The Winds of Change

An Introduction
Apocalyptic Fiction by Jason Youngman

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals.” – Revelation 5:9

Here marks the beginning of my apocalyptic fiction, so a word to the wise before the scroll is opened. It is a great responsibility to shed light upon the ancient texts, and I for one would rather another to pick up this charge. There is a great danger in unveiling the things that are preserved for the end of times, but we must trust in divine providence now, so that we might be receptive to the winds of change. Look not upon me as a wild card, but as a cautious Francis who must divest his robes so as to fully minister to the hand of fate. Therefore I remain accountable to you my beloved & faithful, until all authority is given over to him whose name cannot be spoken here…

“If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.” – The Gospel of Thomas

As for the general reader, the end of times doesn’t actually mean the world is going to end, but the manner in which we rule ourselves. There is to be a new heaven and earth, but not in the sense that Holly Wood makes it out to be, with all that glitters is gold, and neither will it come to pass in the way that the so called born again self-righteous spout; how their sophistry sickens me to the stomach. Before the gates open many will rush blindly into the frenzy, each one for themselves, groping around in the darkness so as to satisfy their desires & perversions. Night creatures are you not, but you fancy the term zombie, and so zombies you shall become. Continue reading

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Constantly Adapt to Change

“You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.” – Heraclitus

One is bound to receive many bumps & bruises while moving through the rapids of shallow thinking. We all know this on some level but are inclined to gush into the river all the same. There seems to be a tendency in our day & age to run headlong into circumstances that are quite frankly well over our head. So why not tread the water so as to acclimatize ourselves to the current instead.

Should we step back and ponder the pragmatic importance of the opening aphorism we might find that Heraclitus continues to add depth of mind. What he appears to be saying, without being overly explicit here, is that things are constantly in flux and that we can’t expect life to remain the same. More to the matter at hand, therefore, we need to constantly adapt to change.

Even though natural law – the principles that guide & direct – cannot be seen with the naked eye, we can nonetheless detect its consequences in the world awry. Just as the wind blows its way, and gravity pulls us down, there’s little that we can do or say, that will enable us to remove its crown. So as to avoid the muddle of a linguistic grey, it may be wise to keep our logic sound.

The point that my arrow is aiming at is this: Life may appear precarious and uncertain, even ambivalent at times, or directionless as the waves of the sea, but below the surface there are undercurrents that we are unable to see. In other words no matter how transient things may seem to be, there are forces within nature that can help us to remain centred. Continue reading

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Being of Great Soul

“A great-souled person doesn’t chase after things held in popular esteem, or things in which others excel; the actions he is inclined to perform are few, but great and renowned.” – Aristotle

As it stands the topic of today’s discussion is also a personal aphoristic saying of mine, and is in need of some elucidation so that it might sit more comfortably as a rarified belief in kind. All are welcome to join me for this reflection of sorts but before we get underway know this: My general understanding of a person with great soul – magnanimity – is largely ascertained through Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

Being of great soul is to possess a steady mindset that embraces worthy ends. It is not concerned with pettiness, nor easily given over to distraction or worry. Thus one can endure difficulty with ease so as to focus on what is important without getting tangled in the superficial. Such a person cares more for the truth than for what people think and takes no satisfaction in gossip or flattery, and neither do they feel dejected while being scorned or inflated when praised.

Such a magnanimous person avoids the extremes of being excessive and deficient when it comes to manifesting their exterior goals. S/he is neither vain nor self-deprecating. In other words the characteristic of a great-souled person doesn’t pursue ends that are beyond their means, nor concern themselves with endeavours that are beneath them. Nevertheless they wholeheartedly aspire to be great, regardless of their conditions or the limitations of their culture. Continue reading

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Empathize Deeply with Others

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but our self can free our minds.”
– Bob Marley

Perhaps one of the best ways to deeply relate with someone is to listen with both ears. That is with our actual ears so as to hear what is being conveyed, and also with our internal ear that we might feel the motive behind the words. As a case in point a friend could say that they are doing ok  if you ask them how they are, but their facial expression or the tone in their voice may demonstrate the contrary, thus the need to develop our internal ear so as to empathize more intimately with the other. Yet we need not stop here, for there are deeper layers of meaning to be ascertained.

Much of what we think others are trying to communicate is largely funnelled through our own mental filters and biases. So quite often we are actually imposing our own understanding upon another. We may never be able to rid this jaundice way of perceiving, but we can work to suspend our judgement while listening to another. Practicing acceptance of another’s correspondence, without actually agreeing or rejecting their views, can open our minds & hearts into deeper levels of knowing.

Empathy by its very nature is an act of humility, interlaced with kindness and courage, a means by which we can commune with another human being, as though their suffering & joy becomes our own. Without the crude instruments of a surgeon, we can heal those who are afflicted by simply being present with them. This transformative act may appear radical, nevertheless it can strengthen the chords of our humanity, and in turn bring about a paradigm shift by which our attitude can be softened; i.e., our conception of things can be relaxed, more open to seeing things in various ways, without getting fixated on a single possibility, or viewing reality strictly through a black-&-white lens. Continue reading

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How to be Humane

“To help others, one must first establish one’s own humane character” – Confucius

To be humane is to be concerned for the well being of others, and to work within one’s means to achieve such an end. This is my basic definition of the word, but it ought to be fleshed out, largely because the concept can be rendered in various ways and with different ends in mind. My scope will remain on the common good of human beings.

One can spend their lives in a University pursuing what it means to be human, and leave in old age knowing less than when they first entered the institute. Whereas a farmer working the land under the hot sun can demonstrate more about our humanity in one day, than a lifetime in paradise eating fruit without spoil or decay; that is to say, that our lives are actualized more so through the practical, rather than the theoretical.

Perhaps we can begin by asking what are the primary things required for coexistence. Obviously we need air to breathe, water to drink, and land to grow food. Certainly it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out the importance of preserving these elements. For without these basic things we are unable to build a foundation of any sort. In other words, the ecosystem has to be one of our primary and mutual concerns as a human species. Continue reading

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Healthy Habits For Writers

“As creative writers, the rubber meets the road while writing, so all the more reason to keep our tires aligned and headed in the right direction.”

For those of us who spend a great deal of time writing while seated at a desk, it is important to keep our bodies fit if we expect to keep our minds sharp and generating fresh ideas. In this article it is my intention to share a handful of useful tips that have helped me to keep my production capability strong and sustainable:

1) Some of my best thinking happens while walking outside. With fresh air the heart pushes more oxygen to the brain allowing thinking to become a breeze. Use this time to break down barriers, overcome obstacles and locate solutions. Break up the ice to dive deep into the subconscious and bring back a net of ideas to keep the writing process going.

2) Green tea may not taste good initially but add some fresh lemon, ginseng and/or ginger for a super healthy brain potion to get the creative juices flowing. The time it takes to prepare a cup of tea is a great way to begin and maintain an essential habit. Continue reading

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Solace in Solitude

“So it is clear that wisdom would be the most precise kind of knowledge. Therefore, a wise person needs not only to know the things that follow from the sources but to discern truly what concerns the sources.” – Aristotle, NE

I greeted this year’s Summer Solstice alone in solitude, surrounded by the trees of the forest, while reciting Proclus’ poem To The Muses. It didn’t seem necessary to follow or participate in someone else’s ritual formula, so I allowed things to take its natural course instead. Here’s a brief synopsis of my experience:

After walking several miles without any particular destination in mind, I immediately recognized the place to participate in my adoration of the sun, for a very large eagle launched forth from a tree directly in front of me! Ah, the sound of its wings a delicate thunder that filled me with an immense awe and reverence for the beauty abound. It was delightful to watch the clouds part from an overcast sky, allowing for a splendour of light to shine through the trees. How the sunshine surged thro’ my veins with a warm nostalgic exuberance. While reciting poetry a spontaneous melody sprang up to infuse my recitation with some kind of bacchanalian bliss. What a serendipitous encounter, to have felt the vivifying power of the Muses as my voice permeated the wood, its sheer volume enough to drown out that of an opera singer. It’s moments like this that remind me not to close myself off to the divine.

The attached image was taken on the way back from my unorthodox excursion. It captures the general layout of the land. The body of water is called Three Pond Barrens. As for the title of today’s blog, Solace in Solitude, it feels appropriate in some respects partly because the things that we do alone, that simultaneously bring us joy, often turn out to be that which gives us the greatest solace, as in peace of mind. On the other hand, being alone can be very difficult to say the least, whereas solitude implies being at rest with oneself. Like the sun, our authentic self rests upon self-reliance; unlike the state of loneliness, which needs the energy of others to make them feel ok, solitude has little to do with being alone per say, as it does with being one and/or replete.

The summer solstice, the point at which the sun seems to rest, represents a complete wholeness, as though everything in the universe has reached its end goal. Everything that we can possibly hope to become while mired in earthly flesh can vanish in a twinkling of an eye. To desire anything other than which we already are, be it a bright shining star, is to divide our soul into a multiplicity. Reconnecting to the forces, and/or sources, that sustain our reality, heralds an alternative end, for in so doing we rise above cause & effect, that our souls might truly connect and reflect the coherence of being one.

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Unforeseen Circumstances

While walking on the side of Kenmount Road last Thursday afternoon a passenger in a passing car threw a cup of warm coffee out the window which hit me in the leg. Whether the person was aiming for me or not is beside the point. My initial reaction was to assess for damage. There was no pain or signs of injury. Then my focus shifted to the people in the vehicle so as to identify the assailant, but the reflection of the bright white clouds made it difficult to see through the back window. By this point the car was too far away to make out the licence plate number.

This is the first time something like this has happened to me. Now my reason for sharing this incident has nothing to do with playing the victim, but to provide perspective into the nature of reactive behaviour. My following course of action consisted of sprinting after the vehicle with the intent of apprehending the person. The traffic light turned red in my favour, but instead of the driver slowing down and coming to a stop, s/he took a right at the overpass, making it impossible to catch them.

Would you say this was an example of over-reaction on my part? Based on my action alone it might be difficult to decipher, so allow me to draw upon a past experience for the sake of clarity: Over a decade ago a drunk driver hit the back of our vehicle and within seconds speedily made a U-turn away from us. The 911 Responder said it was ok to pursue the assailant as long as it was safe to do so, and so we ended up catching him at a dead end street, where we blocked him off and waited for the police to arrive.

Thankfully no one got hurt but when the adrenalin subsided my body started to convulse under the freezing cold of a winter’s night. This in turn filled my mind with agitation, which made it hard for me to give an accurate description of what took place before the accident. In other words my ability to recollect was impeded through a temporary confusion brought on by the shock to my nervous system.

This happens to be the crux of today’s exposition; namely, reactive behaviour, and how we can navigate our way through an unexpected situation when our brains are flooded with emotional stimulation, anxiety and/or confusion. When you’re thrown into battle, so to speak, you may not have the leisure or convenience of taking council. In other words sometimes we have to act to the best of our ability without possessing the full knowledge of the circumstances on hand. So what might be one thing that we can do that would help keep us adaptable for unforeseen circumstances? Here’s one possible answer to this question.

                   Remain Calm – Seek Understanding – Act Accordingly

There’s no Nobel Prize for keeping these three aspects of proactivity in mind but maybe there ought to be. Nevertheless they allow us to remain composed and better able to make appropriate responses. Removing the obstacles and maintaining a lifestyle that fosters these gems of equanimity are conducive to wellbeing. They also help us to preserve ethical responsibility without getting bogged down in rules that may not be relevant to a particular situation.

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A Touch of Eternity

“The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the dove is heard in our land.” – Song of Songs 2:12

Behold the interior of a tulip. Notice the six stamens surrounding its centred pillar. So vulnerable and fragile, yet forever drawing us in through its warm and colourful petals. For a mind free from distraction one might be moved to love deeply this splendid sight. They remind us of the impermanence of things. Does not such innocence capture a glimpse of the ineffable; an untamed beauty, both restrained and boundless to the imagination. Before science imposed its restrictions upon her with a remote and cerebral language, this flower was the centre of a civilization. People woke in their beds to dream again of her soulful fragrance. This romantic sentiment swept through Europe with the yearning of a long and arid summer without rain. It’s hard to believe that there was a time and place when such things mattered to the human race. Whereas in this day and age few will even pause to notice a tulip, not alone appreciate its inner revelation, as though our souls have become barren to the touch of eternity.

From the top of a precipice
With a tulip in my hand
And a song upon my lips
My wandering dance unplanned

These are the days of forever
Spinning along in their way
Nature unfolds a anew
Snuffing what has gone astray

Laughter echoes thro the trees
Buildings fall into decay
What matters now is over
Summer is a time for play.

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Approaching Death

“To prepare oneself for death is to prepare oneself for freedom. The one who has learned to die has unlearned to be a slave.” – Montaigne

For the one thing in life that is absolutely certain, namely death, we seem to give it little attention. Whether it will creep upon us in the dead of night, or linger on into old age, there’s no certainty as to its manner, time or place. This no doubt casts us all into an existential predicament that we will eventually have to face one way or another.

What are we to do with this darken cloud just out of reach. Do we continue to ignore it and pretend that life is all that more fantastic as long as death remains at bay, out of sight and mind. Is there a way to accept this natural process without colouring the world with a grey morose or pretending that things are going to be ok based on some supernatural beliefs.

There’s no getting out of here alive, as the saying goes, so what can we do to prepare for death? For starters we can read about those who consciously approached their end, and then question what that means for us personally. Gazing upon art that captures the anguish of death may be another way to disengage from our angst about dying.

Being present to the notion of death can feel eerie, like leaning over a high balcony. It may be helpful to first bring calm to the mind before we reflect upon this existential state. Going for a walk in nature, or practising mindfulness meditation  can be an ideal way to centre ourselves, if not a warm bath with candles and ambient music.

Here are a few quotes related to death to open your mind and heart. Notice how the body feels as you reflect upon them. Neither be enthralled nor reject the emotions as they surface. Let them be as they are, and gently keep your mind on one quote at a time as though it were a constant question, rather than a means to affirm or negate its meaning. Continue reading

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