Celebrating the Individual:

It is time to celebrate who we are.

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There’s always something about the first words you type onto a blank page. It’s like splashing paint onto a crisp-white canvas. I believe we all have words pent up inside of ourselves. Those first ones break the pressure. You kind of just let the words fall onto the paper as they naturally would. Your soul is the bursting cloud, allowing droplets of inner wisdom to sprinkle the land underneath it.

It seems much too rare these days that we allow our soul the ability to speak its truth. Too often we are stifled by social and cultural concerns. I think its a pretty sad notion that our individuality is being suffocated by the very people that should be celebrating it: ourselves.

We’ve seen the unique nature of each human being oppressed in many different ways by many different tyrants.

We saw it masterfully done by the Catholic church after the dark ages. We were told we were all beautiful children of God who loved us infinitely. God would love us until the end of our days, unless we looked upon the stars with our own eyes and suggested, perhaps, that our solar system wasn’t exactly structured as the church had taught us it was. That, maybe, we weren’t the centre of it all. Then we were heretics; we were blasphemous, spoiled spawns of darkness.

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This isn’t just our solar system, it’s our entire universe. If you disagree, then you’re going to burn in hell, you God damned heretic.

We were loved by God so long as we accepted our fate as peasants, farming for dukes and bishops we would never see. Don’t worry, we were told, if we allowed ourselves to be powerless and impoverished in this life, the next one would have rainbows and beds made of clouds. Our sons were loved by God as long as they didn’t love other men. Our daughters were loved by God as long as they didn’t stay connected to their feminine nature or the earth. As long as they didn’t embrace their sexual power and remained subservient to men, our daughters were wonderful indeed.

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How dare this woman worship the earth she came from and the rivers that gave her life. I heard she also sex with Satan, doesn’t she know she is the property of her husband and of God?

We saw it done by Hitler and the Nazis, who told us we were perfect specimens of greatness. Unless, of course, our hair and eyes were too dark or our skin produced a higher amount of pigmentation. Then we were somehow sullied; we were somehow corrupt. Capitalism told us we were successful and smart, as long as our car was new and we had the latest smart phone. We were always perfect as long as we fulfilled someone else’s definition of it.

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What a perfect little Nazi. Now why can’t your brunette sister be more like you?! She would be perfect too, if she was.

You would think after all of the great individuals, the great men and women who stood in defiance of the oppression of the uniqueness of humanity, that we would learn to celebrate the diversity of one another and of ourselves.

We are shape shifters by nature. We are flexible and bendy. We can wear many different hats. We are water.

Our ability to bend and twist and move and flow is proof enough that none of us were made to be packed into rigid little boxes of conformity.

And yet still we act as our own corrupter. We still restrict our own freedom to be individuals. We are still barbarically behind in a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals and as a species. From the very time we are school children, we speak and act harshly toward those who stand out, instead of celebrating them.

Celebrate who you are, and support others who do the same.

Because you’re all pretty fucking awesome.

Be good to each other,

~MG.

Photos:

Featured Image: inesperkovic.com
Geocentric Solar System: pics-about-space.com
Witch Hunt: hiduth.com
Hitler Youth: spartacus-educational.com

On The Comparison of Suffering:

Isn’t it enough to know we’re all in this together?

The suffering of humanity is inescapable.

Everywhere we look, we see each other in pain. Flicking through a newspaper or television channels, we can regularly find a striking example of someone bearing one of the many crosses we are forced to carry in our lifetime.

None of us can escape the suffering that is the human experience. Our lives will be defined by those struggles which we have found the strength to overcome. All of us the phoenix, our individual suffering our ashes.

And yet we insist on turning these struggles into an issue of race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, or culture. We relate to these issues not as humans, but as a colour of skin, a possessor of certain genitalia, a sexual preference, a place in society, or a zealot of a certain God or Goddess.

We continue to break ourselves apart into smaller and smaller pieces until we fit into tiny, exclusive boxes. We are a black, upper-class, Protestant, heterosexual female. We are a white, blue-collared, atheist, homosexual male.

We restrict our empathy when we latch onto these exclusive groups; they become the only ones who can understand the vastness our individual suffering.


Liberty Leading the People (1830) by Eugène Delacroix: We will unite (and separate) under flags, skin colour, religion, and sexuality - but not our suffering.
Liberty Leading the People (1830) by Eugène Delacroix: We will unite (and separate) under flags; we will unite under the banner of skin colour, religion, sex, and sexuality – but not our suffering.

We live in an age where we are surrounded by comparison and competition and, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’ve started to live for it. We revel in it. We waste so much time in our self-comparison with others that giant online industries such as Facebook and Instagram were partially founded – and partially depend – upon it. The desire to compare our lives has literally become a multimillion dollar industry. Even our suffering – unique to our own journey – has not escaped our thirst for comparison and competition.

The problem does not lie in our desire for comparison. Our lives are inherently different from one another, and comparing differences in ourselves provides a means of recognizing and accepting one another despite our superficial differences.

There is also nothing inherently evil in a thirst for competition. I think of the teachings of various martial arts which insist on competition being a vital aspect on the path to self-awareness, self-respect, and personal growth.

Comparison and competition become issues when they are applied to our individual suffering. It arises when we invest in the idea that our suffering is somehow greater and more valid than the suffering of others.

This notion segregates us. It divides and ranks us based on an assumption we do not have the power to confirm or deny – unless someone eventually learns how to experience the lives of two different people, with different issues, simultaneously in order to compare them.

Who’s to say those of us who were born without fathers – whether we’ve lost them to death, jail, or another marriage – suffer more acutely than those who grow up with fathers who leave for work before the sun rises and come home after their bedtime, the fathers who are never around? The suffering for each is rooted in the same longing for paternal affection. Both examples are kids who just wish they could throw the ball around with their pops.


Father and Son (2008) by Bahram Gonche pour: To any young boy, is there really a difference between losing a father and being separated constantly from one?
Father and Son (2008) by Bahram Gonche pour: To a young boy, is there really a difference between losing a father and constantly being separate from one?

The examples are endless. Who are we to assume those that have lost a spouse to cancer suffer more deeply than those who have lost theirs to infidelity? That the little brother who loses his big brother to drugs suffers more than the little sister who loses her older sister to the popular group in college?

That the pressure to be of a certain sexuality is more excruciating than the pressure to pursue a traditional career? Both are instances of the person being pressured to live unhappily in a lie in order to please others. Both people are too terrified of social or parental judgements to be true to themselves. Both have somehow been convinced that who they are as a person is wrong.

We could spend an unlimited amount of energy arguing for one case or the other, but it is this exact determination to separate and rank our suffering that is driving us apart.

Instead of a division of suffering, I see the gay male – afraid to come out to his orthodox Christian parents – and the daughter of two Harvard law graduates – who wants to be an artist instead of a lawyer – as two people who are fighting the same battle of identity. I see two people struggling, in different ways, with who they are and the expectations about who they “should” be. I see two people who can show compassion and empathy for one another and who can unite in their suffering under a common thread.

The truth is we don’t know if our suffering is any greater or less than any one else, because it is not in our capacity to understand suffering that we do not know intimately ourselves. Our individual experience and perception only leads to assumption.

The truth is, we all have a different observable universe and our individual suffering is unique to our own story. Our suffering is different, yes, but it can never be assumed that we know what those differences feel like. We certainly cannot presume to know how those differences rank, no matter how obvious it seems.

It’s not about the differences themselves. It’s about the acceptance of those differences. It’s about doing our best to understand those differences. It’s about mutual respect. It’s about loving one another.


Every life history is the history of suffering.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, Manuscript Remains – Volume 3.


The one thing we know for sure is that we all are suffering. We suffer through battles with our identity, image, ego, and our place in the world. We all suffer heartbreak. We all struggle with self-love and acceptance. We suffer through unhappiness and the restlessness of our spirits. We’ve lost loved ones and lovers. We’ve felt alone and unworthy.

Why then, must we compare this suffering? Isn’t it enough to know that every person we pass in the street is fighting a battle of their own? Isn’t it enough to know we’re all in this together? Suffering is the one thing that connects us all.

To be human is to suffer. Instead of using our suffering to separate and rank us, let it unite us. There is no “I”, “me”, or “you.”

There is only “us”.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Pain:

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

The buzzing of the planet is a daily reminder of our mind-bending advances in technology. Our satellites glimmer amongst the stars in the evening sky, a sky that plays host to thousands of soaring planes during the daylight hours. Our technological prowess has vastly increased the comfort of our daily lives. Like most things, however, our technology comes with a cost. Everything from iPhones to automobiles cost us money, which puts a price tag on the comfort and convenience they provide us. Comfort has thus become a thing of value. It has become important to us.

The importance placed on comfort by our society has inspired in us a ruthless seeking of it. We centre our lives around obtaining things that will aid us in avoiding discomfort, pain, and suffering. Yet I’m beginning to wonder if this spread of a certain Epicureanism throughout the western world has actually bettered our lives, or if it’s part of the reason we live such unfulfilled and relatively unhappy lives.

Flashback nearly two years ago, to my life of comfort. I was the Dionysus of an eastern Toronto suburb and my basement apartment man-cave served as my Olympus. I lived at home rent free, had no university debt, and was earning a full-time wage I could have saved to buy a house and a car with. I had nearly a dozen close friends close by, whom I had grown up with on the ice rinks and considered them more like brothers than friends. I had the best all-you-can-eat sushi joint just around the corner from my house. I had a gym buddy who was actually a ninja. I possessed the disposable income to do and purchase essentially whatever I pleased. I was a tree of comfort, and my roots were strong and deep. Life was painfully easy.

But I was unhappy. I was stagnant. I was unfulfilled.

An artist's rendition of my training partner. [Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
An artist’s rendition of my gym buddy.
[Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
Fast-forward to the present. I have long since left my job, friends, and family. I have vacated my Mount Olympus throne to travel across the Pacific ocean. I traded a life of comfort for the pursuance of something more. As of now, I’m uncomfortable, but I’m happy and feeling more fulfilled every day. I wouldn’t disillusion anyone and say anything about this has been easy, comfortable, or painless. Law school is a grind. Money is tight. I’m homesick. I miss my sisters, my mom and dad, my band of brothers/thieves/merry men. And I haven’t seen a single ninja since I landed here.

Yet is that pain and suffering not the price we pay for fulfilment, for happiness? Isn’t that our inherent agreement with the universe we are a part of? I look around myself and see that we naturally understand this contract.

I’ve seen “No Pain, No Gain” on gym singlets and “Pain is Temporary, Glory lasts Forever.” splattered on dressing room walls. I see all of us – the warriors of love – seeking out a significant other regardless of the pain relationships have caused us in the past, or the heartbreak we could be forced to endure in the future. We take the tests regardless of the chance of failure, or the immense effort required to study and learn. We play our various sports, knowing we’ll be bumped, bruised, and judged. We train our bodies to be strong through toil, trouble, and tears, even though they will eventually wither under the taxes of time. We paint, write, and dance, undeterred by the visions of the starving artist. We love our families and friends to the fullest, knowing the pain we’ll feel when they are inevitably taken from us. We do these things because we innately understand the nature of fulfilment.

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

We know that the treasure of fulfilment is closely guarded by pain, suffering, and discomfort; the three heads of a hellhound protecting the gateway to happiness. We know that the most uncomfortable places are the classrooms where we learn and grow the most. We know that catching that perfect wave is worth the endless paddling, the hours of waiting, and the salt we get in our hair. We understand that the discomfort of rising in the early morning is the price of watching a stunning saffron sunrise. We know that trading the uninspiring view from base camp for the breathtaking scenery of the summit requires hours of treacherous hiking up the side of the mountain.

I think it’s entirely possible to live your whole life in comfort, confronted by minimal pain and suffering. I think this very moment there are many people who are dying in their retirement home beds who managed to accomplish this. I also believe that those same people would be willing to trade all of the days they lived in comfort for one chance to go back to their youth. They would go back and put themselves directly in the path of that same pain, suffering, and discomfort they have avoided all these years. For in doing so, they would also risk a life of happiness and fulfilment.

Don’t settle for comfort. Take the risk. Catch that perfect wave. Watch the sunrise. Fall in love. Climb that mountain.

…..I do miss that sushi joint though.

Be good to each other,

– MG.