Inner Knowing vs Practical Doing [Part Two]

Not even Superman is immune from flaw. We all have our kryptonites, a source of weakness that strips us bare and leaves us vulnerable. Mine is that I live in my own world for long periods at a time and I’m scared to go out. It’s a hard thing to say, but it’s true. The truth is I’m scared because I don’t ever want to be vulnerable, ever again.

What made me like this? I would ask. “Why?” I would ask. I would try to get to the root of the problem. How do I stop nurturing its poisonous growth? How do I get away from its grasp? How do I become free from its parasitic existence and become…myself?

I want to live in a perfect world where everything is perfect. Where I fix things by going “inside”. For many people, that’s the hard thing to do. The tendency is to try to move on, but no, not me. I have to get to the bottom of it. For many years it’s worked–it’s my way of coping with stress, anxiety, pain, and negative feelings. That show I cope.

I was reading Part One of this post. It’s been a whole month since I wrote it. Now I think it’s quite pretentious of me to say that “it’s my primary way of existence”. I made it sound so grand, so cosmic, so elevated. That’s when it occurred to me that…I might still be coping.

I claim to be spiritual, but maybe I’m not as spiritual as I’d like to think. Maybe I have a tendency to dramatize things. After all, digging in deeper has worked before. It helped me get through tough relationships and self-doubt. Maybe I just need something to cure. Maybe that way, I don’t have to feel the emptiness inside. Maybe I don’t know how to feel that void. Maybe what’s worked before no longer works for me. Why do I keep getting dragged down that rabbit hole? Gosh. Maybe I need to take it easy on myself.

Maybe I just need to go out more, to experience new things, new people, new relationships–redefine and know myself through experience. Healing myself by doing something, and not just thinking stuff to myself.

Somehow the road towards liberation is never easy. There is always somebody I want to be. There is always someone I am not. There is always something I need to fix. This perfectionism is driving me crazy. On one hand, I want to move on, but I also know that you can’t leave your feeling unretreated. You ignore them, they haunt you.

Maybe it’s unrealistic to want to be free from insecurity, from self-doubt. Life can’t be a constant stream of perfect. Is it too much to ask for a peaceful state of mind at all times? Am I aspiring towards some kind of unattainable spiritual and emotional utopia that only exists in fiction and sacred texts?

I can’t live my life away from my life. An important part of spiritual path is the internal journey, the journey of the soul. But what can I do? As I am writing this post and reaching this very sentence, it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t a matter of “what can I do?” or “what do I do?”…it’s a matter of “what can I give?”

What can I give to the world to make it richer? When I enrich the world, I am no longer empty. I fill myself with what I give away. Instead of a spiritual implosion, what can I give? How am I able to expand, outwards? To become–bigger?

Because if I can give it away, that means I already have it. If I shed light and joy and positivity to others around me, if I make someone laugh, if I help someone in need, if I perform a random act of kindness, if I express myself creativity and share it with a friend…that means I am already happy and filled with light to be able to give it. That means I have an infinite storage of laughter because I am able to give it. If I empower someone, that means I already have the power because I am able to give it.

I can’t believe the answer is as simple as that.

And for some reason, the phrase “larger than life” flashed across my mind just now. I realize that people who are larger than life is not because they are bigger by size, by reputation, by status. They are larger than life because of how much they are able and willing to give.

What can I do?

No.

What can I give?

First issue of magazine “I dream, therefore I become” now available!! :D

I know I never got around to Inner Knowing vs Practical Doing [Part Two]…but here is a piece of news deserving this interrupted space.

The first issue of my magazine, Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom, is now available via Joomag!!

Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom

Click here for the first issue!! Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom Vol. 1: I dream, therefore I become. 

And if you follow my other blog, I’m sorry for the repetitive announcement. But I am quite compelled to broadcast it across my online empire. Indulge my self-indulgence, if you don’t mind.

This first issue was not planned; it was a spontaneous occurrence, a convergence of creative energy and artistic momentum, born purely out of experimental fancy. I’ve always wanted something “of my own”, and this is it.

At the moment, it is a collection of seven poems on the theme of dreaming. I would like to dedicate this issue to all of my subscribers and followers. Thank you for sticking with me all these years. Thank you for commenting and liking my poetry. It’s one click for you but it means the whole world to me. Thank you for making me feel “seen”. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that somebody out there, somewhere, might just be reading the words I wrote.

So. Without further ado, here is the first issue of Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom, totally out of the blue!

And in case you missed the link, here is it once again!! :)

http://www.joomag.com/en/newsstand/somewhere-nowhere-in-my-kingdom-quoti-dream-therefore-i-becomequot/0818986001407734709

Love,

Kim

Inner Knowing vs Practical Doing [Part One]

It’s funny how I always find myself back at the beginning.

I started my spiritual path as a Buddhist and Taoist, which gradually evolved into New Age Spirituality, and eventually Eclectic Paganism–but it always game back Buddha’s Middle Way. Well, actually, I wouldn’t say it’s a strictly  Buddhist thing–the essential philosophy of Middle Way is that of balance, or the moderation between two extremes. As far as spiritual paths go, that seems like the grand scheme of things.

But of course, I shouldn’t assume that everybody’s path to spirituality is so generalized, because it’s not. I identify it as a Buddhist thing because it was packaged in Buddhism when I first encountered the idea. I remember watching one of the old television series in Taiwan, Journey to the West, which is a heavily Buddhist themed epic about the Monkey King  who goes on a pilgrimage with a Buddhist monk in order to retrieve a collection of sacred texts. If you’re familiar with Buddhist myths and lores (which are fascinating, if you’re into myths and lores and that kind of thing)–the human incarnation of Buddha experiences an epiphany about the Middle Way after going through two extremes: extreme pleasure and extreme austerity. He asks the Heavens if his insight is correct, and releases a wooden bowl into the river.

“If I am right, let it go against the river currents. If I am wrong, let it drift aimlessly as it should.”

And of course, the bowl swims upstream in delicate swirls, confirming Buddha’s profound insight which became one of the philosophical pillars that shaped Buddhism.

But I digress. Although, in many ways, I went through an experience similar to Buddha in Buddhist myths. The difference is, I went through one extreme, dug too eagerly and too deeply on one end, and felt the balance shift and crumble.

Self-knowing has always been my primary way of–how should I put this without sounding disgustingly sophisticated and surreptitiously obscure?–well, self-knowing has always been my primary way of existence. What I mean by that is that I like to make inner journies towards self-knowing and self-understanding; that is my way of dealing with things in general. That’s how I deal with negativity or positivity, and that’s how I process and make sense of my life and experiences. For instance, the way I deal with insecurities since I became aware of my insecurities is to seek even more self-awareness. I ask myself: “Why?” And I try to get to the bottom of things. Why am I feeling this way? Why am I reacting this way? What’s buried deep down in my psyche that is causing me to feel insecure like this? I get to the bottom of it, I expose myself, and I release the pent-up emotional energies that come from “not knowing”.

In short, I am profoundly and at times frustratingly internal. If you practice self-awareness or have the habit of remaining self-aware, you’ll know what I mean. Ultimately, it’s good for you, but like everything else, there is such a thing as “too much self-awareness”. The fact remains that no matter how empowered and liberated I feel from getting in touch with my feelings and my psychological roots, I do not manifest them into the external world. In other words, there is a profound lack of action that accompanies my profound abundance of inner-knowledge. In other words, I exist in a peaceful bubble of Zen and “spiritual enlightenment”, but I have failed to participate in the world around me and address the problems that are occurring outside of my perfectly balanced internal universe.

Basically…I am a practiced thinker, but not much of a doer. Right now, I am tempted to ask myself: “Why?” For the most part, I think it’s because that was how I coped with my social anxieties and my self-esteem issues in my past. It gave me all the excuse I needed: Kim, there is no need for you to deal with others. You just have to deal with yourself. 

This had so much appeal back then because, truth to be told, I was incredibly shy and I didn’t want to deal with people, period. I told myself that as long as you remained positive and self-aware, you could be free. To some extent, I did become much more comfortable with who I was because, indeed, many of the self-esteem issues I was experiencing were internal.

The problem was, like any kind of relationship–if it’s social in nature, it is a two-way street. You can’t become a perfect and seasoned driver expecting other drives to not hit you by accident, or understand your driving attitudes completely. The problem was, in the end, I still needed to deal with people.

That was when I discovered that in addition to regular, healthy doses of Inner-Knowing, I also needed some serious Practical Doing.

[To be continued]

 

To racial slur or not to racial slur?

The problem with racial slurs is that speaking them gives them both presence and existence, while not speaking of them seems to be some kind of negligence. So which one is better? Is there a solution to this conundrum? Or is there a lesser evil?

And what about racist jokes? While self-deprecating humour provides an immunity of some kind, what about people outside of that circle of immunity? While it is safe for you to make a coloured joke as long as you yourself can be identified as the respective colour, are you really just generating humour? Or are you contributing to the flux of ideas about race and separation?

If you’re just making a racist joke or using a racial slur between an intimate group of friends, and for the sole purpose of laughter, are you still being racist? You probably don’t have any intention to be malignantly racist, but do you subject yourself to insensitivity and ignorance through using those racial terms for fun?

But once you decidedly classify those racial terms as racist and avoid using them–aren’t you empowering them as racist terms by recognizing the fact that they are racist–and you are simply avoiding the problem?

So what are we to do, then? We aren’t able to decontextualize ourselves form culture and history, and therefore we cannot simply choose to detach our conversations from the universal definitions that everybody recognize. Words have meaning, and because of this they have power–this is why I am having a headache because I believe we should be responsible for what we say.

But meanings shift and change throughout time. Apparently, “picnic” was a racist term referring to lynching black people, and “gyp” refers to a filthy Eastern European immigrant. And, the phrase used as a celebratory outcry “hip hip hooray” actually had everything to do with hunting down and killing Jewish people.

The racist associations for those words and phrases are obviously obsolete. Nobody would deem you insensitive or racist if you propose to go to a picnic, or if you cry “hip hip hooray” at the end of your son’s soccer game.

Does this mean that we simply have to “go with the times” and just adapt to whatever culture and trends that ensue, or do we simply “wait it out” until words like nigger, chink, white trash die out or transform to something unoffensive? Are we ever going to live in a society where most derogatory terms have everything to do with our differences?

Unless you’re talking about fuck, shit, and variations of fuck and shit–those are quite universal, no? In the kingdom of fucks and shits we are all equal. Funny how that works, huh?

It seems that discussions about derogatory terms and swear words always end up here: like many things, they simply reflect our culture. If anything, those racial slurs are effective because racism exists. What empowers them is the fact that racism exists, and what makes the attempt to address them awkward is because people who want to put an end to racism also exist.

And I think it’s okay to be awkward once in a while. I think we all need to be challenged from time to time in order to expand the boundaries of what we know–so that we can learn and grow together as people. I think the more we face that awkwardness, that means we are getting closer and closer to the problem. Feelings of awkwardness means we are confronting those awkward spaces around us, and that can only mean that we are making the distances between us smaller and smaller.

I suppose there is no absolute solution to this problem (then again, nothing does). So let us continue to be awkward, let us be pushed out of our comfort zones, and never stop questioning the things around us.

(Stares at blog title. Wink.)

 

The Question of “God”

There is a part of me that always erupts when I encounter religious discrimination. I have met two or three disrespectful and chauvinistic individuals throughout my life–and thank goodness our dealings with each other ended as soon as I expressed my disinterest regarding to becoming a convert of their religion. Imagine if you have to deal with this everyday at extreme levels–because of your faith, your race or ethnicity, your sexual orientation–because of who you are.

Increasingly, I am having trouble with mainstream religions because I have never seemed to be able to resonate with faith-systems that consists of a singular authoritarian deity. Having a supreme being on top of everything inevitably implicate a hierarchy–and knowing what can a sense of hierarchy do do an individual, I do not think that is the best way to connect and associate with God.

What is “God”? Is there a God? What is the nature of God? People agree to disagree. I am not going to launch into a detailing and exploration of God, but I do want to talk about my personal thoughts on the pursuit of “God”. I place “God” in a spiritual context, and not a religious one. There is a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, a line that most often ignored by the majority of faith-seekers. For me, I believe religion to be system that an individual can identify with and is able to utilize various aspects of that religion to pursue spirituality. A religion is not absolute; it is like a philosophy, a way of life, it is man-made. It is also a reflection of its geography, demographic, and culture. On a macroscopic level, a religion is as intimate and as simple as someone’s favourite band. Because of where you were born, because of your social and cultural background, because of the way you are raised, and because of a myriad of other factors–you are accustomed to certain sound progressions and certain musical layers, you are attracted to certain genres because of who you are, and you find your way to a particular band that fascinates you and in turn, comes to define your taste in music.

Religion is part of your identity. If you were born in China, you are more likely to become a Buddhist, you are more likely to resonate with the ideas of Buddhism, because Buddhism is deeply rooted in your culture and language. If you were born North America, you are probably going to be exposed to Christianity or Catholicism, because they are deeply rooted in your culture and language. Your faith does not define what kind of person you are, but your words and your actions do. Your interests, your passions, and your choices do. Religion does not dictate your identity; religion is part of your identity. And just like your favourite band, your religion, your faith, or your spiritual path is simply part of your identity. It is what you can identify with, it’s what interests you and what speaks to you on a personal level, and it’s what you feel to be true for you that gives it meaning and makes it valid.

I can recite passages from the Bible, go to church, dress in the robes of a monk, or offer incense to a deity–it doesn’t matter what I do, because if those rituals do not resonate with me on a personal level–if I don’t feel the authenticity in my actions, if I don’t feel them to be true for myself–then doing anything is completely meaningless.

For a religion, or God, or a spiritual path to be true, you have to believe it to be true. True is not equivalent to “real”. True is more of a emotional response; it is something that pertains to your identity, your desires, your attitudes, your experience. And what is true for you may not be true for others. For example, I am a huge fan of Coldplay, and I am sure many others love Coldplay, too. But not everyone likes Coldplay, and that’s fine, because everyone is different. For example, if you believe in Jesus, and of course, many other people believe in Jesus, too. But not everyone can connect with Jesus’ teachings, and that’s fine. It’s not for everybody, because we are all different and each of us unique.

What is true for you may not be true for others.

Just because you don’t like Coldplay, it doesn’t mean you should hate on Coldplay, and anybody who loves Coldplay. Also, not being a fan of Coldplay does not make you any better or worse than somebody who is.

Just because you don’t resonate with Jesus’ teachings, it doesn’t mean you should hate on Jesus, and anybody who lives by Jesus’ teachings. Also, not believing in Jesus doesn’t make you any better or worse than somebody who does.

God, is a very personal thing, and the pursuit of God (or lack thereof) should be treated as such–personal, and deserving of respect and privacy. It’s nobody’s business. You can be very open and social about it, or you can be quiet and reserved about it. What’s true for you may not necessarily be true for others–and that’s the beauty of truth. It is unified in feelings, emotional connection, and personal judgement, though different in presentation and detail.

When you try to enforce that you feel to be true in a disrespectful or unethical way unto another, against their will–

Well, let me just say–you are either a clueless ignoramus or an impertinent asshole.

Story of my life

The act of waking up consists of a tedious internal struggle in which your resolve is put to the test, while you forsake all integrity as you squirm in the comfort of your sheets and mumble to yourself, “Five more minutes.” When you finally haul your ass out of bed, twelve snoozes later, you decide that since you’ve slept in for more than an hour already, what’s another half an hour? So you go back to sleep, completely and utterly shameless.

Disney and Girl Power!

I don’t think I’ve watched enough Disney films made in the past years to solidify this conclusion, but I really want to talk about what I’ve noticed from watching the Tinker Bell series. There is always a soft-spot in my heart for animated films–or should I just say that I friggin love animated films in general? Yeah, I love animated films in general. Anyway. I watched Tinker Bell and The Pirate Fairy a few days ago, and I’ve made an amazing discovery about the portrayal of girl-relationships in Disney films. Needlessly to say, even if you are just slightly familiar with the gender dynamics in traditional fairy tales, you will know that for years the lesson for girls in these fairy tales are: do your duty, be good, and a handsome prince will rescue you and make your dreams come true. This, of course, is predicated upon the fact that women/girls are objects to be acquired by an eligible bachelor. I don’t want to go too deep into the issue–but you get the point. It’s always the beautiful princess waiting for the prince in shiny armour to come to rescue them, and usually there is the inevitable girl-on-girl drama that promotes “girly” competitions and eliminates the possibility of girls ever becoming good friends together. There’s always the evil stepsister, or the “mean girl” that picks on the innocent girl protagonist, blah blah blah, and the list of the stereotypes goes on.

However! I am noticing a positive change in recent Disney films. Instead of promoting values that involve girl-on-girl rivalries and  the true love’s kiss as the ultimate solution–the princess films nowadays seem to be promoting what I deem is an important theme: acceptance. And they are also breaking traditional female stereotypes and upholding gender equality. This is such an exciting discovery. Take Tinker Bell, for example: initially, Tinker Bell is disgusted by her given talent as a Tinker (which involves craft, woodwork and metalwork and all kinds of architectural and down to earth handiwork that are typically classified as “boyish”), and is overcome with sadness and envy as she yearns for other fairy powers that are “prettier” in nature, such as light-bending, the ability to grow flowers and plants, swift-flying, and water-bending.  However, eventually, she overcomes these negative sentiments and accepts herself and her talents as she proves herself to the fairy world. A female protagonist who is proud of being a Tinker! This is totally breaking the stereotypical assumptions that “girls have to be girly”.  In The Pirate Fairy, the focus of the story shifts between Tinker Bell and a newly introduced character, Zarina, who is also portrayed as an adventurous, innovative, and slightly rebellious spirit who is not afraid to explore the limitations of fairy rules and fairy magic and exert her talents. In the beginning, she is rejected by the fairy society as well–same as Tinker Bell (I think I failed to mention that her daring adventures to the edges of Neverland has made her a constant figure of public disapproval). After causing a tiny plant to grow into a disastrous tree and destroying her workplace, she is “fired” and no longer a fairy dust-keeper. Devastated, she packs up her things and leaves, becoming a pirate fairy who plots to steal all the magical blue dust for a ship of pirates (led by the young James Hook) who seem to appreciate her talents. Tinker Bell and her friends, each with their unique fairy talent, goes after her in attempt to recover the blue dust and the outcast Zarina. In short, after everything is over and the bad guys are defeated, Tinker Bell accepts Zarina, forgives her for her past faults, and welcomes her back to fairy land. Thinking back now, my head is exploding with fireworks because there is not even one negative female stereotypes in these two films! You know, such as the evil stepmother and the bitchy mean girl who picks on the protagonist. (Actually, I think there were some girl drama in the first Tinker Bell film…but as I recall, it was resolved peacefully and still centred around the theme of acceptance.)

Of course, Tinker Bell series is still saturated with “girliness”, but in a healthy way that does not overshadow the characters and the themes of the film. Jokes about hair and fashion actually punctuate the film in a delightful way to generate humour. I’m kind of a tom-boy, so that means a lot coming from me, haha. All in all, I think Disney is doing a wonderful thing in sending these positive images and messages to girls who will grow up watching these films. My generation grew up watching beautiful princesses unable to help themselves in their circumstances, waiting for their prince to rescue them. But the few films I watched are anything but: they are telling girls that recognizing your talent and yourself with confidence is the right thing to do–and as girls you don’t have to compete with each other, you accept each other as individuals, and it is friendship and your own values that are worth fighting for–not for the hand of a handsome prince! And also, don’t be afraid to break the norms, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Ah, *tear*.

Too much of an idealist

No, I don’t think I will ever be able to stand dogma, bigotry, or chauvinism. Every time I hear about religions persecuting homosexuality, every time I encounter somebody blatantly misogynist, every time I come in contact with variations of some kind of supremacist crap, I am slightly angry at the world, and my heart bleeds a little because it doesn’t matter what I say to these people. They are who they are. It will be inaccurate to say that I am completely unaffected by ignorance. I am human. I have my feelings and my ideals. Sometimes they don’t necessarily want to agree with each other.

How can you posit your views to be absolute when it’s so ostensibly wrong? Everybody is entitled to their opinion and their piece of mind, but shouldn’t it be a general rule that anything that violates the basic respect, freedom, and existence of another is utterly intolerable and unforgivable? How can you justify evil, prejudice, violence, or other forms of physical or social atrocities with God? With a seemingly superior argument? With status? With wealth? With whatever absurd reason that prevents you from questioning your ethics? No, you cannot possibly claim your ethics are determined by a higher power–you determine your own ethics and embrace anything that affirms those sets of ethics and rejects anything that denounces it. Persecuting homosexuality can’t be from God. The “inferiority” of women can’t be the will of Nature. In fact, how can anyone claim to understand the forces of nature?

In short, it just makes me so incredibly angry that such people exist. Evildoers who justify their actions in the name of God. Bullies and abusers who justify their crimes in their false sense of righteousness. I don’t think I will ever be able to come to terms with that there are ignorant people in the world. I know it, of course I do. But every time…every single time…I think to myself: Are these people real? How can they even exist?

I call myself an idealist, but is it not sad that wanting basic human rights that we all deserve is considered “idealist”? I want people to stop saying “that’s so gay” when they are describing, thoughtlessly, something negative. I want people quit using the R word and stop saying “hell yeah we raped that team” as if “raping” is such a glorious act of triumph. I want people to stop their “oh I’m not using it in an offensive way” bullshit. I want homophobia gone. I want racism an sexism and classism gone. I want everything shitty gone from this world.  On an intellectual and perfectly rational level, I know that will never happen. But those are my idealist sentiments, and I can’t stop having them…but maybe, that’s a good thing. Feeling angry, indignant, makes me feel like I still haven’t given up on this world yet.

Can you be a pessimist and an optimist at the same time?