So long, and thanks for all the fish
Signing off (for now), and a heartfelt thank you to the Medium community
All through my teens and early twenties, I wanted to have a blog. I knew I had perspectives I wanted to share, topics I wanted to write about — I just didn’t know quite what they were. Then, in November of 2016, while tripping on mushrooms in Amsterdam with the then-love of my life, everything clicked. Not about the blog — I mean everything clicked. From the years of study I’d been doing into politics, from the decade of yoga and the readings into Buddhism and Taoism, from Nassim Nicholas Taleb to Murray Bookchin, to dialectical behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis — it just all clicked, like gears into clockwork.
Everything made sense. Myself, moving within it, made sense. The reasons why that movement had been painful made sense. The way to make movement joyful instead made sense. It all clicked. For the past four and a half years, I’ve been writing to explain what I mean by that.
Writing has been my greatest comfort, my №1 source of passion and excitement, tension and catharsis. Forcing myself to get the words out, make what I see and feel intelligible, accessible and shareable, has been a brutal and valuable practice. Now, I think I’ve hit a point where writing it all out is keeping me from exploring it to the depth I need to. It’s time to go deep into the forest now. Consider this my trail of bread crumbs.
What I know about these enlightening “awakenings” is that no amount of writing about it can automatically give someone else the experience. What I’ve learned, in writing about it, is that the enlightening moment isn’t the point. The top of the mountain might be the summit, but it’s the smallest, least-interesting part. The work is what happens when you get back to base camp, how you start turning life into art.
What’s happened, for me, is that blogging about these topics has become a source of stress and tension. It’s fun, for a moment, but then I feel exhausted with explaining the same concept, resentful of myself and others, frustrated by not being able to get the words out right, and hurt when those around me don’t read what I’ve written and see the value in it. I use blogging to complain about things I don’t like, rather than find solutions to them. I get this strange, subconscious belief that, once I’ve written it out, everyone will just understand it. Of course, that isn’t so.
What’s happened is that, for now, blogging isn’t helping me. It’s keeping me stuck in some cycles I’d like to exit from — by no fault of its own, simply by how I’ve been relating to it. And so, I’m going to stop blogging for a while. Perhaps, indefinitely. I don’t know yet.
If you come across my page while it’s dormant, or have been reading my writing in the past, there are some things I’d like to point you to, that I’d like to be my legacy to this website, so to speak:
The first is the understanding that what you need is only ever a state of being, either physical, mental, or emotional. The act of confusing what you need with a tool or strategy you use to meet your need is one of the greatest causes of suffering. What happens, when you do this, is that you develop an addictive relationship with the tool you use to meet your need. Not necessarily physically addictive — but a form of craving (or tanha) all the same. Addiction is not a sin. In fact, it’s natural. Healing from it takes time and practice, but healing is also natural.
The second is understanding that your needs are always valid, but your strategies to get your needs met are not always helpful. Your feelings are always valid, but your thoughts and beliefs are not always helping you. There is no such thing as an incorrect feeling; feelings simply are or are not felt. There is no such thing as an incorrect need, only strategies for meeting needs that create more or less suffering.
The third is about responsibility, that it means “ability to respond.” Fault and duty have nothing to do with any of it. What can you respond to? How can you respond? What ability do you have? That is the question, not questions of “should” or “have to.” Beneath that, you find that what you respond to is what you want to respond to.
The fourth is about our obsession with right and wrong, good and evil, victim and villain. We are learning, bit by bit, that none of us is a villain. We are each innocent and good, our feelings matter and our hearts are loving. From there, the next step is to learn that innocence does not equate to powerlessness. We can be innocent, and also powerful. We can be innocent, and also accountable. Our actions can make sense, and others’ actions can make sense. It is only guilt that gets in the way.
The final message to leave you with is about power and control. Control is a byproduct of fear, and it will always fail in its goal of having supreme authority over the world around it. It should fail. Control inhibits us from safety. The greater ability we all have to meet our needs, the less cause we all have to harm one another in order to get our needs met, and the safer we all are from harm. Controlling the world around us makes us less safe — because we limit our awareness of possible paths to getting our needs met by forcing obedience to a certain path, and we inhibit others from getting their needs met if the path we’ve chosen doesn’t meet their needs.
We are all well-intentioned, innocent of our trauma. All of our hearts are good. And we have so much power to enact that goodness, so much more power than we tend to realize.
What I crave, and seek, is a world of inclusion, authenticity, and consent. Inclusion is love out loud — truly welcoming something, in the full infinity of all that it is, and treating its needs as you would your own. Authenticity requires self-awareness, self-acceptance, and open vulnerability. When we express who we authentically are, and what we authentically need, then we can begin to act with others in authentic mutual aid. And as for consent — everything we do is a choice, but that does not mean everything feels like one. Consent is a choice that feels like a choice, a choice that feels freely made. Lack of consent is what makes an action violent.
Inclusion, authenticity, consent: these are the pillars of Utopia, or Heaven, or Enlightenment. Call it what you will. The goal is realization of whatever it is you want to call it. They are all the same thing, and we are all trying to get there. The truth is, we are all working towards the same goal, even if we don’t realize that is so. Rather than compete and conflict, we can collaborate and cooperate towards our shared goal. All of us.
This takes time, but we’re all already doing it. Now, with that shared awareness, let’s do it better.
For to build a world of consent is to realize choice — to make the ultimate reality of our power to choose real in our subjective experience. To build relationships on authenticity is to realize perfection — to understand that all we are is already perfect, by understanding that and making it real in our experience. To build a world of equity and inclusion is to realize oneness — to understand its reality by making it manifest. The more we practice our power, the more we realize it.
It takes practice: time and repetition. It takes commitment and prioritization. It takes embracing discomfort. It takes starting small and going slow. It takes being patient and kind with yourself, and with others. It takes trust, sometimes even faith, in learning to find your way without a map. When it comes to your own truth, there is no map. There is only ever a compass, and that compass is your experience itself.
For now, for me, I have spent 27 years of my life fixated on “being good.” I learned how to have the goodest politics and the goodest spirituality, the goodest emotional support and the goodest understanding of people. I worked so hard to be the goodest, refused to compromise from goodness, and came out with an understanding of How To End All Suffering.
In all this time of trying to be the goodest, I have hardly ever been happy. In trying to End All Suffering, I have thrown myself into suffering again, and again, and again. So now, I am following my own advice, and practicing what I preach. I may come back to writing about The End of Suffering someday, but for now, I’m going to practice being happy.
I am so grateful to everyone who has engaged with my writing here, read it, thought about it, questioned it, liked it, learned from it or helped me learn in turn. Thank you.
I only hope the things I’ve written have been able to help others experience deeper consciousness, self-acceptance, understanding and empowerment. All of it will remain here, and I will post a link on Medium if I start writing somewhere else in time. I also have a website, and I am (groan) starting a vlog. In the mean time, I am of course still reachable by email, and it really makes my day to hear from any of you. Thank you all, again.
In peace and solidarity,