Strangers in a Familiar Land

I feel like Jell-o. After a couple of days of driving through small
coastal towns we finally hit San Francisco. The sprawling hipster
metropolis seemed almost out of place juxtaposed with the quiet and
sparsly populated western coast.

The world seems abuzz amidst my tranquility. A blur of activity that
is as fascinating as any other naturally occuring phenomena. The same
ocean where elephant seals were milling lazily is now teeming with
people and lights.

We're staying in Sausalito and may wake early for sunset and the
photographic magic hour…

Off the Path

Traveling through Pismo Beach we wandered into a Monarch butterfly
grove. There were tens of thousands of butterflies clustered in the
trees. A beautiful display that is difficult to capture on film :)

Nothing is as one would expect, and I wouldn't have it any other way!
I took (and continue to take) plenty of pictures and will post in
about a week.

Got up to Monterey last night, and we're heading to Sausalito today!

Far less Ordinary

I have decided to skip the normal holiday festivities and drive up the coast with a friend. We will drive from San Diego to Seattle hitting every coastal town in between.

We haven't really gotten far, in fact I’m still at my house. There's a relaxing tranquility in the air — my Mother told me it is because of the winter solstice that just passed; a time for peaceful contemplation. I couldn’t agree more!

This morning I took my coffee down to the beach, and I realized I’ve already left for this trip up the coast. The world seems vibrant and far less ordinary. Perhaps I shouldn’t ever come back. If I am the sum total of my experiences then perhaps this is who I am, what we should all be, far less ordinary.

Exploiting the Limits of your Mind

Reality is an amazing thing. It bends and shapes to your perspective. Simply put, it is what you believe it is.

Where in one minute you’re feeling isolated and stressed, you may simply shift the context of your thinking and feel connected and relaxed. We put our conscious attention towards something and it will become the center of our reality. As our attention is consciously controlled, so then, I argue, is our reality.

If this is the case, then the limits of our perception and our cognition could be exploited to our own ends. We invent a facade for reality that matches what our five senses tell us. My optic nerve reacts to the suns radiation as my ears react to vibrations in air. My brain takes the limited sensory data and assembles a larger picture of reality. We assume that this reality is accurate yet we forget that it is based entirely on limited sensory data with a lot of imagination.

As our brain tricks us into thinking that our perception of reality is universal (and not at all imaginary), we can very easily alter our perceptions by where we choose to direct our awareness – thus easily controlling our own reality.

The limits of ones imagination then would be the only reasonable limit to ones reality. Can you shape your waking reality with an active imagination? To what extent can we change our perceptions such that it changes our lives?

Constant of Change

There are very few certanties in this life. The sum total of my
experiences has led me this far. I do not know what is coming next; I
only know that it will be different than it is today.

We often make decisions based on a future that resembles the present.
It seems static at first glance, but if you watch, there is a
continuous and subtle change occuring. Every moment is unique.

Reflections

Openness is a virtue although can feel like a curse. Open to new
ideas, and open to connect with people. Empathizing with the world and
the people we connect with.

Our empathy can reflect what is around us, sometimes good, and
sometimes bad. It is for this reason that we ought to search carefully
for beauty and wonder, else we lose our openness and instead learn to
be gaurded; we close ourselves from the bad. While this can save us
from reflecting and feeling stress it can also cause us to miss out on
all of the wonder.

Time Stands Still

It is amazing how much we miss; the different perspectives of life outside of our awareness. In a dark cold stairwell where darkness surrounds the naked eye, interest and wonder emerge in any direction of space and time. It’s everywhere, an infinite realm of intrigue that goes nearly unnoticed.

Where we drudge in boredom can only be limits self imposed.

No, I’m not cutting my hair!

Not until it obeys the laws of gravity…

I'm planning to drive up the coast for the holidays. California,
Oregon, and maybe even Washington.

Reminding myself that life is often a subtle conflict between our
idealism and our expectations of reality. The irony being that we
define our own reality including our unmet expectations where reality
diverges from our ideals.

In other words, we march blindly towards our ideals forever flawed by
the limits of our own world view. Our happiness being linked with how
well we can imagine reality looking like our ideals.

So, like my hairs defiance of gravity we should, in my opinon, defy
our beliefs in any reality less than ideal.

Time and Pressure

We all drudge through life trying to survive, but why? What is so important for survival? What makes any of this life worth living? Is it a biological imperative to keep breathing for as long as possible? Or is there something we ought to be doing with our lives that motivates our survival?

The human condition seems to impress that there is a reason for our existence; a reason to survive if you will. We put ourselves in a survival mode in order to live by what we consider to be “good” or “right”. Many of us never really think about what that means and instead just hope to make it through the day without stress.

A steady pressure over time has shaped humanity into creatures compelled towards survival. The same evolutionary pressure has shaped our limited capacity for reason and logic, and that limited logic tells us that there must be a reason for our survival. We plan goals and imagine the desired outcomes. We are goal-oriented to fill an evolved need for a purpose in our life. Whether we are conscious of the goals or not we carry beliefs of what our life is suppose to be…

You plod though life towards your goal and whether you like it or not that goal becomes your purpose. If the goal has not been achieved then there exists a dissonance between your reality and your purpose; a continuing source of stress that will push you towards your goal. On the other hand, if you have achieved your goal then you’ve also achieved your life’s purpose; this can be depressing if you’re so successful that you achieve all of your goals!

This goal-oriented behavior results in either stress or nihilism. I propose an alternative to the goal-oriented life that is hopefully stress-free and nihilism-free!

Time and Pressure

Given enough time and pressure we have evolved into the goal-oriented and stressful species that we are today. Within an individuals life, all of their accomplishments are the result of discreet actions towards a goal. The goal is often emergent from the day-to-day actions. Most goals change over time, evolving to better suite our needs from the actions we’ve taken.

I would argue that you should never be concerned with a desired outcome or goal. There is no perfect state of existence in life but there is an ideal flow that is readily achievable. Your goals are often expressions of your own ideals or virtues and they tend to change. Ironically, the closer you get to your goal the more you learn about it and hence the more the goal will change.

Imagine a river rock that is perfectly rounded and perfectly smooth. This perfectly round and perfectly smooth stone represents a goal. In our goal-oriented perspective a rough non-rounded stone would be a source of stress compelling us to chisel and polish until it’s “right”. But a river rock wasn’t chiseled or polished; it was merely shaped over time by the pressure of the rivers water.

Many people let the water dry up and stare at rough stones planning just how round and smooth they’re suppose to be and never really make any progress. If you let the water flow you’ll always make progress.

Rather than focus on the specifics of your goal, focus on the time and pressure in your life and simply maintain that ideal flow. Improve with every step. Continuously refactor your life. Love every moment of the ebb and flow of this precious life. Remove focus from the goal and instead focus on the time and pressure. Make your life better, and better, and better without every worrying about what it’s suppose to be. You’ll end up with more accomplishments than the goal-oriented person would know what to do with.

An aside: Time and Money

Time and money are non-comparable. Money can be the result of time and pressure, but do not be so foolish as to compare time with money. Any fraction of time is worth an infinite amount of money. Or as one of my friends recently discovered: Time > $

San Diego Wildfires

Here’s a normal mid-afternoon day in my neighborhood

It’s pleasant. Fair sunny San Diego weather.

But then on October 22, 2007, it looked like this

Something seemed to be wrong.

Where you would expect the sun, there was just this sad orange moon

Indeed something was wrong.

As I was driving out of my neighborhood, I couldn’t help but to think that if the coast looked like this

then the rest of the city must be in flames.

Initially, I had invited friends to stay at my house since I figured it would be one of the safest places being so close to the ocean. I was wrong. The winds were blowing the fire directly towards the coast. I needed to evacuate. The air was dangerous to breath as I was right in the path of the smoke.

Fortunately, my house was safe when I returned home a few days later. There was ash and debris but otherwise everything was fine. Many people were far less fortunate.

Despite the tragedy of the situation I couldn’t help but to marvel at this moment; the dramatic beauty of the reddened sky juxtaposed with my expectations of a serene blue. And my intuitive response to help others quickly turned to needing to call on others for help. How quickly life changes… a miracle in every moment.