Wikepedia has a great defination of Philosophy that I will paste here “Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.
The word “philosophy” comes from the Ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”. The introduction of the terms “philosopher” and “philosophy” has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.”
Philosophies and symbols are woven into what we believe. They are often integral parts of us and we don’t even realize it. I personally am a strong believer in ritual, philosophy, and symbolisms. They are anchors for me when I have times of fragility. But I’ve been thinking about some of the more important ones in my life lately.
An important and born in nature, symbol, and philosophy of mine is Chaos. This is not the American belief of chaos of a destructive uncontrollable force that leaves nothing but waste in it’s path. It is the belief that without Chaos you cannot have order. That things have to be destroyed so that things can be built. That forests and fields sometimes have to burn so that life can continue on. This is my life.
A destructive force to everything so that all can be restructured in a form of order. In a way that things, environments, people so they can truly continue their life, and myself so that I never become stagnant. Often times it is just automatic to myself and people around me. It is experienced like a whirlwind. It destroys so that we may grow and live.
I also hold to the I-Ching Hexagram #3 which is Chaos. It states “Chaos – Where Great Dreams Begin. Before great vision can become reality there may be difficulty. Before a person Begins a great endeavor, they may encounter chaos. As a new plant breaks the ground with great difficulty, foreshadowing the huge tree, so must we sometimes push against difficulty in bringing forth our dreams. ‘Out of Chaos, Brilliant Stars are Born.’”
My life since birth has been a constant state of pain. I have had to learn to battle through it because I don’t find the alternative to be acceptable. I cannot personally remember a day without it. That all aside I have a strong belief that pain is necessary both emotional and physical. That without it we do not grow. Without pain I believe that children would stay more childlike. But it is a dangerous force. Too much pain and a person crumbles. Too little and they stagnant. I can give a great example of this.
Many many many years ago I was the Drum Major in the marching band of my High School. We had a girl that was handicapped physically. She could walk she could move about okay, but her leg, feet, arm, and hand muscles contorted her body. This made things difficult for her. The band director, her friends, her family, and society in general placated her and tried to always keep her in bubble that forced this putrid level of stagnation. I saw talent. I saw power. I saw a human being trapped in a shell that everyone else forced upon her. I refused to be one of those people.
I was harsh to her. I gave a constant pressure of uncomfortable pain to her in the form of verbal blades. Sometimes this young woman cracked and began to cry. In which I would make her keep going. I never allowed her an inch. If she told me she could not do something I told her to go away and quit. Her friends hated me. I had and still have little care for them. Sometimes I might have even border-lined on the edge of cruelty. Yet in the end something beautiful happened.
She contacted me last year. She was curious how she was my friend but at the same I time pushed her so hard and wouldn’t give her an inch anything. She wondered why at times it seemed like I was so very mean to her. So I asked her something as a mode of answering her question. I asked her if she would have pushed her self that hard? She told me no. I asked her if she would have been able to pursue the degree field (Music Therapy) if she had not been pushed. She thought about it for sometime and told me no. So I then explained to her that everyone had been gentle to her for her entire life and that she had accepted her fate in the world as someone broken. I instead shredded her pillows of lies and forced her to believe she could be someone better than what everyone was giving her. I also explained to her that it required me to be harsh and to push her to her limits, to push her to crying, to not allow any failure from her, and to be there to stand her back up and prod her forward again. And this girl is still pushing forward because someone made her life incredibly uncomfortable and painful at times and refused to accept that she couldn’t do anything.
Now if I had not applied careful pain and was evil she would have broken and shattered. She would have been worthless. She would have never decided to move forward. She would have accepted that she needed help with everything and would have never sought a degree program that she did. So the scalpels had to be handled with care. The burning words eventually turned into fires of desires but could have easily been scorching blazes of destruction.
This is my belief in pain. That without it we cannot reach our full potential but with too much we may become nothing.
The Beauty of Imperfection
I detest perfection. I find imperfection and flaws to be beautiful. Show me scars both emotional and physical and I will examine them with awe and curiosity. Show me a gnarled tree that has survived disease and the test of time and I will caress it lovingly. Bring me the wine/scotch glass with the chip in it and I will be happy.
There are two Japanese philosophies that correlate with this belief system that I am ever a follower of. They are both highly similar. They are Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi. Wikepedia has two lovely write ups on both:
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō?), the other two being suffering (苦 ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
“Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.” “If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
Kintsugi (金継ぎ?) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い?) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
As a philosophy kintsugi can been seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese æsthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.
Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of “no mind” (無心 mushin?) which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiﬁcation with, [things] outside oneself.
Tree of Life
This symbol is an ancient symbol, it is older than Christianity, older than any modern religion you can think of. It’s a symbol that has bridged beliefs, religions, philosophies, and even science uses it.
For me it is a reminder of many things. It is a reminder to be connected to my past but always reach for the future. It is to be strong and weather out whatever is thrown at me. To grow in a way to both shelter and smother. To be flexible but firm. It is a symbol to be rooted wherever I am and to always reach for more.
It is my eternity. It represents my underworld and my heavens and the path I have gone through to get to them. And when my life is over it represents how I have lived and how I will dissipate and rot away and everything I was will be nourishment to something else.
Choctaw Road of Life
Part of my ancestry is Choctaw. The Choctaw believe that everyone has a road they must travel. It is their personal journey. It is the belief that when you harm someone or help someone that you step off your road. In some writings it also states that you step onto their road. Until these actions are completed you cannot continue your own path.
For me it always helps to temper my action. How is my actions stopping me from continuing my life? What of my actions is stopping my forward motion? Is what I am doing worth me stepping off my road?
We will go back to Wikepedia for a simple definition of it:
Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati.
I am a huge proponent of this practice. I am often telling people “You are allowed to feel (angry, sad, depressed, etc) but you are not allowed to let it control you or control others.”
Mindfulness for me is about accepting and letting go. It has allowed me to control my depression and other darker demons in my mind. It is a daily practice for me, and sometimes it I have slips and falls but I always fall back on it.
I know I touched on some of these topics in my religious beliefs blog but many of them I did not. For whatever reason these other aspects of my beliefs have been cycling through my head over and over again. I felt the need to get them out and write them down.