Find Your Boat

In my brother’s apartment, I sit and let myself be hypnotized by his fluid fingers moving along his Les Paul. He makes the strings sing in a style cultivated by years of hard work and a lifetime of listening to Jimi and The Beatles. Once he’s well into the jam session, I look up and see Jack smiling down at his guitar, completely immersed in the music. At Howard, I sit in a dorm room crowded with incoming and current freshmen. The conversation flows from a regional discussion on music taste to the party later that night, from social issues to everyone’s plan for the future. With each plan comes the means by which that person is currently pursuing their overall goal; when each person describes his or her goals, passion dances in the speaker’s eyes. Back in my own home, I listen to my close friend who has dreams of being a published author. He speaks excitedly, going over points twice and three times, revising the style and plot right before my eyes. The story gains depth and nuance with each passing day, and I can slowly start to see the novel’s framework forming. In each of these situations, one constant is present: true ardor. Ardor for music, ardor for career aspirations, ardor for writing. An enthusiasm and love for life.

In a recent talk with my brother, we hashed over the importance of having a passion in life. My view went like this: Life as a whole is a grand distraction from death. Some people will work themselves to death for accomplishments that are largely unimportant when examined closely, and will push away those close to them in the process. Others revert to drug abuse and recidivism, sometimes even suicide, because of their despair with life. In my view, people are saved from both of these fates by their passions. These passions include the love one feels for his family and friends. Passions are also one’s life work, whether that’s writing novels, making music, teaching Kindergarten, or being a voice for social change. To this, my brother told me he agreed. He pointed to the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat, a classic in bedtime lullabies, and told me the song was commonly thought to be an analogy for life. If you need a refresher, the lyrics go like this:

Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

Upon him saying this, I thought for a second, and I’d have to agree with this analogy. The author assumes, however, that you already have your boat. I would contend that the passions that I spoke of earlier are ‘your boat,’ with each passion making up a part of one’s boat.  The entire trip down the stream can be ruined by rowing too hard though. The key word in the second line is ‘gently.’ If one rows down the stream aggressively, the whole third line of the song would change. For many people, the third line’s sole word is often ‘angrily’ instead of ‘merrily’ simply because of overexertion and overwork. If one can find his passions, and concurrently realize the need for balance between work and rest in life, his existence will be rich in contentedness and merriment, and life will be ‘but a dream.’ But first, you must find your boat.

Wilt Chamberlain and Sexuality

The well-known, oft-statistically-challenged story of Wilt Chamberlain having 20,000 sexual partners is one of the first things that pops into one’s mind when thinking of the Stilt. His claim and actions are those of a partially broken man intent on altering people’s image of him as a villain; many basketball icons from that time have said that Chamberlain made the claim in an attempt to gain clout. He was also a sexual machine, however, with threesomes on a nightly basis not being out of the ordinary. This kind of sexuality is historically glorified in men (see: 10 men with 1000+ partners) and shamed in women, with the latter gaining sexual freedom very recently. Wilt Chamberlain, by being the NBA all-time rebound leader, also allows me to touch upon the Rebound and how it factors into my view as sexuality as a whole. ***Please do remember that all opinions expressed in this post (and others) are strictly my opinion and how I choose to view my life, and I am in no way trying to tell you how to live yours.***

Each time you have sex with someone, you give them a part of yourself. There are infinite pieces to give, and the decision of when and who you give the pieces of yourself to is entirely yours. Those pieces of myself are invaluable to me, and I don’t want anyone unworthy to receive one. I like to know the person a little before, know that she’s worth my time, energy, and that special part of me, and, if she is, show her that I’m worth hers. For this reason, I have qualms with hookup culture. To give away this special part of yourself in an non-inhibited, casual way to a different person each weekend is an affront. It is sold as sexual liberation, but you’re slowly emptying your sexual energy–part of yourself– into strangers and half-acquaintances. People who have only ever had hookup sex have yet to experience the epitome of all sexuality–making love. Each act, move, caress, smell, and sight is amplified and exalted by being in love with your partner, and it is an experience absolutely unmatched by casual sex. For this reason and all the other joys of being in love, having a sexual partner who I have at least semi-romantic feelings for is a pre-requisite, and falling in love is like hitting the jackpot.

Love is an amazing feeling that intensifies sexuality, but it brings about an acute anguish and pain when it ends. It is the inspiration for many songs, periods of music and art, and some of the greatest creative pieces known to society. But it hurts like shit when you’re in it. One amazing feature of hookup (and basketball) culture is the rebound, an underrated statistic and overlooked healing tool available to the heartbroken. Now, I’m not going to get into details, but me and my ex-girlfriend ended on pretty bad terms, and it was messing with me for a while. Since she’s kinda an ass, there was no way she was gonna get pipe after we split; I still have the sex drive of a guy in a relationship though. So, out of frustration, the rebound happen. And suddenly, I am reminded both of how I feel in regards to hook-ups, and my firm resolve to be a friend only to my ex. While I’m not down with hookups with randoms, the rebound is a great experience to go through after a breakup.

As you all can see, my views on sex are very personalized, and I would just like to say again that this is just my views for my personal life. I fully support all people making their own decisions, and would have some serious questions for anyone telling another person how to live their life. At the end of it all, it’s really about being able to find whatever makes you happy and doesn’t hurt others in the process.

 

Wisdom, Today

The Te-Tao Ching is one of the most deeply profound, yet mysterious, books ever written. In the text Lao-Tzu’s spirituality and knowledge are clearly shown. Countless translations and copies have been made of it since it was originally written. Though it is over 2500 years old, the writing is still very relevant to modern society. A quote from the twenty-fourth chapter reads:

One who boasts is not yet established;

One who shows himself off does not become prominent;

One who puts himself on display does not brightly shine;

One who brags gets himself no credit;

One who praises himself does not long endure.

In this excerpt, Lao-Tzu puts forth many statements about boastful and brash people. The quote is especially applicable to the advent of social media and the digital age. Never before has it been more easy or normal to boast, show yourself off, put yourself on display, brag, and praise yourself publicly for everyone to see. And yet, the brakes seem to be cut; nearly all established religions directly admonish narcissism as toxic and unhealthy, but no organized religion is leading a major push against increasing abuse of social media.

I say this, and yet I digress. The tale of Narcissus, the origin of narcissism, was told in Ancient Greece, and Lao-Tzu’s writing itself shows that self-promoters and blowhards have been around for much longer than Twitter and Instagram. This doesn’t mean that these platforms haven’t amplified humanity’s narcissism, but it does mean that toxic self-obsession was alive and well before their time. Such a longstanding foe of personal development and spirituality is to be steered clear of; the key to avoid this demise is humility. It is an eagerness to listen, not speak. In it is the recognition of the worth of each individual’s thoughts and emotions. It is the humble admittance that you are one individual amongst a great multitude; you recognize your worth, but also that of each and every person in your life, and from this comes a desire to lift others up. Lao-Tzu finishes chapter twenty-four by saying:

In the Way, such things are called:

“Surplus food and redundant action.”

And with things–there are those who hate them

Therefore, the one with the Way in them does not dwell.

In this concluding stanza, Lao-Tzu gives the final virtue we are to emulate: indifference. Once the negative actions are recognized and avoided, the task of the Sage is not to hate them or to abhor those who do them. One must simply see the actions for what they are, refrain from them, and treat those who don’t with the same respect that is given to all people. The way of the Sage is that of holiness, humility, and an absence of hate, and has been emulated by (aspiring) wise men and women all over the world and across times.