21 October 2011

Uncertainty Part II: On Intent

El Volcán Arenal de Costa Rica. Junio 2008.
I believe that the very first seeds of this post nestled in my mind in August 2010, while I was traveling in Australia. Those first seedlings sounded more like, "never expect anyone else to be your trail guide," so what you read here has evolved from that. Also, Part I is definitely worth a read first--particularly a scan of the Life Actualization Hierarchy.

* * *

First off, I'd like to convey a concept that's been crystallizing for some time: Field of Intent. To understand it, break it down component-wise.

What is Intent? To me, it's a a mixture of two concepts: Focus (deliberate attention) and motivation (reasons for doing), which both affect the outcome of your actions. Intent, then, is focused motivation, or maybe motivated focus.

Looking East at the gathering marine layer, near West Camino
Cielo and The Playground. Santa Barbara, June 18, 2011.
Think about this. Let's say you are focused on saving a baby from a burning building, with a motivation to achieve recognition and hero-dom from your deed. You save the baby, but in this case, your hedonistic motivation undermines your strong focus, morally marring your intent. Now, instead, let's say you focus on saving the same baby because it will save a life, or reunite a family, or simply because it's the right thing to do. You've now saved the baby out of love, or hope perhaps, and your intent is powerful and positive.

What do I mean by Field? It's a triple entendre. In one sense, a "field" is a physically partitioned space (such as a soccer field), but it is also a subject matter (such as the field of Chemistry, or another field of study), and it is further a way of storing and projecting energy (as in a magnetic field). This triple threat is the construct that conveys your intent to other people.
On the trail to Cathedral Peak,
Santa Barbara, April 23, 2011.
So, then, Field of Intent (FI) is the physical space, emotional energy, and subject matter of your focused motivation. It's how you project yourself into and onto the world. It's what you say, but it's also how you say it, and when you say it, and who you say it to. Through your inflection, body language, timing, and audience, other people directly perceive your FI. They can tell whether you're being hedonistic, or loving, or whatever. They can tell when you're lying, and so can your parents. Other people can tell that you saved the baby for recognition or for love.

Now, after realizing that every single action you take projects you onto the world, you may ponder some questions. "Who am I affecting with this action?" or, "What subject am I presently putting energy into?" or, "Am I approaching this positively or negatively?" or even "Am I sitting with good posture?"  Do you like what you're projecting? Do you like that other people can perceive it? Every moment--every NOW--counts. Revel in it.

My claim. Your FI attracts other compatible fields of intent. By this, I DO NOT MEAN to echo the proverbial "what you project into the world comes back to you." In fact, I disagree with that. Rather, I'm saying that your FI draws in other intent (foci and motivations) that are compatible with yours. But Beware! "Compatible" does not imply "positive." This could be an antagonistic compatibility, and it could also be an augmentative compatibility. (Aside: in my opinion, it also doesn't have to be a human-human intermeshing of intent ... but I'll let you decide if you also believe there are other entities floating around with intent. See my previous post if you want some dark-demon antagonism). Regardless, you have the power to control the composition of your FI. That is, you have the power to control what aspect of yourself brings other people to you. If you don't like what you're surrounded with, change yourself (by changing your Field of Intent).

My Mindset: Yes, do what you love, but to get there, first you have to love what you do, all the time. Focus on this; be motivated by this. Then, as with all paths you are here on earth to walk, only you can make the effort.

* * *

I direct your attention to the top two tiers (Hope, Enlightenment) of the Life Actualization Hierarchy. I duly neglected these tiers in Part I of this post, partly for space, and partly because I just didn't know what to say. These are some big topics. Gotta let things ferment sometimes.

In these top tiers, I attempt to convey (by flow chart) that experiencing and sharing Love is what ultimately propels you from Hope (confident wishfulness) into Enlightenment (which seems to be one of the highest purposes of life). But what is Love? Where does it come from? Where do we find it? I think Field of Intent can help elaborate, so I'll speak from my experience.

Sunset beach bonfire below the Ellwood bluffs. May 14, 2011.
A while back now, I fell in love with a girl. I mean really hard, really fast, for real, for the first time. Whoosh! Exhilarating. Blinding. Surprising. Wonderful. Unrequited. (She didn't want me back.) So, instead of that, a whole slew of reaffirmations fell into my lap. Here are some:

You might have some conception of what you find attractive, but you cannot know right now what you will fall in love with. Attraction is not a choice, but it is one early step towards love. Because of this, it is better to focus your intent away from "finding attraction" or "finding love" and focus it towards another goal, such as working smart, or creating passion, or making friends, or maybe getting really good at the guitar. Such a goal can be as simple as going for a run (I recommend without headphones), or as complex as defining your life's work, or saying "How's your day going?" to a stranger for no reason other than friendliness. For good results, these require strong positive intent (focus and motivation). What do you care about? What do you make time for on a daily basis? What are you building passion for? Figure it out. If you are building a passion for napping, and you don't like it, then stop. Then, when your focus and motivation are strong enough in such pursuits, you will achieve something that surprises you. There is no replacement for hard work. Then, at the same time you're working hard (lo-and-behold!) the universe will conspire in your favor, and your field of intent will bring compatible people to you--collaborators, muses, lovers, mentors, whatever. As far as love goes, you will meet someone you're compatible with on a deep, intent level. That is, they will be compatible with your field of intent. My advice? Rather than ask "Where do we find Love?" perhaps realize that Love will change your ideals when IT finds YOU.

Sunset over Goleta, CA. July 31, 2011.
I believe this is how enlightenment works, too. It's experiential, but your experiences are guided by your Field of Intent in a divine feedback loop. If you put powerful, positive intent into what you do, you will enjoy what you will do. Make sense? Here's an idea I really enjoy thinking about: When you experience Love, it gets stored in your subconscious mind, which is your body. Your body recalls all the pains and textures and flavors and wounds and emotions and infinite things you have experienced. Each of these is stored in a tiny pocket of your self, whence you may retrieve them from time to time. The body recalls, too, all of the Faith, Gratitude, Pleasure, Luck, Fear, and other driving forces of transformation that you have experienced. Each of these is driven by your Field of Intent, and each contributes to your ultimate actualization.

Often, for me, more questions arise with the realizations, so I'll leave you with a final item to ponder: What is the source of your intent? Where does it come from?

04 July 2011


Northward blender view of Red Peak from below Red Buffalo Pass (Gore Range outside Silverthorne, CO).  Spring 2007.
Today is Independence Day. Perhaps it is fitting this found it's way to the page.

* * *

Sunset over the Collegiate Peaks, near Buena Vista, CO.
I love being outside. I love jagged snowy mountains, a fresh pine-filtered breeze, and cloudless blue skies that wax indigo at the zenith. I love the way the landscape pops into existence just over the edge of a summit's peak, and the way cold rock feels under my fingertips, and the lava that courses through my veins from the roar of crashing waves. I love the red and purple fire that ignites the sky at dusk every single day, and the way the ocean rolls and washes my soul back into the right shape, and sharing the epiphanical endorphins of it all with good people.

Moonrise over Telluride, CO. Summer Solstice 2010.
Independence Monument, Colorado National Monument, CO
And yet, I have a nagging doubt. A nagging hunch that it's not mutual. A deep feeling in my gut that Nature doesn't care, nor reciprocate my love. Nature, why do you shrug that I rope up and climb your steep rock faces? Why not just prevent me from falling? Nature, why do you yawn that I lace up my shoes and run up your wooded trails? Why not carry me back down? Nature, must you plug your ears to my hoots of joy on top of a mountain? Why not sing along? Nature, must you trip me when I stand to ride your waves? Why not hoist me to my feet?

Unaweep Canyon, CO. The pensive climber is Casey.

You are stunning in your beauty, but you are the ultimate tease--the sublime lady I can never have. No matter how clever, or smart, or funny, or charming, or self-actualized I may be, I won't catch your attention. You don't even want to be my friend. It breaks my heart, as any one-way love must. But this strengthens my resolve. will come back later, and I will do it for me. I WILL come back later, to simply see you, if that is all I get. I will come back later, on my terms. In the interim, I do not expect that you will have changed, though I definitely will. Lord Byron said it pretty well one time:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
   There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
   There is society where none intrudes,
   By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
   I love not Man the less, but Nature more,

   From these our interviews, in which I steal
   From all I may be, or have been before,
   To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

(First Stanza of "Apostrophe to the Ocean"
from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia. August 2010. The shadow on the rock face is cast by the impressive Kata Tjutu.

Nature, my lady, there is a lesson in your cold-heartedness, I know. By your intensity, you teach me Humility, so that Pride does not cloud my Love, and Faith, and Generosity. In your remoteness, you teach me self-sufficiency, so that I may focus on the solution and not the problem, however small it may be. You teach me of Beauty, which is a grand, transcendent paradox: were I not here to see it and say it, would you still be beautiful? Through your intricacy, you teach me of Infinity, so that I may appreciate Nothing, and thus have Gratitude for the universal web of existence, of which--against all odds--I am somehow a part. By your Rejection, you teach me to be a Man, so that I may make my own path and find true companionship along the way. Much obliged.

04 June 2011

Perigean Tides and Mashing Fresh

Blender of the CA side of Heavenly at Tahoe - March 22, 2011

"Fffffffffffffffffff ..." Hear that? It's just big snowflakes falling through the air. 
Look around: Covered in powder-snow, steep mountains seem less steep from the top. 

I just had a skiing dream, and in it I jumped farther 
and spun slower and landed softer and schralped 
more continuous blower gnarr than ever before. 

And then I went to sleep and had the same dream. 

* * *

SUNRISE on January 15, 2010.
Bangui, Central African Republic.
Image online
Preface. Sometimes, coincidences happen. Sometimes they're shocking, sometimes they're mundane. Perhaps they happen for a reason. Perhaps not. It's pretty easy to get caught up ascribing meaning to coincidental events. Maybe that's superstition. It's also pretty easy to walk around oblivious to the world turning beneath your feet. That's naivete. Simply put, it's easy to over-analyze what you experience, and it's also easy to under-analyze it. I'm looking for a harmonious middle ground, so let's just say that coincidences are interesting. Coincidences are sort of like rolling Yahtzee.

In fact, here's one coincidence I just discovered a few weeks ago, in retrospect: the experimental wormwood beer that Casey and I brewed back on January 16, 2010 coincided almost exactly to the hour with the longest annular solar eclipse of the milennium (which was also about one day off apogee), and it was very nearly directly opposite us on the earth. Hmmm. Interesting. What's with that? Why did that fermenting ale affect me so strongly and yet NOT affect anyone else, including Casey, or my roommate Andy? I'll let you decide that in a bit, at the end of a more recent tale ...

* * *

16 Hours. Winter quarter ended, and a couple lonely Tahoe season passes needed riders, so we loaded up the car Friday afternoon (March 18, 2011) with the ski/snowboard equipment, stopped at Whole Foods for supplies (turns out they have the best beer selection in greater Santa Barbara), and blasted off towards ski country. Three excellent dudes, and lots of snow in the forecast. It was bound to be epic.

Old Chub, from Oskar Blues
Brewery, Lyons, CO. Smoky, malty, 
roasty, 8% ABV, especially 
great for skiing, AND they 
carry it at Whole Foods. Sweet.
Image online here.
Well, likely to be epic, at least. We didn't know that each other person was excellent at the get-go, but when you spend continuous time with a person, you get to know them, for better or worse. You get to know what they think. You get to know what their middle name is. You get to know what they smell like. That's how you make good friends (or enemies), and whaddaya know: we're all fast friends.

Ryan took the first driving shift out of town. We were fired up, ready to ride, and ready for the adventure ahead. We talked about the ocean, and owl omens, and girls. Heavy snow forecast up North on I-5 pushed us East onto Hwy 395, which added a couple hours to the ETA. No big deal! It's more scenic, anyway, to drive past Mt. Whitney, through the jaw-dropping Owens Valley, through Bishop, CA (a warm-month climbing mecca), to Lake Tahoe. I took over driving as the sun began to set. Wind started to kick up. Lots of wind. Enough wind that cruising 65 mph on a two lane highway felt precarious. Enough to provoke a wildfire to jump the highway near Independence, CA and HALT northbound traffic on the 395. We flipped a U-dogger and grabbed some pizza 20 miles back at the Pizza Factory in Lone Pine. I recommend stopping there. It has the nostalgic air of a cafeteria--cheap wood paneling, vinyl-cushioned metal chairs, soda fountain, good toppings, reasonable prices, and no pretense. While we were housing some 'za, we heard that the highway was closed indefinitely and it might not open until the next evening. Five hours had elapsed. We were halfway there. "What are we gonna do, guys?" asked Ryan. "You wanna grab a room in Lone Pine and wait out the fire?"

It was definitely an option, but there was no guarantee that the highway would open, and "No Vacancy" signs were beginning to light up. It felt better to be moving, driving, chasing the powder. "No, let's drive. Let's take the 136 to the 90 and loop out through Nevada. It'll take twice as long, but we'll get there," Iggy and I replied. Instead of four hours more road time, we were looking at eight or nine, which is the standard total trip time. "It's all part of the adventure," we echoed.

Owens Valley as I took over driving.
So we gassed up the Tacoma and jumped in. Ryan was at the helm again, so he abruptly chugged a 5-hour Energy, and we hit the pavement. The road out was intense. It had sudden dips and quick crests, and turned downward, darkly, steeply, into Death Valley--an appropriate name for the place. The headlights were a candle flicker in a huge chasm, every now and again illuminating a stark feature in the landscape. Or was that an animal? Or something else? We tossed in The Eagles Greatest Hits. As midnight passed, the perigean full moon (or "Supermoon") made its appearance over the mountains, igniting the desolate valley in its silvery light. This full moon was exceedingly bright, and big, because it coincided with the moon's perigee (closest orbital point to earth), a coincidence that happens every couple decades or so. Perigee is also interesting (even if it's not the full moon) because there are always stronger tides. Such "Perigean Tides" are the result of measurably larger gravitational forces that accompany the moon's closeness to earth at such a time. The result: at perigee, the earth's entire ocean rises a couple centimeters higher than usual at high tide. Maybe it was these "moon rays," but Ryan was clearly getting more and more agitated, and he suddenly half-laughed/half-shouted, "Guys, all of my faculties are in a hypersensitized state! Hahaha!" as he gave the truck a little too much gas around a bumpy curve. 

"That must be the five hour energy," Iggy replied. "Just take 'er easy dude!" Still we descended. 

Meanwhile, running on 3 hours of sleep, and sleepy on pizza, I was finally beginning to doze off as Witchy Woman came on. My dreams were wild, full of swirling mist and dark running figures and strobe lights, all choreographed to Don Henley's 400-grain voice. We were all on edge from the intense winds, recent earthquake in Japan, and eerie moonlight. It felt like something big was about to rend the earth or explode the sky. The road was getting steeper, and bumpier.

Supermoon from the car.
"WHOA!" yelled Ryan, tapping the brakes. "I just hallucinated a dark figure crossing the road!" 

I sprung awake in a tense, confused anxiety and quickly described the dark figures and swirling mist in my dream. "What did it look like, Ryan?" I asked. 

"I couldn't really tell, but it ran right in front of the car!" replied Ryan. I was suddenly extremely awake, and trembling. Iggy, compelled to roll some cigarettes, helped calm the energy by reminding us of the light within. Ryan continued to exhale pressurized breaths of energy through his teeth. The thermometer on the car read 70, but I was freezing--shivering cold at the base of my spine--like I had jumped in a frozen lake and couldn't get warm. It felt like a dementor had jumped in the car with us. It felt like a Native American burial ground. Still we drove on.

We felt exposed, so it felt like a good time to expose some deeper stories among new good friends. I told the story of the wormwood beer, and how all the while it has evoked myriad vivid visuals as well as alien emotions within me, and the slow mellowing (but not disappearance) of these effects for over a year. We're all agreed that wormwood is a strong psychoactive and potentially poisonous substance, and I recently learned that, in some circles, it is used to summon and banish the dead. A little pre-research would have been in order. We talked about our birthdays, and how Iggy and Ryan have the same spiritual teacher in India. As we dropped below sea level, we talked about the meaning of our names. Ryan's full name, Narayana: "God in Man." Iggy's middle name, Sathya: "Truth." My name, Nathan: "God has Given." Iggy later observed that "all [of our names] were referencing that energy we longed to be protected by at that moment." It's also interesting that our names echoed our roles in the situation: Narayana was driving, Iggy was calming us, and I was suddenly the one with the burdenIt was a veritable spiritual quorum, and we had a demon to exorcise. 

Swirling mist, for dramatic effect. Image online here.
We resurfaced above sea level and glimpsed the ascent out of Death Valley in the distance. Part way up, we pulled off the highway to get some fresh air, stretch our legs, and empty the tanks. Very few other cars were out, but a few hundred meters up, another (abandoned?) solitary car was visible on the side of the road. Iggy crossed the highway, gazing into the moonlight and the vast valley floor below. Narayana walked a few meters into the brush on the dark side of the car, facing the screaming wind, and meditated. I stood in the center of the highway, frigid, stuck in limbo, flanked by my companions, and connected to reality and society in a literally concrete way. There are entities that hide there, shadows darker than the moon-shadows cast by the shrubs, and I could see them, squirming on the side of the highway, in Death Valley. The road was safe, but this was a turning point. I was crawling out of my own skin, clawing out the base of my spine, shivering violently. As Iggy later wrote, "The energy was so intense that it felt like it was shattering old inner constructs, allowing for transformation.  There was nothing one could do except surrender and allow the transformation to occur." After some time, we got back in the truck, and began to drive. Strangely, the solitary car parked up the road was an identical copy of my truck, right down to the model year (I could tell by the paint design). That was truly the icing on the cake.

By now it was about 2:00 AM, and as we truly climbed out of Death Valley, the coldness and anxious wakefulness and squirming darkness quickly dissipated. I left that burden on the side of the road. In a very significant way, I felt like myself again--more myself than I had felt in the 426 days since January 16, 2010 (though it is only in retrospect, now, that I say this). The way Iggy put it, "[Our] descent into the dark valley and drive through and the ascent out was an exterior analogy to the inner landscape." True dat. This experience began under a solar eclipse new moon (near apogee, making it annular), and ended under a full moon at perigee in death valley. Perhaps I was meant to be there, to be diverted by fire, to be ushered through the valley of the shadow of death bearing a burden, to unload that burden, and to emerge cleansed of darkness, revitalized and grounded by Iggy and Narayana's strong spiritual purpose, feeling like myself once again. Or was it just a coincidence? Certainly.

We drove a bit farther, and caught some much-needed rest somewhere in Nevada. The moon fell behind the mountains to the west, arbiter of transformation. 

Waking again, it was my turn to drive. We caught a breathtaking sunrise over Walker Lake and saw just about every various lovely shade of brown cruising through the Nevada hills and mountains. Sixteen hours after we had started, we rolled into South Lake Tahoe at 8 AM.

* * *

Sharing a maté.
Snow. When we arrived that first morning, Sofi and Debi (the Argentinian gals at Priefer's house where we stayed) made us a breakfast of jam and cream cheese on toast while we shared a maté. A foot of fresh powder sat, poised, waiting for our turns, yet another (great) coincidence. In fact, the barometric pressure was so low, and so much snow was forecast over the following week that they were calling this storm "Snowicane 2011."

Off to Sierra at Tahoe. Excellent terrain, excellent turns, and it snowed all day. We rode with Priefer and Edrick, and mainly stuck to the steep, powdery, tree-filled slopes of Jack's Bowl. It was an epic start to the weekend. I got a chance to play around with a GoPro that day, so I took one of the videos, edited it up a little bit on my computer, and set it to some music. The song is Spare Me by Other Nature (Iggy is on vocals). Check it out:

After a day's hard riding, but mostly from lack of sleep and the crazy drive, we were beat. One delicious salmon-burrito-dinner later (at Sprouts), we went back to the house and practiced our Spanish with Sofi and Debi, and then passed the hell out. While we slept, the snow kept falling.

Benny boy.
(Edrick looking the other way).
Sunday dawned too soon, but temps stayed cold, so we rode the best, most blower powder of the whole trip this day at Heavenly. Grand View lift had some killer terrain. Sierra was closed all day. It was Sofi and Debi's last weekend in South Lake Tahoe, so that night, we made sure to check out Cabo Wabo beneath Harrah's Casino on the Nevada side of the state line. They wouldn't let Iggy in with his temporary ID, so instead, he went upstairs, won some money, and met a guy who was up $2000 (he bought us a few drinks). Thanks to social networking, I realized that my good buddy Ben Hambright had driven 18 hours from Colorado chasing the Snowicane. We met up at Cabo Wabo, and then rode together the rest of the time.

Monday. Sierra opened back up. 2 feet. Other than mentioning that we tried black bear sausage at lunch (awesome) and had amazing elk burgers to go with it, I'll let the pictures tell the story. They get bigger when you click on them:
Wow. I think Ben had something like 7 Gigs of footage on his GoPro this day. Rinse and repeat.

Lake View from Heavenly.
Tuesday, our final day of skiing, was sunny, and we skied Heavenly once again. That made for some great views of the lake, but heavier snow. Each day just seemed like it got better, and this was no exception. We all had a nearly-religious experience watching them take down the "Closed" sign at 10 AM at Killebrew Canyon. That's the first time I've ever had truly fresh turns in-bounds. Words don't do it justice. You had to be there. Oh, wait, Edrick took a video:

To finish off this fourth and final day of this epic skiing adventure, Narayana and Ben took some out-of-bounds terrain to the base, ending up 10 miles out of town by accident. Iggy and I were totally exhausted and kept it mellow, in-bounds, to the base. When we got there, an amiable, suprisingly-good, toothless guitar player named Hop gave us some beers and advice while we sat and listened to his tunes on the street. "Don't do anything that isn't fun for you," he said, moving straight into a great version of Big Rock Candy Mountain. "A little respect from both parties and everyone wins," he followed. No doubt, Hop, no doubt.
That's me.

We all reconvened at Priefer's house, ate Mexican food for dinner, and went gambling. That was my first time ever putting chips down on a table in a casino. I started with twenty bucks in my pocket, and went up $200 at one point, but lost it all in the end. I just wanted to gamble, and $20 is a cheap fare for a night of fun! I quickly learned that the worst bet in Blackjack is $21. Never bet $21. I did it three separate times with three separate dealers, and the house pulled blackjack all three times. That's not superstition, that's statistically significant.

Weatherworn, moneyless, snow-stoked, and smiling, we strolled home, packed up, and had a cream cheese fight over who got to sleep with the pillow. Next morning, it was still snowing, but we had to go. The drive home was an easy nine hours by the I-5 route--a welcomed difference from the trip there. When we arrived, this skiing dream continued at Hollister Brewing with dinner and beers. I'm still waiting to wake up.


04 March 2011

The Uncertainty of Actualization

Blended Panorama of Sunset at Santa Monica Beach at Lei Out - January 16, 2011
Typical Ti:Sapphire Laser Amplifier
Stage, glowing from 532nm pump
laser light. Image here.
At the time, I didn't know that such a small thing would be the grain of dust in this snowflake. I didn't know that it would be the beginning of much understanding I have come to in the five or so years that have followed. I didn't know, but I am grateful.

A bildungsroman. One of the grad students in the laser lab I worked in during undergrad at CU Boulder kept a single, inconspicuous notecard near the amplifier stage of the laser (see image). The first reading was a fleeting moment: "Abandon Any Hope of Fruition." As my first reaction, I thought, "This is ridiculous." Why would I give up Hope? Why would anyone give up Hope? Isn't Hope imminently positive? Isn't Hope the only thing we have left when nothing else remains? Do I not seek Fruition?

For four years, a splinter in my mind, this phrase worked itself in. Finally, Hope was called into question. Hope is passive, I thought. Hope is lazy. When we focus on what might be, we fail to take the action right now that actualizes the future. When we simply try to do something and hope it works, we incompletely do it. Abandon Hope, I thought. Act deliberately.

So I tried it. I got rid of that weak emotion, Hope. How'd it go? Sometimes, I felt empowered, sometimes it sent me reeling closer to passivity. It was as though Hope was a necessary possible emotional state. I looked the word up. I talked about it. I wrote about it, and made the chart below. Now, I think Faith is a synonym for Hope, but not the reverse. Faith is 100% confidence, a subcategory of Hope; Hope is confident wishfulness or sanguine expectation--not simple passive wishfulness. I think "Abandon Any Hope of Fruition" really means "Abandon Passive Wishes of Fruition," and that is a good lesson. More on that shortly.

A Construct. Much of what follows stems from great conversations and experiences with all sorts of folks over the years, including Casey (who I have mentioned here a few times), Larkin, Aaron, Nolan, Seth, Keely, my Dad, and many others. It has also been spurred onward and upward by Cal Newport's blog, Study Hacks. If you don't know about that blog, go check it out. It will revolutionize your life, perhaps. One particular article there regarding passion (and how it really comes about) helped a lot of these thoughts develop. It re-forged my perception of working hard and finding purpose.

Now, make sure you have a little time to sit and think. Make a cup of tea, sink into a comfy seat, and check this out on your big screen. Some might call this kind of thing axiology, or a moral value theory. Looks like a picture to me:

(c) 2011 Nate Kirchhofer
Concentric shells.
Image obtained here.
As you dance around the hierarchy towards Enlightenment, your worldview gets bigger, encompassing all of the echelons below it, much the way in which I described Faith as a subcategory of Hope earlier. In terms of world view, one useful visualization of this hierarchy might be this: concentric radial shells where each higher echelon in the hierarchy is represented by a larger-diameter shell containing all of the other shells below it (see image). In such a scheme, Skepticism/Negativity is a point at the center, and Fear draws you from this center, from zombie slavery, from inanimate animation, and gives you life. (See poll at left.) Quickly, instinct and luck can slingshot you outward.

Look at it some more.

Think about all those arrows on the chart: as a sentient being, you experience life and metabolize your experiences, retaining salient emotions such as Fear or Faith, which guide you through many actualization transitions over time--sometimes up into Hope, or briefly into Enlightenment, and then sometimes down into Hedonism, or even Innocence, and hopefully not long into Skepticism. Ultimately, the question is, "How do you spend most of your time?" In the past, my observation is that I spent most of my time in passive wishfulness (see red dashed lines). That is, I was positive, but passive, wishing for things rather than making or creating things. Perhaps that's how I still am. I like to think it's lessened. Regardless, that notecard opened my eyes, and I have returned once again, inspired, to the same sentiment, just more developed: Act deliberately. Work hard. Play always. Share happiness. Have Faith. Actualize your potential. 

I just can't yet conceptualize where it leads.

Questions. What is puzzling to me is this: I have the capacity to write down (some of) the qualities and aspects embodied in Enlightenment, but I understand very little of what they are like in practice. That is, I feel like I have good morality, and act from my heart, but I am not particularly "enlightened" at present. What is it like to live love? Find God? Become the best? Truly live with humility? Fully actualize? Live a life worth dying for? It's an issue of interaction time; I don't spend much time in Enlightenment. So, I feel that many of these answers cannot be found right now. Only through experience will they emerge. That is, only through experiences of creating value, and building friendships, and having your ideals ripped away and mashed up and returned back different, does Enlightenment emerge. Indeed, some answers may not be clear until the very end. I am reminded of a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - RMR, Letters to a Young Poet, Letter Four, 16 July 1903

I like to think that questions drive us. It's a delightful inquisition, too, when answers yield new understanding and new connections and new questions. We must step forward boldly into the exciting and uncertain future. It's foggy, but beautiful things always seem to pop out of the fog.

A unit right triangle. By the  Pythagorean theorem,
the length of the hypotenuse of this triangle is

= 1.41421356...

and the decimals never end or repeat predictably.
Yet, despite this "infinite" uncertainty, we can
concisely draw the shape and concisely
write the symbol representing the concept.

Image obtained here.
I like to think that Uncertainty is the glue of the universe. The oversoul. God. The thing that connects us all, and tugs at our spirits. Whatever you want to call it. Even the word "Uncertainty" captures the character of the concept. It's an appropriately abstract and formidable Noun. (It also appeals to the physicist in me as an elegant allusion to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, an expression governing the physical properties of the universe.) Think: just as it is paradoxical to write the concise, finite symbol "√2" to represent the square root of 2 (an irrational number--see image), the very writing of the word "Uncertainty" is paradoxical in its concise certainty. (One way to conceptualize this is that writing collapses thought wavefunctions--veritable platonic forms--into digestible language and meaning. The paradox is that uncertainty seems antithetical to meaning, so collapsing the "Uncertainty" platonic form should yield the meaning of no meaning.) And yet, we can still write √2 and have some strong concept of what it means. We can still write "Uncertainty" and think about the meaning of no meaning. Perhaps that is why we can have some strong concept of God.

I am deliberately committed to this moment: Now. There will always be questions, and living them is the point of life, as far as I can tell. Fully living this Uncertainty is tantamount to finding God, living love, actualizing your potential, and living a life worth dying for. The question is how to approach Uncertainty: Fear? Indulgence? Gratitude? Faith? Love?

You decide.