We are born, we grow up and we die

回れ回れ回れよ – Maware maware maware yo
水車回れまわって – Mizu kuruma mawatte
お日さん呼んでこい – Ohisan yonde koi

生まれて育って死んだとて – Be born, grow up and die
せんぐりいのちがよみがえる – Lifetimes come and go in turn

Work is very slow as most have not returned from the holidays so I’ve had some spare time on my hands. Today I’ve been cleaning up my YouTube playlists and I came across this wonderful song from the movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya. This is a song that reaches directly into my soul and I wanted to get some thoughts down. I’ve also posted about this before.

Most western people only see Japanese anime as “cartoons” or something to entertain children. However a lot of anime, especially by Miyazaki Hayao, have enormous cultural, religious and historical undertones that reveal themselves to those who have an understanding of Japan as a whole.

But this post isn’t about anime. I am fascinated with time and the lyrics of this song reach directly into my being.

Birds, bugs, beasts, grass, trees, flowers
Flower, bear fruit and die
Be born, grow up, and die
Still the wind blows, the rain falls
The waterwheel goes round
Lifetimes come and go in turn
Lifetimes come and go in turn

わらべ唄

On my About Page Supplement I explain why I keep an open journal like this. I talk about stumbling upon a forgotten graveyard in the countryside of Ireland. The people laid to rest there lived, had friends, families, experiences and then they died. There they lie, forgotten along the side of a country road. The tall, uncut grass hides their names as time has washed away the memories of those who knew them.

I’m currently reading The Tale of Genji, written by a Lady of Japanese Court in the 11th century. It is fiction but aptly describes court life at that time. Reading it I feel close to them, as though I am there and it is not 1000 years ago. I even look up ancient Japanese on YouTube and listening to it understanding almost nothing at all am shaken from my dream and realize there is a gulf of time and culture between me and them. I was there, with Genji, enchanted by the beautiful Fujitsubo and now the ego brings me back and I have tasks to do and schedules to keep.

I also read Montaillou , which pulls from writings in the 13th century and feel close with the inhabitants of a small village in France (my notes here). They are all gone now but by remembering them through the book I feel that this life is an illusion. Everything exists in the mind and there is no difference in time or culture between me and them. The Ego is what pulls me to the here and now but this isn’t the ultimate reality. I believe there is no such thing as time and space in the ultimate reality.

The same occurred when I traveled with Ibn Battuta through the medieval world (my notes here). Reading his writings there was no distance in time, space or culture and I experienced the world through his eyes.

After the songs end and I finish the last chapter of these books I’m transported back to the present. I realize these people lived, had experiences and died. I look at pictures from my youth and the different chapters in my life that have also ended and realize I am 42. I’m in the middle of my own book. I am drawn to the past, not only my own of which I have more than ample documentation but of those from ancient times. I try to hear their voices on the wind at sunrise and sunset. I feel a connection which is powerful but unstable, fleeting and which I can never fully put my finger on. These are the deep experiences of life which are hard to share with others as it seems our current society is superficial, corrupt and only thinks about money and sports. The only “conversations” I can have are with the great thinkers and historians in their books and it is only a one way discussion. Now that I think about it there have only been two or three “freethinkers” in my entire life with whom I’ve had deep discussions. Their names are Peter Brown, John Clifton and a guy who worked at an architectural firm in Ohio.

Isn’t that amazing how we can go through life and not have deep discussions with really anyone! Most are already wrapped up in what they’ve been taught and speaking about trying to hear voices of long ago on the breeze at sunset would be silly to them.

We are born, we grow up and we die.
Lifetimes come and go in turn.

I’m in the middle of my story and soon I’ll be reading these words with 70 year old eyes. Friends and family will have passed away, I’ll retreat more into my internal world and become more alone. There will be fewer and fewer who remember shared experiences, what the ’80s were like, or how it was to first surf the nascent internet. There is always a wide gulf between the old, with their vast accumulation of experiences and the young who simply look at them as old people. True communication between young and old is something very rare and extremely precious. Perhaps it is the lack of this that we as humans continue to repeat the same mistakes? “What we’ve got here is, failure to communicate.”

A dream for me is to be a spirit that can drift in and out of experiences at will. I could experience court life in 11th century Japan, I could be Ibn Battuta in his adventures, I could be a villager in medieval France. I could see these things with my own eyes and not just with the minds eye through books.

But for now, I’ll continue to read, I’ll watch the fantastic historical TV shows, and continue learning. I’ll visit monuments, engulf myself in nature and continue to try and hear those voices on the breeze as the last flickers of light are swallowed by the ocean. I’m here and I have not forgotten. After all, I write a lot of things down and so should I forget, I’m sure I’ll remember again.

Journal Entry 10.11.19

It is noontime on Friday October 10th, 2019. The morning has been especially reminiscent of autumn with a crisp, cool breeze blowing through the trees and a clearness of the blue ocean which is often obscured by fog in the summer. The leaves do not change colors much here on the coast, and it is that, along with cool temperatures throughout the day that I miss the most. The mornings can be a little chilly but by noon we’re in the mid sixties as usual.

My thoughts have been all over the place as has become common this past year. This week I’ve had a cold which certainly doesn’t help for mental focus, I’ve been traveling for work down to San Jose quite a bit and I’ve also had some tech issues. Combining all of these my thoughts jump from one thing to another and there has been an absence of calm except for when I listen to meditation podcasts on the way down to San Jose.

Let’s start with the tech issues. It seems the proverb, “When it rains it pours,” has been especially applicable this week. Microsoft Office was asking to upgrade on my wife’s Mac but when we did we couldn’t use it without paying for a subscription. The previous copy was the non-subscription older version I got for $10 through a work benefit program so I wasn’t very happy. Luckily, when I took a closer look the old Office program wasn’t deleted but came with a warning that it would not be compatible with future versions of iOS. Oh well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The second tech issue has to do with work. Windows did a large number of updates and it broke Salesforce for Outlook freezing my work mail. I realized Salesforce was the problem and just deleted the Outlook plugin and was good to go. Then a few days later we were scheduled to migrate our mail to the Cloud and would have to change a number of settings in Office. I can follow instructions easily enough but was a little nervous since I prefer to keep my archive folders on the local machine instead of on the shared drive since I’d have to use a VPN all day long. That is one thing I didn’t follow directions on when I set up my computer a year ago. So I was worried that maybe those archive folders might get lost? I made a backup of the actual file, thought about it and believed by deleting the e-mail account my local folders shouldn’t be affected. I was right and changing settings on both the laptop and phone went smoothly.

The last IT issue was both the most difficult with the simplest solution at the same time. Suddenly none of my web pages or blogs would load! When this happens I panic a little because I just don’t enjoy computer trouble shooting as much as I used to. I just want it all to work. I looked at my wifi, reset the server, checked internal settings until I finally checked the simplest solution but one that rarely occurs. That is the external IP address which changes only once every one to two years. I had glanced at it early on in the process but since the first two numbers were identical I didn’t realize the IP had changed and moved along. It was only when I checked the server logs, then my DNS provider that I realized it was the IP. Always check the IP first!!!

I mentioned that I listen to podcasts from the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City. I feel that with work, raising two boys, finances and all the anxiety that comes with these things that I need meditation and karate to keep my head on straight. This particular school fits well with me as I prefer the zen type of meditation where you don’t think and just be in the moment. This quote from their website sums it up perfectly.

Don’t chase the past
Or long for the future.
The past is left behind;
The future is not yet reached.
Right where it is, have insight
Into whatever experience appears.

The Buddha

To just be, and appreciate the moment is something our society is terrible at. The happiest times of my life are when I appreciated the moment, and it was also then I formed lasting memories. Through this journal I’ve also written down the experiences of most of my life. I remain fascinated with time and still cannot believe I am 42. I feel very grateful I have this journal so I can look back on my own life and have flickers of what my mindset and mentality was like in the past. I think that is something very special and it seems I’m the only one out of everyone I’ve ever met who keeps a life journal like this for the majority of life!

But listening to the podcasts from the Insight Meditation Center is something I very much enjoy. In our society we are always looking for that external thing to give us happiness, or simply occupy us. We are task doers with the mind always racing towards the next thing. Instead we should stop, appreciate the moment. This very moment or experience will never happen again. To be alive at this moment in time is something incredible. Here we are floating on a rock in an infinite universe but rarely take the time to explore our own mind and appreciate the experiences of just being here. Where were we before? Where will we go after? Does it even matter? To sit alone in meditation with an empty mind, exploring what is called “Buddah Nature” is something I very much enjoy and wish I had learned about meditation sooner.

Life controlled me when I was young. I grew older, traveled to foreign lands, got a good job and thought it was I who was controlling life. Now I feel as though there are some things I can control and some things I cannot, but in all things I try to simply observe them and appreciate being able to experience them at all.

Kairos Time

My Dad sent me “Longing for an Internet Cleanse” by the New York Times columnist David Brooks this evening and my Dad was right, I did like it.

At first glance I thought the ‘longing’ might be for an internet that wasn’t just one big commercial dump of advertising, popups and monetizing. Or as Mr. Brooks puts it, “a rapid, dirty river of information coursing through us all day.” I was wrong and it hit something that has fascinated me more and more as I grow older. It is simply the passage of time to which this very blog is a testament.

Kairos Time as David Brooks simply and easily explains “is not quantitative like our normal conception of time but qualitative – rich or empty, the meaningful hour or the hurried moment. When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time – slowly, serenely but thickly.”

I liked this so much I went to Wikipedia but their description is academic, dry, long and I ended up only reading two paragraphs. My next thought turned to the idea of ‘mindfulness,’ which is to slow down, appreciate your surroundings and just be. I think mindfulness is just a modern way of taking some of the Buddhist teachings on meditation. I’ve found this Kairos time, which can be tapped through meditation or just being mindful to be absolutely essential to my well-being in this age of information overload.

My days are filled with tasks from the moment I wake up until I go to bed. Once I decide to get up the e-mails, texts, notifications, work, chores etc. all begin and before I know it an entire week has passed. This is all work and there is not much room for any type of feeling at all. It is as though I’m on autopilot and if I fail to take a few quiet moments then not only weeks but months as well have passed. Before I know it, I’ve aged two, then four years!

It is when I slow down to appreciate the raindrops, the sunsets, a call to my Mom and to notice how my kids have grown that I feel most at peace. This is Kairos time when the moments are full of emotion, of an appreciation for time, of life and of the entire universe. Life is to be savored: we should appreciate the sunsets, our friendships and the fact that we’ll never have another day just like today. Society pressures us to pick up the pace, “have a sense of urgency,” to gain more money, buy more things and through this is the path to happiness. I’ve found the exact opposite. It is in simplifying, appreciating what we already have and the beautify of life that is the true path to happiness. And for this, we simply need slow down and recognize it.

Oculus VR, Experiences, Mindsets and Gratefulness

It is 5:45 AM on December 27th, 2018.  I woke up at 3:00 AM and so just decided to get up.

I’ve been playing with my Oculus Go that I gifted myself for Christmas and it is fabulous.  It is the same as my Samsung Gear VR but that used my Samsung S6 and always had to cool down after only 10 minutes of use.  So it is wonderful to actually be able to dive deep into the universe of VR and spent about two hours in it this morning.