Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Element of Irreducible Rascality

"Human nature is a fundamentally good arrangement. Including not only our virtuous side but our also passionate side. Also our appetites and our waywardness. The Hebrews have a term, which they call the yetzer hara which means the wayward inclination. Or what I like to call: The element of irreducible rascality. That God put into all human beings. And put it there because it was a good thing… And so a truly human-hearted person is a gentleman with a slight touch of rascality just as one has to have salt in a stew. Confucious said that the goodie goodies are the thieves of virtue. Meaning that to try to be wholly righteous is to go beyond humanity. To try to be something that isn’t human.”

-Alan Watts speaking on Confucianism and Taoism

***

The most “enlightened" people I’ve known, those who have journeyed to the beyond and returned to tell the tale, have mostly agreed with the messages I keep receiving: Go play. Enjoy all the fruits life has to offer. Indulge in passion and pleasure but for love’s sake stop taking everything so damn seriously. Love unapologetically. Know that hurting others hurts you because you are them and they, you. Dive into service and doing good in the world. It feels good. It makes life more fun.

Beware of scoundrels and charlatans disguised as gurus and enlightened beings who demand they be respected. Who see laughter as a sin and are offended easily. We are all specks of stardust.

Go play.

Darkest Before the Dawn

When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

-Yin Yang from the Tao Te Ching

***

The universe, reality, God... Consciousness. We are it’s breath, it’s manifestation, it’s dream. Our hearts may not always beat in sync when we chose to see at life at a micro level, to see life as day-to-day rather than the big picture, but we are specks of stardust in a grand multiverse. We are one. Every one of you is me and I, you. We are all God in drag. One consciousness who happens to wear all these different skins and masks.

Our physical world, this living breathing entity that we think is outside of us, is doing some shadow work. It is looking into it’s darkest corners in order to grow it’s love and light.

We humans feel like we don’t get to consciously choose when that shadow work begins and it is for this reason that it creates such suffering. But if we knew we had to touch the flame in order to understand what being burned feels like, would we do it? How many of us would purposely chose to get punched in the face in order to break the fear of physical injury? We actively avoid pain at all costs; that’s our biological programming. Yet growth is always prefaced with some kind of suffering.

We tear muscles to build new ones. We fall so that we may rise. We touch the flame as children and learn to respect fire.

We will embrace our fellow people. We will come at our brothers and sisters with love. Those we disagree with about the nature of reality and society are simply us having been raised in different circumstances. Do not give in to fear and anger. Let us not further divide ourselves from each other. Really think about what “love thy neighbor” actually means.

It is always darkest before the dawn. I am very much looking forward to watching the sunrise with you.

All of you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Oktoberfest Wisdom (From Podcasts.com)

So you wanna start your own podcast? I'm happy to share any and all of my experiences with you. The secret to a 'successful' podcast experience is not about tech or numbers. You can and should record on whatever equipment you're most comfortable with. This is the long game. You won't be walking the red carpet because of your podcast anytime soon so you might as well get comfortable where you are. Podcasts.com sent out this email today which basically broke down exactly the input I give people when I'm asked for advice on podcasting. I may start sharing some of this advice via YouTube in the near future. For the time being, I found this to be pretty perfect. The text from here on is from Podcasts.com: 

While another year of Oktoberfest successfully wraps up, our team looks at 5 characteristics of this fall festival and what takeaways you can use to improve your podcast.

1. Consistency is Key
Oktoberfest is celebrating its 183rd festival this October. For over a century, Munich has hosted this beloved event, making it a cornerstone of German tradition. Follow suit and stay consistent with your schedule. Whether it’s weekly or biweekly, your subscribers expect and look forward to your show, don’t disappoint them! Produce episodes consistently and watch your show become an integral part of your listener’s daily routines over time.

2. Keep Tradition Alive
What nuances of your podcast are unique to your show and only your’s? It could be something as simple as a weekly segment you adhere to or a variety of playful sound effects. Oktoberfest is known globally for its lederhosen and traditional German garb. Find out what makes your show special and emphasize it. If you’re having a hard time thinking of what it is that makes your show unique, it’s never too late to incorporate something new!

3. Give the People What They Want
Each year, thousands of tourists flock to Munich’s Oktoberfest for adult beverages and good food. What is it about your podcast that your subscribers particularly love? Figure out what attributes of your broadcast your listeners particularly enjoy, and cater to those. Look through listener feedback to gain insights or send out a quick survey to find out.

4. Pace Yourself
Eleven days of beer and bratwurst might sound like a much needed vacation to some, but rest assured it’s a long time to go. While many podcast purely for the love of it, there’s a lot of work that goes into producing, scheduling and promoting a successful show. Avoid burnout by setting reasonable expectations. Be honest with yourself and commit to a finalized hosting schedule based on your available time and resources.

5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
With the amount of energy and effort that go into producing an engaging podcast, it can be easy to give into stress and forget why you started in the first place. As is true with one of the most widely celebrated festivals in the world, don’t forget to have fun along the way!    

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sand Empires

I appreciate people who are willing to draw a line in the sand. We should all stand for something. Having strong convictions is to take pride in life. But it's important to clarify weather we're making a stance for life or for simple pride.

It's easy to rail against our political system. The more conservative among us good-ole-days the 50's, while the more left-leaning groups romanticize Europe - but neither of these examples are without their own unique set of flaws.

Many of our friends are taking a stance this election. We feel disenfranchised. Our vote and voice don't seem to matter. Every year it's the same 'ole two party option. Taking a stance is a good thing. But if you're drawing a line in the sand for this November's presidential elections, chances are you've missed your mile-marker by, like, acres.

Drawing a line in the sand for the general elections and going for a third party vote at the last minute is like doing a handful of pushups then demanding a spot in the Supebowl.

There are a million ways to get involved in our political system. I, for example, was among the original co-founding group that formed the Iranian-American Democrats of San Diego, back when the Iranian-American community was mostly Republican. (My claim to fame was coming up with the name, mostly, but that was about it.) It's boring shit. You might be given a clipboard or you might work a call-center or your brother might be the first president of the club which leads to the county chair remembering you if only for your funny name. Hypothetically speaking.

You can get involved in community organization. You can start attending weekly meet-ups. You can volunteer for your third party of choice. You can (gasp) run for a local office. You can start a newsletter or a podcast. You can make money and host political fundraisers for candidates you like.

The coming four years are gonna suck regardless. An ugly dam has burst onto our society and it's going to get worse before it gets better. If I was a betting man though, I'd bet we're not gonna have a nuclear holocaust if Trump wins. But the amount of shit he'd get us into would be no picnic either.

You absolutely should draw a line in the sand. The problem is that by voting third party or simply not voting, that's not sand you're attempting to draw a line in - it's concrete. The time to make a stand for this round is long past.

I'll be voting for Hillary. I don't buy into the "this election is too important" line. They've all been important. Everything we've been through has gotten us to this point. Our apathy for the past two decades led us to exactly this mess.

This is politics. There has never been, nor ever will be, a world or society without some sort of political maneuvering to be made. If you don't like it, get involved at the factory, not at the grocery store. Because, after all, it is our damn factory.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Quitting Smoking

As of this most recent Burn night, September 3, it has been one year since my last cigarette. 

Many people in my life never even knew I was a smoker. I was never a heavy one. Never was one of those people that needed to step outside, alone in the cold to light one up. It was mostly social. Mostly. 

Sitting at a cafe after a long day, with a coffee and a Sherman MCD was pure heaven. Lighting one up over drinks with friends was even better.

I was smoking the most when I was 19 and working as an insurance agent. Was totally miserable about life, my body and my future. That was the only time in my life where I NEEDED to take a break from work to puff on some Dunhills. 

For most of my life, Sherman MCDs have been my brand. The higher quality tobacco and cleaner taste perhaps kept me from full on nicotine addiction. Or maybe I had it and didn't know it. Either way, I remember the moment I realized it's really time to quit. It was on a Wednesday morning run at November Project. I'd been running more on my own with the intention of not being the very last person in the pack anymore. That's all I wanted at first. But then I got a little better at moving my body. Better than I ever thought possible. And then it hit me: I'm running up a hill and I find my body still having enough stamina to keep going... But my lungs were quitting on me. 

I smoked maybe a half a pack per week. I realized the lacking lung capacity was not about the handful of cigarettes but due to the decade-plus accumulation of filling my lungs with smoke. So I decided I'd either quit after Burning Man 2015 or YOUtopia 2015. 

But then Burn night came in 2015 and Black Rock City was so bloody dusty that every cigarette was like smoking half the playa. I remember taking a puff, looking at the cig and thinking, "nah... I'm done." Gave the rest of my pack to some friends.

A week went by and I ended up at a party. Everyone stepped outside for cigarettes. I followed. This was the real test. I hung out. A cig was offered and I politely declined. It wasn't that big a deal. 

Then another week. Then another week. 

My cardio got better. My meditation got better. I'd watch friends falling apart from hangovers and coughing up a lung while I woke up refreshed and with renewed energy. 

It's been hilariously easy. I'd made the resolution to populate this new chapter of my life with more activity. I decided I'd show my body how much I love it by honoring it and treating it with more kindness. And my body rewarded me at Burning Man 2016 in glorious ways. I danced for hours. I walked like a damn machine from one end of the city to the other. I felt powerful and beautiful. Here was this thing, my body, which had been such a burden to me for most of my life... This Burn was about really appreciating this wonderful blessing that is my body.

Energy in, energy out. What we put into our bodies has deep meaning. It is not a curse to have to avoid that last slice of pizza. We show our body that we love and appreciate it by being selective with what we put inside ourselves (oh grow up, whoever is snickering back there!). 

It doesn't bother me in the least when someone else lights up around me. We can make a decision. We can choose not to whine about it. We can replace the habits that no longer serve us with new ones that do. 

But man... It did make me look kinda cool in photos. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Already Successful AF

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) 
American Essayist & Poet

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#selfie

People get really riled up about selfies. Every other week, there is some new study going viral about how it promotes narcissism. In Sugar Land, TX, there might be an angry mob on its way to set fire to city hall because they recently installed a public art piece depicting a couple of friends taking a selfie. When people talk about people taking selfies, they snarl. 

I'd like to submit the following... 

This is how people used to do photos before digital photography became an option: 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A asks person B to take said photo
Step 3) Person B takes one or multiple photos
Step 4) Person A takes photos to develop
Step 5) Person A picks up photos from development
Step 6) Person A decides which photo shows them in the best light and shares with friends via photo album, stuffing away all the less desirable images in a shoe box

Then came digital photography... 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A asks person B to take said photo
Step 3) Person B takes one or multiple photos
Step 4) Person A deletes all the less desirable photos and keeps the best one and shares with friends 

Then came the flip screen option on our phones... 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A takes the damn photo 
Step 3) Person A shares the damn photo

All we're doing here is deleting the middle-men, folks. 

Seriously. 

And this, by the way, is where ALL technology is always going: We're finding ways to get from point A to point B faster.