To Care for My Soul

 That long essay regarding failure to understand a philosophy exam helped me to feel better. This activity felt like I was caring for myself. Instead of letting my emotions rage, or trying to bury them, I worked them out in writing.

Your soul is not some mysterious thing. It is the entity that lives here in you, with all its various levels of awareness. 

Taking the time to process your emotions. Taking the time to listen inwardly. Taking the time to reason things out. Taking the time to become aware of yourself, who you really are. These are examples of taking care of your soul.

It seems to me, at times, that my whole job here on earth is caring for my soul. All my relationships enhance and expand this activity. So caring for my soul must be a relationship with my soul. Does it help to call my soul my inner being? That being which is quieter than my emotional thoughts? Become aware of that quieter presence inside. It helps a lot to pay attention to it. 

A Tale From The Emotional Abyss

 Tales From the Emotional Abyss

An Essay

A situation in my life has caused me to feel fear in my guts. Another situation has caused me to feel eager to write an essay. I can imagine myself developing the art of writing essays. From Jonathon Franzen\’s essay \”The Essay in Dark Times,\” I have found this nugget, \” Writing or reading an essay isn\’t the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way\” (6). And also, he says, \”The discipline of fashioning a compelling story can crystallize thoughts and feelings you only dimly knew you had in you\” (8).

I need to work out a problem.

I am bothering to write an essay as a means of organizing my confused thoughts and fears regarding my \”Minds and Machines\” philosophy class. This class is an MIT extension class, taken online. It doesn\’t count for anything as far as credits or grades count for a degree. It took the course because it advertised philosophy of mind. I didn\’t know anything about the philosophy of mind, but I am very interested in the consciousness question. Where does consciousness come from? I am also taking a beginning philosophy course at a junior college. The junior college class is starting from the beginning with topics in philosophy and I am learning.

The problem I\’m working through regards the second midterm exam for the MIT philosophy class. I already know I cannot get the correct answers. So, I don\’t want to answer the questions wrong and see the red Xs. So maybe I should skip doing the exam at all. Getting questions wrong results in me disliking myself or thinking I am stupid. It is open book, but I simply can’t figure out what the right answers are. On the other hand, it is very unlike me to just blow an assignment off and go on with my life. But looking at the test questions, I feel a knot of fear well up in my guts. I believe I am training myself to fail philosophy. I don\’t want to do that.

Having been in the MIT course now for 3 months, we are only starting the actual unit on philosophy of mind. I have known since the first couple of weeks that the material was completely new to me and I had great difficulty understanding the lectures. And the lectures seemed to be covering material in which I had very little interest. And the questions seemed like riddles to me. I couldn\’t solve them on the front end. I could click several times and get the answer and then study the answer to understand the point, but this back end process is very unhelpful for answering exam questions that have to be figured out on the front end. Furthermore, the fear and anticipated failure feelings are carrying over to the very easy questions in the junior college philosophy class.

My question, should I ignore the MIT exam? This is turning out to be an existential question, not just much ado about nothing. Existential because the fear and the failures are becoming my ethos. Was the ethos always there and the MIT class uncovered it? Or is the MIT class developing it?

P1: I don\’t have the intellectual ability to puzzle out the MIT material, so I get everything wrong.

P2: If I fail at MIT, I\’ll start to fail at junior college because the fear of failure is becoming embedded in my guts.

P3: The MIT exam presents me with a situation where I am either a quitter or a failure.

C: Don\’t take the MIT exam.

The existential crisis involves premise 3. I don\’t want to feel like a quitter or a failure. So there must be a different way of looking at this which proves premise 3 wrong. That instead, premise 3 should say,

\”P3*: The MIT exam helps me to validate my self worth and know my own brilliant inner truth.\”

How do I get there from here? Counter-arguments.

1. First grade versus sixth grade. Your parents would say, \”Honey, you haven\’t taken a philosophy course before and you jump into something beyond what you know. Don\’t feel bad.\” I can think of many rational excuses for not understanding the MIT material. They may all be true, but my guts don\’t accept them. My guts want a new vibration.

2. Jordan Peterson\’s 7th rule: “Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.” The questions of the MIT material seem like silly riddles to me. And studying the material isn\’t giving me the answers. But I don\’t care about the answers anyway. So, don\’t pursue what is meaningless. Spend your time on what does mean something to me. The lectures of the MIT class do seem meaningful (at times) and are worth listening to. It is just the questions that seem meaningless. What does mean something to me is to follow the trail of knowledge of the MIT course, from theories of mind through brains and minds. 

3. Eagerness for essays in rhetoric. Just because I don\’t understand the MIT material doesn\’t mean that I can\’t be a deep thinker or write great essays. I feel eager to write essays. Being a philosopher does not mean that I need to be irrelevant in my essays. Brilliant inner truth can shine forth in the writing of an essay.

4. Well-being. Well-being is a vibration. It is a vibration that feels harmonious with consciousness. It is an ethos that is calming and joyful. Focusing on well-being, one is not a quitter for letting the MIT exam go. Brilliant inner truth can shine through in the intentional experience of well-being. 

5. The irrational. Fear is an irrational emotion most of the time. Fear of being a quitter is based on false pride and early childhood teachings. When feeling this type of fear, one should know that the experience is irrational. That making a good decision for yourself is separate from fear. 

The counter-arguments should be allowed. My existence is retained because I have an ethos of well-being and eagerness for something, namely essays. By writing this essay, I had to consider myself and my fear. I had to realize the existentiality of my fear. I had to not fall prey to basic teachings about quitting and failure. 

 I feel much better now that I wrote all these words.

12121 Letter

 Yesterday was an emotional day. I was happy to see Trump gone. I was so grateful for normal people and diverse people at the inauguration. I find that I am white and want to extend that privilege to all. I find that I want the government to lead a unified approach to the pandemic. I\’d like to see easy access to voting and an end to gerrymandering. I\’d like to see affordable healthcare and continued social security. The government shouldn\’t just be for corporations. The trickle-down theory doesn\’t work. 

I was very moved by a young Black woman reading a poem. Hope. Dream. Inspiration. Allow it. Here it is:

“The Hill We Climb”

Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one. And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried, that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one should make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in in all of the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. That would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy, and this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us, this is the era of just redemption we feared in its inception we did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves, so while once we asked how can we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us.

We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free, we will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, our blunders become their burden. But one thing is certain: if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left, with every breath from my bronze, pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one, we will rise from the golden hills of the West, we will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution, we will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states, we will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful, when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.

The American Gulag

 I have been watching the snow melt. I have wanted to use certain bike paths, but some of them still have patches of ice, meaning I fear running on them. But, success will be had in the next day or so.

I watch the bush outside my kitchen window every day. This time of year, of course, it is barren of leaves. The only activity is very small birds which sometimes sit there. Above the bush is the sky. In the sky, various larger birds soar, hawks and geese.

Today, I picked up two thoughts from Alexander Solzhenitsyn\’s Gulag Archipelago, Volume 1. 

Page 271, \”for mercy one must have wisdom.\”

Page 280, \”if in order to live it is necessary not to live, then what\’s it all for?\”

Stop and think. At first, I could not understand that bit about mercy and wisdom, especially not in the context of the concentration camp. Perhaps it was a joke about the Russian jailers. But in my life, what does it mean? It refers to my personal relationships and having mercy on whoever I seem to resent. Having mercy or having wisdom seems like character traits not used enough today. And there I go, judging the mass consciousness. 

Now, the second quote. What is living? Who is really alive? When I read the second quote, I immediately thought of my career. I left my career in order to be really alive. I didn\’t want any longer to sit in an office performing meaningless boring tasks. Now I have choices, but it is up to me to consciously choose. What is the most alive way of being available to me right this moment. The right choice is not always an activity but always involves turning on my intellect and engaging in something thoughtful. 

In this instance, I ask fellow Americans, \”What is being alive to you?\” How are you being? Do you feel enlivened? Even at work, awaken to Life Itself? Even if I am watching snow melt or a barren bush, I need to capture Life. Life must be mine, or what\’s it all for?

Virtual Marathon, An Experience of Conscience

 

Awesome Houston Marathon swag.

Marathons are hard. They are all hard, for the fast and the slow alike. Some people don\’t know so I\’ll tell you: a marathon is 26.2 miles. In the time of COVID, many races got canceled and many popular races offered a virtual race. A virtual race means that you run the distance by yourself, on your own course, and report the results. Then, the race organizers send you the swag: a medal, shirt, and bib. 

In 2018, as the gun went off in January for the Houston marathon, I was sitting on my bed with a box of Kleenex and feeling miserable. It was the only time I had entered the Houston marathon. I had been entered for a year because the race fills up. I did not start, DNS. 

So, fast forward to 2021, I no longer live in Houston. However, the Houston marathon is canceled and a virtual option is available. I signed up just to get some Houston marathon swag. It means a lot to me to have this swag for my collection of virtual marathon medals.

But running a marathon in January is a tricky thing in Missouri. It is usually too cold to spend 6 hours outside jogging and walking your way through 26 miles. I had assumed that I might have to run the Houston marathon on a treadmill. This year, however, the weather is pretty warm. The problem is snow laying on the ground. The snow on the bike paths means I can\’t use them for running. But in the little complex where I live, the roads have been spectacularly cleared. 

I picked yesterday to run my Houston marathon. It was supposed to get warm. I had devised a 1.2 mile loop around the complex. I could return to my home for pit stops. I had to start the marathon after the sun came up, but early enough that I could finish before it started to cool off. I got started at 8:40. The first miles were a bit slow and tricky because of…black ice. I only fell once.

The day was beautiful. I settled into lap after lap. What happens in my head during 6 hours of boring running? Frequently, my head is trying to figure out how to quit. Falling on the ice was the first excuse. Along with excuses for quitting, there are devious plans to fake results and post them anyway just to get the swag. It is only a virtual race so what does it matter if I lie about the results? Truth is, my brain wants to quit in real races and often suggests that I cut the course. 

I have never cheated in a marathon or anything. While some part of my brain goes on and on with cheating suggestions, some other part of my brain quietly pursues real achievement. I call this quiet part of my brain my conscience. 

Up until 14 or 15 miles, I find jogging quite easy. The black ice has been disappearing. The sun is out and actually doing its job of warming the earth. But after that, my feet begin to hurt and persevering becomes harder. I cut myself a break and start adding short walk breaks. Once past 20 miles, I know I can finish, even if I walk the last 6 miles. 

For most of my life, I\’ve been a runner, sometimes sacrificing hours at work because I need to go running. I spent my career getting up at 3:45 in order to go running before going to work. I often wondered if I was wasting my life. But now, I think not. What I am doing each time I complete a marathon without cheating, especially if I am doing it by myself, is experiencing a higher-order consciousness than ego consciousness. I experience my Conscience. The experience of Conscience is one of the highest things a human can experience, and running marathons gives this to me.

2021 Focus of Intentions

 In the quiet of my consciousness, in the depths of my heart, what do I really want? How do I want to feel about being alive or while being alive? How do I want to be? During this time of decreased social interaction, my focus is on being. There is little else to my life at the moment. So what I want is ways of thinking and feeling and being, quite separate from society.

1. The consciousness of Life Itself: Life Itself comes to me as an actual presence that I can feel. Life Itself is what some would call a higher power or god. Life Itself is a pure consciousness that comes and inhabits and lives as one with me. This is what gets me out of bed, or goes running, or does homework for school.

2. Well being: My life has been filled with well being for the past couple of years. I meditate every morning with a well being meditation. My intention is to increase my reliance on well being, to intend for well being consciously. To segment intend well being for each daily interaction. 

3. The Art of Allowing: Mostly allowing or generating non-resistant thought. To inventory my thought and continuously consciously choose what I want to think about which helps me to feel good.

4. Appreciation and positive aspects: Every night, I make a list of things I appreciate that day. The list might be a simple material thing, like my car, or a non-physical thing like inspiration. I recognize when I felt awesome and the sunrise which was awesome.

5. Joy: I forget this one all the time. But joy can be felt at any moment if consciously chosen or focused on. Joy feels good. I can do it. 

6. Expansion of mental states: Greater depth of thought. I recognize through my 2020 philosophy class that I was superficial in my thinking. I want to embrace the study of philosophy, which means greater depth.

7. Abundance of Existence: Abundance is a feeling greater than how much money you have. I want to and can feel abundance. The abundance of existence is not necessarily running around doing impressive things, but a feeling of abundance from the inside. Like I have an abundance of heart. 

Yes, I will continue to be a scholar and an athlete. Marathons will be run, weights lifted, college attended, bills paid, meetings, groceries, chores. Material life will be lived. My intentions are about the quality of daily life. I bring Life Itself into my life, my consciousness.

2020 was a Good Year

In 2020, I ran 3,016 miles. This amazing number is brought to you by covid unemployment. I got a number of weeks off work during the shutdown, but then I quit my part-time gig altogether in October. Since many running races were canceled in 2020, I completed numerous virtual races and obtained much swag as a result. Running virtual races did give me something to look forward to. I was surprised at how seriously I took them.

By the time November rolled around, I broke the rules and went to Dallas for 2 real races. By November, smaller races had figured out social distancing protocols so we could all be safe and run races too. I also had the very great pleasure of giving my Godmother a ride to Dallas so she could see her grandson for Thanksgiving. We all did due diligence regarding covid safety and no one got sick.

In 2020, I became a college student. It began with the idea that I could take some English composition courses to improve my writing. It has continued on because I would like to learn more about the humanities. As an engineering student 40 years ago, I took mostly math and science in college. Now, I want to be educated in philosophy. I am also taking a philosophy course online from MIT. It is very difficult and way over my head, but at least I\’ve been exposed to deep concepts and will be able to assimilate them over time.

In 2020, I\’ve been filled with well being. I\’ve realized that I have many friends even if I don\’t see them as much. I\’ve reached out more and had great conversations on the phone. I\’ve read many interesting books. Thank you Mid-Continent Public Library for your service.

In 2020, I\’ve spent more time on the news. At the start of the lock down, I subscribed to The New York Times and The Atlantic. I\’ve liked access to longer articles and focuses than I\’d get from scrolling through my phone on Apple or Google News. Most of all, I\’ve subscribed to Heather Cox Richardson\’s daily newsletter. She is a history professor. I\’ve been astounded at her knowledge of history, much of which I didn\’t know, and her analysis of politics. It has been wonderful to hear the news without hype or mainstream media.

In 2020, I prospered. I expanded mentally, emotionally, and economically. It is lovely to have investments work out or to have the government send you money. But of much greater prosperous evidence is thinking and feeling abundant, or feeling connected to your higher consciousness. Higher consciousness is actually a misnomer. Higher consciousness is an inherent quality, one is never without it. Consciousness is.period. Get quiet and you\’ll know it is there.

In 2020, everything worked out for me. 

 On New Year\’s Eve, I went for a 14 mile run. The sun was out and it was about 30F. Went on one of my favorite routes. I jogged the whole way. I am in great appreciation of my ability to do this.

A picture at Hodge Park Golf course:

The trees had ice on them from a storm 2 days earlier. The ice was all sparkly in the sun.

Here is a brief clip from Hodge Park:

And then, yesterday it snowed. The 6\” of snow means no running outside until I can find some bare pavement. I think by tomorrow, I\’ll be able to run around the little complex where I live. Our guys do a great job of clearing roads and sidewalks. I did go for a walk during the heaviest snowfall yesterday:

I wore microspikes for this walk: