The More Words, The Less Meaning

“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”  ― Zhuangzi

There are times I can be quite chatty (and possibly obnoxious and overbearing).  But I wonder if maybe the reason that I talk so much is that I am trying vigorously to communicate something for which words do not exist.  Something that can only be felt in the deepest part of being.  Something that goes beyond words and their usefulness.

Is there such a thing?  A truth that cannot be communicated?  Wisdom that cannot be spoken?  an idea that cannot be uttered?  What characteristics would it have?  How would we notice it, or think about it; study it, or perceive it?  Could we?  Would we?  In a world of instant access to unlimited information, it seems almost absurd to seek after something that cannot be encoded into language.

This is exactly how Lao Tzu describes The Tao in the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao, The Way that can be named is not the eternal Way.” But how can we have anything but a superficial understanding of this Great Truth when all we can do is speak or read about it?  Perhaps it can be reached through meditation.  Focusing on your breathing, moving into your body, getting in touch with your surroundings and filling your mind with the present moment.  This may get you away from words, but as the story goes, meditating to reach enlightenment is like polishing a brick to make it into a mirror (it ain’t gon’ happen)

[I have tactically chosen to leave the remainder of this post empty, instead of finishing it, in order to leave space for Wordless Truth.  Let me know if you see it]

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Dropping Out of College Was the Best Decision I Could Have Made

It’s been over 11 years since I dropped out of college, and it has turned out to be one of the best life choices I have ever made.  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Straight out of high school, I really had no clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life (I knew my mom wanted me to become a Lutheran minister, and I was strongly considering it if only to make her happy).  When I signed up for classes at a local community college, I ended up majoring in business and minoring in music (I guess I wanted to open a…Music business?).  My class-load was not terribly heavy, but I still had a hard time dragging myself out of bed for my earlier classes, and after a few weeks stopped attending them.  No one seemed to care, so eventually I stopped going to my other classes as well, opting to wander around campus, hang out in the library, or go to more interesting classes that I hadn’t actually signed up for.  Well I couldn’t keep this up forever, at least not without someone getting wise to my shenanigans, so I had to come clean.

I ended up flunking out my first semester, as it was too late to withdraw from my classes.  My parents were not ecstatic (they were even less thrilled in the coming months when they learned I was getting married and moving 1100 miles away).

Sure, the main reason I avoided my classes was laziness, but it seems college has become the lazy option.

I can understand if you have a vision for your future, or a career or vocation that you would like to pursue that requires a degree, but anymore college is just an extension of high school, a way to postpone adulthood.  Not sure what you want to be when you grow up?  that’s fine!  Just change your major 17 times, you’ll get there soon enough.  Why go out into the real world and get real life experiences when you can spend another 4 to 8 years in a classroom?  And hey, If you’re not happy with your degree, that’s okay, you can just come right on back and get another one.

I am eternally grateful to my irresponsible 18 year old self for being lazy, selfish, and reckless.  That one decision propelled me into a life of travel, adventure, and awesomeness (not to mention the lack of debt!).  I may not have a degree, but I have an amazing wife, 4 kids, my own home, and 11 years of real life experience.  (maybe I would have had these things had I finished my degree, but then again, maybe not)

Disclaimer:  Everyone makes their own personal life decisions.  If college is right for you, go for it, just don’t feel like it’s your only option, or that you’re a deadbeat if you don’t have a degree. 

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The Journey to Enlightenment

“If you take a journey to the place that you are, you will visit many other places. And perhaps, when you find through some long experience that all the places you go are not the place you wanted to find, it may occur to you that you were already there in the beginning.”  ~Alan Watts

There are so many of us running, striving, stretching, searching.  Looking for purpose and meaning, looking for enlightenment.  Trying to find a way in, or a way out.  Trying to fix or improve ourselves. “If only I could get in shape.”  “If only I could control my temper.”  “If only I could be successful.”  “If only I had a little more money.”  Listen:  We have already arrived.  For starters, we live in one of, or perhaps the only, great concentration of consciousness in the universe, riding a small but fertile rock.  We are surrounded by trillions of companions, (some more sympathetic than others)  And while it is true that it is a world of suffering, all suffering (and each sufferer) comes to an end in due time.

Take a moment and rest in what you have.  In what is.  In who you are.

You are the Universe.  You are doing fine.

~Dadosaurus Rex

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My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

Children. Kids. The next generation. Progeny. Offspring. The genetic mashup of you and your partner. The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you. Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children. For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person. I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control. When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return. As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed. When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking. they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen. I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. I learned the number for poison control. I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed. They modeled creativity, and originality. They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash. I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it. They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love. They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.” When I find a sandwich in the couch. When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far. There is no way I could have done it without them. Thank you kids. Thank you. I love you.

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How to Drastically Improve Your Child’s Behavior In Public

Are you 100% satisfied with the way your child behaves in public?  Awesome.  Stop reading and go enjoy a latte.  If not, keep reading (you might still want to get that latte).

We’ve all been there.  The shame.  The embarrassment.  The Anxiety.  You just wanted to go pick up a few things at the grocery store.  In and out.  It was supposed to be simple.  But these beasts you’ve brought along with you.  They’re… They’re… What are they doing?  Why are they on the floor?  Why are they touching that?  Get back over here!  God, now they’re screaming.  STOP SCREAMING!  No we’re not getting ice cream.  No were not getting fruit snacks.  We have fruit snacks at home.  I know they’re not dinosaur fruit snacks.

It can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.  There was a time when I dreaded taking my kids anywhere in public.  I just couldn’t deal with the judgmental looks, and the shame of feeling like a bad parent.  But I have since learned a secret that has revolutionized our trips into the wide world.

It was my anxiety, tension, fear, and dread that was feeding their undesirable behavior.  We were caught in a vicious cycle.  I would be stressed before they even had a chance to do anything wrong.  They would pick up on that negative energy, get restless and irritable, and then start doing things that bothered me.  I would over-react (since I had already been stewing in my head over it) and then the problem would get even worse.  The only way to stop this cycle is to relax.

It almost sounds too simple, but it works.  And the more you do it, the easier it gets.  It can be as simple as remembering to breathe, giving yourself a pep talk before going out (and probably a few times while you are out;  and over and over in the car on the way there and back;  positive self talk can be extremely helpful).  It also helps to be prepared, and to prepare the children.  Let them know where you are going, what will happen, what your expectations are for them, and what positive thing they can expect to get from the whole experience. (Maybe some dinosaur gummy snacks?  Snacks are super important.  Next to a tense parent, low blood sugar is probably the top tantrum causer.)

The kids will be far from perfect, especially the first few times.  But it will get better.  Be patient with yourself, and with the kids.  Smile, breathe, and relax.  (And when you have some time for a little self discovery, maybe you can sit down and ask yourself what about their behavior really bothers you anyway, and why.)

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Blurring The Lines

Our society has a bizarre way of handling children.  Kids spend the bulk of their time preparing to enter this mysterious “Real World” which they are (more often than not) not allowed to participate in.  They are stuffed with facts in a vacuum, sorted by age, neat and still.

Even at home the “Adult World” and the “Children’s World” seldom meet.  Instead of learning how to cook, or learning how to fix, young children are given toys to play with.  They are told to “Go outside” or “Get out of my hair” or “Give me space.”  They are in the way.  They are an annoyance.  A hindrance.  A bother.

Humans are not meant to live this way.  They are meant to live in families that spend time together.  That work together.  That solve their problems and accomplish goals together.  Children learn from working side by side with an adult.  Someone they respect.  Someone they trust.

You want to change the world?  You want to make it a better place?  You want to solve our societies problems?  Blur the lines.  Our society will never change until we change the way we treat children.  Involve them in your work.  Involve them in your hobbies and passions.  Welcome them.  Understand that they are still growing and learning, and are going to screw things up occasionally.  That’s how they learn.  That’s how we all learn.  And don’t just bring them into your world.  Take an interest in their interests.  Learn about their passions.  Listen to them.  REALLY listen.  You might learn something.

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