Day Fifty Two: Nonconformity

Daily Journal:

darkrestThis morning, I’m shopping for a new tent to replace my Ozark Trail L-shaped 12 person tent that was such a disaster for camping in everything except for perfect weather. I gave it two more chances after the nightmare fall camping trip in Flemingsburg, KY two years ago. Verdict: It could not handle high winds due to its shape. I’m looking at two camping trips this year: one in Brown County, Indiana and another at Red River Gorge in Stanton, Kentucky. So far, I’m looking at two different 10-person instant tent models, one by Coleman and the other by Ozark Trail.

Deng Ming-Dao on Nonconformity:

The world is dazzling,
I alone am dull.
Others strive for achievement,
I follow a lonely path. 

Chapter 52 was very familiar, having so far had a somewhat unconventional life by the standards of most people, I’d imagine. It’s not that this kind of life is preferable, recommended to someone else, or lived for the sake of uniqueness. I was raised in a family environment where conformity was demanded. Having freedom as a core motivation of my personality it seems, I rebelled without even trying at all, doing things that would not have been considered rebellious at all in most other middle class families. Even then, that was superficial nonconformity, mostly about choice of activities, fashion, and intellectual pursuits.

A couple of years ago, I went into a deep depression after considering myself a failure in life compared to other people. It really was about listening to other voices, opinions, and advice. What I’ve really heard from just about everyone else for my entire life, or at least the message I always thought I heard was “YOU NEED TO CHANGE INTO WHAT I WANT YOU TO BE”. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to change into someone else, for someone else, and it has always failed.

The other day I had an epiphany and I wondered if anyone else had realized this. Looking online, I found a blog entry I really identified with called “Everyone Is Full of Shit”. I do not know what enlightenment is, but having this realization is as close as I’ve ever gotten.

I’ve often been thwarted by the attempt from others to “help” me, or give me advice that may have worked well for themselves but didn’t really apply to me so much. I heard a funny joke from Alan Watts the other day about thinking you know what is best for someone else:

“Kindly let me help you or you will drown,” said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.

I’ve given up on fighting to become a conformist, or change for other people.

So, just to break down a couple of key points in Deng Ming-Dao’s entry today:

  • Conventional people may label our behavior as erratic, antisocial, irresponsible, inexplicable, outrageous, and sometimes scandalous.
  • We do not care about social norm. We only follow Tao.
  • We all have many voices, personalities, ambitions, and tendencies within us. (Those I find similar to ego, superego, and id. We want the ability to distinguish between them, and to silence all voices save for Tao (the reason for meditation?)
  • All that matters is constant cultivation with Tao, not self perfection.
  • There are others who follow Tao but it is not always possible to meet them. It is a lonely path. (Hence, the appearance of nonconformity)
  • You need to be sensitive enough to hear the call of Tao, and strong enough to walk the solitary path.

“So, tell me, pretty baby, are you still talking ’bout yourself?
You’re such a non-conformist, just like everybody else”

-The Dictators, “I Am Right”

The Daily Stoic: Wish Not, Want Not

Today, Ryan Holiday covers a subject in Stoicism that overlaps with Buddhism: The idea that desire is suffering. He quotes Epictetus, who says (I paraphrase): If we desire and place high value on anything external, not just wealth and status, even “good” things like learning, peace, travel, and leisure, that brings us under dominion of something external, which can create an obstacle for us.

When it comes to your goals and the things you strive for, ask yourself: Am I in control of them or they in control of me?

Holiday, Ryan. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living (p. 61). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The message here is that it is okay to desire things, as long as you understand they are external and you do not rely on external things to bring happiness to you. This is a message that I’ve heard over and over in Buddhism, but would probably be found in all spiritual traditions as well as this Stoic tradition in Western philosophy.

Tomorrow, I have a day off and I hope to experience it with mindfulness.

B.G.

Day Forty Two: Walking

Daily Journal:

fortent

Pop-up tent I purchased for $7.00 at Wal-mart for the kids.

As noted yesterday, I am now several days behind on blog posts and I’m catching up this morning. On Thursday night, I purchased two Kids’ Pop-Up Fort Tents from Wal-mart for $7.00 each and the kids camped in the living overnight on Friday and Saturday night. I hadn’t been to camping stores or the outdoors department of a store in a while, and I’m amazed at some of the new products and innovations in camping in recent years, such as the Inflatable Solar Powered Camping and Emergency Lantern, which Joe Zarantonello from Loose Leaf Hollow has purchased in bulk to distribute to children and families in Haiti who do not have access to powered lighting. I saw several tutorials on these pop-tents, which actually pop up in about 3 seconds to become a fully set up tent for real camping. I may purchase a real adult version of this tent. There is a learning curve, as it takes a while to learn how to fold these tents back up so they fit inside the storage bag again. I spent about an hour figuring that out, but once you get it, it’s easy to do. I’ve been making some camping plans for this year. Looking to visit Brown County, Indiana and Red River Gorge in Stanton, Kentucky.

Deng Ming-Dao on Walking:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that although hiking may be a good metaphor for a spiritual life, hiking is also literally the best activity sometimes. Here’s an article where doctors explain how hiking actually changes our brains. As he says, hiking will strengthen our legs and stamina, and also remove us from the madness of society for a while. Hiking is something I regularly do, on Tuesday nights at Iroquois (which is more like a “long walk” because we are walking on pavement in a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park. Other times, I hike at Jefferson Memorial Forest or Bernheim Forest. Last year, I hiked several times on the property at The Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. Hiking is an activity I do regularly and will continue to.

Daily Stoic: Hero or Nero?

Today, Ryan Holiday challenges the statement “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This may often be the case but not always, he argues, citing Marcus Aurelius as a wise philosopher king who was powerful, but not a tyrant. He says it “comes down to inner strength and self-awareness of individuals- what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference.”

Until tomorrow,
B.G.