, lose the will to change. Of course, perhaps it is a sort of arrogance to assume that I can know when all is truly lost when the standards for judging are not up to me. Although I may know myself best among my fellow human beings, I am not the Divine Judge. I have to consider that thought more closely. God knows that we fail. Otherwise, why would their be a need for prayer, healing, or redemption? Why would we need to be forgiven? Ideally, we would carefully protect ourselves spiritually by heeding the Divine counsels and advice and not need to be forgiven. But then consequences are educational are they not? A loving punishment is a punishment that is meant to instruct a being on the seriousness of the error and reinforce the will not to recommit it. A cruel punishment, which God by definition would not do, would punish only to increase suffering.  

I have a hard time separating the suspicion or the feeling of being condemned from knowing that I need to persevere in my spiritual health efforts. For example, perhaps my already low-self esteem falsely tells me that there is no hope, then assuming that I can know for certain there is no hope, I lose motivation to continue, which reinforces my conviction that all is lost because I no longer try as hard. Thus, I add the early "feeling" of failure to the actual reality of failure when I let things go through lack of effort, when I do not do what I know I should or what is right. Then, knowing I have actually failed, I add that knowledge to the early feeling and feel even worse. Which in turn, leads to a sapping of motivation, which strengthens and amplifies the distress, and weakens the desire to try. It is a vicious cycle.

Can I really know that I would be damned, condemned, or beyond help? Perhaps no. Based on my reading of spiritual texts, even the most condemned on Earth still had the opportunity to repent and atone (at least to some degree) while they lived. Of some, that knowledge of opportunity to atone accompanied the knowledge that the person in question never would. However, theoretically, the chance was still there. Therefore, if I want to transform into a better person, I should not dwell on the past that cannot be change, but focus on the future for hope of change.

Other thoughts along these lines: the reality of having a human body, with its capacity of being bored, tired, angry, or having any other animal emotions, complicates the noble desire to be a good person who always acts correctly or transform into a better person. I usually frame this problem in terms of will-power. I tell myself that, in occasions where I am bored, tired, angry, etc, I need to suppress the urge, sometimes shockingly sudden and unconscious, from doing things like yelling at the blameless, or taking it out myself or on someone else. But also, even IF another person yells at me unjustly, I should resist the urge to respond in a similar unkind or unjust manner. Stopping myself from responding in equal unkindness is frighteningly difficult.

Furthermore, it is always easy to be and do good when we're happy and relatively content, but it becomes frustrating difficult when we're not.

I think that the solution, in light of some of these thoughts, might be to try to practice the habit of happiness and contentment, even in difficult circumstances. This provides the natural resiliency of spiritual health in the face of difficult problems.

If I am not entirely wrong, I think I should believe that Happiness and Contentment should not rely  on ones outward circumstances. All of humanity's best spiritual literature seems to tell us this. Happiness and Contentment are not merely passive gifts of God (although they are that). Instead, human persons should consider them as skills to practice. (If light can be both a particle and a wave, according to science, then virtues can be both a gift and a skill.) My challenge then, as a person with a cultural background that tends to see things materially and not spiritually, is to try and recognize how to practice Happiness and Contentment. I think Plato touches on a similar thought about virtue: how some are passive traits, but others are actively practiced. Justice is not justice until one performs a just act. In my life, filled as it is—as everyone's is—with an occasional angry person, minor injustice, unfair circumstance, or outward unhappiness, this challenge looms large. How, do I inoculate myself against these triggers no matter how difficult they may seem, how angry another person might be? (I think of our modern day news reporters who seem to struggle with maintaining inner composure when they ask a person in authority a question, and the authority responds with a lie, attack, or similar unkindness. I want even more than they would "spiritual unflappability.")

This is one of the things I have been thinking on the edge of my life that I suspect I must reinforce: how most of the change I want, changes based on my reading of spiritual texts, is often just a change of perspective: a constant, daily awareness of the real (spiritual) things in life. How do I always remember to carry Happiness and Contentment with me when faced with difficult problems, like where do I live in the next ten years, how do I feed myself, how to I cope with health that is not the best. Yes, there are also practical steps I need to take, and I should think about those, implement them as best I can, but above those two things, I need to have the perspective of happy person working contentedly to becoming a better person, who perseveres through trouble, no matter how bad it is. Who is not unsettled by any event, no matter how large the storm on the horizon, no matter how terrible the lightening bolts are. I know that grief chills hope and effort, even grief about one's frailties and weaknesses. But every step forward ultimately brings us closer to what we want or need. In the world of time, in which our physical lives ultimately appear so short, taking no step at all is the same as falling back.

29 July 2018

Gardens and Airports 

Spent most of the day in the car. Dad was in Florida for most of the week at a science conference for work. My mother, aging, and not as able to take care of herself as before, needed my help for most of the week. She was sad and depressed most of the time he was gone. Today was the day that he came back.

I had to be at the shop at around 9:00 am, so we could leave at 10:00 am. I ate a terrible breakfast at McDonald's consuming way more calories than I should have. I am having a difficult time figuring out how to do the basics of caring for myself in an appropriate way. I eat too much, eat the wrong things, don't sleep well, and hardly ever exercise. Now, in my forties, I am paying the price for years of bad habits. I know I need to change, but I am way less certain about what those changes are. How should I go about fixing things when I don't know which path will take me to where I want to go. Life and its demands, does not seem to provide easy answers, and our society is very dis-inclined to provide any for free.

The drive up to the airport, about a two hour drive with traffic, was pleasant enough. Mom and I spoke about history. Family history, history of the nation, and the various calamities the world is afflicted by and, like me, does not seem to know what the cause of the trouble is, or how to go about fixing it. Mom was tired. Worn out by her week without Dad. She insisted on accompanying me on the journey, when I could have very well done it by myself. Initially, she intended to have lunch along the way, but as traffic increasingly became heavier, she decided it was better to have lunch at the airport.

Finally, we made it, and I made sure that we used the terminal's short term parking. The day was bright, warm, and gradually becoming hotter. The airport terminal was cool enough though. Mom was in her grandmother's wheelchair, so I wheeled her over to the big electronic screens announcing the arrivals and departures. Dad was scheduled to arrive in less than an hour. She was hungry for lunch, and most of the restaurants weren't not suitable to her. She didn't like "Beaches," nor the Bar & Grill on the other side of the vendor area. We settled on Panda Express, cheap Chinese style fast food. I wheeled Mom through the line while she made her choices, and then, for convenience sake, I paid for everything.

We were surrounded by people everywhere. It was interesting to see the mix of people passing by, young and old, tall and short, fat, skinny, rich, poor, in every human shape and color. Mostly, I was focused on Mom. I was having the kind of quality time with Mom that I am afraid of one day not having any more. Again, always at the back of my mind, I am conscious of being on a type of life precipice, slipping towards the edge of a disaster, I do not know how I will cope with when it comes. And yet, every human life will one day have to face a challenge like this. We cannot avoid the harsh realities of life. Perhaps, if more of us were committed to exercising more compassion towards one another, the harshness of life could be lessened. Giant societal changes aimed at softening the hard blows life aims at our hearts, chilling us, wounding us to our deep hurt. Homelessness, Lovelessness, Compassionlessness, Callousness: all of the ills that afflict a human soul.

One of the things I regret about being poor, having financially ruined my own life, is my inability to make my parents life easier. They have much and would not accept too much help from me in any case. They have helped me beyond any ability I could have ever have to repay it. I know this. Feel this deeply. It makes these moments where Mom has been so sad and depressed this week, tired out from her knees hurting, unable to walk for very long, difficult for me to endure when I think of what could have been had I more money to alleviate some of the trouble, or make them pass a bit more smoothly.

Lunch passed pleasantly, and it was time to wait for Dad. The TSA had taken over a significant portion of the airport since I had last been there, and the waiting areas had changed. As Dad had flown on Delta, we had to wait by the Delta ticket areas, in a make-shift waiting area by the windows, under the afternoon sun. I spoke with Mom a little about the people passing by, about how nice it will be to see Dad, and wondered with her about the various facets of his trip. 

He texted her when he landed, so we moved up closer to the aisle where people were arriving from their planes. I lined Mom up in her wheelchair to a prominent corner waiting for the moment when he showed up. When he did minutes later, he was already on top of us. I did not see him pass through the doors, and only noticed him when he was feet from us. Mom and Dad hugged, and we made our way back across the airport, stopping at the restrooms first before leaving.

The traffic back was horrendous. Various bridge and freeway work had made travel through the city achingly slow. Most of our trip on the highway that skirted most of the city went along at ten miles an hour or so. There was not many moments where the speed got above that. Questioning Dad, I discovered that he had not actually had lunch on the plane like Mom had thought. Therefore, I took mom and dad through a detour to McDonalds for a hamburger. Dad also ordered a chocolate shake. I ordered an Iced Tea.

The rest of the trip home was mostly uneventful. There were various things that I had to do later that day. Deliver something to one sister, take another sister downtown to the city festival, close up the shop and turn off the water. But none of it was important enough to really remember or note.

Mom and Dad had determined to go to bed early. Dad to catch up on sleep from his jet lag, Mom to catch up sleep from her difficult sleep this past week without Dad. I left town again for an evening obligation to draw (a regular Friday habit to try and improve my life), perhaps my last drawing event for awhile. My mind was still pondering my struggles with trying to transform my life, and the impermanence of the future, and the finality of the past. The worst thing about human life, for me, for my thoughts right now, is how every mistake is firmly locked in the past. How things I did or failed to do are locked into an unchangeable past, and seem to me like streaks of india ink spilled onto a beautiful carpet. I have tried to scrub out the worst of it, but it refuses to fade or go away. I often pray to God to help me transform and become the person that I consciously want to be: to be more worthy, to be good, to be useful and help people make the world easier and better for those who struggle.I often fear that I will be locked into habits that will not change, impulses that will not fade and die away. After much thinking, I believe that the best I can do is have hope for the future, to persevere. Even if I do or did bad, I will only truly and finally fail if I give up and stop trying to make it better. Please God, help me become a true, worthy human being, and not just a physical creature afflicted by fears and failures, seeking only to satisfy my impulses and selfishness, but instead to become a spiritual being moved by heavenly-gifted virtues that serve to make the world better, to become a fragrant flower of divine attributes, lending my uniqueness, whatever that might be, to the flourishing garden of a better humanity.

27 July 2018

The Uncertain Not-Yet 

Had an existential crisis today. A minor one. The thought hit me about 8 p.m. that my life, such that it is, will not likely improve in the direction I would like it to. My finances are ruined; my social life is dead; my work is such that nothing I do can bring to it any more meaning than it has. I do know I am serving my family to a degree, that I am helping other non-family member employees to continue to have an income and provide for their own families, but I worry about the future. No one plans very hard for it in my family. Maybe there is a sort of rescue in store somewhere veiled in the mysterious mists of the uncertain not-yet, but I don't see it as very likely. I expect shock. The terrible, unfixable mistakes we blithely wander into because we were not diligent enough to work to achieve something better. Being lost is upsetting not because you do not recognize where you already are, but because you do not know how to get where you want to go.

I've also been chewing on the idea that our physical life in this 'contingent' world is so impermanent. I know this. You know this. But, as I get older, as I mull over my past mistakes, chewing on them as a dog would an old bone, I begin to see how one hundred years—the most time anyone could reasonably, honestly hope for—is so frighteningly short. How do you fix something locked in the past? Atone for the opportunities that have escaped you? But those thoughts are not as worrisome as the one that, in my present, I may be headed to a worse future without knowing how or what I can do to prevent it. I feel uneasy, trying to cope with these emotional fears.

But I am in my forties, so I know that, rather than give into the fear, I have to steel myself to accept the consequences, come what may. I have lived through terrible before. Because I am stronger than some, I know I can live through terrible again. I'd rather not have to, of course, but it's the ignorance, the not-knowing, that has me concerned that I can't avoid the consequences of ignorance and paralyzed effort.

We're, all of us living, sitting on the edge of forever, all of the time. Not quite on either side of it. As I had been hundreds of millions of years unborn in the past, I will be eons after-life in the future. One hundred years, which I will almost certainly not have quite so much, seems so shockingly short. Most of my time on the planet is a journey to something, and as the next something happens to be forever, whatever that forever is, it has to be the most important of the two existences, right?

Maybe these thoughts wouldn't be so difficult to grapple with if I could see the meaningfulness of the present more often. Perhaps there is an infinite ocean of meaningfulness in front of my face that I can not yet perceive. I hope to see more of that in my personal life, in the choices I make, the paths I take. The answer, most wise-men have said, is service to others. Maybe if I start by changing my perspective from one of self-fulfillment to service, that would a good start. But, what actual service do I follow it up with? I did not know. Still don't.

Ultimately, lonely and worried, I shut the shop down for the night, turning off the water valve, and stood by the back door in the softening light of the setting summer sun. I took a few deep breaths, and tested the lock, not trying to listen to the people still at the back doors of the other businesses along the alley. I stood on the sidewalk, looking over the tall bushes on the edge of the parking lot, up into the high clouds of a darkening blue sky. I had the urge to flee to somewhere, but did not know where. It was too late for most coffee shops, most of which, the decent ones anyway, were in other cities. Instead, I drove to the authentic Mexican Fast Food restaurant and had a 'Jamaica' tea with a couple of churros. When I get depressed, I tend to eat a lot of sugar. I rounded out the night, by driving home to do my laundry, later looking for things to distract myself with, and finding them (which only half-worked) in simple computer games and television.

20 July 2018

I Do Not Like That Machine 

Woke up with a worrying physical problem to add to the mix of the emotional mix of the emotional ones: woke up dizzy. I do not think I have insurance any longer, so I am avoiding going to the doctor to have it checked out. Mom suggested it could have something to do with blood pressure, but I seriously doubt that. I think it is either one of two things. Either it is low blood sugar due to not having had anything to eat for awhile, and going low over night. Or, it is simply that I have not had the rest I need. The sleep apnea machine (which I hate) has a heated hose. The weather has been in the 80s and 90s, so maybe, I think to myself, the extra heat from the hose is too much. Yes, dear reader, I know what you are likely thinking: that is crazy to heat a hose when you don't need it. You're either damaging yourself or your machine or both. Valid criticism. I think the reason I have not turned it off yet is because the mechanism for doing so is rather unintuitive. Which is probably another indicator of how much I dislike this machine and my need for it.

When I first got the sleep apnea machine, I weighed my heaviest. A long term lack of sleep and depression, combined with my carelessness with calories really packed the pounds on. The weight causes the problem and necessitates the machine, and perhaps a significant weight loss would mean that I could give it up. I do not want to become attached to it, to rely it on it for such a basic human function, that emotionally I have been keeping my distance, trying to interact with it as little as possible. Not rational of course, but it is what it is. Combine that approach with my first introduction with the machine a couple of years ago. The supplier of the machine, as well as the supplies for it, was not very good. The technicians were competent, but the whole store eventually began to feel like a giant cash grab. Everyone there seemed to be doing the bare minimum to qualify for the insurance payouts, for which they charged as much as possible. It was not a good feeling I had of the place. Maybe they needed to charge as much as they did, but a little research uncovered multiple issues others had with them, as well as some better alternative suppliers. Therefore, I switched. Still the emotional reluctance remains. I hate the machine. I hope to lose a lot of weight to be able to stop using it and still sleep well. We shall see.

As for this morning's dizziness, I am currently not sure what to do. Dad has told me that there is a letter from my insurance company at home for me. If it indicates that I have insurance still, and if I feel dizzy in the morning, I will make an appointment to figure out what is wrong. Aside from blood sugar or physical exhaustion, I suppose it could be something weird like pneumonia, but I dislike doctors too. Not for any serious reason for who they are or what they do, but because of the simple knowledge that I cannot afford them. Sometimes I think that, had I been born in a different western nation, my greatest expenses and debts: college and health care, would not even exist.

16 July 2018

A Person Who Likes a Plan 

Part of me, the part that sits in the shadows of worry, and feeds like a beast on dark prospects of ruined hope, is afraid that I have broken myself in a way that I cannot repair. Almost every morning when I wake up, I sense that I could have had something better, could have fit my life in a neat niche of spiritual success, but I am confronted with the sense of loss. I struggle, I think to myself, because I have wandered too far in the path of error to return. It's not a clear sense of what is wrong, just a worry that I fear is nibbling on the truth.

Here is a dream from last night I had: I am in a government building of some kind. I have a strong sense of justice, and what needs to happen. At the same time, there is a child who is intent on doing all of the wrong things. He persists in upsetting everyone around him. He's no more than nine. He enjoys spreading unhappiness to others. He does not care because he does not expect any consequences. I find him in this building, after he has upset some people, including fellow children, and I see him standing in front of a video game arcade cabinet. He is blithely playing a game, oblivious to the hurt around him. I come up behind him, intent on delivering him to justice, and grab him by the arm. Suddenly, now faced with the fear of being caught, of having to pay a price for disobedience, his manner has changed. He is fearful and in tears. I remove his protective helmet, and he is revealed to be a giant insect. He does not want to be squashed. With a voice filled with power and determination, I say calmly and firmly: "Let him feel the fear of consequences." And then, I wake up.

I do not sleep as long as I need to. I have been trying to readjust my diet so that I can lose weight. More healthier foods, less calories overall. Unfortunately, not sleeping through the night fights against weight loss. The doctors have told me that most of one's calories are lost in respiration. You literally breathe out your spent calories. When you do not sleep well, this does not happen. Your body, lacking oxygen, is out of a kind of balance. I know this is not uncommon among people my age. I can see it every time I am out and about in society. The perfect bodies without illness, weight, or ugliness exist in the young or, more often, in the media. I always wonder how they do it. If maybe the perfect vision of health is the result of unhealthiness like starvation, tempting kidney failure, or some other bodily malady.

All thoughts which bring me back to the central problem of my life during these last few years. I do not know what to do.

Every aspect of my life feeds directly back into this ignorance. For example, I know what I need to do spiritually: morning prayers, reading sacred texts, a little meditation, and talking with others. The question in that regard is not the "what," but the "how." Am I reading enough? Should I read other things more regularly. Which prayers should I say, and how should I work on my virtues?

Regarding my career and interests: it used to be that, when I was younger, I thought vainly that perhaps I would like to be a successful artist. But why? And for what reason? All of the silly things that I admired in my youth have largely been forgotten. I see other people a bit younger than me obsessed with certain movie franchises, cartoons, or TV shows, and their art, much more accomplished than what I could do, feels hollow. Did I want to draw an homage to an 80s TV show? What point would that serve? How would that help anyone?

I guess part of the whole issue of not knowing what or how to do something is my search for personal meaning.  I do not want my life to be filled with vain pursuits of my own interests, most of which can be easily focused on media creations and products. But, I do not know how else to go about life and how to cut through all of that. Retiring to a cave and begging for food is out of the question. How does one be in life and not "of" life, especially when culture, family, and the whole outside world is largely in a stage of development where only the bodily comforts and pursuits are sought after.

I am the kind of person who likes a plan, even if it turns out not to be workable. At least a plan is a position to work from, even if it takes you somewhere else. I am going to continue to think about this. I hope God will help me discover a plan that can carry me forward in that positive path to personal meaning.

15 July 2018