Let’er Buck: Riding With the Women of Summer

The beautiful blur of grace and speed. A simple photo can’t quite capture the rhythm and flight of imagination these women arouse when they ride. Still, watching them, it is impossible not to feel the electricity, the connection of the dance between the rider and her horse.

A dream to catch, and here begins the pursuit of the Women of Summer.

Wandering around horses and riders, I trade stories and listen respectfully on their day of competition. With poise and a sense of community, I’ve come to understand one thing: in life, these incredible cowgirls utilize their confidence to pursue dreams, and with such a spirit comes admiration of those secure enough to understand embracing a woman’s power moves us to a higher level.

It is a breathtaking sight. And while photos may not do justice to the electricity such women create, it is easy to dream of their rhythm and flight of imagination, which spur me into tomorrow. 

Growing up with three strong-willed sisters who love horses, I began to understand one consistent trait of young cowgirls that shone above all others: to be free. Flying high without concern of falling, riding without fear, and doing so with their hair on fire…

The world needs such dynamic women at every level: as leaders in politics, business, medicine, and teaching. Their spirit encourages. We are lifted being around such strong women, savoring their boldness and grace. 

It stuns me to think there are still barriers to what women can achieve due to discrimination based on gender. The main reason I find it hard to believe is not that I think discrimination is wrong (I do, for the record… no matter what my sisters say) but because it is crazy for men to sabotage themselves and their communities.

Decades ago, I read a piece by John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women, published in 1869 when women were seen as the property of men.

“Equality is critical for solving the world’s problems… the loss to the world by refusing to make use of one-half of the whole quantity of talent it possesses is extremely serious.” 

– John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women, in 1869

Almost everyone I know today understands and believes in the words of J.S. Mill. It is logical, yet… with the fragile ego of many men, who would rather cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face and go on waging war, they continue to live in a warped fantasy. Ridiculous.

Years ago, I wrote about how acknowledging someone’s ability does not diminish your own. Instead, the confidence in breaking male-dominant beliefs is a sign of strength, and nothing is more attractive than the authenticity of doing the right thing without a second thought.

It is just common sense. The world needs all the leadership and great ideas it can get.

A secure woman and a secure man who understands the untapped qualities of the human spirit can create brilliance and unlock the heart of potential for all.

An example of this is the heartland of the United States, built by the frontiersmen and women who were insightful enough to understand that equality was the only way to survive in the West. By embracing the power and skill of each other, they could thrive.

They did this without question, without fear. Through action instead of rhetoric, they taught their children. As a result, these kids grew up as balanced individuals who created something even more remarkable: a self-feeding cycle of success. Small farming towns across the globe share this same thread of equality, and this is the hope for the world.

I think back to some of my travels overseas to stagnant, repressive societies. Places empty at the core, with male-driven egos paralyzing society by allowing great minds to waste away along with their children’s future.

This is not the way to evolve and better ourselves. Take away the façade of power, especially in business and politics, and there is the natural progression of equality. This is what I now see taking place globally.

Around the world, women have built respect throughout history as the vital key to the success of men.

It is how the “West Was Won” – men and women working as one, united. No room for ego or the subjection of another due to feelings of inadequacy. 

In my hometown of Pendleton, behind every successful rancher, farmer, and cowboy ~ there is a woman who has made him the man he is today. 

The sense of equality. The quality of two beings, untapped potential when repressed, transforms into a powerful, uniting force when free. This attitude built the world – it is the definition of freedom.

This spirit. This drive. This focus. It forms the backbone of America… the melting pot of brave people and immigrants with a dream. Brave souls, dancing with the devil, entering a new world – their strength: having each other’s back, knowing they can only better their world together.

Growing up, I always imagined that women had courage beyond imagination – to help, to teach, and, most beautiful of all – to have a continuous curiosity to improve the lives of those around them.  

It is this curiosity to seek and be better I admire. To borrow from Thomas Hobbes: “Curiosity is the lust of the mind.” It should drive us all.

During the morning of the competition, there were many opportunities to talk with the riders. The conversations were easy and free-flowing. When asked about their life growing up with horses, I’ve never seen eyes light up so quickly.

“When I’m on a horse, there is no question of man or woman… there is only the rider. And when gliding across the arena, heart racing to the cadence of hooves, it’s more magnificent than any thunderstorm ~ and then the goosebumps arrive. In blissful sync with my horse, the sense of reality is lost, and I become a free spirit; nothing can stop me.”

The quiet confidence of a Woman of the West never ceases to impress and humble me. It is a supreme confidence. I noted a quote on one of the rider’s bags by Anaïs Nin, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Even today, I can see her smile at the recognition of this quote. A perfect reminder to be courageous every day. Never stop learning, never stop thinking or asking questions. Continue to wonder… always wonder, and feed your curiosity… 

Sitting here, I realize every day, women around the world saddle up and give it another go… pushing the envelope just a little more until their dream becomes our reality.  

I think of the great women I’ve met in my travels, all so different in their dreams and occupations – yet they ride off, in the same manner, to conquer whatever is on their minds. They do so with a smile that reminds me of an old Western saying, “She’s got a smile that could charm the rattles off a rattlesnake….” It is fitting.  

Their rattlesnake smiles hold a jolt of electricity, bringing to mind something I wrote many years ago: “… a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. Rather when embraced, it magnifies them both.”

We should embrace them all. These cowgirls at the Pendleton Round-Up and women worldwide inspire anyone who dares to take the road less traveled without concern about where it may lead.

They hold independence and freedom most of us dream of but lack the nerve to pursue. These ladies will lead the way to a better world… as always.

Let’er Buck to the Women of Summer!

Cowgirl note: The beautiful Lainey Corbett, above, will soon marry my incredible nephew, Lane Richards, on June 17th, 2023 ~ and I can’t wait to see all the beauty they unfold in life as they begin their journey together. 

Paradise Lost and the Existential Quest of Spring

With the turmoil of the world surrounding me, my thoughts are too scattered to collect. Ever-increasing confusion cloud the horizon – twists of facts blurred by the speed of falsehood add to my detachment. I feel compelled to examine reality.

Intense weather, intense news, extreme political rhetoric. Should I wade outside or find a dark corner in my room to hide from this madness?

Distractions. All distractions.

Existential dread is a springtime affliction I experience with increased frequency. This year it’s more pronounced as I sit here staring at my swollen knee… a torn meniscus prevents me from long-awaited spring hikes into the hills of Czechia or heading out on a run to stretch the body and soul after a long winter.

Instead, I sit reminiscing, scrutinizing what lies ahead (and what doesn’t). Contemplating life.

Reality has taken the form of the parable Sisyphus, the mythical Greek man destined to push a boulder up a mountain only to watch it roll back down. And he gets to do it over again, ad infinitum. A bleak reality. A monotonous life… parallel to mine and those I know.

Viewed from the outside, we are but slaves to routines with the macabre void of death waiting for collection at the end. And if you are wondering, yes, these days, I am the life of the party… 🙃

The above photos remind me of my countless trips up and down Mt. Ellinor. And as with Sisyphus, each ascent had the same monotonous steps, albeit with minor variances but roughly similar. As did the days that filled the time between climbs. Hmmm, what is keeping me sane? 

Nothing changes. We eat. Sleep. Exercise. Work. Die. It is the abbreviated history of humankind. Spiritually, what keeps us alive? What keeps us striving?

Reviewing past photos of Ellinor, the answer comes in pieces, reflections on what has brought me to this point in life and, surprisingly, to the philosophy of Camus and Nietzsche.

The short answer: Art.

The human mind has an endless appetite for creativity. It observes reality, churns it around the head & heart, and creates its own existence – a world in which to belong. 

The question becomes, do we succumb to the chaos we experience daily from the mass of information and give in to the absurd reality fed to us? Put our mind on autopilot and drearily live through the day?

Such questions have become a spring tradition with me, to the point where I classify as an existentialist… with pieces of stoicism, Daoism, and cultures from around the world holding me together. 

Add to this dread my swollen knee and wondering if my future Ellinor will resemble the ones of my past, and I wish I had a beer in front of me right now. My Czech friends would laugh at this, as any authentic Czech has at least one in the fridge for such occasions.

Spring, as a concept, is hope itself. And being fooled again by spring is easy, for the silence of winter allows complacency to creep in, and with the Siren’s song of spring echoing loudly, it creates discomfort.

Discomfort is something to cherish and revel in. Wrap yourself up in the existential questions, for to live is to invite stress and difficulties to spur us forward. We need to churn thoughts repetitiously, to the point of madness… and from this existential quest, we find the lucidity of courage.  

It’s a love-hate relationship for me with spring, originating from an inherent romanticism since youth… The thought is in spring, I’ll be inspired, in summer in love, by autumn reflective, and by winter, ready to take solace in a year/life well spent.

In reality: it is ‘roll the stone up the hill, watch it roll down’ repeated ad nauseam.

Somehow I fool myself into believing in the comfort of spring’s Siren call – she makes me feel like I could be enough and contribute to her world. I’d say it is a lot like bad TV, rewatching those shows I’ve seen a thousand times… yet, even with the ridiculousness of it all, I rejoice in it. Star Trek, anyone?

Existentialists look to the absurdness of life as a catalyst. Getting sucked into the repetitive void that makes life meaningless is easy. But we have one tool which gives us freedom: the creative mind. In essence, our ability to appreciate and create Art. It allows us to escape this fucking Sisyphean reality. 

One of the critical points of existentialism is taking complete responsibility for one’s life. No excuses. Even in Nietzsche and, to a lesser extent, in Heidegger, improving oneself is the minimum of what we owe ourselves (and thus life).

“What makes existentialism so appealing to me?” I ask myself, slowly getting up from my chair to pace around the room – my obsession with hitting my daily step goal remains strong even while hobbled.   

Everyone, at some point, struggles to understand the meaning of life, and for me, existentialism cuts to the core of who I am. It allows me to revolt against what society/politics push my way and sink deeper into exploring my own reality and happiness. It kickstarts my creative mind; from this, I can find a slice of Heaven in this crazy world.

And what is this Heaven I mention? I seek one of the more pretentiously beautiful lines of the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton to answer this question.

When in such a mood as I am now, I think of my best friend from childhood, Pat Breland, who has been gallantly making great Art even after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis in March. This quote fits well:

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

– Paradise Lost, Book One, lines 242 – 270 by John Milton

Throughout my life, I leaned on the ideas Pat taught me growing up on what it is to be great ~ he lives life artfully, in all respects. His music, family, and optimistic outlook create a world where he thrives. Having one of the highest IQs of anyone I’ve ever known also helps.

Take the beauty found in the world, assess it with an inspired mind, and craft it into a life desired.

Unexpected shifts in life happen; losing one you love fuels hope in memories. A loss of hope; I cannot imagine life without it.

Throughout his life, Pat demonstrated that the ability to make his own reality and build meaning is where the power of Art lies.

The flexibility of the mind is the most incredible power an individual has. An agile mind can warp itself in any shape to reconcile reality with what it is focused upon. It could be happiness, misery, or a depressed void.

We can be mired in misery yet find a way to make it feel like Heaven.

Art allows pathways to find this Heaven and find happiness. No matter how badly I may feel, I can inevitably find a way to make myself the hero of my own story, recreate myself and find a Heaven within, regardless of what Hell reality throws my way.

The mind is powerful enough to adjust to any situation. Within us, we have a paradise more incredible than the Garden of Eden. 

Reflecting back on these beautiful hikes, like Camus’ Sisyphus, I am not crushed by the hopelessness in my situation; I’m liberated by it. There is true freedom and happiness in the face of this illogical world.

Every hour, every second of the day, arrives the same Sisyphean choices we all face. And excitement comes from the revolution of Art and imagination inside to take us somewhere special.

I will escape with an admonition of Soren Kierkegaard: Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.

The words of great philosophers of the past are elegant in thought. There is a certain desperate beauty in feeling lost during our existential quests. Being lost allows us to put life into perspective – it is how we find ourselves.

The artful mind can take us to places the most beautiful scenes in nature cannot. It can reveal pieces of the human soul that are not easily understood, giving us a glimpse into infinite possibilities.

Art is not an imitation of reality but a way of expanding upon it to grasp new meanings of who we are.

Art is the brilliance of the human mind, to go beyond the beauty of nature and uncover an alternate reality. This is how humans continue to evolve and find answers to the universe and each other.

It is love. It is kindness and care for those with passion. It is meaning.   

West Lake Culture of Romance

上有天堂,下有苏杭

There is heaven above, and Su-Hang below… and it is here in Hangzhou, China, where I returned after a three-year absence.

Truth be told, this was the heaven I needed after the past three years. Eight days of quarantine bliss, where the only voices I had to deal with were my own.  A perfect recipe to re-enter a country where I had spent much of my adult life. 

Speaking of perfect recipes, the first meal in my room: DongPo Rou 东坡肉, a famous Hangzhou dish named after the great Song dynasty poet Su Shi. And for someone who doesn’t get poetry, I sure spend a lot of time trying…

Su Shi’s poem: Drinks at West Lake through Sunshine and Rain (饮湖上初睛居雨) has significance, as it was written about Xi Shi, one of the four beauties of ancient China, and West Lake is said to be the reincarnation of her. 

“The shimmer of light on the water is the play of sunny skies,
The blur of color across the hills is richer still in rain.
If you wish to compare the lake to the Lady of the West,
Lightly powdered or thickly smeared, she is the best.”

~ by Su Shi 苏轼 (1037-1101), aka Su DongPo

Returning to Hangzhou set the stage for one of those magical moments that pop up in life, where once again, the only thing is to relax, step into something new and see where it goes.

Decades ago, as a young man, I was told when the moon was just right late at night, the swaying willow trees of West Lake would transform into a beautiful goddess. I imagined her to be the ancient beauty Xi Shi.

Poets and lost souls would become enraptured by the sight of her alongside the lake and willows, and with imagination, it was almost possible to touch heaven.

There were many drunken nights where I stumbled around the lake, only to wake up humbled by the morning sun and a mouthful of willow leaves…

With this memory, my first stop out of quarantine was easy, visit West Lake to chase the ancient Chinese beauty Xi Shi once again. This myth I’ve been pursuing for the past two decades.

For most Chinese, visiting West Lake is something one must do, just like in ancient times: to experience West Lake is to experience the epitome of Chinese culture.

Poets, artists, and lovers flock here to live through the stories from Song dynasty greats comparing Xi Shi’s beauty to the lake. One famous Daoist philosopher, Zhuangzi, wrote about her entrancing beauty, including her in a renowned idiom: 沉鱼落雁 ~ Upon seeing Xi Shi’s reflection in the water, fish would forget how to swim… Fortunately, I am a pretty strong swimmer. 

During the month I spent in Hangzhou, it was impossible to walk around the streets without imagining I was in the Song dynasty, around me a blend of achievement while not forgetting the Daoist nature of compassion and being one with nature.

Over its 2,100-year history as “the Heaven on Earth” for its culture, beauty, and romantic feel, Hangzhou and West Lake have fueled many dreams.  

In times we have now, where the world is spinning wildly with epidemics, war, politics, and challenging business, it is good to have a place to escape to, to wrap ourselves up in the culture of romance.  

West Lake holds the subtle Daoist culture of romance and oneness between man and nature. As cold and calculating as the world can be, Daoist thought reminds us of the flip side: art, culture, and nature to balance our lives.

West Lake is where Lao Zi’s philosophy of Daoism impacted my life, specifically part of verse 67:

我有三宝,持而保之。

一曰慈,

二曰俭,

三曰不敢为天下先。

慈故能勇;俭故能广;不敢为天下先,故能成器长。

Lao Zi, Dao de Jing, verse 67

I have three treasures of the Dao to hold and protect.

The first is compassion.

The second is self-discipline.

The third is humility.

From compassion comes courage. From self-discipline comes generosity.

From the humility of putting others ahead comes leadership.

The advice is rooted in simplicity, which contradicts today’s modern world.  We often wish to have a simple, enjoyable life, but in an age of hi-tech, where everything comes at increasingly fast speeds, we are forced to react just as quickly and move at such a pace. 

We work with technology all the time, and it is easy to forget that in between all technology is human interaction. Human interaction requires compassion; it is where love is derived, and we build relationships that guide us into becoming better people.

Compassion creates a deep-seated love, giving us the courage to defend all that is good in the world. It is the creed of a great society and great people, and I do not know anyone who would not do anything to defend what they love. 

At the end of the day, if there is no compassion, there is nothing. 

My West Lake journey was a perfect reminder of how compassion allows people to connect with others and their culture, and from this, happiness takes seed.

Compassion towards ourselves allows us to reconcile with all beings in the world. How can we live in peace if we aren’t at peace with ourselves? At peace with ourselves, we have the self-discipline to be generous, to avoid petty arguments, prejudices, and irrelevant gossip that can veer the spirit from growth.

With a generous spirit and self-will, we broaden our thoughts. Ridiculous biases of the past are tossed aside, and we embrace the simplicity of the world.  We develop the patience to be compassionate and seek a greater understanding, a genius.

Genius is not only for the few; it can strike anyone, anytime. All we need is the patience and awareness to let it happen.

Awareness… this is a bit of a problem even with me. Staring at our mobile phones, snapping photos at each moment we see, we speed through life without taking the time to enjoy the calm.

In this world of clicks, likes, and social media influencers, being bold and gregarious are traits we are taught to exemplify. There is not much self-discipline or generosity in this art – where success lacks compassion.

We understand this. See it in existence, and we can all agree that something is missing here. Yet here we are…

The irony of the above selfies and my participation is not lost. I understand the triviality of sharing the world’s beauty at the expense of not fully experiencing it as I should 🙃. 

The younger me would shake his head – it’s a delicate balance to manage. 

Self-discipline is needed to keep things simple. Simplicity is harder than complexity; it takes effort to think clearly. 

Hiking around West Lake, I thought of all the great Chinese and Western artists and philosophers. The one thing they had in common was spending time in nature. It was part of their thought process: hiking up mountains, through fields, or around lakes. Humbled by their surroundings, they developed the discipline to unravel an idea.

Truth cannot be forced. Humility requires self-discipline and patience. From humility comes the inevitable arrival of an answer, a form of leadership. This is a strange contradiction when aligned with the high-pressure, running-with-your-hair-on-fire attitude of the modern world.

Always in a rush, we never get the answer or the spark of genius because we never let the mind relax and “be” which allows us to enjoy hidden smiles to brighten up an evening.   

In this world where everything happens instantaneously, it is easy to forget we are on a humble journey. Our current evolution of having an attention span of a gnat creates superficial happiness at the expense of depth – the expense of developing emotional roots in our own lives.

I’ve mentioned this before in my writing, and again I am amazed at how important the words my sister, Sandi, wrote in a journal she gave me over twenty years ago: “Take it slow, keep it simple.” In essence, be humble.

I often forego this simple tenet, but I understand the importance of reflecting on these words… take a deep breath, roll back time, and start again. 

Taking a deep breath helps when I lose sight of the simple joys life can bring and how easy it is to accomplish by sitting down and enjoying the harmony of life. 

Modern life appears not to appreciate humility or simplicity. But nature does not care what kind of car you drive, what phone you use, or the diamonds and pearls you wear… Instead, sit next to a lake, stretch out on the soft grass with friends, and watch the magic of a setting sun. Nature by your side.

Without the basics of compassion, self-discipline, and humility, it is impossible to achieve the potential of who we are as humans. To over-achieve and find happiness in the simplest of things. 

West Lake still holds magic for me. Its history and beauty, and the romance of culture it creates.  It is where I fell for my favorite verse of the Dao de Jing. It is at the heart of who I want to be.  To become. 

I suppose this person is someone Xi Shi could be impressed with, and just maybe, if I can become such a man when I ascend to heaven, I can sit with her and have a cup of tea… or perhaps 一杯白酒.

When one is humble, one can be brave.

* Special thanks to my niece Miu Miu Qiu who helped with the photos, and Happy Year of the Rabbit to all on this Lantern Day Festival.

The Edge of Autumn

“A pathway into autumn… I like this. It’s how I envision the fall.” She turns and flashes me this image. It is one in a series of autumn shots around Kamyk nad Vltavou in Czechia, taken on my last hike in October. 

She leans back into the pillow, continues to flip through the photos, and stops when she comes to a poem I had written in the spring but tossed away.  She reads it out loud:

The sorrow of her tears – rains of nourishment

The tease of her smile – flowers in bloom

The softness of her breath – causes me to catch mine

Unrequited love, it’s the rejection of Spring

Hurts like hell but shouts to my soul: I’m alive  

I cringe. Not only do I suck at poetry, but I don’t get it for the most part. Still, I can’t help trying. Sometimes I hear a set of lyrics or a poem and dream of writing something as beautiful just once.  

Her laughter breaks my thought. “In the spring, these words could have brought tears to my eyes. Now, they make me laugh uncontrollably.” 

I join in her laughter.  There’s no hiding her honesty.  

As with my fool’s errand of writing poetry, 2022 has been a year where I’ve felt the edge more than ever. From the beautiful chaos of Czechia, returning to nature in the States, and now in Hong Kong, preparing for my journey behind the Great Firewall of China and its shroud of quarantine.

This edge is a dichotomous path. Either I fall into a deep abyss with no retreat or, with a touch of hope, fall into another realm of a brilliant universe. 

“You are looking forward to China, aren’t you?” She asks, knowing the answer. She understands the stress and the friction of contrasting thoughts.

Is the world moving too quickly, or am I moving too slowly?  I feel the friction grow.

“Friction is what life is all about, and I can help you understand this. It’s within the power of a muse.” She winks, “We can bend time and alter perception – it makes life more interesting. All I ask is for you to take me to the edge… to see the realm of possibilities.”

“Cheers to your genius. Teach me to bend time and perception, and I’m yours. By the way, why have you shown up now? I’ve so much to do?” Surprised by the tension in my voice.

Peering at me, she says, “You fascinate me. I’ve bounced around, mused for women as well, but working with men is so much easier… and this is my true feminist nature speaking.” 

“I agree, men are superior,” trying to finish my packing, I look up with humor,“…and this is my feminist side speaking.”

“I miss the springtime you.” She wryly adds, “you were nicer back then.”

“Ah, yes. The spring me. The spring is an idealistic, crazy, and happy time,” I retort. “Autumn suits my cynical older age.”

A flush of images sweeps past, each taking me away to a different time and feeling. The photos reflect an autumn to remember in Kamyk nad Vltavou. Magic all around, everywhere in this beautiful land.

The season has been kind to me. A time when I usually exhale and begin to wind down for winter. This year, it’s the freshness that surprises me. I envision a fascinating new world in front of me, cloaked in fog – an invitation to a new adventure.   

Her words break my spell. “I’m fascinated because we walk the same trails and view the same countryside… but you photograph a world I don’t see.” Her eyes want to say more but stop at a simple question. “Why is that?”

I ponder this, twirling her words around the universe I hold inside my head, blown away at how infinitely more complex and intriguing the universe she hides in hers.

Everywhere… we walk, bumping into strangers who hold insights within their universe but we are too caught up in ours to notice. We all seek our edge, curious about its potential but fearful of going one step too far. 

The scene of Hong Kong glistens from my window. This is where life diverged for me – I jumped in head first, leaving one life behind. Maybe this is why I see the world differently.  

Rhetorically she asks, “Since you are not answering, I’ll ask a different question. Do you know what makes you special?”

I can feel myself tighten up and ask, “What’s that?” Expecting another quip.

“You make my heart beat sideways…” She swings her legs down, zips up the last bag I have packed, and walks to the door.  

In a typical state of confusion with her, I ask, “Sideways?!?”

That delicious laugh of hers. “Well, the first time it happened, I thought it was indigestion, but then I realized you bring out something special. A spice that makes the world a bit better even with the tragedy you call poetry.”

She runs her hands straight through me. “This mythical edge, it’s where the heart beats sideways… the sense of being alive.” Time stops, my perceptions change, and she teases, “This is what fascinates me.”

This edge I wrote about earlier in the Czechia spring, this edge of hope, of fear… the edge of something spectacular.

“How to describe?” I look and her, trying to verbalize being seduced by the edge, this ultimate point of friction. Action is required: retreat and survive or pursue and risk it all – rare moments to wake up the soul.

I try to recite the appropriate Hunter S. Thompson quote from the past but fail. “It’s the greatest mystery out there.” I muse, “Those who understand the edge have gone over it, never to return, so no one knows. It’ll always be a mystery.”

“You may think I’ve seen the edge, but no. When I feel it, I can’t run away fast enough.” The disappointment in her eyes makes me chuckle. 

This is the beauty of friction. It protects us from going over the edge; it connects us – it slows us down. Creates heat. Creates life. Our bonds become stronger over time, and the increased friction slows us so we can make better decisions.

My worry? The physics of friction will inevitably grind me to a halt.  

She recovers from her disappointment to ask, “Who is happier? A soul who dives into the chaos of life and lives through a series of adventures, or takes the same seat every day, watches the world pass, and simply exists?” She lightly taunts me.   

My immediate thought is to choose the adventurer, but a stoic also realizes it takes all types of courage to face the unknown regardless of risk. Whether it’s a stereotypical life of an accountant, which society paints as safe and secure, or an adrenaline junkie’s fix to risk body and soul. Both hold the courage of life to be proud.

“It depends if I’ve had my coffee or not…” I linger. “We have courage in different measures based on our circumstances. The beauty of all those different universes floating in the minds of those we bump into daily hold pieces of the answer.”

“The edge, the edge, the edge…” She pouts. “Take me there!” laughter again erupting.

“This mythical edge, I have no idea if I’ll ever see it, and I like the idea of it being just out of reach.” I sing along with Nick Cave as I grab my bag and head for the door, the lyrics from my demon muse churning in my mind.

One foot out the door, and these are the goodbyes that make leaving Hong Kong difficult. I feel myself blush as she closes the door. In doing so, as intended, she has opened another. 

I am off, my soul plowing through quicksand as the world moves further ahead.

What’s this? My heart… it’s beating sideways. I smile at the idea that this may be indigestion.     

Summer in the Sierra Mountains

With effort, I slip through the early morning fog, my mind elsewhere. One step, then another, my thoughts floating back to the Sierra Mountains ~ a youthful spirit riding and climbing versus this old soul shuffling out the door. A few hours later, I fold into a seat on a flight back to Czechia, the morning haze beginning to lift.  

It feels more difficult to leave the States than in the past, but there is also a twinge of excitement. What awaits me on my return to Kamýk nad Vltavou?  

The Czech writer, Franz Kafka, summarizes my mood: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty will never grow old.”  This quote relaxes me, for I know whatever lies ahead, I’ll find beauty… and with it, a rekindled, youthful spirit.

I’ve realized when things are a bit off, life a bit monotonous, I need to jump off my path and stretch my body and soul into something unknown. This summer, the jump ended up on the back of a beautiful paint horse, Hero, and I made my way through the John Muir Wilderness.

Thinking of those days in the saddle, I still feel the shock to the system, but the aches feel good… and sadly, being on horseback is far removed from my current reality of a cramped airplane.   

While part of me appreciates the repetitiveness of life, for stability should never be underestimated or undervalued, such moments serve more as a time to recharge for the next moments of chaos: fuel for the fire of life.  

Energized and exhausted defines not just my physical and mental state right now; it signifies the beauty of contradictions found throughout life ~ memories of each bittersweet moment, from the familiar to the foreign.   

The minute I begin to feel the world closing in on me, I feel most alive… my heart begins to beat a bit faster in anticipation of the inevitable quark to catch my eye. A new opportunity. A moment to create a new reality. A chance at freedom. A chance to stretch the soul. 

A misunderstood gift in life is when the comfortable path vanishes, and an untamed wilderness lies ahead ~ there is no choice but to struggle, push forward, and create.  This discomfort is the brilliance of life. Reveling in the challenge to succeed and, in doing so, defining a new reality. 

It is how I found myself in the Sierra Mountains, sauntering through the John Muir Wilderness, living out the stories dreamt of in my youth.   

There was a bit of déjà vu riding through Mono Pass at 12,000 feet. Decades ago, this place was the playground of my Dad.  The above brochure was from the Mineral King Pack Station in 1959, and the kid holding a golden trout caught in one of its majestic streams is my Dad. 

An adventure he re-lived many times with stories when I was young, his excitement today as pure as it was sixty years ago. He also took pack mules in, hiked the same wilderness, and sought adventures long before I existed.  

Peering back in time, perhaps not to the extent of the awe-inspiring photos of the James Webb Space Telescope and the universe billions of years ago, but rather a more humble review of the old & new photos of the Muir Wilderness; its essence is still unchanged. The same wilderness, scenes, and descriptions my Dad had experienced a half-century earlier.

Sharing our stories, we were both kids again for a brief moment. Time: past, present, future – irrelevant. Our two realities intersected and conveyed the enchantment of the Sierra Mountains.   

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

In a small opening of the forest with the universe overhead, awed by the immense beauty spread out in the tapestry above, I took in the significance of my insignificance.

It reminded me of a two-thousand-year-old quote by the Stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius: “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.”

If I can do this, I’ll forever be young, making my way through this universe.

Pulling lessons from poets and philosophers of the past?

Re-living adventures dreamt as a child?

For me, a perfect recipe for reflection. A chance to run with the stars, chase ghosts through the Sierra Wilderness, and find truth in the summer of ’22. Distractions of a modern world severed and instead the silence of the wild…

Move at the pace of the Sierra is a piece of advice I took from Muir’s writings. Move at the pace of the streams, the breeze, the trees. Feel the freedom of silence. Freedom from society. Freedom from work and freedom from the avalanche of social media ~ links tying us to the modern world.

It is impossible not to get sucked into the inane reality of modern life. The rush of society can be as addictive as the quiet of nature. Where technology wraps its coils around the mind, chains bound to false realities – nature’s silent flow allows thoughts to percolate.

The Sierra Mountains are a perfect respite. 

John Muir wrote of the Sierra Wilderness: “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.”

Shifting in my seat, there is solace in reading these words. My thoughts are more precise and balanced. I’ll delve back into this modern, technological world with this added confidence. 

“The mountains are fountains of men… The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains… ” – John Muir

The week in the Sierra Mountains reverted my soul to its youthful ideals.  There is so much good in the world, allowing for a constant evolution of a mind, life, and reality to be proud of.

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius

This is one of my favorite Stoic quotes, for Marcus Aurelius transformed his character, behavior, and entire way of life with this simple idea. He understood that the present moment is all we ever have, and it’s within ourselves to create our happiness.

Sometimes I sit both amazed and confused about how words written millenniums ago can hold such an objective and straightforward truth… a simple meaning, yet challenging to put into practice.

If we can see beauty, as Kafka said at the beginning of this post, we’ll never lose our youthful optimism.  Our thoughts create a reality where we can touch our dreams.  

I kick back and reflect on the beauty in my life.  The reality I’ve created will no doubt evolve into something different tomorrow, but at least for today, I am happy. My past, present, and future are harmoniously aligned, with a youthful spirit set to search for beauty no matter what lies ahead. 

With the images of the Sierra Mountains etched deeply in my mind, I close my eyes, sensing a new path and reality will soon come into focus.

* Side Note: A thank you to Peruvian philosopher Pamela Estevez for alerting me to this great opportunity!

The Melancholy of a Czech Spring

Spring inspires. Her enthusiasm reflects the warmth of sunshine and I cannot take my eyes off her. A flash of her wry smile and I’m slowly lured in…

For me, the season of spring is the innocent version of Eris, the Greek goddess of strife. When the weather turns warm and life becomes comfortable, she arrives with one goal: to weave a web of discord. It’s my home for the season. Her laughter, the wind. Her tears, the rain. Her thunder, to be avoided at all cost.

An unperceptive shift in mood and the tranquillity of the day explodes… her warm breeze shifts into high gear and my well laid plans scatter throughout the Czech countryside. All is lost and the dance begins. The electricity of her breath fires every neuron and it’s no longer possible to quiet my desires. 

This Czech spring demands my attention. 

Her unpredictability is her essence.

Around the world, spring has always inspired reflection, growth, a bit of the human spirit spurring us back into life.

Personally, I enjoy the havoc of spring as long as it’s from a distance. This year, however, she has drawn me out. She has shaken me ~ a Czech country girl making my uncommitted soul rethink its allegiance.  

Weighed down by the world, she breathes life back into me. She’s my lifelong crush and we’ve developed this springtime ritual: a ridiculous dream sequence destined to end in disappointment. Heartache with such gravity nothing can escape, and to be honest I don’t want to leave.

Sigh, she holds a seductive spark of the unknown. Something I’ve always been intimidated by yet at the same time drawn towards. A moth to a flame, so the story goes.    

Cannot deny her spirit, after all the ability to bring the dormant back to life, to revive a soul wasting away under a blanket of snow. She does the impossible.

Watching her wash over the world, I always wish to be at my best and with this she inspires.  I want to be good.  I want to be better. I want to speak her language.

There is never a time where she doesn’t have me soaring in ecstasy or drowning in agony. There is no other season which holds so terribly an awesome power.  

She leads me along the razor’s edge, between the bliss of renewal and the crackling energy of the unknown.  Laughing as she pushes me one way and then the other. This mythical place she calls home, where life begins to tingle. The edge of hope, edge of fear, edge of something spectacular. 

Bliss of a comfortable life or the thrill of an adventure. There is no choice, I feel her tickling my heart… 

I run in the rain. Run up a mountain. Run the stairs at work. Why? Simple. She inspires.  To be something more, every day a little more. 

A memory of a Seattle spring long ago: a billy goat standing on top of the world. The youthful me bounding up alongside the mountain as well ~ sharing in something peaceful and perfect. 

“Ignore the inevitable heartache and continue the climb, take the miracles as they come.” I can hear the younger me shouting at the current me collapsed somewhere below on the trail.  

She is passion built upon an undercurrent of melancholy, a paradox of love and rejection dancing as one. Never knowing where one begins and the other ends. While it is foolish to take such risks, it would be more foolish not to revel in this spark of glory while it exists.

Sacrifice? Just continue to walk the razor’s edge between agony and ecstasy. Spring is the wildness we all need.

The melancholy of spring is not easy to become addicted to, but of course I find a way. While she brings in the new, I hold onto the past: the hope to revive the flicker of lost love. An ancient myth. 

She offers to sweep away this paralysis, to lead me from the darkness of winter and into the blinding light of a new world.  It’s long overdue to slip on my Ray-Ban’s and get moving.

Her brilliance is in the turbulence she creates. There is no better motivator than dealing with strife and moving forward. New joys, new pains, a new way of thinking.   

Writing about this ridiculousness loosens the vice wrapped around my heart. I wonder if hidden in our DNA is a small desire for self-destruction?

Dipping a foot in this pool of chaos cannot help but sweep a soul along this torrent of reality. Bruising us with the emotions of a real, eventful life. A variety of life from those living the American Dream to those battling for the Ukrainian Dream… and of course all of us in-between. We take risks to build a life we believe in. With support and love, our greatest destiny is obtainable.

This spring is one I haven’t felt in a long time: a little hope, passion, and the anticipation of the crushing melancholy when it ends. It is life on Earth. It is quite magical. 

A mistral wind blows, whispering the possibility of love. Spring smiles knowing the nothingness I hold inside will melt away ~ her words igniting the spirit, igniting the soul.

She sends my mind and heart racing. I feel as if I am 15 years old again, and I grimace remembering those dreaded teenage years…   

She’ll break my heart, yet here I am as if floating on clouds, not sure if I’ve ever felt better.  How can this be explained? She is a fantasy… and in this world, fantasies can come true. 

Not following through with the hope spring provides would be tragic. Not just because such opportunities are rare, but because we owe it to ourselves to evolve, to grow. As we grow, those around us grow.

There is a time to be selfish, to want to make our world better and more to the point, make my world better. She’ll understand.

Spring avoids souls who fear death, and my guess, she wishes death for those who fear life.

She is like a cold breath in winter you try to capture in your hands… a reflection on the water or a cloud in the sky, she is simply unobtainable. 

Who am I to explain the infinite complexities of Mother Nature, or (based on my track record) try to comprehend the mind of a woman.  What am I doing?  Her intelligence is beyond my capabilities.

Maybe I’m forever to roam the world, listening for the song of the Sirens so I can pick up my guitar and strum along… if only I had a guitar, and even more embarrassing, if only I knew how to play.

As to the inevitable aftermath of Spring?  I’ll leave no more a mark on her soul than a stone thrown into a raging river. This is the sadness.

This morning, with a mug of French-pressed coffee in hand, I find myself looking around wondering where I am… I’d ask how I got here, but frightened by what the answer could be. But damn, I am happy.  A “floating on clouds” happy.

The goddess of chaos. My plans ripped to shreds, scattered across the Czech countryside where the warm winds of summer will soon carry them away.    

Possibilities of peace? Possibilities of love? Dreams of living with both, reality of living with none?

I’ve been doing that for a long, long time 🙂

May peace and love be with everyone during these final days of spring ~ and follow your spirit, follow your spring, to wherever the path leads. 

Ukrainian Philosophy of the Heart

Every day, rolling out of bed, I start with the recognition of a simple tenet of my life: “love what you do and do what you love.” A philosophy I’ve intertwined into every fabric of my being, but this morning I stare at these words I’ve just typed, and I’m lost. 

A photo taken in Kyiv at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), stares back at me from my computer screen. The freedom of that cold December night, the walk along the Square among friends old and new carries no resemblance of today. 

My eyes drift to another photo, a voice answers the question churning in my mind. “The man on the horse, his name is Bohdan Khmelnytsky,” I nod, her voice soothes. “He led the first successful uprising for Ukrainian independence.”

I stare at the photo, unable to remember my thoughts when I first saw this statue but given the photo is blurry, I know Ukrainian vodka is partly to blame… I also understand that anyone who leads a country to independence is a person to be held in high esteem.   

“Not much is actually known about Khmelnitsky,” she wanders over to my computer screen to view the photo closer. “But one thing is for sure, he is shrouded in an aura afforded only to legends ~ a hero in all kinds of tales, poetry, and song.”  

Her voice holds a sense of pride, of defiance. In her sigh I can make out “… and this spirit is alive and well in Ukraine today.”

Ukraine. How much I do not know about this land. And how much I admire the people, friends and strangers, who are holding strong. I think of my last visit, seeing Yevgeniy and Alex with David and Anna.

“Your fleeting understanding of Ukraine is understandable, your desire to learn commendable. Question: have you ever heard of the philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda?

My lost expression brings a sigh and slight shake of the head.

“His wisdom is at the heart of Ukrainian philosophy… and he was a bit of vagabond too, so I think the spirit of you two align well with each other.” She teases.

“According to Skovoroda, the harmony of will is a soul, and the heart is its center… it contains the potential of the whole universe. His work is at the core of the Ukrainian “Philosophy of the Heart.” Looking into my eyes, my soul, she hands me his essay, “see what you think…”

I like the ring of this, his ideas flow in a manner similar with other great minds. His thought distinctive, but I can see why he is referred to as the “Ukrainian Socrates.”  There is wisdom in his actions as well as his words.

“The 18th century was not kind to Ukraine, enslaved by Russia there was a need for a spiritual rebellion in the nation and Skovoroda’s writing filled the void perfectly.” The admiration in her voice draws me in closer, “He reminded his humbled countrymen about the great virtues of Ukrainians: the love of freedom, power of the will, sincer­ity, and the desire to learn.”  

“His desire to learn drove him from a life of comfort and out into the world to seek wisdom.” She points to a sentence, his mantra: “To be happy is to know oneself, to find oneself…” her laugh resonates with her mocking tone: “as you often say… love what you do and do what you love.”

She puts her warm hand on my shoulder, her eyes look beyond anything I can imagine. The steeliness in her gaze holds a strength seldom seen: the strength of a nation. As she turns to leave, my heart fills with admiration and hope for her and Ukraine.

A fog of uncertainty remains as she drifts away.  I look at my phone, messages from my friends in Sumy spells worry, but also hope. I think back to the discussion last night with a colleague from Kharkiv; stretched and stranded between work here in Czech and his homeland under siege. 

I unfold a piece of paper with a Ukrainian poem given to me called “Testament” (Zapovit) by Taras Shevchenko, written on December 25th, 1845.  And while poetry does not come easy to me, this one hits the mark:

When I am dead, bury me

In my beloved Ukraine,

My tomb upon a grave mound high

Amid the spreading plain,

So that the fields, the boundless steppes,

The Dnieper’s plunging shore

My eyes could see, my ears could hear

The mighty river roar

When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears

Into the deep blue sea

The blood of foes… then will I leave

These hills and fertile fields – I’ll leave them all and fly away

To the abode of God,

And then I’ll pray…. But until that day

I know nothing of God.

~

Oh bury me, then rise ye up

And break your heavy chains

And water with the tyrants’ blood

The freedom you have gained.

And in the great new family,

The family of the free,

With softly spoken, kindly word

Remember also me.

Translated by John Weir, Toronto, 1961

Shevchenko moves the soul.  And in the true spirit of today, during the year of 1847 he was arrested for writing a poem (Dream) in the Ukrainian language (illegal, for only use of the Russian language was permitted). He doubled-down on his fate with Dream by promoting the independence of Ukraine while also ridiculing the members of the Russian Imperial House.

Seriously, this is a man after our hearts. 

Within these turbulent times of today, I reflect on what I’ve learned recently; a subtle, sincere foray into Ukrainian thought. From the philosopher Skovoroda of the mid-1700s to the poet Taras Shevchenko of the mid-1800s.

The discovery of Skovoroda’s philosophy and his Socratic way to seek out life, inspires ~ and props to the epitaph he requested on his gravestone:

Світ ловив мене, та не впіймав

The World tried to catch me but failed

The other great surprise is from the poet, Shevchenko. To learn how he was revered around the world, especially in the USA as both President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson honored him:

“He was more than a Ukrainian — he was a statesman and citizen of the world.

He was more than a poet — he was a valiant crusader for the rights and freedom of men.

He used verse to carry on a determined fight for freedom.”

Lyndon B. Johnson, Oct. 26th, 1964

Restless here in 2022, I wonder about the next great Ukrainian mind to shine? Undoubtedly a courageous free spirit with fire in their soul, daring anyone to take away what has been rightly earned. 

From what we’ve all seen recently, Ukraine is a nation full of such heroes. One hopeful who is already reshaping his country and the world is current President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. May his star continue to shine even brighter. 

I’m not alone in this hope and the outpouring of support given to the Ukrainian people will help them find truth and peace. 

The road will be a difficult one ~ suffering borne by others ~ but they can take heart in knowing the world is behind the beautiful potential of Ukraine.

Unfinished Business in the Year of the Tiger

A Peruvian sky painted with strokes of magic only a thunderstorm can create plays out in front of me. My exhaustion complete, I sink deeper into the grass and dirt and drift away from life, away from the world, away from reality.  

Silence envelops the valley around me and the storm’s energy is waking my soul. I stare into the eyes of the Year of the Tiger, is it time to surrender or attack? 

A broken spirit is the debt to be paid for a year well-lived.  The reward? To stand at the precipice of a new year and do it all over again.

Life is brilliant in this way. 

Reflecting on the turmoil of the past year, my exhale is more than a sigh. Battle scars feel fresh as yesterday and make this annual walk across the razor’s edge, the balance between decadence and restoration, even more difficult. 

Respect the responsibility of the past year and accept the penance of another expedition.  Ignore the aches and move on. 

Around me are whispers, words I do not understand. The beauty around me invites me to stay, but I’m unable to grasp a hold of this place – unable to settle down. The simple wish for solace does not reconcile with my actions… so I continue to leave unfinished business behind.

Blurred faces in the crowd, their crisp eyes speak freely. Lives I wish to experience, minds bearing the weight of the world. Things unsaid pushing us forward. 

Finish it. Take the beating. Absorb the blows and with greater devotion continue the pursuit. Is there a better feeling than to shake off the pain and find the strength to stand again?

To be unafraid. The heart of youth backed by a soul of aged wisdom. I can barely remember such a time. 

The brashness, insolence of an unharnessed spirit, one found in the true men and women of history: a blend of courage and kindness.  I wonder, is one much different than the other? 

Naked in the shadows I sit in defiance on the brink of the new year. The morning leaves me empty. I’m not looking to change the world, but to just get by. A cup of coffee. Eight hours of drudgery. A cold beer, a queen of the night, and decompression in front of a television. And it goes on, ad nauseam. 

Is this not finding solace within the chaos of life? 

The spell of a sunrise over an enchanted land has me lost, a fleeting sense of wonderment of where it’ll take me before it is broken by the comfort of my barstool ~ a place to sit uninterrupted and rail against life iniquities secretly wishing for something, anything, to fall into my lap. Chasing dreams is too exhausting. So I wait.

Waiting… the ode of a has-been.

When the next great thing fails to appear I’ll lower expectations.  Another beer, perhaps? Another smoke, why not? A handout, a little hard stuff to make life a bit easier to deal with? Yes, yes, and yes. Eventually, the wait for the end will arrive.   

Ah, my laughter feels good, the remnants of a defiant mind.

A glance at the scene outside, it’s all unfamiliar. The refusal to be swallowed up by the mindless cycle of blandness by veering into the unknown is my escape pod. A chance to bend the rules again and my schism is complete ~ off my barstool ready to push the envelope once again. 

This rollercoaster of competing desires: the life of a has-been versus the life of a pioneer… 

Follow the rules to enjoy the privilege of living in an orderly world, and bend the rules to stretch the spirit and evolve. There are no absolutes, there are no easy answers.    

I spin off in another direction, leaving my cold coffee behind along with my feeling of hesitation… did chasing false hope allow the spirit of the pioneer to drift away? 

The twinge of electricity says ‘nah.’ Behind the façade of the loafer is an eagerness to learn, it’s the spice of recklessness ~ the unfinished business we all share. Action is inevitable. 

Words of the stoic philosopher Seneca reverberate throughout the valley of the Andes: you want to live, not just exist. Resist the squandering of life and instead earn it.    

Everything of value should be earned. Effort and devotion is how one earns value. Earns respect. Earns trust. Earns the right to dream with the valuable lesson that what one works for should never be frittered away. 

Break from expectations, bend a rule or two, attack the Year of the Tiger and roll with the punches as they come. 

The unanticipated. The unexpected.

It causes the heart to beat a bit quicker, hair to stand on end, and eyes to focus upon an upcoming epiphany.

We are creatures of habit. Of the many things we do, we do because it’s a foregone conclusion. Within us, however, is a surprise.  An innate and beautiful desire to pick a moment where we do the one thing no one expected at all. 

Unfinished business.  Finish it. 

A life of the expected, rich in comfort easily hides its restrictive chains. Conversely, a micro-second of the unexpected, rich in wisdom flaunts the desire of freedom. 

Two sides of the same coin. Struggle is necessary for comfort to exist, without strength we’d never know weakness, and without the blandness of life an unexpected shift could not move the soul.

And with this thought, the has-been in me smiles, pops open a beer and pays a compliment to the pioneer. 

I move across the abyss into a new realm ~ the words of St. Vincent leading the way, “Living in fear in the Year of the Tiger”   🎶

Heartbeat of Time

Is there anything more pure than the mind of a child?

Where the reality of a day goes on forever ~ entranced by all the love and peace around.  Never a day lost, never a day wasted. Time does not exist in the manner we experience as adults. Time is in abundance.

The preciousness of every heartbeat, a soothing melody moving the world forward as it should.

Yesterday I read the average human has somewhere around three billion heartbeats within a lifetime. Not a small number, but disappointing nonetheless. It gave me pause to consider the value of each heartbeat. To reassess the importance of time. 

My goal is not to squander any more heartbeats, and of course the humor was not lost on me as I ‘wasted’ several thousand mulling this over…

Roughly 2,000 years ago, the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote an essay, On the Shortness of Life, about how our existence rushes by and only when we begin to understand the importance of time, it is too late. It’s over. 

Seneca believed for many, the tragedy was not because life itself is short, but the amount of time wasted makes it short. 

“We do not appreciate the value of time… life is long if you know how to use it.” – Seneca

Caught up in social media and daily news cycles, it becomes easy to go through the motion of living. We lose our consciousness and with it beautiful scenes become a faded blur of a sound-bite world.

The silver lining of the past couple of years has been the space to step back from the chaos of life; catch a glimpse of what a world looks like when time is available and not the end goal.

Listen to the heartbeat and life opens up.

Seneca too appreciated the heartbeat of life. He railed against the preoccupied souls wrapped up in the material world, chasing anything but an authentic life – supplying us with the quote:

“So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long.” – Seneca

This quote hammered into me the need to unlatch myself from the zeal of business; work hard but relish those moments of peace. Not an easy thing to do.

The beat of time varies like the weather, similar to music and mood. There are days when running around with hair on fire is the only option, and long hours spent on projects a blast ~ but always with an eye on what brings bliss: exploring and learning something new.

Often such exploration comes via a book, a place to capture a different taste of philosophy; ideas of a culture sharing its wisdom. A time to relax, to let the serene pieces of life soak in.

The beat of the heart in harmony with the ticking of time leads the way. For those who know me, family and friends define who I am. It took me years to understand they also help define who I can become.

“How much happier is the man who owes nothing to anybody except the one he can most easily refuse, himself!” – Seneca

Seneca’s words have always had the power to snap me away from the mirage of success ~ “I lose the day in waiting for the night, and lose the night in fearing the dawn.” Shines a light on the false belief: if I could only have this, I would be happy

It is an enlightening moment to understand how simple happiness can be. May not be a professional athlete or atop a business empire as once dreamt, but somehow I’m much better off.

I’ve over achieved. I’m happy.

A happiness evolved from a trust in fate; a natural rhythm dictating the evolution of connections.

There are times in life when things come together. Synchronicity ~ a natural paring.

Explanations are not necessary; when such moments come together, celebrate. Take time away from the chaos and melt into the surroundings.

Melt into the colors, melt with the scene, and then melt perfectly into the love of others.

These timeless moments create a few extra heartbeats, and time stands still. Damn. I love life 😊.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, listen to the beat of your heart and jump into the unknown ~ it is the logical thing to do.

It is what we were made for.

Waking Up in Kenya with Nietzsche

The fog in my head feels eerily like a hangover but I know that’s impossible because quarantine took away such mornings long ago. The daylight can no longer be ignored so with a bit of indignation I roll out of bed.

It would take too much effort to walk over to the window, so instead I stare at the walls.

Life has become a strange, repeated existence. I had no idea how dull the world could be. Walking to the kitchen, I retrace my steps: choose the coffee, grind the beans, and press a button to signal the start of a new day.

Is it a new day? These repetitive steps all merge together, the same scene played over and over. No longer frustrating, instead replaced by a complacent feeling of comfort. Dull comfort.

Quarantine has caged the animal within.  I stifle a yawn; life is no longer lived enthusiastically, but endured. Millimeter-by-millimeter these four walls close in on me.

I slump to the floor and unconsciously reach for a book nestled under a family of dust bunnies. I turn it over and close my eyes, wishing to fall back into an empty sleep.

A wave of color floods to my face. Not sure if it’s my embarrassment of the mess around my flat or the apathy engulfing my spirit. Based on my pattern of eating, sleeping, and general slothfulness, both would be correct.

Before slinging the book back underneath the shelf, I take a quick glance at the title: Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra stares back asking, “what happened to this person who lived on the edge, recklessly, always reaching higher?” Perfect.

Nietzsche.  One of the few German philosopher I enjoy reading – his ideas mesh with my lust for life. A timely find, and perhaps through Nietzsche’s words I have the chance to escape this quarantine prison. “Become who you are…” I laugh a bit at the thought. 

My mind drifts back to when I was in rhythm with life, in tune with the basic impulses that once sparked human existence. I’m back on the Maasai Mara. Waking up with the sunrise, and the mysteries of the world coming to life. I’m a newborn kid in awe of the unlimited potential at dawn.

Kenya evokes the curiosity of a child at play, savoring the simple beauty of nature. Pieces of the world adults no longer see or experience. A spirit freed from the structure of modern life. 

Nietzsche also saw the wild child as a key piece of his philosophy, the spirit of his Übermensch, the superman, who raged against the colorless and sterile trends of modern society.

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play…” Nietzsche wrote, the child’s ability to forget quickly and continue moving forward in time. It is the free spirit of the Übermensch, his philosophy tapping into the childlike fearlessness to discover the magic of potential.

The haze outside my window flickers and comes alive; its piercing eyes reflect the wild side of life. Inviting me to attack.

Outside my room, the Maasai Mara glows, reminding me we are born to play, to race, and fiercely compete with ourselves. Creating friction in life to stir up the soul, and here in Kenya there is a cauldron of emotions I’ve long forgotten. 

Inside my room, however, there is decadence: TV reruns, day-old pizza, an unmade bed with empty cartons of Ben & Jerry’s scattered around ~ all slices of self-destruction further sucking me into contentment, a place my free spirit fled months ago.

Inside. Outside. Black. White.

It is a little humorous. Here I am, wrapped up on the couch, comfortable in this cocoon of safety with all this technology insulating my life. Everything is a tap away on my iPhone. 

And outside a wilderness is calling. 

I reach over and pick up the book again. 

The human spirit is a complex one, a dichotomy of two desires.

  • The first desire is of order and structure, necessary to build a world where humans and technology merge, advancing society.
  • The second is a competing desire, the undeniable urge for chaos, a place where genius and creativity is born.

When one is absent, there is an imbalance and the soul is thrown into turmoil.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star…” an ode to the necessity of exploring the forbidden in order to find brilliance.

In the Nietzschean world, it is the struggle between the Apollonian spirit of order and Dionysian spirit of chaos, and this year the Apollonian (confined spirit) is crushing the Dionysian (free spirit) ~ and it isn’t even close. 

Like an unhindered animal in nature, the spirit must be allowed to run free. 

The winds of Kenya break my thought, carrying spices of new experiences announcing the arrival of chaos, a migration to search and discover. 

The pieces of electricity we create define who we are, whether it’s living in foreign worlds or raising children and experiencing the world again from their perspective. 

Moments of bliss that move us up a higher level and remind us never stop seeking.     

Out on the Mara plains, I see the curious eyes of chaos staring back. Taunting me with the playful knowledge that this bizarre year is no reason to give in to indifference.

The beauty of Kenya taught my soul long ago to “become who you are…” and made me realize I am not at war with the world but instead searching for peace.

While my coffee grows cold, I get up and search for something clean to wear. I’ve been stuck in the mud too long. My Dionysian free spirit has returned with new dreams and I’m ready to tread on the edge of the void. 

Nietzsche and Kenya blend well together, and I’m wide awake. I slip on my shoes and prepare to step back into this brave new world. 

I place the book back on the shelf and hear the laughter of Nietzsche, his famous words pushing me out the door: “What does not kill you, makes you stronger…” 

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And
you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll
decide where to go.

– Dr. Seuss

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