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Archive for May, 2010

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The old workshop isn’t ever cold.  The walls are a lovely old golden yellow color, built carefully the way my grandfather made them so many decades ago.  My friend and I have been working in there for the last few weeks, building things from wood.  I learned how to use a draw knife, and mix stains, and generally improved my carpentry skills a lot.  The place feels alive again, as it seemed to clean itself up while we were using it, making space for us, detritus going to places I honestly know not as the floor got bigger and bigger and we spread our projects around.

We’ve finished a trunk in which I will carry a synthesizer keyboard I designed and made.  When I look at it, I think it’s a pretty piece of furniture.  I got the golden umber tone just right in the woodstain, and soon it will have been halfway around the world.  Someday it will tote my keyboard back again.

I walked out into the night, and the lazer show music from the nearby Stone Mountain was playing.  Where I live, we have one giant granite mountain, sticking up out of the flat lands like Shiva’s Lingam, its granite veins travelling for hundreds of miles around.  At that monolith, there is a show each summer night, even on rainy ones like this one.  The show is a gigantic laser projection on the side of the mountain.  It’s just a few miles away, so the sound system brings the music loud and clear to our doors.

The song was Elvis’s “I wish I were in Dixie” ending in “Glory Glory Hallelujah.”  This is the one song they have not changed as they’ve updated the laser show over the course of my life.  It was the same a quarter century ago when my parents would take me to the mountain on lovely warm evenings.  It starts out depicting the civil war, and the uniforms of the soldiers, the generals from both sides.  The battle scenes start to Elvis’s voice, and men start to fall.  The slow part of the song shows General Andrew Jackson presiding over his brave dead men, walking his horse through the eerily peaceful battlefield, flag torn.  Finally, at the crest of the song, General Jackson takes out his sword and breaks it, sick of the violence, the fireworks explode in perfect synchronization…  They sound like massive thunder at this distance.

I walked around as Elvis sang and thunder boomed and the last fat drops of rain fell slowly through the magnolias, the crepe myrtles, the pines, and the azaleas.  I watched the water-laden lightening bugs fly low and shine bright.  I stood under a pecan tree I remember helping my grandfather fertilize (indeed, that’s when he taught me the proper way to fertilize a tree).  The tree is so big now.  I wept at the beauty of the song.  The display of confederate pride is pretty controversial, with slavery on their resume, but the message of getting fed up with the violence and choosing peace is still quite powerful.

And I prepared myself to leave this place again.  Tomorrow I ship to Taiwan.  I noticed the maudlin bittersweet feeling course through me a little.  Then I noticed myself looking up, daring to breathe the possibility of choosing a more powerful path, making my inventions and spending my time doing worthwhile things.

I notice now how easy it is to make a choice.  I’ll be making a lot of them in the coming days and weeks, as I get settled into a new life 8000 miles away.  As I type this the last of the fireworks for the end of the show are exploding in the distance.  And of course, the fireworks at Stone Mountain remind me of my vow I whispered into its cracks.  As long as it remains, it stands witness to my allegiance to equanimity, to the void, and to my heart.

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The back story:  I had a conversation with my friend about something the Buddhist Monks have said.  It always pissed me off that they claimed that the thought in your mind in your final moment was where you would “end up” upon death.  I thought that was insane, like a total screw job on the part of the universe if it were true, and I completely dismissed it.

Then my friend helped me examine it more, and I saw what they really meant.  The Buddhists believe that when you die, your consciousness leaves this kind of “linear” time and goes to a place that’s timeless.  Moreover, the only time that exists is NOW anyways.  So it doesn’t make sense to say there’s a “last thought” or a “first thought” either.  When a person dies, whatever the feeling the person is supporting, the overall vibe and thought that they are choosing, they slip into timelessness with that.  Therefore, it determines where they are in the timelessness (and they could always choose something else).

The basic idea behind this is choice, and it’s total freedom to make a new choice at any time.  In fact, I’ve heard a Zen Buddhist Master even say that karma is an illusion.  Immediately I became interested in how this choice is made.  Since so often in my life I’ve made choices out of habit and without a lot of thought.

I am starting to feel the ways I make choices, the way I choose my overall tone.  The Maharishi’s meditation of self-inquiry is powerful to help me peel away layers and focus on what is very authentically myself.  I can feel the tone of my feeling, the shape of my choice, the color of my thought changing into something purer and brighter, and yes indeed, much more powerful than before.

I can still myself and find a clear vein of drive inside of me, a glow that pulls me towards what I’m choosing — I can even see a lot of the details and feel the correct path to take.  By focusing on that (and self-inquiry can take me there, as well as focusing on my breath passing through my heart), I feel a great healthy and expansive feeling..  Courage is required, and action and faith, but there is a warmth of truth to the path that is revealed to me in those moments that I have never felt before.

Interestingly enough,I still have a lot of habit I get caught up in, like what I wrote yesterday — holding onto guilt and bother about having been an ass-hat about some paperwork.  Here’s where I’m working to overcome habits, because I can get so quickly distracted from the warm vein of truth within myself.  It is a good thing to trust my heart, and leads to a very peaceful and good life — however, simply trusting that, and not getting distracted into my long time addictions, lusts, and circles of thinking can sometimes be hard.

However, one more thing I learned from my experience yesterday, I know my allegiance, I know where I will return.  I know where my intentions are driving me towards…  and that equanimity, honesty, and peace is more and more becoming home base, a place where a new set of habits brings me back to when all is said and done.  My oath, my compass point, is proving itself very good to me in this regard.

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I was on my way to see my mom’s band play at church.  They’d been practicing some music and she was very proud of what they were doing.  We saw a dog on the side of the road.  My friend was happy to see a dog, but immediately I realized it was likely to get hit by a car.

And of course, it started wandering out on the road.  Well, my friend jumped out of the car as soon as one of us said, “the dog has tags, it’s someone’s dog, and it’s definitely not going to make it across highway 78 (busy 4 lane highway).  So he started trying to catch the dog, but the dog got hit.  The car ran over its arm and my friend picked the dog up and brought it to our car.

So we took it to the emergency animal hospital.  I didn’t know my friend had been bitten but when they found out he’d been bitten, they wanted some forms filled out, and then we were to go to the E.R.  In order to hurry things along, I went ahead and filled out one of our forms (at the time I thought it was the only one that would be needed, and I didn’t know how bad my buddy’s bite was, so I thought it would rush us along).  It was a triplicate form and I assumed I’d get a copy.

Well, more forms needed to be filled out, and we were able to track down the dog’s records and discover it had a current rabies shot.  So Animal control officers told my friend that he wouldn’t need to go to the E.R.  I let him decide how bad his wounds were in terms of danger of infection.  He didn’t want to go tonight for that, knowing we’d be in the E.R. for 3 or 4 hours due to his low priority in triage, and it would cost a lot to go, so we decided to head back home.

I asked for a copy of the form I’d filled out for my own personal records.  Actually, I wanted to laugh with my friend and my dad about the fact that when it asked for “species” I’d put down “canus.”  We were all in a pretty decent mood and I was nominating Thomas (who is an Eagle Scout) for a new merit badge.

Due to records laws, she couldn’t give me a copy — animal records being treated identically to human medical records.  This really upset me and I said, “well, what if some kind of legal action comes back to me?  I should have a copy of the records for myself…  maybe you all will lose them.  I’m a law student, I know that things can get weird.”  She said she couldn’t.  I held eye contact and said, “I can assure you that this decision will mean that i the next instance, I won’t help a dog at all.”  I was pretty pissed off.

While I did make a point to say very loudly to my dad, “I know it isn’t her fault, or the clinic manager’s fault” I also said very loudly, “anything that goes beyond a motion to dismiss will cost me time and money.”  (Which is true, but I also know that the chances of anyone generating a tort claim that would go beyond a simple motion to dismiss off the situation I was in are basically equal to zero).

All this past, I found it difficult to let go of the situation.  I felt horribly guilty that I’d maybe really hurt her feelings or discouraged her in some way.  Also, as soon as I realized I was going on and on about it, I tried to change the subject as quickly as possible, as I think we all felt pretty good about having helped the dog out and I didn’t want to screw that up, especially for my friend Thomas.  I could feel the peacefulness within myself that surpasses all things going on, and told everybody, “okay, lets just drop what I’m talking about, I never want to bother about this again.”

But more importantly, the MINDSPACE that going into all that arguing with the vet assistant had put me into was not useful at all.  So, realizing this, I started getting upset at myself like I was fucking up everything I was trying to build inside myself to try and approach things to build a much better lifestyle for myself…  Quite a nasty feeling that my attitude was going to do nothing but cause myself more shit.  It was very hard to pull myself out of that.

However, it did eventually pass.  Even sorting through it here helped some..  What I am noticing as I type this is my meditations are helping.  I was able to return to “home base” after assessing that my headspace and argumentativeness wasn’t useful in any way.  It took me awhile to drop it, and my tendency to feel bad about things made it harder to drop it.  Guilt has to be one of the most worthless emotions in human existence, hahah.

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One thing I’ve been exploring lately is Myers-Briggs testing. In the past, I’ve found the tests assessment of my personality to be very accurate. I was looking at my profile and my weaknesses and I read through more of the profile types, etc.  I think I have a pretty good feel for the meaning of most of the types as well as a better feel for traits of my own.

What I found in reading through the strengths and weaknesses of each type was that having a personality type that is non-flexible is the root of much weakness (okay, duh). Moreover, I doubt the inherency of any personality trait. But, interestingly, I found a couple of the axis where I could easily go either way with a change that I knew how to make. For instance, in my functions for gathering information, I tend to trust symbols, personal meanings, and instinctual reactions a lot more than my five senses. That’s just been my natural “home base” for whatever reason.

So one simple thing to do is develop my ability to trust my five senses. And yes, in my experience, I’ve found grounding exercises like using Zhuan Zhang in Wujifa, or just being mindful have given me tremendous benefits.

Of course, the strengths of a person normally come from dominant traits. I observed a few years ago that in many cases, anyone that appears to be a genius in an area is highly unbalanced towards a trait or function. So the places where we’re “eccentric,” are often the places where we blow everyone else away. Or, a specific trait that is extraordinary to most people is so ordinary to us that we hardly think about it — the two side effects of this being that a) we can appear extraordinary or “genius” in that regard to others and b) we miss the ability to naturally or easily do what’s ordinary or “normal” for most people to do without thinking about it.

So we don’t want to neutralize our strengths in this process. It’s okay to have a “home base” but if we notice that our own easiest path is, in a particular case, not getting us anywhere, it’s really useful to be able to shift to another way of doing it.

The MBTI is relatively easy to work with. I think I have a really good grasp of it after only spending a few hours here and there of the last few years, as well as recently spending an afternoon and an evening reading through it. But the most useful part was in comparing how each variable shifted the whole, and changed the personality archetype significantly.  I spent a lot of time reading about the personality types that were just one change of one axis away from mine.

Knowing these little bits, and seeing where my chief weaknesses are, I can also narrow down to a few shifts I can make sometimes. Just like in Kung Fu, when someone smacks your head, you go to the highest level of training you have encoded outside of rational thought. In other words, you’re only going to use your favorite couple of moves/strategies in a fight. So it’s good to make them very streamlined and versatile.

Just my own strategies:

INFP — Shifting to ISFP when I’m failing to achieve a goal. By paying more attention to facts, data, details and concrete experience instead of symbolic interpretations, hunches, new ideas and “the big picture.”
— Shifting to INTP when I’m taking things a bit too personally and need some detachment. By thinking about hard truth and logic more than tact, compassion, people, and harmony.

I can almost boil both of those down to just a detached assessment of grounded information.

Of course, the only difficulty here would be my general “comfort” with my current personality. I mean, I genuinely do prefer to do the things that an INFP would do. I feel the personality test pegs me very well and I truly and authentically have the personality tendencies that it consistently tests in me.

One thing that helped me, in that regard, was just reading all the other types and noticing the methods other people use to engage in behaviors and preferences that I would greatly dislike. Funny, those preferences can seem so “obviously true,” even MORALLY true in a gut sense to me… yet there are people who have preferences different than my own, who feel a different set of obvious tastes.

One thing that shows up for me, for instance, and other INFPs is a problem with conflict. The conflicts show up because we genuinely want to achieve harmony with other people, yet genuinely have a deep seated sense of internally created values (separate from almost any social-group values).

I saw HOW people who take in more external stimulus to make decisions can enjoy the moment more while also being good at accomplishing their objectives (due to calibrating activities to serve their intention). And I saw HOW people who just think about things, weighing the data, instead of feeling out everything can avoid taking things personally and thus consistently choose honesty regardless of what other people think or if they feel offended.

Taken on a small level, and analyzed as a shift on those axis, I find the shifts less repulsive. In looking at the little pieces of how the behaviors I have trouble making within myself are actually achieved, I was able to find acceptable ways to get to them… the “how” of what some people are doing more easily than myself. That’s a lot of leverage to be had in overcoming habits and weaknesses!

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It started okay, I was paying attention to my own strange motivations back in my last long term relationship, trying to find why I occasionally still feel irritation towards her despite having forgiven her and even becoming thankful for my time with her.  My irritation had a lot more to do with my own choices from early on in our relationship.

I’ve been dodging the orbiters in my life in order to hold onto my own energy and drive as I’m pouring a ton of time into developing new Synthesizers and prepping for law school.  Being very honest about my motives with my lover from Taiwan, paying attention to my choices, and accepting and forgiving myself, allowed me to see better ways to do things in the future.  I feel I can  be discriminating but not automatically blow everyone off or just try to keep them at arms length…  my positive thoughts put me into a nice deep calm sleep.

But then I woke up, after just a few hours.

I had been assuming I would start law school this coming fall.  But the cost of attendance is high enough that with the financial aid I’m being offered, I cannot buy books, pay rent (and I’ve found a room super cheap), get to school, and eat.  There’s no way to work and go to school during one’s first year of law school.  The workload is so high that would be impossible.  Law schools are very traditional and have had almost the same curriculum for the last 140 years.  And at the end of all this, potentially getting into situations where I cannot eat, and I can’t perform very well, I’d still be 20 thousand US Dollars in debt with a year of education from a school I’m not entirely sure about attending.  It would be different if it was one of my top choice schools and I knew I could work nationally, instead of only in Georgia, where I do not wish to continue living into the future…

There are a few other options, but the other thing that bares mention is that I’m working very passionately on designing synths again.  The creative juices have been flowing vigorously!  I have some designs now that blow away my previous patent applications for both utility and originality.  Not only this, my main concern, of bringing electronic music into the hands of more people, is way better served by the instruments I’m working on right now.  And I think they’ll be tons more fun and expressive too!  (And I note the fact that this all seems to be flowing from an open and honest place inside of me)

So I considered going to school part time.  Again, if it were Emory or another favorite choice school, where I missed the app deadline before due to personal problems, I would be so happily in.  I may do it at GSU, but I want to find out what the costs are to go part time.

Thus, I’m looking back at my contract offers to teach overseas.  I was working very diligently on designing things in my first six months in Taiwan (indeed, some of those designs have matured now), and that was the original reason I moved there — to build things.  If I can find a contract that would allow me enough extra to invest consistently in my designs, with the new business structure my friend showed me, that would be absolutely superb.  I don’t need a lot of money, but I do need lots of time, and some amount of surplus money, consistency being more important than one-shot quantity.

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Profundity is bullshit in situations like these.  I’m still looking for clarity, and trying to find the best option.  I’m not even willing to say I am sure I love designing and building instruments, as I’m doing Self-Inquiry exercises, I’m discovering layers in myself where even synth designing may be superfluous.

Since I’m trying to discover the clearest direction I can, I’m willing to doubt even my love of invention and synthesizers, knowing that if its really truth for me, then it will come back — just like I said about my desire to study law in my post on inevitability.

If anything, the need for time to look inwards like this is also driving me towards taking another overseas job.

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