What The Folk Do I Do Now? 2019.2

1. From Here Till Utopia (Song For the Desperate) – Ramshackle Glory

The entire album, Live The Dream, is great as far as I’m concerned. I exclusively listened to this album from September to November.

I don’t know where I fit between the vegans and the nihilists
That might be the first thing I’ve said that wasn’t a lie tonight!”

– This has described me for the last 8 years. I still don’t know exactly where I fit between the vegans and the nihilists, though I know I’m not a very “good” vegetarian so maybe I do know where I fit.

This song feels like having too much free time and not knowing what to do with it, it looks like grey, dead grass, lifeless trees, and decay as I walk for walking sake.

My friend William came to with a message of hope
It went: ‘Fuck you and everything you think you know
If you don’t step outside the things that you believe
They’re gonna kill you.”
He said: ‘You think no one’s gonna stop you from dying young and miserable? You’re right!
If you want something better, you gotta put that shit aside.’”

– No seriously, fuck you and everything you think you know, if you don’t step outside the things that you believe they are gonna kill you, they almost killed me.

2. More about Alcoholism – Ramshackle Glory

I can’t tell you the number of times I rode down the street on my bike screaming these lyrics. At the time I didn’t have a boss. I thought twice about singing these lyrics when I had a manager, though he sung the lyrics out loud which just felt insincere.

Aw, shit, I wish I had a job to quit
I wish I had a boss that I could tell to fuck off
Give me the satisfaction of a dramatic exit, and not just a long car ride and a short goodbye in a parking lot.”

3. Day Gaunts – Days N’ Daze

Started listening to this at work per the suggestion of a customer who heard Ramshackle Glory playing and said he can’t stop listening to Days N’ Daze.

Bugs in the kitchen and mold in the sink
Chuggin’ down the whiskey and you never stop to think
What do we do tomorrow?”

4. Urine Speaks Louder Than Words – Wingnut Dishwashers Union

I found out when I was writing this that it’s commentary on the inaction within activist communities and how meaningless their action-less words are. Stating that instead urinating on authority figures will cause more change.

But will somebody say is this resistance or a costume party? Either way I think black with bandanas is a boring theme.”

5. We Are All Compost In Training – Ramshackle Glory

I eat meat and drive trucks and shoot guns and don’t trust in the federal government to solve our problems. You might think I’m joking, but I’m not a republican”

So I’ll dig up the dirt and I’ll throw down some seeds, because the world needs more spinach, not more motherfuckers like me.”

I’ve song this song dozens of times riding along on my bike. All the while motioning like I’m digging dirt holding a shovel with my two hands. And then throwing down seeds with my right hand, as I bend over closer to the ground. I agree.

6. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist – Ramshackle Glory

This song helped get me through the hard times at the beginning of being gone. With my right glove-less fist thrust in the air I’d sing, “Your heart is the size of a muscle the size of your fist, keep on loving, keep on fighting and hold on, hold on, hold on for you life.” And I’d stare at my first, realizing how small my fist and therefore heart was and how I needed to keep on fighting, keep on loving and hold on for my life.

Like the time that our friend Chuck came over to our house
He said he needed somebody to take care of his pets
‘Cause he was going out of town
I asked him, “Where,” and he said “New Mexico”
I asked if I could get a ride
He said: “No, you don’t want to follow me
Where it is I’m going”

He backed out of the driveway
That was the last time we saw him
Cause he drove straight to his parent’s cabin
And put a bullet in his head”

7. Misanthropic Drunken Loner – Days N’ Daze

Cause relationships are overrated
Maybe I’m just tired and jaded
But I’m sorry I just like myself more than I like you”

After burning out, I spent a lot of time by myself and I’ve hated a lot more people that I’m used to. At the beginning I’d agree that, “I’m just far more comfortable alone.”

Human beings are a waste of breath and
Don’t think I exclude myself
I’m an asshole just like you

Cause people are ugly and people are hateful
Destructive and greedy
We’re proud and ungrateful
The world would be so much better off without us”

8. I Listened – Apes of the State

This song is the first of Apes of the State that caught my ear. I love the earnest hopelessness that it contains. I have felt in increasing inability to listen and remember about other people and would adore singing this song to someone else – this is totally a move I’d do. I exclusively listened to them for a month or two.

And how you make poor decisions with the people that you choose to date
And you’ll probably think I’m crazy for this and I’d tell you that I don’t give a shit but that would be a lie because I care
What you think about me
And I just really, desperately want to be your next poor decision
Your next poor decision
Your next poor decision”

9. My Idea of Fun – Wingnut Dishwashers Union

Like if you don’t want to work, then that becomes your job
There’s a lot of overtime, there’s not many days off
I hope you know that I’m not trying to complain
It just gets hard to explain to people that I know, or kids who come to shows

That I just don’t want to talk about the office today.”

– It’s nice to hear this because I relate to it a lot. And have in multiple points in my life.

And the cops say its a crime for people like me and those friends of mine to want to die
Like my neighbor in St. Pete
She’s been on house arrest down here

If she tries to leave her yard they’ll lock her in a cage for years
‘Cause sometimes she wants to die

And she shoots dope when she thinks she could die
And the law they caught her one too many times
Shootin dope when she felt like she could die.”

– The fucked up way we deal with mental health in this society. She can’t kill herself because that’s illegal so she self medicates by shooting dope when she feels like killing herself. But then she gets thrown in jail for doing that.

Please help me be, please help me be
Please help me be enough

Fuck the law, because we’re enough…”

We’re enough.

10. Plate Glass Apology – Apes of the State

I feel this song so much. After obsessively listening to Apes of the State for over a month I realized what they were singing about and why I felt so drawn to their music, cause they are angry, hurt, breakup songs. The best part of this one is that it’s angry, it’s angry, and then it’s honest, apologetic and sad, but only for a few seconds before she gets angry again. Also her craziness of jumping through a plate glass window and stopping a car in the middle of the road feels so close to something I’d do.

You broke my heart I hope you die, emptier than how I feel inside
And when you lay your head to rest at night I hope that you never fall asleep when you
Think of all the things you do I wish I could just hate you oh I wish all of
These words I said were true”

11. Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%– Against Me!

For months every time after I’d hang out with the kids I used to live with and co-parent I’d sing this song. As soon as I’d leave after visiting them, I’d put the song on and I’d shout, “My heart is anywhere but here!” I’d write it on my arm, I’d write it on my chest, and I would stare off into the distance, looking at nothing.

I can’t believe how naive I was to think this could ever be so simple.”

My recent memory from this song is biking while singing along to this song. I was biking down Penn ave, without my hands on the bars as I often do, as I was crossing Main St the following lyric came on, “Dear Jesus are you listening.” I put my hands together like I was praying, closed my eyes, and turned my head towards the sky as I suddenly screamed those lyrics

12. Olde Tyme Mem’ry – Mischief Brew

Branching out from Ramshackle Glory and Apes of the State this song grabbed me. It’s a song I just want to sing along to, it’s not the lyrics so much as it is the way they are sung. The song is somber, lamenting the past, while at the same time these lament-ers who “settle for white rooms and hollow doors, paper ceilings, padded floors….”

13. Strangers – Apes of the State

Cause sometimes the people who don’t know the things you’ve done are the only ones who will bother talking to you
Sometimes strangers are the best people to tell your secrets to
Cause they don’t know you”

– So true, I often tell all my secrets to people I’ve just become friends with – often the people I’ve been friends with longer don’t have the patience or the attention span for the secrets I want to tell them – that and they know the importance of them.

And today I wish that I could put new glasses on your eyes so you could see the world the way I do through mine
Cause then maybe you wouldn’t wanna die you wouldn’t have to stick a needle in your arm
Just to survive!

Cause I see myself in every single part of you and I made it through
So I can’t just sit back and watch you throw away your life”

– This line hurts me because of how much I relate to it. It’s why I don’t have any energy for anyone these days. I used it all up, with a lot of it going to trying to put new glasses on her eyes.

14. Wherever is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile

This was the song playing in the kids car in September. Clarity told me so. I listened to it very briefly and never again. That’s until I heard the littlest one was listening to a song on the album and replacing parts of it with “Jenny.” I don’t know what song that is but I think that it is this song.

I listened to this song on repeat, over and over and over again as I started to regain my emotions, sadness was the first one.

Even when you’re high, you can get low
Even with your friends you love, you’re still alone
We always find the darkest place to go”

Caught me and made me cry. It felt like it was right, like I had left my home and despite the fact that your feet may take you far from me, I know wherever is your heart I call home.” I was alone in this world, wandering around by foot. I’d hear these lyrics and stare down as my feet as I walked. Miles I’d walk just to deal with my emotions, one night I walked 13 miles on a whim and never did I find home.

Eventually the song got to me, I pulled up my left sleeve on a cold autumn night, flicked out my blade and waited. I knew like so many times before I’d wait for days, putting off this feeling only to act upon it. It had already been a day and I didn’t have the stamina to outrun it. So after my arm had been chilled I heard the lyrics, “Oh god forgive my mind, oh god forgive my mind, when I come home, when I come home.” And I did 3 quick cuts on my arm. They all drew a blood that I regretted slightly when I was later in a convenience store restroom shoving paper towels in my sleeve so I didn’t get my hoodie covered in blood. This was the last time I cut myself.

Since then I’ve figured out how to deal with my emotions in a more productive way. My new favorite coping mechanism is singing. I sing all these songs all the time. That’s where my emotions go. Having never experienced a normal childhood and therefore never learning how to cope with existence, I now am experiencing being a teenager for the first time. It’s odd, but it’s going really well this time – even if it’s 15 years after it should’ve happened.

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Someone I’ve been going on dates with has really changed my perspective on darkness. Her name is Beanie and she’s a very socially awkward person who love the outdoors and is super cool, really easy to talk to and makes me feel super safe. We talked about making art prior to our first date and she very much appreciated my artistic style of repetitively writing words hundreds of times. On our date she told me that since we talked she had made a piece that expressed her understanding of what was at the root of everything for her, rejection. Instead of choosing to make art to a dark theme such as rejection she decided to make something about the opposite, embrace. This is the opposite of what I do, my art is filled with darkness, dark themes and horrible energy.

I brought this up on our second outing and I talked about how enthralled by darkness I feel like I am. She said she understood and that she often used to think about more dark thoughts but worked to retrain her brain to use more positive thoughts processes. This was the first time I really acknowledged how infatuated with darkness I am. It’s all around me. As I write this I’m sitting in my room surrounded by dark art I’ve made, art about suicide, cutting and self-hatred, and as I write this I’m listening to Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. I’m crying so hard from the pain I’m putting myself through, through the darkness I’m peering into I can’t even read why I’m typing, I hurt, I am staring into the abyss and it is staring back.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it when I saw this version of it.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it.

Why is this happening right now? Why am I doing this to myself. I’m happy I had a good day today, I feel good about today. I spent the whole day working on the garden I even got to hang out with Jamie all day. I feel like it was a rewarding, fulfilling day, but it didn’t take much for that to change. I watched a darker episode of Rick and Morty, the last episode of Season 2. It finishes with a sad scene and the song Hurt by NIN. Now I can’t stop listening to it. Now tears are covering my face.

Why do I do this to myself? Why is it that every once and a while I need to cry like this? Why do I need to torture myself like this? I stare into the darkness and tell myself I deserve this, I need this. I look at my suicidal thoughts, at my self-harm thoughts, or just think about being molested and how it leaves me feeling unsafe and out of control and I just wallow in this hurt. For some reason I need that “old familiar sting,” for some reason I think I need to balance the joy with pain.

As I look at how I feel, how I treat myself I suddenly feel myself calming down and slowing my tears. It doesn’t last though, in the next breathe I think of cutting myself, I think of administering raw pain just to keep my sorrow going. I don’t deserve this period of pain, but part of me disagrees, part of me thinks I’ve been too happy this week, part of me has to bring me down. Why? Why is it that when Beanie talked about not wanting to follow negative thoughts did I found that idea ridiculous? I told myself that is where good art comes from, that is what gives you perspective, that is where so many realizations happen, I’m a nihilist, that’s where I live in darkness and sorrow, but why?

I know why. I know a bunch of reasons why, I wish I didn’t. I do it because I need to torture myself, because sometimes I don’t deserve to feel good. I know this is true, because it hurts unbelievably to write this, to say this out loud. I love darkness because self-imposed darkness is safe. It guards me from all the other darkness that has been committed on me. My darkness is more powerful then theirs and therefore I don’t think about the way they hurt me, I think about the way I hurt me. I torture myself to have power, to have ownership over myself. I torture myself because I’m afraid of others hurting me.

This explains so many habits, why when I fall down I go deep, very deep into a black hole of darkness. I have these shrines, these trophies around my room to this darkness, to this powerful, this unbelievably powerful entity, darkness and self-hatred. Because no one can hate you more than you hate yourself. Or as Chuck Palahniuk puts it in Invisible Monsters, “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.”

Poem: Today You Humbled Yourself

25 months ago you were pushed by Cha to dress up for Halloween as how you wanted, how you saw yourself – as a fairy
21 months ago you mostly acknowledged you were trans
20 months ago you started taking supplements to grow breasts, you were terrified they’d work
20 months ago you wore a gaff for the first time
18 months ago you made plans to quit your job and actually start living
17 months ago you came out to some coworkers as trans
Today you harassed yourself because you don’t see yourself completely as a woman

16 months ago you started tucking everyday and haven’t stopped since
15 months ago you quit your job
15 months ago you realized suicide was not a good idea
15 months ago you came out to your parents as trans
15 months ago you stopped wearing mens clothes
14 months ago you started going by your real name and pronouns, but only because your friends started using them without your permission.
Today you harassed yourself because you couldn’t stop feeling so anxious

14 months ago you started getting your beard hairs removed one by one
13 months ago you finally got your first bangs
13 months ago you broke out of crippling depression
12 months ago you were finally able to look for and start seeing a counselor
Today you harassed yourself because you “wasted today” by not getting done as much as you had hoped

12 months ago you started wearing bras full time.
12 months ago you started meditating
11 months ago you had a conversation with your family about starting hormones, it went alright…
11 months ago you had the courage to make an appointment to find out about starting chemical hormones
10 months ago you started taking hormones
10 months ago you started the legal name change process
9 months ago you struggled to find a job or even get out of bed in the morning
Today you harassed yourself because it took you an hour to get out of bed this morning

9 months ago you wore a dress in public for the first time
8 months ago you started working again
7 months ago you had the courage to knock doors alone
6 months ago you realized you had been molested as a child
6 months ago you successfully changed your name
4 months ago you started changing your IDs to match your new identity
Today you harassed yourself because you couldn’t focus or get anything done

3 months ago you accepted yourself for being a nihilist
3 months ago you told your parents you were molested as a kid
2 months ago you stopped having dissociative episodes where you couldn’t control your body
2 months ago you seriously wanted to cut your wrists because you felt too ungrounded
2 months ago you told your friends you were depressed
1 month ago you finally felt almost completely okay wearing a dress
1 week ago you admitted that you still suffer from depression and that you always will
2 days ago you had a serious struggle with depression

Today you stopped being so hard on yourself
Today you realized how far and how quickly you have come
Today you humbled yourself

I Lost it and My Roommate Made Me Stay There

[NO BACK STORY]

Saturday afternoon:

I’m feeling really worked up and don’t know it. I go on a bike ride and end up suddenly feeling, feeling sane. My thoughts had been racing all day but I hadn’t minded it, now my mind is clear. I sit down on a bench and start reading In the Dust of This Planet. Sleepiness rolls over me and I finish the next page before laying down my head. I close my eyes, shortly afterward the world begins to shake. I let it. I feel my thoughts, my feelings and just let what happens happen. Twenty minutes later I wake up and bike home listening to Sylvan Esso. Nothing seems real.

A copy of a copy of a copy. The world is far away, just like the narrator describes in Fight Club.

I bike home.

Along the way I dash in and out of traffic, I’m mostly safe, but safe like you are when playing frogger – you obviously don’t want to die, but it’s not real. It’s only half real to me, I’m only half there.

To bring myself down I scream Could I Be by Sylvan Esso.

It only furthers the rift. The world isn’t real, but I know it is.

Two blocks from home a women is walking her dog, the dog is peeing. I look at her. She looks at me. She smiles. She’s real, I’m in the real world. I continue biking and she disappears. That moment is gone forever, just like how reality feels right now.

I make it home. I see my roommates and I make it clear to them that I’m crazy. I refuse eye contact, now they aren’t real either.

In my room I finish listening to Sylvan Esso’s album while lying in my bed trying to take a nap. Instead thoughts start badgering me, memories start coming at me, Diane starts trying to molest me. “Get the fuck away from me!” I yell, “Leave me the fuck alone.” The thoughts are trying to get me to do things I know I don’t want to do. They are trying to take things I like and exploit them to make me do harmful things like cut a upside down cross into arm. “Get the fuck away!” I yell.

My thoughts are racing again and my perfectly organized room starts to get to me. I throw off the covers and run over to my dresser. Pulling out two drawers I throw them on the ground kicking around the clothes that fall onto the floor. “Almost enough,” I think. Then I go over to the bookshelf and toss all the fiction and spiritual books on the floor. Success.

I begin listen to The Weakerthan’s song Watermark on repeat. Now I know what I have to do.

I run down stairs and slam onto the floor as I slip on the wooden floor. Laughing hysterically I get up and run to the basement. I find the lavender paint, some painting equipment and sheepishly bring it upstairs, hiding it so my roomies don’t see it. I again refuse eye contact, I’m in another world and cannot be brought back, not right now.

I scamper upstairs once I find everything and begin my project. Two song lyrics are inspiring me.
“We sit and watch the wall you painted purple.” – Weakerthans
“Paint the black whole blacker.” – St. Vincent

DSC_0274

“It’s just lavender, it needs to be darker!” I think. So I run downstairs slipping again on the floor and falling down. I get back up and grab brown a black paint and return to my project. Blending the lavender and brown I get a nice dark color in the center. Building the circle bigger and bigger I switch the song on repeat to The Strangers by St. Vincent. I’ve waited 3 years for this moment. I grab the black paint a tub to stand on and begin painting the title of this piece: “Paint the Black Hole Blacker.”

DSC_0286

The black paint isn’t as black as I’d like, it’s to thin. I keep putting more and more on and realizing the paint is running. “Yes!” I scream as I see the amazing look the running paint gives to this piece. I keep painting more and more, bigger and bigger. I add more brown, I begin splattering brown, black, lavender all over it. Just what I’ve always wanted, It’s done.

DSC_0295

I show it to my roommates and they are not sure what to think. They are fearful, excited, happy and concerned. The new one, Da Hottie, sides with crazied happiness, the feeling I’m expressing. Jamie sticks with concern longer, but eventually gets happier. They both take pictures of it and Jamie begins sharing it. My friend Von begins expressing concern, simply texting “shit” as a response to seeing the picture that Jamie sent them.

After a little while of laying in my room alone basking in the glory of this piece and the feeling of being crazed Jamie comes in. They sit partial on me and ask, “Why is Von worried about you?” I pause and realize I’ve finally been caught, and am relieved. As we start talking Jesse helps me realize I am not losing it, I am not caught, I am free, I have gained something from this whole experience. I have been trying to paint this on my wall for years. I always resisted it. Now I’m becoming more impulsive and more real, more aligned with the true me.

I haven’t lost anything I gained this painting on the wall. I sit with that a while, Jamie leaves and I keep sitting with it. I lay down and try to take a nap, listening to music and relaxing I realize that I need to leave, I need to run. I pack up my stuff and get ready for some sort of outing. I go to leave and Jamie stops me. They ask me where I’m going, why I’m going and when I’m coming back. I can’t answer any question but I still want to leave. I say I’m anxious, and hungry and just need to get out of the house. They ask how they’ll know if I’m safe. I say I just will be, and that they can call me and I can call them.

After a protracted fight about whether I should run or not Jamie reluctantly gets me to stay. I stay with my pain and crazy and tell them what has been going on in my head. I stay with my feelings and am forced to acknowledge what is going on, forced to treat my body with respect, forced to be present. They force me to face my pattern of running and to be with myself.

I eat some food and I find a quote of where I am:

Only now are you going your way to greatness. Peaks and abyss, they are now joined together for all things are baptized in a well of eternity, and lie beyond good and evil.
-Nietzche

Why Nihilism

I have been experiencing and writing a lot about nihilism recently. I’ve struggled with it for the last 3 years, yet I could never pinpoint why I was so attached to it. It makes me feel happy, sad, frustrated, hopeless and angry, and I have yet to be able to escape it or let it go. Nihilism to me is that fly that refuses to leave your house, as soon as you think it’s gone you suddenly hear it buzzing over your head. That is until recently.

I was listening to a radiolab podcast about nihilism, In the Dust of the Planet, that validated and explained my experience with nihilism perfectly. In a world where people are inundated with news about global climate change, beheadings, never ending wars and disease outbreaks the world is a bleak place. The response to that bleakness is callous indifference because that is bad-ass, that is strong, that is nihilism. From now, to the cold war, to post WWI and beyond. Nihilism has been attractive because it frees the individual from worry and responsibility for the horror and chaos around them, instead they simply don’t care.

Radiolab delves into the subject of nihilism both historically and in current pop culture revealing our current infatuation with nihilism. Our current obsession with nihilism is seen and shown to exist by how an obscure nihilist book called, In the Dust of the Planet, is suddenly found plastered on the back of Jay Z’s jackets in one of his <a href="http://m, In the Dust of the Planet.”>videos.

JayZShot

This Radiolab podcast is done in partnership with On The Media’s Brooke Gladstone. She take a different angle for the story, but one that is quite interesting to listen to. Hers is called Starring into the Abyss and I would recommend it as well. A quote from her story sums up why nihilism haunts us now:

…we have just grown vaguely uncomfortable in this world that seems so chaotic, but in our lives barely touches us. Essentially, we’re taking in the world through the media. So it may feel more deadening, but it’s less intense.
-Brooke Gladstone

And she is spot on. I have lived one comfortable life and have been rarely touched by this chaos, but I have stared at it. I stared into this abyss and it stared back. And I proceeded to look all over my world to find this abyss, to see darkness and nihilism everywhere I could. A personal joy of mine was based around sarcastic, nihilistic joy of finding things similar to buddhist koans, things that can’t be understood by the logical mind (i.e. what is the sound of one hand clapping). These things shouldn’t exist together, but they do, they are real life oxymorons.

Ketchup Text Reads: #Nihilistarbys

The experience of an anti-corporate vegetarian (me) going to one of the most disgusting fast food joints I can think of
Ketchup Text Reads: #Nihilistarbys

That day when I realized I was too committed to vegetarianism so I ate a turkey hoagie for lunch. And my first big mac for dinner, while watching a vegan propaganda movie.

That day when I realized I was too committed to vegetarianism so I ate a turkey hoagie for lunch. And my first big mac for dinner, while watching a vegan propaganda movie.

Seen in Philadelphia by and old roomie.


And my favorite sign from 2013, a sign I loved as a nihilist and still love today

In this world you cannot escape these things, and I knew that. So I and many other nihilist stare at them. We stare into the abyss and it stares back. And staring at something so empty so negative and lacking is freeing at first, but it is also deadening. You are free but you almost give up your spirit in the process.

Existential nihilism is the idea life doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning or value, but I pushed beyond that. I stared into things that disgusted me to make them go away, and as my disgust left part of my spirit did too. I didn’t realize how hurtful this was until recently. I was mindfully eating food with a friend and roomie and I started to feel my burden leave, my guard fell down, I was letting go. What rushed over me was tears. Tears from all the times that I tortured myself, the times I knowingly put myself through dark times almost as punishment. I was punishing myself for not experiencing the horror. I put myself through mental anguish to make up for the physical anguish others had to experience. Instead of solving anything I simply hurt myself. I became a martyr, a martyr for the world.

This world is abominable, there are not words enough to describe how disgustingly people treat one another, but this is not my burden. I am not responsible for other people. I am responsible for me and I need to actually carry that burden. This world is enough to fight if you are fighting just for yourself. You can fight it’s morality, aspirituality, capitalist economy, but the goal should be to serve you and to better yourself. The goal should be to do what I wrote in my last post, “come alive.”

I feel my grip on nihilism fading. A few weeks ago would consider myself a nihilist but by today I would disagree. I have stopped identifying and just started being. I have started feeling and experiencing what there is. I feel much better, my burden of society is gone and my burden of me is here and I’m tackling it a day at a time.

Next Chapter

For 26 years I have tried to answer the question, Is there morality? Why do people hurt one another? What is the purpose of life? And dozens of other spiritual, moral and philosophical questions that tried to help me understand why and how things functioned in this world. Until recently, when I found out I had been asking all the wrong questions.

I had been trying to make logical sense of our world and our society. My best conclusion was that our society was nihilistic. I eventually took this on for myself having been an atheist anthropology major trying to find themselves it only seemed logical to become a nihilist. But since meditating I have let go of nihilism and found it returned to me as I see all of the existential nihilism teachings that are found in Buddhism. And suddenly I realized I had simply been asking all the wrong questions.

I was trying to understand the world and spirituality not within myself but a much more difficult medium to comprehend, the external world. I was trying to logically understand everything. There are too many variables for me to understand myself to fully explain this system so you can only attempt to imagine the number of variables and structures preventing my understanding of the outside world. Explaining this outside world was my attempt at defining my own inner world. I was trying to make logically sense of the illogical and I got caught up every time.

Our society is nihilistic, it is the antithesis of a meaningful, spiritual world. So the goal shouldn’t be to comprehend it this is irrelevant to the real goal. The real goal is to act in complete ignorance of society. To act in ignorance as we establish ourselves as spiritual beings in an aspiritual(or anti-spiritual) space.

Or in essence to live spiritually the way Camus says to live life

Or in essence to live spiritually the way Camus says to live your life

This answers so many questions I’ve had before but believed I had already answered. Like the simple and huge question, “How can I work to change the world for the better?” My new simple and difficult to accept answer: change myself. While I will never discount the activism I did I am realizing the importance of doing the personal work. The importance of another quote I am quite fond of:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Howard Thurman

While I have the feeling of having answered the questions I was truly seeking to answer I am left looking at my journey as a frantic search to answer the wrong question. Essentially my higher self sent me on a quest to find out the answer to this problem. I had come back to my higher self numerous time saying, I know the answer! And my higher self said, “great you’ve figured it all out then?” And I kept working to make sure I did figure it all out. Until the most recent time when I realized the quest I was on was to find out I needn’t go on a quest. I needn’t run all over the place to find the answer. Instead I needed to sit and to meditate, I needed to realize the answer within myself.

I am reminded of a story from a book I’ve been reading, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. In the story a guru sends a student to do numerous ridiculous tasks thinking this will get him to enlightenment the student dutifully completes the tasks without question. The ridiculous of this is seen when he is asked to bring back the scalps of 20 individuals to prove that he has killed this people. As usual he does what he is told. Not thinking about it or feeling about it, just doing it. He’s not present he is thinking of his future enlightenment.

But enlightenment isn’t a quest or a challenge it’s something much more complex. It not something you can really measure or truly see, it’s not something external. Instead it’s internal it’s understanding yourself, truly understanding yourself, the same thing I was trying to do to the external world – understand it. And not in a logical way that you can grasp, to truly grasp yourself. To feel your anger in your arms and chest, your love in how open and warm you feel.

The most difficult part of this challenge is being spiritual being within this aspiritual world. This is an important part of many spiritual practices now a days, especially in Shambhala Buddhism. No more going off into the woods or far away mountain to practice. Instead people are starting to stay put. This quest is, as my therapist’s spiritual teacher put it, “harder than meditating in frozen snow for 4 days.” This is a hard quest but the one that needs to be taken. To live in an aspiritual world but remain spiritual. To keep yourself present, true, happy and healthy spiritually despite the draining aspirituality surround you.

Shambhala Meditation, Nihilism. Two apples on the same tree

In searching to find meaning, purpose and the answer to the question why I have quested all over the place, nihilism to transcendentalism to bible studies to meditation. The goal was to find out an explanation for the world, this led me to the answer of nihilism and later a realization of this being the wrong question. Now I’m in between nihilism and meditation. It’s a nice place for me right now, one that acknowledges most of my understanding and lets me let go.

At first Shamabhala meditation felt like it was not compatible with nihilism, which led me to not truly embrace it, still holding onto my nihilism at a distance. Shambhala meditation is about being present in the moment and obviously meditating by focusing on your breathe and with your eyes open. I go to a center every Monday and have started reading Shambhala books, including a Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron (started before I knew what Shambhala was) and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa (one of the founders of Shambhala). I more or less embraced it while holding my disbelief at a distance, neither choosing to believe it or disbelieve in what I was doing.

After participating in the Monday meditations for a a couple months there was the most engaging discussion post-meditation ever. The director of the center was there and one of the participants asked him about feelings of darkness, emptiness and fear when he was meditating, he decided to let it overcome him and envelop him. The director started talking about emptiness, how the only moment that exists is now and nothingness in my head I laughed and thought to myself jokingly, “he’s talking about nihilism!” Then suddenly the director clarified, “This emptiness and nothingness we are talking about isn’t the western philosophy of nihilism.”

“Woah!” was all I could think. The similarity was so great that he clarified the difference. I mentioned this to my therapist and she reiterated the similarity by saying, “They aren’t apples and oranges, they are apples and apples, like Granny Smith and Pink Lady.” Suddenly I began realizing the similarities and how they seem to be tackling the same problem in similar ways.

To me nihilism is a way of stripping yourself clean, you destroy everything you believed by not believing it anymore and often defying it. It’s an aggressive destruction of what you believed to get to you.

Shambhala’s understanding of enlightenment is to remove all of the junk you have put on top of yourself, because you are an enlightened being.

The similarities of how to reach “enlightenment” are so close. They both focus on freeing oneself, living in the moment and embrace a belief that nothing is sacred. But the big difference is what and how you get there. Nihilism in my experiences is a bomb that destroys all of the conditioning that is forced upon us. Once it explodes there is nothing but a crater, and more bombing runs. It destroys to no end, and leave you empty of anything, not giving you an understanding to stand upon once the towers are gone. Meanwhile Shambhala has practices that you practice over and over again that slowly bring you into a practice that is a lifestyle.

I want to break for a second to emphasize that this is only my experience with nihilism, I had no teachers of nihilism and read sparingly nihilist literature. But my experience with it was amazing, devastating and unforgettable.

After thinking over nihilism again and again I realized the core problem, ego. My experience of nihilism never addressed ego. Instead it was reinforced by believing that nothing can be known or communicated which simply reinforces the idea of the ego. Meanwhile Shambhala’s goal is to loose the ego, it is a frequent subject of books and conversations and one of the main goals. While nihilist seem to be cast onto a unreachable island, people who follow Shambhala are questing to be truly present.

The other scary thing to me about nihilism is that it creates an extremely powerful and dangerous thought pattern that reinforces itself. Once nihilism is in someone no other religious or spiritual thought can be held and not much else that is found outside of the individual. Instead nihilism unleashes a destructive force on the individual where they attempt to destroy ever piece of knowledge and belief they hold.

This experience is quite cathartic. It dispels many harmful beliefs and many limiting beliefs. This is very helpful but in it’s place it puts nothing but a void and doesn’t suggest anything fill this void. This leaves ego to fill the void. While I wouldn’t say nihilism is inherently bad (ha ha inherently) it creates voids that is filled with ego and only leaves the person more detached from their surroundings.

In writing this and in my current experience I am stuck, I love nihilism and I hate it. I cannot leave it and I cannot stay there. I still identify with it and think it has helped me, I also know that it has hurt me. I’m not sure to tell people to stay away or embrace nihilism. I think I’m going to leave you with the feeling I have about nihilism instead of the thoughts. I feel bound to nihilism and a great appreciation for it. I know my experience with it but it is tied up with so many other things going on that it is hard to pin it all on nihilism. Instead nihilism still inspires and moves me forward today, and I am truly glad to have embraced nihilism, and to still hold onto it today.