Solitude and Loneliness

A friend recently mentioned in a message to me that she doesn’t mind spending time alone anymore. As she put it, “I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel like I’m a loser when I’m alone.” She even described a moment walking home in the rain alone without a raincoat or umbrella. Wanderer_above_the_Sea_of_Fog

“People driving by probably thought I was miserable, but I just smiled the entire time like I had a big secret that I couldn’t tell anyone,” she wrote. “The rain was so refreshing.”

I suppose the millennial generation feels particularly pressured to avoid “being alone.” We’re increasingly connected with cell phones and social networks. A “lonely person” conjures images of a Friday-night recluse in a concrete room with cold fluorescent lights pouring down on a clammy floor strewn with old magazines. Meanwhile, everyone he knows–even the smelly kid with the sketchy sweatshirt who sat near him on the bus in third grade–is at some party with Aziz Ansari and David Tennent, having a great time. FOMO, it’s called: “fear of missing out”

We fear being alone because we fear loneliness: the sense of exclusion, the shame, the boredom. But you don’t have to be alone to feel alone. It can hit anywhere, even at a party.

And sometimes being alone doesn’t mean you feel lonely. As my friend realized, being alone can be empowering. Even fun. As theologian Paul Tillich notes in The Eternal Now, “Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone. It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.

But what’s the difference?

Continue reading “Solitude and Loneliness”

Advertisements

Egypt: a reaction

When I first read Robert Frost’s poem “Out, Out–“ about a boy getting killed in a chainsaw accident, I cringed at the final sentence: “And they, since they/ Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”

Egypt, street scene

How could they be so calloused? I thought. That boy just died, and they “turned to their affairs”?

I now understand that we must often turn to our affairs despite tragedy or else nothing would get done. Held down, scarred over, and silenced with whiteout, our memories remain, but we move on. There’s even a sort of stoic courage there.

Egypt has resurfaced in the news as the violence worsens. As of this writing, the mainstream media has confirmed over 800 people dead since unrest began. That doesn’t count the thousands of injured. The burned churches. The torched and dismantled government buildings. The barricades. The shattered lives. The unconfirmed dead. The fear.

Another teacher I worked with reported on a blog how a priest she knows was riding in car when a man with a knife started chasing him. The fast-thinking driver saved the priest’s life.

“Today this same priest told me that priests in Egypt fear being led like sheep to the slaughter,” the teacher wrote.  

It’s one image in a complicated mosaic.

“It was a hell,” a doctor said about the violence a few weeks ago. I can’t imagine what he’d say now, with hundreds dying and motorcycles carrying bodies back from front lines to makeshift morgues in mosques.

I, too, worry about the friends I made, the places I saw, the people I shook hands with. They are more than statistics. The grease and dust from their hands has washed off, but I still feel it. I still hear their stories, remember their smiles. Every update makes me think of them.

I want to mourn or fight, but I must “turn to my affairs”–so says that voice inside my head, that voice that points to all the practical, at-hand problems I must deal with: loans, money, drivers’ tests, GRE exams, messy kitchens.

I’m getting them done, but my mind is still in Egypt.

Continue reading “Egypt: a reaction”

On Frasier and Leaving The Past Behind

I’ve been watching a lot of Frasier the last few weeks. Maybe it’s a hankering for something funnier than today’s formulaic television comedies, or it’s probably just that the show is wickedly entertaining.

from fanpop.com
from fanpop.com

The 90s powerhouse comedy features Kelsey Grammer as the titular Dr. Frasier Crane,a pseudo-intellectual radio psychiatrist trying to get through life despite his multiple character flaws. He’s joined by his equally pseudo-intellectual psychiatrist brother Niles, his retired cop father and his snarky British housekeeper as he weaves through a series of unfortunate shenanigans.

In the episode “Seat of Power,” the Crane brothers attempt to fix a leaky toilet to prove to their father they can do more than recite Faulkner and wax poetic on a particularly good vintage. Of course, they fail miserably and call in a plumber; in a twist, the plumber is one of Niles’s high-school tormentors.

Niles wants no more than to shove his foe’s head into the toilet, giving him a “swirly,” the torture he endured many time in high school. Frasier talks him out of it, instead urging him to tout his success: the “living well” revenge.

When that backfires (the plumber drives a Mercedes and has a fulfilling marriage), Frasier recommends Niles simply talk it out with the bully. Though Frasier ignores his own advice when he takes a toilet-water infused revenge on a second bully-turned-plumber, Niles comes to terms with his aggressor and moves forward, settling some 20 years of pent-up anger.

You may wonder what my point is, but I was struck with how well Niles and Frasier’s misadventure mirrored my own struggles with leaving high school resentments behind.

Continue reading “On Frasier and Leaving The Past Behind”

Starlight and renewal

Sometimes, when I’m tired or lost I look at old writing. It reminds me where I camestars1.jpg from, what has always mattered, and where I ought to go. Today, as I struggled to write a blog post, I sorted through old files and notebooks.

I found this, a reflection from fall of my junior year. It was a hard semester, as I’ve referenced before, but it many ways, it set my foundation. In the midst of that darkness, I found my passions and insecurities. I found my self.

I think this particular reflection captures a lot of that. It also hits at the seed that inspired this entire blog: the fusion of life and philosophy that makes “backyard philosophy.”

I repost it in full below, only edited for grammar. We all need reminders now and then.

Continue reading “Starlight and renewal”

Orwellian tea advice

I enjoy a nice “cuppa tea.” Sometimes, especially on cold, drizzly days, I add milk.

The tea drinker himself, Eric Blair, a.k.a., George Orwell
The tea drinker himself, Eric Blair, a.k.a., George Orwell

Whenever I do, I always try to remember Orwell’s eleven charmingly British rules on the craft, even if I don’t follow most of them.

When he wasn’t trying to shoot an elephant as a colonial police officer, dawning work clothes to blend in with London’s lower classes, or battling the strangling reach of totalitarianism–Orwell drank tea. And as you can see from the newspaper column, he loved tea a great deal.

I hope you enjoy it, and for an audio version of him saying a few rules, click here.

Cheers.

The Quest for Peace

Something I wrote before: “I am not like yesterday. Not yet tomorrow. I am today.” This line returns to me like a long slow breath, stretching syllables until they share the weight of my body and soul.   And then I remember what I lack, what I fear, what I need for “today” to be here with me as my present self. Because tomorrow I will say, “I am not like yesterday.” Thoughts are my enemies, but I learned that peace is something that never ceases to exist. It’s there. But peace is humble; it doesn’t seek our attention. In lieu, we must be the ones to pursue it—or perhaps, realize peace.

The quest for peace in our days is a labyrinth with its dark tunnels and hidden passageways. I am in this maze just as much as you are.  But I have discovered that the peace is the maze itself. Or maybe not? Well, I am still living and learning. Ten or twenty years from now I might assemble a different perspective on peace. But, as of now, I am taking a stop in my travels, so I can let my life stir what it has collected over the years.

Within the stream of my thoughts and endless needs and desires, I can feel the weight of the world dropping on my hands like tiny seeds waiting to be planted in my head. And within my fears and doubts, I can distinguish which seeds I had actually considered to plant ten years ago.

I am not drawn to gardening at all, but if I had the influence, I would. As of now, I am tending the garden in my head and, especially, my heart.

Peace grows where we unite ourselves to the soul of peace.

I don’t want to say the ground of peace or the core of peace, but rather the soul—the soul is its life, its true breath. The soul is an intimate substance. It is where the encounter of our essence and intangibility gaze at each other as lovers do before they depart. The only difference is that the makeup of our soul never leaves—it is us. And we make that precious encounter with peace when we contemplate on its authenticity as opposed to the benefits or outcomes of peace itself. In a similar way, we make that distinctive encounter with ourselves when we contemplate on the intimate reality that we possess in our souls. Not in yesterday’s reasons and excuses or tomorrow’s goals and desires, but today’s moment. Peace is for today; it’s meant for today. And it’s meant for us and it longs for each of our distinctive union.

As I have mentioned before, peace is humble, so it is not ignorant or oblivious to its own beauty and power. As each fear or troubling thought marks its territory in my mind, peace remains quiet and patient because it knows I have to make the effort to enter into its sanctuary.

We must humble ourselves to encounter peace. We must admit our faults and frustrations and realize that there are things in life we do not have control over. Deep inside ourselves, we are vulnerable and powerless. Deep inside ourselves, we fail to remember our human quality which is truly vital to recognize as we face our struggles and disappointments. But, we, most importantly, overlook the active presence of our soul that is oftentimes deadened by our fleeting pursuits of unnecessary and damaging ambitions. And, yet, peace still waits for us. Underneath, above, in between our angst and fears and concerns—peace is there. It exists. It exists. It exists.

The Amazon Post or Why Print Was Already Dead

HighTalk

AmazonPost2

One of my PR colleagues had this reaction to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, buying the Washington Post.

“This really is the end of an era for print media as we know it.”

My reaction?

Where have you been?

Print media, particularly print newspapers, official kicked the bucket in 2009 – after a long and agonizing death. In fact, 2009 was so painfully grim for print media that I dubbed it the year of the Great Media Collapse.

It was epic.

2009 ended with more than 14,000 journalism jobs gone forever. It ended with circulation rates at 1940s levels. It saw the end of dozens of newspapers including mainstay dailies in Tucson, Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore and Denver. Heck, in 2009, Businessweek was sold for less than the price of a really nice condo in Manhattan.

The situation has continued to deteriorate at a startling rate.

The Pew Research…

View original post 435 more words

Checking in

Hey all,

So I didn’t get a chance to write a solid blog post. The muse wasn’t with me, and my nephew was too busy requesting me to sing the scarecrow song from the Wizard of Oz as we danced around the room–or rather, as I danced with him on my back.

That said, I apologize. But I wanted to give a quick update about things, so it works out.

First of all, I have a “new” page on the blog: a list of helpful sites for brain candy, philosophy resources, and other tidbits from around the Internet. If you have some, feel free to comment there. I’ll try to update it now and then.

Second, I put up a list of books I’ve been reading, paired with a brief review. As I explain there, it may give some insight about where I’m coming from on the posts and offer possible titles if you want to broaden your own reading list. If you have suggestions, I’d be happy to give them a whirl–and who knows, I may even find time to review!

Third, you may have noticed the guest post this past week from my friend “blackbyrd.” I hope to have more posts from other writers mid-week. Feel free to stop in and see them Wednesday or Thursday. If you have an interesting reflection, thought, or experience that may fit on the blog, feel free to comment below. It may end up there as well.

The bigger the forum, the bigger the fun.

Fourth, I finally upgraded to backyardphilosophy01.com, without that extra .wordpress. addendum. I’ll be exploring that as time goes on and may change up the blog’s look. It’s been a while.

Fifth, I’m planning on writing a few hubs once I get more familiar with their system. Hubs are a neat little addition to the Web. They’re collections of long-form posts focused on how-to discussions or information-dense topics–like how to write a good introduction. I’ll try to post the links if they’re relevant.

And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, commenting, and liking my posts. I’ll keep up my end of the deal with the reading, writing, and posting.

As Sartre said, “There is no art except for and by others.” Art exists, like flavor, through a communion of the object and the subject–the sender and the receiver. The compounds to create flavor in an apple, but “sweetness” doesn’t exist until someone takes a bite. Likewise, “art” is all about the “aesthetic experience” of the observer and the creation of the artist. At least, that’s what the subjectivists would say.

…And would you look at that, a bit of philosophy after all! Take care and stay skeptical, curious, and thoughtful.

-Brett