I Let Go

I often engage in conversations with friends and family whose political and social beliefs differ from mine.

The core divergence almost inevitably lands on personal responsibility vs. environmental impact arguments.

Politicized nature vs. nurture, I suppose.

The trees or the Forest.

Another analogy I like, but which I always need to explain so it’s ultimately sucky as a concise teaching tool, is looking out of a telescope the intended way (…or forest) vs. looking out of a telescope through the other side (…uh, trees).  Too much, right?  I know, but I like it.  So now I’ve delivered to you in a complex linguistic package because, dammit, that’s how I roll.

I’ve generally fallen on the side of arguing for nurture/environment/history/forest, particularly as it relates to the current state of historically oppressed, colonized, enslaved, or otherwise marginalized communities.  I realize that I’ve come a long way from where anyone might have predicted given my socioeconomic status at birth.  However, even then I tend to look toward critical human influencers/teachers/gurus in addition to systemic social safety nets and supports (i.e. welfare, food stamps, free lunch, no lead, free healthcare, federal post-secondary education grants, being born a straight white Christian male, and low interest loans with interest deferments) along the way rather than my pure self-determination.

Thus, this makes me more liberal and them more conservative.  I guess.  But nothing is ever that simple.

I’ve enumerated the salient conversational points from these recent interactions.

  1. I am a self-made man, personally responsible for all of my behaviors, successes and failures. Get out of my way and allow me to continue this journey of self-determined, dogged, eventual independence and realization.
  2. I am a man socially determined, born into a familial context and community that leverages permissions and constraints according to predetermined norms and rules and a socioeconomic milieu which, at least in part if not largely, determines my accessibility and exposure to experiences that determine my knowledge, passion, and drive toward independence and realization.
  3. I am a man made of the historical thread that led to the blip of occurrence I call “my life,” a flame passed from candle to candle across generations and millennia.
  4. I am a man bound by genetic and biological prescription.
  5. Everything is chance.
  6. All things are predetermined.
  7. There is an ultimate reality (i.e. God[s]) beyond my ability to perceive that is/are personal and directly impacting “my life.”
  8. There is an ultimate reality (i.e. god, tao [the way/truth], buddha-nature [impermanence]) beyond my ability to perceive that is impersonal and general, pervasive yet having no specific “care” for my comings, goings, and doings.
  9. There is no ultimate reality (e.g. atheism, nihlism) beyond what we can and have perceived.
  10. There are possibilities I am not considering here.
  11. Any or no combination of the above might be true.   It depends. (On?) I don’t know.

All of these assertions comprise things that one might think or believe and are not necessarily different constructs of reality or ultimate truth.  Furthermore, I’ve become attached to my “I think/believe…” constructs so fully that my brain interprets them as absolute truth and then I approach the world from a distorted, biased, narrow view.  And when I meet you, if your distorted, biased, narrow view generally aligns with mine, we become friends.  Otherwise, we become enemies.

But none of that helps.  And none of it IS TRUE.

I’m basing decisions, judgments, and behaviors purely on a fiction created in my head.

And so are you.

Because…if you’re reading this you’re human, and that’s what humans do.

So then, rereading the above list I ask myself, “What do you believe?”

It’s 11, and since it’s 11 that means I need to travel the earth with greater present-mindfulness, self-reflection, awareness, contemplation, openness, and optimistic skepticism.

Why optimistic?  Because it feels better.  Not necessarily right.  But better.

Ultimately, THIS is the conversation I want to be having with as many people as are willing to engage.  Furthermore, if I desire to have a more representative sample of “everyone,” then I must seek people who generally oppose the worldview (2+3+4+8+10) to which I’ve traditionally clung like a security blanket tied to the top of a hundred story building in gusting winds.

It’s time to let go.

What’s the worst that can happen?

I’m wrong.

You’re right.

We die not knowing in any case.

But right now, we’re all alive and those possibilities are perfectly acceptable.

So why do I continue to cling?

Because dying scares me.

Because being wrong scares me.

And because dying being wrong terrifies me.

That’s STILL no reason to cling.

So…I let go.

-G

Girl With a Balloon (Banksy)

Sven Diagram (Del Norris 2.4)

See that title?

Yep.

Those are the words that escaped (“exscaped”) my mouth (“mouf”) anytime I attempted to say, “Venn Diagram,” until approximately my fortieth birthday.  Not 14th. 40th. Four…zero…th.  Hell, if I have an intense enough buzz going, it still pops out (“aht”).

Sven diagram.

Think about that, you might have found yourself interacting with a grown-ass, literate, fairly intelligent man who thought it was perhaps a recipe illustration from the Swedish chef.

Mork-Mork-Mork.

SMDH.

Anyway, here you are.  You’ve arrived at the conclusion of the Del Norris two-point series.

We talk about people who saved my life, bad ball hauling, and art teachers.

What the eff does that mean?

Listen to find out.

We present to you, “Sven Diagram (Del Norris 2.4)”

And Chance the Rapper.  Dude is exceptional.

(source of sven diagram)

Om Mani Padme Hum

In my head, I judge.

And I tease.

Often the thoughts are violent.

Why do I think these things? (It’s like a reflex, but not a reflex of self-preservation.  Rather the opposite, self-destruction.)

How do I stop? (At moments like this, the endeavor seems impossible.  It’s like stomping on roaches after the lights are turned on.  Like trapping greased chickens.  Like fast-forward whack-a-mole.)

You know how Donald Trump communicated, thinking back to his Stern appearances, the Rosie O’Donnell bullying, and up through his post-election rallies?

(Yes, that.  As I pass or look at nearly anyone.  On certain days, like today.  I identify with Trump much more than I prefer to admit, but admit it I must.)

I think the meanest, most misanthropic, antisocial shit.

(I don’t think you understand.  And no, I’m not going to share specific thoughts running through my brain.  I ask you to trust me on this point.)

I feel my body awash in whatever neuro-chemicals are released when one is in the midst of a loud, aggressive, hateful argument.  I feel as if I could easily lift more weight, jump further, sprint faster.  It’s almost dizzying on days like today.

Tiny things can cause me to fall to pieces.

Five or so years ago, in the midst of one of these periods of increased anger and toggle-switch temper, I found myself hanging clothes on one of those collapsible, accordion-like wooden racks.  A shirt caught the hook holding the thing up and it collapsed.

I don’t have a distinct memory of what happened immediately next, but somewhere in the vicinity of 1 minute later the entire rack was shrapnel, pieces lodged in the ceiling tiles, my arms bleeding from cuts, several substantial splinters poking out of my hands and forearms.

The closest literary analogy is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The most accurate popular culture reference?  David Banner and The Hulk.

That was before Prozak.  Also before other spiritual, emotional, and medicinal endeavors I’ve illuminated ad nauseam in previous posts and podcasts.

And yet, here I am again.  Well, not…precisely THERE.  But much closer than I prefer.

I could stare out of the window and point fingers, but ultimately my behavior is fully my responsibility.  My solution is in the mirror.

The emotional clouds are dark and heavy, slow moving…and I want to sit with them.  Be with them.  Embrace them and get to know them.  There’s nothing more helpful than for me to stop.  And breath.  To enforce stillness and (as) dispassionate (as I can muster) mindfulness.

But wow, the relentless cyclical waves of judgment, anger, aggression, guilt, and shame are overwhelming.  I find myself sweating, jaw clenched; quick, arrhythmic respiration patterns which mildly emulates drowning and only amplify the tsunami analogy.

So I stop.

And I find a mantra.

“This is but a moment.”

And as I type I repeat it.

“Om Mani Padme Hum.”

My heart rate slows, facial muscles relax, and hot sweat evaporates.  Cools.

“In…two, three, four.  Out…two, three, four.”

Why do I judge?

So that I can learn how to forgive.

Why do I rage?

So that I can find peace.

All of the pain, jealousy, guilt, and anger carve dark caverns in my heart that will soon hold more understanding and provide room for further enlightenment, and homeostasis.  Balance.

All of it is necessary, because it’s all of me.

It’s up to me to cultivate and nourish that which allows me to grow and live a mindful, loving, truthful life.

Peace to you along your path.

Exploring the VennMatrix (Del Norris 2.3)

I recently learned that aggregated Google search data reveals more about what we really think than we are EVER willing to admit out loud.

Said differently, a Google search history is a considerably purer reflection of what you REALLY think than is anything that you’re willing to speak or write out loud.

Each of us, it turns out, like to appear to be a certain way. We present version of ourselves to our friends, family, colleagues, and the world…but that’s rarely who we actually are.

Turns out your search history alone can reveal just about ALL of that stuff you keep locked up in the recesses of your brain.

The algorithms that capture our searches and browsing tendencies are sophisticated and so pervasively embedded in our digital experiences (e.g. smart watches, phones, tablets, televisions, and gaming systems; along with the computers in our briefcases, offices, cars, and, for some people, damn near everything) that we don’t even realize what anyone could learn about us.

Which is pretty damn near everything.

Now think about this:

Each of us is spoon fed personalized news based upon the above-illuminated artificial intelligence and and its unfettered access everything we say, consume or even, given the fact that we inadvertently share with Google and other search forums our deepest, darkest, most personal secrets, what we think.

Your computer can predict what you will do with extraordinary accuracy well before even you can wade through all of your emotional and psychological biases and defense mechanisms to figure out the truth.

I know, right.

The thing on which you’re reading this right now knows you better than you know you. (It’s true, I promise. And deep. Way deep.)

Well, in this podcast, as Jason and I explore the middle of the social and political Venn diagram, this is the precise insight that punches me squarely in gut then hits me with an unexpected uppercut as I double over in emotional pain.

That, and some utterly shallow, really hilarious stuff at the end.
Also, “Typical Situation” by DMB. (I know, for those who will listen to the podcast just below and catch it, the song is NOT “Difficult Situation.”)

We present to you, “Exploring the Venngina (Del Norris 2.3).”

Matrix background with the green symbols

Clouds

In my time studying and practicing mindfulness meditation and Buddhism, I learned a trick to help settle my mind, focus on the present moment, and find peace in any circumstance.

It’s a trick I forget more often than I remember, and thus get caught up in my brain’s accumulated baggage.

Also, it’s a trick that can easily fit into ANY spiritual inclination or worldview, but for me it’s built upon a Buddhist foundation.

The essence of the Buddha’s teachings can be consolidated into four noble truths.

The first truth claims that suffering pervades.  This is not a pessimistic point, not something to fear or to which one must resign oneself.  It’s simply that suffering; interpreted quite loosely and including physical, emotional, and psychological pain, distress, or hardship; is a fact of human existence.

The second truth identifies the causes of suffering as desire and ignorance, the blind clinging to emotions of which we’re often not even aware.  You know, like when you’re spiraling out of control with anxiety or anger or sadness?  And you can’t seem to get a handle on it?  That.

The third truth states that there can be an end to suffering in this life, and that there will be a spiritual end to suffering eventually.  This is where the term “nirvana” originates.  It can also be captured by the terms enlightenment, paradise, and heaven.

The fourth truth lays out an eightfold path toward achieving nirvana.  Namely: Right Understanding, Right Thought, & Right Speech…all of which comprise what might be called a moral compass; Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Effort…which comprise mental and physical development; then finally Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration…which provide insight and wisdom.

From these truths the diverse paths of Buddhist traditions expand and elaborate.  Perhaps we can explore this further in future posts and podcasts, but for today I’m going to focus on a very specific exercise and how utterly wrong I had it for so many years.

We can first acknowledge that suffering, in its many forms, pervades our lives.  (I’m not asking you to subscribe to Buddhism, but rather to contemplate this truth from any perspective.)

We can next accept that our suffering is founded on ignorance and desire, or the human clinging to emotions, anxiety, worry, and a mistaken sense of control.  (Again, this construct can easily apply to any spiritual tradition.  There is a Truth, but we suffer because we are blinded to this Truth by the limitations and biases of our human condition.)

And we all believe that suffering can end, and ultimately will end.  Even if you’re an unwavering nihilist or dogmatic atheist…the suffering inherent in the human condition will end.

One method of mindfulness meditation requires us to simply return to the breath.  In the present moment.  If you’ve tried it, you know this is much easier said than done.

Why?  Because our minds are not generally acclimated to quiet, to stillness…and so thoughts emerge, emotions bubble to the surface, an itchy ear, a leg cramp, any number of thoughts/sensations that tear us away from…here, and now.

And we cling.  We cycle.  We perhaps get angry with ourselves for not being able to forget about that damn thing.  A report that’s due tomorrow, and I could be working on that.  And now my head is itchy.  And shit, that guy really pissed me off today.  And as quickly as you returned to the present moment and your bodily experience, your thoughts and sensations carried you away.

A trick?

To imagine all of these things as clouds passing by in the atmosphere of your internal world.  You can observe these thoughts and sensations.  Be with them for the time they require.  Then allow them to pass, as if a cloud.  And then back to the breath.  In…two, three, four, five…out, two, three, four, five.  Clouds passing by.  Even anxiety related to mortality.  A cloud passing.  Perhaps large and blackened, heavy with rain and thunder…but still, a cloud passing.

Great, right?

Wrong.

This morning, I sat at my dining room table, writing my morning papers…attempting to just put to paper a stream of consciousness before plugging in to digital media, lunch packing, showering, etc.  I sat, and I wrote, and I looked out to my right.  Through the dining room window, beautiful textured clouds set above a vibrant blue sky, framing the tree line below.  And I watched the clouds move left to right.

Slowly.

So slowly.

I mean holy shit was it slow.

And an insight smacked me.

Pow!

I’ve never spent enough time sitting in meditation, coming back to my breath and the present moment, allowing the clouds of thought, emotion, and sensation to pass.  I’ve never really spent time with them, studying but not clinging to them.  And thus, perhaps, I’ve never quite understood the very emotional walls into which I crash repeatedly.

Time.

Just time to allow the clouds to pass.

No worries.  No self-hatred.  Just insight.

See, I want desperately to pummel myself emotionally for getting this wrong all along.  But that’s just clinging.  Desire and ignorance perpetuating further suffering.

Just.

Let.

It.

Pass.

In…two, three, four, five.

Out…two, three, four, five.

-G

Entering the Venngina (Del Norris 2.2)

I’m slowly emerging from the recent funk that pervaded my neuro-chemistry, but in this particular recording, the Del Norris Venngina quartet, I was both swimming in pessimism and, given the nature of things, ready for insights that would usher me out of the dark and toward the light.

Jason asked me, “What are the three critical attributes you’re looking for in a President?”

And it absolutely stumped me.

I didn’t know.

And this morning, as I sit here typing these words, I still don’t know how to answer.

For as informed a citizen as I promote myself, I am woefully underinformed.

For as confident as I spout opinion after opinion into the mediasphere, I am drowning in insecurity.

For as much as I yap about learning and listening, I am still yapping.

An underinformed, insecure, blow-hard…is not what I want to be.

So, I’ll keep having these conversations and grinding away at the burrs, blemishes, and inconsistencies.

Join us, won’t you?  We present to you, “Entering the Venngina (Del Norris 2.2).”

Music by the incomparable Patsy Cline.

Mindful Steps Into Infinity

It’s challenging to find the right analogy to describe my internal life over the past six months.

But, what if I allowed a stream of consciousness to flow, describing how fully I’ve given my joy away, how completely I’ve snuffed the fires of optimism and philanthropy that burned so strong for so long, how readily I’ve tumbled into the depths of nihilistic melancholy, wrapping myself in a thick, musty cloak of anxiety woven together with threads of anger, shame, guilt, worry, and self-doubt.

What if I gave my fingers permission to point in the mirror, not with judgement but rather understanding, and then caress the careless face within?  What if I forgave myself these weeks clinging to false narratives and self-furnished misery?  What if I began to understand that the journey toward enlightenment is necessarily wrought with emotional land mines?

Where have I packed and hidden away compassion and loving kindness?  And how easy would it be to unfurl them, like a flower opening its petals after a long, unseasonably cold night?

I’ve become lazy, complacent, unaware of the momentary goings on in this body…accumulating over minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months.  Perhaps years?

Perhaps.

It’s easy to stare out of the unclean window and shout mercilessly at the social and political climate.  Damaging, debilitating, deleterious…but utterly simple.  And there…is another analogy to which I often return.

The window.  And the mirror.

I’ve spent so much time shouting out of the window, spittle and fuming breath sullying the surface, that I’ve acclimated to a distorted view.

I’ve spent so few moments looking in the mirror, now dusty, streaked, and rendered inaccurate with a mosaic of dried toothpaste, that I no longer understand myself.

Fortunately, or perhaps blessedly…I honestly don’t know…there are several individuals who, with loving intentions, gently turn me back toward the mirror and clean the window.  They have sustained me through this period.

And God?  Perhaps.  As you know, I don’t know.

But people?  Assuredly.   Of that I am sure.

Are the two things mutually exclusive?
Causal?
Correlating?
Perhaps even one and the same?!

Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that it is time for me to spend more time reflecting, contemplating, and listening.

And loving.

Also, consuming…and producing…more art and less opinion.

Catharsis.

Releasing repressed emotions.

Embracing self-hate.

(It’s not my fault.)

Acknowledging the drive toward some self-flagellating definition of perfection.

(It’s impossible.)

Standing on the edge of this moment and watching the clouds pass by.

Breathing in the air, goose bumps on the back of my neck.

Turning, taking in the sensory input of here and now.

(That’s all there is.)

Crying if the tears come.

Laughing at the absurdity of it all.

And taking mindful steps into infinity.

Thank you for being with me.

-G

Opening the Venngina (Del Norris 2.1)

This week, and across the upcoming month, Jason and I will dive deep, yet again, and find common ground where just several years ago we would have envisioned none.

This week, we will learn more about the following:

  • Homemade banana cream pie (…sublime)
  • Recording without headphones (…don’t worry, it sounds great)
  • Innuendo (…it’s not just an Italian suppository)
  • The iCockRing (…interface [in ‘er face!] with all of your Apple products)
  • Samsung anal beads (…careful, sometimes the battery blows up, but you never know which bead it’s in.  It’s like Russian roulette for your ass!)
  • Sharon Stone in “Fatal Pussy” (…also known as “Basic Instinct”)
  • Black jelly beans and scotch (…are kind of amazing)
  • Do I have ADD? (…yes, I believe I do)
  • The Gipper and a political cliff hanger (…exhumed zombie Ronnie as 46?  Stay tuned to hear)

The closing music is the amazing Rag’n’Bone Man with, “Human.”  (Video)

In collaboration with Del Norris Productions and Driven2Drink Studios, we present to you, “Opening the Venngina (Del Norris 2.1).”

 

I’m Turning This Ship Around

I’ve so often said that writing is therapeutic, a net positive, an optimism and enlightenment driver, and a relatively pure insight giver, that I came to believe these assertions to be universal truths.

They are not.

This writing, as it turns out, has been a reflection and an influencer of my mind frame, emotions, and worldview.

A reflection AND an influencer.  The relationship is bidirectional and intertwined.

So, the dedication to writing can be all of those things mentioned in the opening sentence.  Or, depending on things both external (e.g. politics, finances, relationships) and internal (e.g. neurochemistry, nutrition and substance intake, sleep/alertness, anxiety), not.

Now, writing has provided me with depth I’d not before been able to consistently reach through thought, speech, and human interactions.  (Truth be told, the podcast has given me access to similar depths, depending on the person across from me and our ability to resonate honestly and with loving-kindness.  But being alone in my own head for too long can be dangerous.)

Enter Donald J. Trump and his movement to make America great again.

I initially and precipitously hit emotional bottom.  You may have been there with me.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  Slowly, surely, and assuredly with the help of Twitter, I’ve slipped toward misanthropy, generalized pessimism, and an almost nihilistic melancholy.  Those of you who know me or who’ve read/listened to me consistently over the past several years know…it hasn’t been pretty.

The writing allowed me to explore the depths of misogyny, sexism, racism, dogmatism, zealotry, and hatred.  I explored these things extensively, and the writing reflected it…and then the mirror surface shimmered like a science-fiction wormhole.  I poked my finger through, and then of course I dove in and explored the depths of human to human mistreatment, oppression, marginalization, and catastrophization.  (Apparently that’s not a word, but to me it is.  It’s the word I use to encapsulate the concept of making mole hills into mountains, and mountains into planets…everything immediately and absolutely worst case scenario.)

While I do not regret this chapter of my serialized public autobiography, it is time for me to intentionally refocus my mind’s lens toward philanthropy, optimism, present-being, and human kindness.  I’m not sure it is THE answer; the Truth, as it were.  But I need to do this for MY health.  Too many headaches, too much teeth grinding and jaw clenching; too many hours of sleep and awareness lost, minutes when I could have been reading or hiking or meditating or photographing the world around me (…or sleeping, ffs…) spent exploring the depth and diversity of human cruelty, like some Eli Roth directed torture porn but constantly coursing through my body.

Enough….is enough.

I began, just several days back, expressing personalized, yet public, gratitude across my social media platforms.  You know how sometimes when you’re consuming art or engaging in a meaningful, resonating conversation, the feeling of overwhelming love bubbling up so immediately that it brings tears to your eyes?  Yes?  I decided that any time that happens to me, and it’s been happening a lot lately (perhaps as the rigid, poisonous shell of hate, anger, and worry cracks, allowing warmth back into my heart), I should communicate direct and specific appreciation to the person who helped create that emotion.

This is a conscious decision, to attach my writing to feelings of love, optimism, philanthropy, and universal meaningfulness.  My thoughts and feelings influencing my writing, and the writing, in return, resonating and impacting those thoughts and feelings.  I’m going to shift what has become a negative feedback loop, which although valid and understandable is also debilitating, to a positive feedback loop.  This doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the negative, but rather that I’ll work to process everything and find ways that are healthy for me and those around me to impact change that aligns with loving-kindness, mindfulness, and inclusion.

I’m not doing anyone, particularly me, any good otherwise.

If I don’t have the opportunity to talk or write to you directly, please know that I love you and appreciate your presence both in the world and in my life.

-G

 

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