Wednesday, October 30, 2013


i used to have this belief

that art was the most important thing in life,

that if you did things creatively, they'd count
and whatever wasn't done in that matter
wasn't soulful

but now

now i have this belief

that living is the most important thing in life,

that if you do the things your heart whispers to your brain when it's dark
those things will count

and life will give back to you
and your soul will fill up
and you'll finally be,
after all of this time,

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Two friends bought one-way tickets to Alaska from Los Angeles, bought a used truck there, hit the road visiting multiple places along the way—kayaking, hiking, bicycling, etc. in between—to then fly  from Las Vegas to Africa visiting Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa and then flew to their last destination, South America where they toured Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia by motorcycle.

"This trip was beyond both of us.It was never about patting ourselves on the back, because here we are! Traveling the world! We took off for 6 months to get away from the noise that's constantly surrounding our lives. Silence was something we were looking for. An opportunity to step outside and take a deep breath. It's that simple—and that changes you.That changes you because you're able to find moments that define everything around you to better understand where you live inside your mind, and where you are in this very, very big picture. And once you get a sense of how temporary this story really is, only then are you able to move in the right direction."

Thursday, October 24, 2013


1. You are not your mind.

The first time I heard somebody say that, I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. What else could I be? I had taken for granted that the mental chatter in my head was the central “me” that all the experiences in my life were happening to. I see quite clearly now that life is nothing but passing experiences, and my thoughts are just one more category of things I experience. Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in my awareness, they have a certain texture, and then they give way to something else. If you can observe your thoughts just like you can observe other objects, who’s doing the observing? Don’t answer too quickly. This question, and its unspeakable answer, are at the center of all the great religions and spiritual traditions.

2. Life unfolds only in moments.

Of course! I once called this the most important thing I ever learned. Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t part of a single moment unfolding. That means life’s only challenge is dealing with the single moment you are having right now. Before I recognized this, I was constantly trying to solve my entire life — battling problems that weren’t actually happening. Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single, present moment, as long as they are truly aware that it’s their only point of contact with life, and therefore there is nothing else one can do that can possibly be useful. Nobody can deal with the past or future, because, both only exist as thoughts, in the present. But we can kill ourselves trying.

3. Quality of life is determined by how you deal with your moments, not which moments happen and which don’t.

I now consider this truth to be Happiness 101, but it’s amazing how tempting it still is to grasp at control of every circumstance to try to make sure I get exactly what I want. To encounter an undesirable situation and work with it willingly is the mark of a wise and happy person. Imagine getting a flat tire, falling ill at a bad time, or knocking something over and breaking it — and suffering nothing from it. There is nothing to fear if you agree with yourself to deal willingly with adversity whenever it does show up. That is how to make life better. The typical, low-leverage method is to hope that you eventually accumulate power over your circumstances so that you can get what you want more often. There’s an excellent line in a Modest Mouse song, celebrating this side-effect of wisdom: As life gets longer, awful feels softer.

4. Most of life is imaginary.

Human beings have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive that we lose sight of the fact that we are nearly always thinking. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. We have a very difficult time observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life is imaginary things. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” The best treatment I’ve found? Cultivating mindfulness.

5. Human beings have evolved to suffer, and we are better at suffering than anything else.

Yikes. It doesn’t sound like a very liberating discovery. I used to believe that if I was suffering it meant that there was something wrong with me — that I was doing life “wrong.” Suffering is completely human and completely normal, and there is a very good reason for its existence. Life’s persistent background hum of “this isn’t quite okay, I need to improve this,” coupled with occasional intense flashes of horror and adrenaline are what kept human beings alive for millions of years. This urge to change or escape the present moment drives nearly all of our behavior. It’s a simple and ruthless survival mechanism which works exceedingly well for keeping us alive, but it has a horrific side effect: human beings suffer greatly by their very nature. This, for me, redefined every one of life’s problems as some tendril of the human condition. As grim as it sounds, this insight is liberating because it means: 1) that suffering does not necessarily mean my life is going wrong, 2) that the ball is always in my court, so the degree to which I suffer is ultimately up to me, and 3) that all problems have the same cause and the same solution.

6. Emotions exist to make us biased.

This discovery was a complete 180 from my old understanding of emotions. I used to think my emotions were reliable indicators of the state of my life — of whether I’m on the right track or not. Your passing emotional states can’t be trusted for measuring your self-worth or your position in life, but they are great at teaching you what it is you can’t let go of. The trouble is that emotions make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time. Another survival mechanism with nasty side-effects.

7. All people operate from the same two motivations: to fulfill their desires and to escape their suffering.

Learning this allowed me to finally make sense of how people can hurt each other so badly. The best explanation I had before this was that some people are just bad. What a cop-out. No matter what kind of behavior other people exhibit, they are acting in the most effective way they are capable of (at that moment) to fulfill a desire or to relieve their suffering. These are motives we can all understand; we only vary in method, and the methods each of us has at our disposal depend on our upbringing and our experiences in life, as well as our state of consciousness. Some methods are skillful and helpful to others, others are unskillful and destructive, and almost all destructive behavior is unconscious. So there is no good and evil, only smart and dumb (or wise and foolish.) Understanding this completely shook my long-held notions of morality and justice.

8. Beliefs are nothing to be proud of.

Believing something is not an accomplishment. I grew up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they’re really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because “strength of belief” is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Listen to any “die-hard” conservative or liberal talk about their deepest beliefs and you are listening to somebody who will never hear what you say on any matter that matters to them — unless you believe the same. It is gratifying to speak forcefully, it is gratifying to be agreed with, and this high is what the die-hards are chasing. Wherever there is a belief, there is a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and never be afraid to lose them.

9. Objectivity is subjective.

Life is a subjective experience and that cannot be escaped. Every experience I have comes through my own, personal, unsharable viewpoint. There can be no peer reviews of my direct experience, no real corroboration. This has some major implications for how I live my life. The most immediate one is that I realize I must trust my own personal experience, because nobody else has this angle, and I only have this angle. Another is that I feel more wonder for the world around me, knowing that any “objective” understanding I claim to have of the world is built entirely from scratch, by me. What I do build depends on the books I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. It means I will never see the world quite like anyone else, which means I will never live in quite the same world as anyone else — and therefore I mustn’t let outside observers be the authority on who I am or what life is really like for me. Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds, privately, in order to explain it all. This truth has world-shattering implications for the roles of religion and science in the lives of those who grasp it.

10. Happiness is only real if shared.


Twenty is a strange age. Not only is it a terrifying transition from childhood to individualism, but it’s also a very comparative time. Twenty is the age that extraordinarily ambitious people begin taking off. It’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore. This is the year that your graduating class begins to break up. There are the ones attending ivy league schools ready to become Ambassador of the Unites States, there are those are doing typically average things a twenty year old does, and there are the ones who haven’t left mom and dad’s house. I’ve come to terms that I’m in that middle category.

My high school was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It was everything a teenager needs, to be honest. One thing that I’m beginning to dislike about it now is the way it made everyone feel like the best at what they did. While attending, that was so valuable to feel that sense of importance and championship. Now, in a world much meaner and larger than Las Vegas Academy, I’ve been put in my place. I am very, very average. Everything I do and try is mediocre. It used to get me down, sometimes to the point where I wanted to give up ever trying for something again. But it was hard to keep perseverance running in my blood when the world makes you feel like you’re worthless if you’re not the absolute best. Sometimes I feel myself slip back into this falsified idea of the world, but then I think about if I was the best. 

What a bore. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


These were written after I climbed my favorite mountain on O'ahu by myself just earlier this year. I brought water, a pad of paper, and a pen. These are a few of the many excerpts I wrote that day, atop that beautiful mountain. It's fascinating to see how my perception of the world—hell, of life—has evolved to be so different now. I'm entirely grateful today that it has.

We’re all so scared of the mud, but why? We’re filthier. 

The whole way up I wished you were here
so you could dance on the ledges
and I could watch

Leaving everything should have drawn me to you. But the keys feel like needles every time I press them. The ideas don’t melt into words as effortlessly anymore. I’ve become so private, I can’t even type. But I’ve missed you. I’m back.

Don’t make me go back down.
Everything is up here,
every thing is down there.
Don’t make me go back down.

Because, when you’re alone you are forced to see yourself. There’s no one else to redirect your own personal dissatisfaction. We use other people as storage units. Storage units filled with our own garbage. Maybe we’ll never accept it, but it’s hard not to see it when you’re alone on the sofa.

Where have my fingernails gone? 
Down the drain
down my throat
down the road
out the window
off my hand
plucking the strings
inside my chest.

A man and his dog just came along. I’ll let them pass to create some time—some space. I wonder if they can see me over here. They probably think they’re alone too.

But, this is my favorite pen.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
Please rain.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
Then I can bury it here. 
Please rain,
please clouds,
let go.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
I’m going to write till it’s dead.
God damn it, please die.
Clouds, please, ink, please,
let go.

My brother always says he wants to die surfing—to "go" in the water. See, I just don’t like the ocean that much. But, up here, at a high elevation, writing you. It’s trueI wouldn't mind going here someday.

Will I be in the bathroom
re-doing my hair over and over
perfecting the blush on my cheeks,
spacing my lashes evenly,
and re-doing my hair again
for the rest of my life?
Get out of the bathroom.
Stop getting ready,
be ready.

I was asked what it’s like to
run from the storm
I couldn’t answer
I’ve always ever sprinted
towards it

I try to picture my name on a book sitting on a shelf at the bookstore. It’s not so clear, the vision. Maybe I won’t put my name on it.

My white socks are brown now,
and, to be honest, I can’t tell where
the sky meets the sea, and I’ve

never felt so fortunate.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn't deprive herself,
but I've learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I've realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I'm not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it's proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she's "crazy about fruit."

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
"How can anyone have a relationship to food?" He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas, 
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

That's why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again, 
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don't want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word "sorry".
I don't know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but
inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I love burning feet and spaghetti-legs.
Give me the west coast of America.

Monday, October 7, 2013


I love the way eyes look like a tunnel into one's own unique, undiscovered world. I love the way you feel like if you dove into them, you could swim infinitely. I love the way they can see back into yours, too.