The Rambling Review: Aging, Patience, and Letting Go

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

-Alan Watts

The light of one torch begins to flicker, but as soon as one light dies, another is lit, continuing the tradition onto the twenty-fifth year. Yes, I have turned twenty five, so for this Rambling Review I wanted to talk about aging, patience, and letting go.

 

I know what you’re thinking: twenty five is too young to be thinking about aging. However, for me, thinking about aging is imperative to my existence, not only for my own life, but also for the life of my objects. When we look at our lives, we try to think of who we are not what we are encumbered by, but today I realized all the dead weight I have been carrying. All the times I have moved I have dragged so much with me, so this week I challenge you to do a bit of spring cleaning. When aging we try to keep to things to feel sentimental, and while that is nice to a certain extent, in my opinion these things weigh you down. When I worked in video business I once did a bit of wedding videography. I talked to fellow professionals, and they explained the video was “for Grandma to watch once.” Thinking about this further, I thought about the life and the aging of our objects; how many things do we keep for sentimental reasons or for the hope that we will need them again for some use in the distance future? Even today, when going through old clothing I tried to imagine the last time I had worn them and was hard pressed to find an answer. The undeniable fact in life is that we are always transforming; life is impermanence, and each day is one less we will have on this planet. But life is also like a river: it flows and crashes, a series of moments of crashing waters, moments of slow streams, yet altogether one river.

 

In life, we make milestones to try to conceptualize our age. For example, at eighteen you become a man, but this is a very superficial number. Only in the Western Culture today is this the case, and even then it’s debatable; you can be drafted, yes, but you cannot legally have a drink of alcohol, so where do you define the line?  In certain tribes in South Africa (this applying for even Nelson Mandela), the right of passage into manhood is a ritual circumcision, a month-long process. But is this what defines a man? This line can even go as far as killing another person as was a way of proving yourself as a man (this being the case in many gang cultures and violence-drenched societies). The point I’m trying to make is that as a society, we have certain expectations with aging, whether it is having a family, a large bank account, a car, a home, a success, a dog, a cat, etc. But things are hardly so black and white; one success today might bring a failure tomorrow, and as people, we are never satisfied with ourselves. As time goes on we expect more out of lives, whether it’s the fancier car or the fancier life, we keep yearning for more.

 

So if life is impermanence, what’s the point? This is one of the many criticisms Eastern Philosophy has. It is seen as a very gloomy philosophy.“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” -Alan Watts. The truth Alan Watts points out here is that no matter what we do, we cannot escape change. No matter what we covet to keep, it is impossible to keep things as they are all the time. The same goes with aging, moments, objects, ideas, and relationships. As we get older, we realize what we lose over the years; friends drift apart, our ideas change, even the objects we once yearned for no long keep our interest. What Alan Watts talks about is embracing that change.We know no matter what we do we cannot stop the world in this moment, so it is about appreciating the moment and the things in it. I am optimistic about the future, but I’m more optimistic about the present; the fact that someone else is reading my writing is a gift. Though I’d like to keep my 23 year old body, that is not possible, and that’s okay, because even though I can’t see it, I’m optimistic of moments to come and present now.
Thanks for reading! See you next Friday!

The Rambling Review: Logotherapy, Stoicism, and the Alexander Technique

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Welcome to another week of the Rambling Review. This week is about Stoicism, Logotherapy, and The Alexander Technique.  (NOTE WE HAVE CHANGED WEBADDRESS TO http://www.theramblingreview.com FROM NOW ON POSTS WILL BE THERE)

Last week the quote was “know thyself” and this week is a follow up to the idea of self analysis.

The quote comes from Viktor E. Frankl, the author of the critically acclaimed best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. This book chronicles Viktor’s survival in a Nazi Concentration Camp and his search for meaning in life during and after his experience. The book is split up into two sections: The first portion of the book follows Viktor through his time as a prisoner in a concentration camp and the cruel acts against him and his other inmates. Further to this personal history Viktor explains his emotions and how using his own techniques he was able to master his mind. Viktor’s approach led him to create a form of therapy known as Logotherapy, Logotherapy is based on the existential analysis of one’s meaning to live. Viktor explains this theory primarily in the second portion of his book explaining how his life came to have some meaning by helping those around him during and after World War Two. To best capture the beauty and triumph of Viktor I will use a quote from the book.

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“… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

 

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….”

The crux of Viktor’s experience is that despite what may happen to man, he still has his freedom to choose how to accept the events that have befallen him. Logotherapy’s mission is to expand one’s mind to fill the void of emptiness with purpose. To learn more about Logotherapy refer to http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/e/logotherapy.html

However, Viktor’s ideas were not original, as with many things ideas are borrowed and transformed over the years. Victor was a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist, so he created Logotherapy around the paradigm of Freud and Alder, although the philosophy behind this originates as far back as Socrates, perhaps even further.

stoicism

Socratic teachings are based around virtue rather than materialistic, fortune, or reputational gain. This teaching is similar to Viktor’s sense of purpose while in the Concentration camp, like Viktor’s statement that a man can achieve fulfillment by enduring sufferings in the right way. Socrates would most likely agree with as his own death was escapable but Socrates decided to take his death in a graceful virtuous manner.  And after Socrates’ death philosophy began to bloom, ideas changed and schools of different thoughts were founded. In the 3rd century BC the school of Stoicism was founded. Similar to Socrates’ ideas Stoics believe that “virtue is sufficient for happiness.” Since Ancient Roman times Stoicism nearly died out, but in the past few years Stoicism has been gaining more and more popularity. The basis of Stoicism is a series of principles of how to perceive the world, and control your own emotions. To get a good review of not only what Stoicism is and it’s roots but also the principals I highly recommend this book Stoicism the Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine.

http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/0195374614

The basis of Stoicism is being self aware, that through our self awareness and the application of our intellect we reason above our emotions. Through reasoning one can overcome negative emotions. We should also use our reasoning ability to master our desires, to the extent that it is possible to do so. In particular we should use reason to convince ourselves that things such as fame and fortune aren’t worth having- not at any rate, if what we seek is tranquility– and therefore aren’t worth pursuing. Likewise we should use our reasoning ability to convince ourselves that even though certain activities are pleasurable, engaging in those activities will disrupt our tranquility, and the tranquility will outweigh the pleasure gained. By questioning our actions after the fact, we become more aware of how we responded to a situation and can observe why we acted in a way we did. Stoics observe our thinking process: our fixations on worry and instability.Thus Stoics would reason that we should not worry on things outside of our control because it’s illogical and unproductive. Rather we should deal with things that are under our control or partially under our control. Whether we said the wrong thing or not is incidental because it has already happened, we can only observe how we reacted to after that.

Further to observation I would like to present you with the Alexander Technique, the art of posturing. The Alexander technique is a series of lessons on posture and spine positioning to alleviate pains in muscles, and mental tension in everyday activities. As like Stoicism this is a whole school of thought and one blog post cannot hope to divulge the full scope of this philosophy, having said that I would like to refer you to this website article on sitting at a desk using the Alexander technique.

http://www.freeyourneck.com/full-article-list/learn-how-to-sit-at-your-desk-with-the-alexander-technique/

It may sound very simple to sit at a desk but many of us are doing it very wrong. When we sit back and observe our habits we realize how we are overusing or underusing our body. For me working at a desk typing for hours at time caused me a lot of pain, when using the Alexander technique I noticed how often I would slouch and let my feet only touch the ground by my toes. By placing my feet on the ground I redistributed my weight and have been able to improve my back pains just from applying one small portion of this principal. For more information on the Alexander technique check out

http://www.alexandertechnique.com/.

So that’s this week in review, feel free to investigate these techniques yourself. Whole books have been written about these subjects so this blog just intends to wet your appetite, if you like some more suggestions feel free to ask or suggest some yourself! Also as a throwback to the post two weeks ago I mentioned Louie was returning to FX, it has returned and hasn’t disappointed check out this link to see a portion of season 4’s hillariousiness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0g3q_4kZnU

Thanks for reading, happy Friday, see you next week!

The Rambling Review: Mindfulness, Creativity, and Productivity

Mindfulness, Creativity, and Productivity

 

Happy Friday! Another week has gone by, and this week I have focused my attention on one aphorism: “Know Thyself.” This Ancient Greek phrase has been quoted and used a million times over; however, the profound question persists today, who am I?

knowthyself

Know Thyself: Temple of Apollo Reconstruction

Take a look at old picture of yourself. A Zen Buddhist teacher would ask you “Who is that in the picture?” The knee jerk reaction is: “That’s me!” But the teacher goes back and says “How can it be you? You aren’t that age, you don’t look like that.” The common response now is that was me. But how could it not be you? The answer the teacher is looking for is “That was me, and it is me.” Zen Buddhist teachings rely heavily on riddles, such as what is the sound of a one-handed clap? The idea is to change your paradigm on what is and what isn’t: the Beginners Mind. The Beginner’s Mind concept is to be as open with things as possible, in the moment, mindfulness (or Zen). When we look back at the picture, our immediate reaction is to think in a particular way, to distinguish and characterize what we see, compartmentalizing our sense of self. The Zen method is to question yourself, or know thyself, knowing consciously that though that is where you have come from and is part of who you are, it isn’t who you are now; your mind has changed, your cells have died and new ones have taken your place.

This week I have been reading a practice book of sorts called “How to Train a Wild Elephant” by Jan Chozen Bays. http://www.amazon.com/How-Train-Wild-Elephant-Mindfulness/dp/1590308174

The purpose of the book is a series of little tasks or challenges to bring you into your conscious awareness. These tasks can be as simple as using only your left hand at certain tasks like brushing your teeth or eating with chopsticks. The object of these tasks are to be mindful and appreciative of the small things in life, rather than being lost in your mind.

Further to the concept of expanding your mind, I have to talk about Creativity. For me, Zen and creativity are symbiotically attached to one another. From my personal experience, writing comes from an inner voice; the words appear on paper when the writing comes from your soul. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of New York Times bestselling “Eat, Pray, Love,” attributes this to an inner “Genius.” http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius On this Ted Talk, Elizabeth explains where the word “genius” comes from. It’s root is a Muse rather than something of genetic origin. As a writer, the concept of a Genius possessing me and giving me words to type is an appealing one, though I believe a more methodical approach is necessary. I suggest everyone to question any method or idea that I present, and I think Elizabeth’s approach has merit. However, I believe that in an attempt to shield the author from self criticism by appointing the “Genius” as the source of writing, the “Genius” creates barriers for writing. Procrastination is an ugly creature, and blame is major contributor to this. About to go for a run? Oh you can’t because your iPod isn’t charged. About to start writing? Oh I can’t because these floors are just too dirty. This type of thinking changes our attention from what is important by making procrastination easier to do. Even quieting the mind takes effort; we procrastinate on this Zen experience as well by filling the void with tasks. However, if we look at Elizabeth’s Genius as a process of writing, it is essential to clear our minds and attempt to let the ideas come organically. Various writers use all sorts of different conditions to generate this environment, but it is concentrated around certain events in order to achieve this state of mind. In the book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey, http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Rituals-How-Artists-Work/dp/0307273601 he explores hundreds of artists’, writers’, and composers’ methodologies for achieving their results. This book a very interesting read, if even just to see the madness of some authors, from authors binge drinking or drug use to subjection of their thoughts and efforts to particular times and schedules. Regardless of your methodology, expanding your mind tends to take a very concerted effort even to get the organic results.

And speaking about results brings me to my last treasure of today, HabitRPG. http://www.Habitrpg.com is a website designed for you to create a program for you to develop and track your habits.

habitrpg

 

It may seem like a very silly concept: you have a 2d avatar of yourself which you develop by completing real-life tasks, and in exchange, you level up and gain gold. The gold you purchase on either your own rewards (gaming, wine, magnum chocolate, etc.), or you can buy in-game awards (new swords, shields, armor…) that help you defend against tasks you forget about or gain you more gold for completing tasks. As silly as this sounds, the game plays on human psychology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment)

to help you excel at real-life tasks. By giving you immediate consequences for not completing tasks and immediate rewards for doing particular tasks, you get a sense of how you are performing in particular aspects or aspirations in your life. The software helps you track how well you are doing in order to hit the coveted day 28 mark (the assumed day when most people make a task into a habit). Although the game may be a bit silly, I have found it to be not only one of the most effective free services, but also one of the most detailed and measurable services available on mobile devices and the internet. If you are trying to develop new habits, I would look into this.

Going back to the initial aphorism, “Know Thyself,” I challenge you to try to expand your mind and measure your results. We often do this without consciously thinking about our actions and when we reflect Why did I do that? The answer is often I don’t know. I challenge you to rethink your own paradigms, attempt to be more mindful and conscious in your actions, and try something different to measure your results. As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” Hope to see you next Friday!

The Rambling Review: Jazz, Google, and Louie C.K.

Hello again! It’s another Friday and another Rambling Review! If you haven’t had a chance to check out the other articles, feel free to look them over on the side. This Friday we have another roundup of the week, talking over Jazz, Google Docs, and Louie C.K.

Recently, I have been working on a lot more writing; I find great pleasure in it and hope to pursue larger projects with it. Now that my college life is over, so ends my student discounts and thus one of the many reasons I decided to choose Google Docs over Microsoft Word. Google Docs offers a free word processor program online via your Google account. If you have Gmail (or Google Plus), you can access Google Docs. The free program has a lot of great features that most people don’t realize are even there, including a definitions search within the program, a research search, and shared editing. In fact, all Rambling Review articles are written via Google Docs.

 

Here is a great article I found for some of the hidden great features of the program.

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-google-docs-features-youre-probably-not-using-1570728322

In order to combat the success of Google Docs, Microsoft’s new Word also includes a similar online version of Word, though the price is $9.99 per month. The idea is that you can use your Microsoft Office on your tablet and all your devices (up to 5 devices.) There are good things to be said of both programs, but also negatives. When it comes to compatibility, 9 out of 10 times I have had no problems with Google Docs, especially when it comes to saving or sharing. The only problem I have found with compatibility with Docs has been importing a Microsoft .docx format file where one picture was removed. While in Microsoft 365, problems still exist with opening PDFs, and syncing up files on mobile devices.

My biggest issues so far with Google Docs have been the spell check/grammar check and resizing pages. For no apparent reason, some words can appear underlined as if you have spelled incorrectly, but in actuality there is no problem with it. Mostly these errors will disappear after a moment or two, but not all the time; it is very annoying to second-guess yourself. When resizing, I have had an issue with determining the spacing between pages, for example if you normally view the screen at 150% zoom on one computer, then you move to another that’s 75%, you may find the spacing between pages incorrect (assuming you are breaking pages apart with returns).

However, the main reason I love Google Docs is the simplicity and the autosaving feature. With every moment I pause typing, Google saves my words. If I only had Google Docs years before, I could have saved pages worth of words when Microsoft Word froze and shut down. Now I no longer have to worry if I have a USB stick; because everything is saved online Google Docs, it’s always with me.

And as I’m working on my Google Docs article, I am using another Google service, Youtube, to stream music. Now this isn’t exactly a novel idea, but in the past few years, Youtube has fought hard and paid a lot of money to get the licensing rights to stream music.

This isn’t always the case with every artist, but there is a lot of music out there that is freely available. If you’re a Jazz fan, here are a few good choices: Cal Tjader, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Paul Desmond. Fortunately for you, there is also a fantastic Youtube playlist full of album after album of Jazz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLab0TzZCtk&list=RDGLab0TzZCtk.

Duke Ellington

Now last, but certainly not least, Louie C.K. I mention this because on May 5th at 10pm on FX, Louie returns from a 19 month hiatus.

Louie C.K. is a brilliant comedian, and his television show, Louie, is a masterpiece of his brilliance. Louie is centered around the life of Louie C.K., which follows his comedy circuit and life as a father. This comedy is more of a melodrama; it strikes a fine balance between comedy and drama. Louie is a father of two young girls and shows his struggles of being a father, comedian, and trying to find someone special. In this series, you follow his life, and along the way, the offbeat comedy keeps the show driving along. Just when you think you know a scene, something off the wall happens and hilarity ensues.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out Louie, it’s on Netflix, and Season 4 starts on May 5th. Thanks for reading, and hopefully you will enjoy the Jazz, and if you are thinking of a new processor or working on a collaborative project, give Google Docs a try.  See you next Friday!