Philosophy vs Spirituality

After writing the previous blog post, I started thinking about philosophy and spirituality. I tried to figure out my slight aversion towards philosophy–while I enjoy pondering on philosophical questions, I realize that engaging a question through a philosophical lens is just not my thing. I wouldn’t call myself in an expert in the philosophical field, but my impression is that philosophy is mostly concerned with finding answers…hence the quest for truth. Spirituality, for someone who is inclined to thinking philosophically and abides by both rationality and logic, is about finding an answer beyond argument. It is about finding the ultimate answer, or it is a contest for the ultimate answer.

For me, my way of engaging spirituality is much more intuitive; it’s more metaphorical, emotional and almost poetic. It’s all about feeling things. It’s about asking the right questions, instead of finding the right answers. It occurred to me that the general view on spirituality or the general understanding of spirituality is has to do with process and not the product. To seek to connect to the Spirit, the Universe, God, All that There Is, or whatever you address the great beyond–it is the process or the journey itself that matters. To be honest, one of the reasons why I dislike a philosophical approach is the obsession with answers, logic, and proving the others false. Personally it doesn’t feel very productive to be always arguing or trying to prove your point. I mean it’s certainly interesting, but to try to rigidly self-assert one’s point of view is kind of self-defeating. There’s the need to win, to view the world in absolutes. But the thing is the world is never absolute. Something we can know absolutely is that there is nothing absolute about the way we live or this world we live in.

I was talking to my friend, who studied philosophy and was advising me to considering both sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion. I appreciated her insight but to me it was irrelevant. I think what I think, I don’t need to be proven right or proven wrong; my only need is the need to self-express. I don’t believe there is one correct perspective in which we have to embody when we try to think about or understand the world. That notion seems completely and utterly ridiculous to me. My personal truths are just as valid as your personal truths. The most important is: do our personal truths benefit us, empower us and make us happy? If so, what’s the point in trying to find an ultimate, absolute truth that exists beyond the Self?

Anyway. I’m getting a bit off topic here. Spirituality is about vibes; it’s about personal choices. It’s about our own personal connections and what we can personally relate to. It’s about what we choose and what we not choose. I don’t think there’s a right answer for everybody when it comes to spirituality. It’s annoying to me to think that there is an ultimate answer that will solve everybody’s problem.

“Truth will bring you freedom.” Maybe. But it is not truth that brings me freedom. If knowing something to be the truth sets me free, it is because I choose to accept the truth and allow myself to enter a state of being free. I can always choose to look the other way, ignore it, deny it, twist it and make it suit my own will. But if I don’t, it is because I choose to accept the truth as the truth. I feel like that has nothing to do with the truth itself.

SO MANY THOUGHTS!! I guess that’s what a good philosophical discussion does. But I still think that I’m not one for philosophical discussions. Someone who is well-versed in philosophy will probably think that I’m always generalizing, uttering statements based on irrational and unsubstantiated “feelings” other than logic or fact. But hey, that’s me in a nutshell. It’s how I function. You don’t have to agree with me, just like I don’t have to agree with you.

The Quest for Truth

While I was browsing the bookstore with my good friend, an old Indian guy approached us and asked us if we knew about Taoism. He was very well-dressed, and it seemed like he was browsing the philosophy section, chanced upon two girls by the New Age section and decided to talk to us. I wasn’t sure if it was because we happened to be sitting down next to the tarot cards section, or maybe he just felt the sudden urge to share his spiritual perspective to two complete strangers. Whatever his intentions were, he approached us.

“Do you guys know about Taoism?”

Interesting that he should ask, because I’d been reading up on Taoism lately. I told him exactly that. I also asked him why he asked us if we knew about Taoism. In hindsight, I don’t think he came to talk to us about Taoism. I stood up to talk to him, sensing an interesting discussion about spirituality. My friend just sat silently on the floor, checking her phone.

“I like Taoism because it’s all about being natural. It’s all about the natural state of being.”

Somehow, this led to a conversation about the faults of religion.

“I hate religions,” he says. “And gurus. Do you know gurus? I think religions are wrong.”

I’m just paraphrasing what he said here. He was quite an eloquent guy, so I don’t think my attempt to encapsulate his words would do him justice. Besides, I was very tired when I talked to him since it had been a long day. But anyway, in short, he started talking about the dogmatism and the “wrong” way of pursuing spirituality. He didn’t think spirituality was about the pursuit of happiness, calmness and freedom. He proposed that spirituality was a quest for truth. I disagreed but didn’t object. To me spirituality is something utterly personal and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. His way to engage spirituality is to seek truth. My spirituality is more concerned about self-knowing and self-awareness, self-empowerment, getting in tune with my emotions and living a healthy, carefree life.

“If truth gives me pain, then I will have to accept it. If truth gives me happiness, then I accept it also.”

He kept talking about truth, so I asked him, “How would you define truth?”

So he seemed genuinely surprised because he did not expect such a “profound” question from me. Self-give, way to go, Kim. You’re not just an impression, or a stereotype. I said “stereotype”, because throughout our conversation he kept trying to check my English understanding. “Do you speak English well?” Nope, apparently not. I wasn’t sure what I was just speaking to you just then. I thought it was pretty evident that I spoke English fluently. I was standing there having a philosophical discussion with him, for Goodness’ sake.

Needless to say I was annoyed. As an immigrant you just get asked dumb questions like that from time to time, but I usually just brush it off. But seriously though, after talking to me for five minutes, hearing that I had no accents and my–I would say decent–display of vocabulary, you still question my ability to speak English? That’s just insulting. But anyway, I didn’t want to waste any emotional energy on somebody I didn’t even know so I just kept the conversation going.

Where were we? Yes. He was just about to define “truth”. He quoted a philosopher whose name I don’t remember: “Truth is as simple as pointing your finger at the rain and say, ‘It’s raining.’ Or pointing your finger at the clear sky and say, ‘It’s not raining.'” And truth is something that doesn’t change and requires no perceive. It is something eternal. Truth just is. What I was getting from him was that spirituality is a search for the eternal truth, the changeless truth. Truth with a capital T. I didn’t know why though, his “truth” sounded more like a scientific “fact” to me. For me, truth is more about intuitive insight, a meaning that doesn’t change regardless of context or form. Truth differs from facts because truth has to be felt; it’s less quantifiable and definable than a fact.

I thought about this after our discussion was over: what is truth with a capital T? What is something that is eternally truth? To be honest, I don’t think there is an answer and I don’t think seeking to find the eternal truth is productive. First of all, how would you ever apply it to your own life? How does that help you morally, emotionally, psychologically? To me, spirituality is about self-betterment so the quest for truth doesn’t really align with what I believe in–so this is more of a personal preference thing. Second, how could you ever decide something is eternally true? Can you record or capture such truth? If it is eternal, how can you measure if, being mere mortal? Unless, he was talking about something poetic or metaphorical–something like transcendental love or the powerful stuff of dreams, then we might have established some common grounds–but seeing how he disagreed with the pursuit of happiness or emotions as a spiritual path, I don’t think that was what he was talking about…or maybe we just didn’t have enough time to chat about it.

For me, the eternal truth of the universe is that there is no eternal truth. Something that stays “constant” or “eternal” is limited by human perspectives. No matter what we do it will still be something we perceive. And if an eternal truth requires no perceiver, then whatever we do end up perceiving runs the risk of not being eternal. We will always be limited by our perception.

I remember towards the end of our discussion of truth, I just totally derailed and started about something else altogether, haha. I guess what I wanted to say was “I disagree, this is what I believe spirituality means.” So I started talking about “I’m an emotional person…” And I meant to say that I believe emotions are the language of the spirit. It’s something intuitive and beyond our rational intelligence. It’s what I use to navigate through life and how I stay connected with my spiritual path. I don’t even remember what I said about me being an emotional person. I only remember saying “Sorry. I’m kind of braindead and I’m just tired.”

And he chuckled awkwardly and then just drifted away, disappearing into the nearby shelves. For me, it was an interesting experience and gave me a lot to think about. In the end, though, I do feel like it’s wrong to just say something like “religions are wrong” or “this is wrong” or “whatever is wrong”. I mean, you can have your own opinions about what’s right for you spiritually, but as far as the right kind of spirituality for other people, you really don’t get a say. I’m not for organized religion either because it’s not something I’m comfortable with and it’s not something I can relate to spiritually–it’s just not my path and that’s that. Criticizing religion for dogma while dismissing religions as wrong–isn’t that the same self-righteous attitude that you see often in dogmatic religions (that shun other religions or spiritual practices as heretics?)

Anyway. I just really wanted to record this encounter and I apologize for the mess. And oh man, I haven’t posted since forever!!!

SNIK Poetry: A Valentine’s Special

I may think love destroys me
but it is love that sets me free.
Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom: Volume 2

Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom is back with another issue!

In Volume 2, you will find a collection of seven poems on the theme of love packed together with a visual punch. As usual, the poetry is presented with stunning photography to enhance the poetic message. It is short and sweet: browse through for a quick poetic speed-date, or take pause and enjoy a long period of contemplation.

Either way, please check it out!

Unfortunately, the magazine is not available for viewing on any cell-phone or tablet device. My current membership with Joomag is a free one, so I’m afraid I don’t have access to that particular functionality.

I hope you enjoy it and thank you so much for your support!

Live, laugh, and love deeply. <3

Kim

P.S. Check out Vol. 1: “I dream, therefore I become.” 

Cyber Activism

Public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada…
Propose a new agreement to protect our oceans…
Canada Post: don’t end home delivery…
Minister Alexander: Let the Pusuma family stay in Canada…
Stop puppy mills and prohibit the sale of household pets…
Malala: Stand with me and the Nigerian girls…

One click to join these causes. One click to become involved. One click to feel that you are part of something bigger. One click to show that you care.

One click to change the world.

That’s how activism works these days. Sometimes it almost feels too easy. That may be the beauty of it. Nowadays, information spreads across the globe, across laptops, cellphones and tablets within seconds of earth time. The ubiquitous world wide web, the interconnected matrix of Facebook posts, twitter updates and other miscellaneous online personal declarations, the easily available sense of justice and righteous involvement–there are many things for us to be indignant about. We want the world to be a better place. We want it to be fair. In its positive light, social media or websites like change.org promote awareness. Having the opportunity to assert our presence online and to make our voice heard is making progressive changes to the way we live and the way we think about the world. Nowadays, anything can become a cause–all we need is the internet, as well as a login name and a password.

That is the beauty of it. The widespread information and most importantly, access to information gives us more power than we will ever know. We are no longer powerless to change what we deem unjust or unfair. We are given the chance to express ourselves, to participate, to act, and to help make things happen.

On the other hand, all we’re doing is just sitting in front of our laptops and thumbing our cellphones. Do we really care about what happens to our oceans or the Pusama family? Are websites like Change.org some kind of psychological-activist-trip for our ego and conscience? Is it simply feeding us doses of involvement so we can righteously feast on one cause after another? So what after we sign a petition online? What happens then? We forget about it and shove it to the back of our heads, most likely.

Then again, is it overly idealistic and unrealistic to expect the world to be perfectly and wholeheartedly altruistic?

Given the moment and the circumstances, we are all perfectly capable of being altruistic. Most of us choose not to act on it, though. The one-clicker activism seems like a great way get involved yet not get involved. The truth is we are all too tightly circuited in and bound by our personal lives that we do not have the time to care more about what’s happening around us. There’s no way out, really, how are we supposed to give up our present obligations to ourselves, to our work and career, to our own isolated passions, to people who depend on us, to our busy lives?

Maybe it’s just a means to an end. As long as it gets the job done, right? I mean…positive changes are happening. That means these e-signatures are working. We are expressing our voice, we are externalizing our values, and we are upholding what’s right and what isn’t.

Who cares if we don’t care enough?

When you’re young

When you’re young, you are the centre of the universe. You dream big things; you expect grand things, and your heart shatters so fiercely when the world fails you. Eventually you learn that many things are beyond your control. You learn to perceive reality with better clarity and wisdom, you learn to accept people as who they are despite their faults. You stop trying to change the world, not because you forsake it but because you learn to love it as it is.

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]