Charlie's Blog: Kashmir

12.12.2015

Kashmir


Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.
MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI

I have a backlog of blog post ideas, but they all require focus which I can never seem to achieve on a saturday morning even after a cup of coffee or two. But this is not a problem for me since I can write these unfocused pieces. I have never understood people who complain of writer's block since you could always write about writer's block. Writing is often about overcoming the hurdles to writing.

In recent news, I turned 45. I outlived David Foster Wallace who offed himself at age 44. I have never read any of his work, and I doubt you can find anything brilliant in a tome from a suicidal man. From personal experience, I can say that atheism drives you down that path of self-destruction. Life becomes a series of games and tricks to keep yourself in a game that you know will be lost. Thank God and our Blessed Mother that I am not in that pit of darkness anymore.

There's not much that I can say about turning a year older. I recommend a vegan diet and as much physical exercise as your body can take. As for your brain, play chess and musical instruments. Of course, I do neither, but I have dabbled. In the meantime, I read and write. That plus caffeine keeps my wit sharp. But even my bad jokes can be covered by my insane evil laugh that generates more laughter than any quip I make.

Recently, I have been hating my job, and I like to blame the job. But I have come to see that much of that hatred has stemmed from my own thinking about things. Basically, I have become bored with work, and boredom is antithetical to flow. Realizing what I had come to, I endeavored to produce more flow, and it worked. Let me explain a bit.

Flow is that sensation when you lose yourself in an activity. It is how I feel when I write on this blog. In short, I am a flow addict. Flow makes you lose sense of time, and you find yourself fully engaged in whatever you are doing. It is what a surfer feels when he plays hooky from school or work and spends an entire day catching waves. The problem with our surfer friend is that his flow and his living are separate, so he ends up living on the beach because he could no longer make rent.

I believe it is possible to find flow in virtually anything. For some reason, I forgot that elemental lesson, and I compounded my misery. But now that I remember it, my mindset has improved considerably as I try to lose myself in whatever it is that I do. Happiness in this life comes from activity. We can call that activity "play" or "work," but it all amounts to the same thing.

This rememberance of flow has done much to alleviate my frustration over hating my job. I can't change the job, but I can change me. It also has settled another frustration for me which has been dealing with whether I should try and simpify my life following the advice of Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits or try and be more ambitious in tackling projects via the dictum of Machiavelli to make mistakes of ambition instead of sloth. The conclusion that I have reached is a syzygy of material simplicity with mental and physical ambition. I have written about it before, but I have become more firm in that decision and mindset.

My model for this lifestyle are the many priests and religious who live lives of dramatic simplicity and poverty but who fill their days with prayer, work, reading, service, and the like. Most people imagine their lives as empty because they don't own a bunch of stuff. But we know better, don't we? Show me a glutton for material things, and I will show you a life of emptiness. You are not the things you own.

I intend to work more, write more, read more, pray more, serve more, and do more. Life must be active not some passive Zen thing. That is a key difference between Christianity and Buddhism. While the Buddha tells you to go sit under a tree, our Lord Jesus Christ tells you to get off your ass. Salvation of the soul does not happen by accident. You have to work for it. And there is joy in that work.