Existential Angst

My blog is to honor my father and children that have passed away as I search for meaning in their loss.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


There is a saying, I once heard, in Buddhism that goes something like, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” I have always thought of this as the truth that one should stay humble and simple. Like a superman in disguise, one should keep their “day job” even thought they are at one with the universe.

There is another side to this truth. If one is in the dark, hoping that the room is filled with presents all with your name on them, the light may not bring happiness. You may be surprised by the illumination of the waste and destruction all around you, that was always there, but you could blissfully ignore.

Now you must carry water and chop wood not just to drink and eat but now you see yourself as a part of a system and your place in it. You must chop wood. You must carry water. Others don’t have too, but you are not one of them. If others would just give a little, you could have a lot, but they will never give anything to you.

Buddhist dedicate a lot of time to this issue. They try to explain that you could be reborn into a better position in life if you just keep carrying water and chopping wood. If you give up everything and be a monk, you might be Buddha in the next life.

For what enlightenment I might have, all I know is that it is very frustrating. Since I have been following my dreams, I have come to understand a lot about myself. I see my reality much more clearly. I feel the presence of God in my life. I know my soul deeply wants this life. I can deeply love my wife and child with complete abandon. I want to live like it is my last day, but I have a mortgage to pay. I want to sing and play music with friends but I have to work on the house. I know it is very small of me to complain about what 90% of other people in world would love to have which is just one more reason to prove that I’m not very enlighten at all. I guess tomorrow I’ll be chopping wood and carrying water.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Grieving Native

What does it mean to be grieving? Over the past five years I have lost four children and a father and a grand father. To understand grief, I think I can make a relation to the concept in Maine over how we make a big deal about being a native born Mainer, a “transplant” who moved from somewhere else to Maine or worst of all, you might be a tourist.

Tourists are the worst because they come to Maine for a short time but yet try to tell us what to do with our forests, ocean and sunshine but don’t understand in any way how we live with them. When a tourist tells us to stop cutting trees, which puts us out of work on land that has cultivated trees meant for forestry, we get mad at them.

Transplants are far more difficult because they can vote, but without a heritage of living from these resources they think we are killing our resources by making our lives from it. Though there are more lobsters in the ocean off the coast of Maine then there has ever been, transplants want more restrictions on the fisheries. I think the lobstermen are doing a find job if they can leave a resource better than when they found it.

Natives of Maine grieve. They see what knee-jerk, short-sighted environmentalist from out of state are doing do our way of life, versus what the native Mainer lives with everyday for whom love the Maine environment and give there lives to it. We see what our own government does to keep our state in poverty under a so called liberal agenda but whose ideas are far from progressive. We pay more for taxes, insurance, housing and almost everything else than our close neighbor New Hampshire. Because we know the difference between what should be happening and what is happening, we grieve.

I think this idea of tourist, transplant and native is true for those who have lost loved ones. We have coworkers who think they are doing the right thing by trying to “talk about it” with us. They are just tourists staying just long enough to make themselves feel better about it. I find that I have to lavish them with forgiveness. They really don’t know what they are talking about and though it is painful to me, they really think they are doing the right thing (in some cases). It is best to forgive and forget them.

Transplants to grieving are the friend-of-a-friend grievers. They are the ones who had a good friend from college that went through what you are going through. They are tough to deal with because they do have good information. Somehow thought the story ends with the friend has gone down a spiral so they now live in gutter or blew their brains out. I guess the motto is, don’t be like them.

Then there are the natives to grieving. It will be the person that does something for you without comments or expectations. They know that you don’t need to be warned about anything. If they tell you their story, it is because you asked. Grievers know that silence is the only thing next to God that cannot be reduced or divided and what you really need is God and some quiet time. So if you ask, implied or spoken, their story always ends with, “…and now, I’m here with you.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

Life Changing

I have been thinking about the term “Life Changing”. I’ve been undergoing dramatic changes in my inner-life but to the outside observer I can’t believe you’d notice the difference. I drive the same car, live in the same house and am doing the same things. How I feel about these things and my dreams and goals for my life have changed completely. This seems to be ironic that I can be a different person but do the same things.

I could have a life changing event by having my house burnt to the ground, the car stolen and my job lost. It would certainly lead to a lot of changes in my life. When you loose a loved one like a parent or a child, you loose something Inside of your life. The material goods in your life now hold a new meaning and have a new dimension. This dimension for the most part brings sadness to your inner-self as you reflect on the last time they were in your house, your car or what they thought about your job and your life.

This dimension of remorse is a dimension to your life that is always there, but doesn’t show up until it has an emotional impact. This is the real life changing event, the realization that everything in your life doesn’t have just three dimensions. Your things don’t just occupy space and a job isn’t just series of motions over time. I have come to realize that how I feel about the things around me, change me.

My two year old proves this every time he becomes excited about mundane events such as a favorite TV show, seeing a favorite toy or learning something new. Child-like enthusiasm comes from understanding his relationship to the world. He knows that he can be happy about things. He sees this dimension of emotion in everything.

So, I think “life changing” really means becoming conscious of the emotional dimension around us. With this knowledge, we can change our lives and draw close to us that which has meaning and power while removing the things that hold us down and keep us from feeling good.

At the most profound level, understanding that the world around us has an emotional dimension, means that we can change our minds about things and those things will change on that dimension. How I feel about my job is a reflection of the emotional dimension but I can change how I feel about it which changes the job. I can be angry at someone or the memory of someone, and they will reflect the anger back at me every time I think of them. I can forgive them and have that forgiveness reflected back to me, not in the three dimensional world (they may still despise me) but my anger doesn’t work against me as I think of them. To me, that is the real life changing event, to stop working against yourself.