Understanding Death & Coping With Grief

Anyone who claims to understand death has either a forked tongue in your ear or a crucifix at your throat.

The less we understand a thing, the louder and emptier the psalms become; and the louder we cry, the more deafening the silence.

Nay, no solace may be found within scripture, or within the contrived meaninglessness it advocates. Nor will it be found within the calcified hubris of academia, which, ironically became the very thing it sought to destroy. For, when it comes time to explain why those whom the world needs the most are seemingly extricated from us with surgical precision and swift prejudice, we’re left with what we started with: nothing. Both clergy and laboratory become uncomfortably similar in that they merely proffer masterfully articulated answers to questions that were never asked.

No, the meaning of death is just like the meaning of life; understood only from within.

In this regard, the failings of both scripture and formula alike are truly spectacular…do not seek meaning within either.

Seek meaning within yourself and incorporate that meaning into the very fiber of your being.

Do not let those whom the world lost be truly lost to the world. So long as we carry them with us throughout our daily lives, we ensure that the world comes to know who exactly it was that made it a better place to begin with.

People only die if we truly let them.

Our Measuring Stick

I was thinking really negatively about my art last night when I uploaded that political cartoon. I’ve been basically “talking myself into” pressing on, well, in all things. This negativity is contradictory to my recent inspirational epiphanies about a positive attitude, so I started thinking about the true nature of these things, so I can better understand them, and be better equipped to implement my “positive attitude” philosophy into my life in a practical way.

I’m going to document my findings here, not only for me, but for others who may find them useful. I want to be able to refer to this post in the future in order to strengthen my resolve when the going gets tough, and negative thoughts start taking over.

I believe that the core of the problem is that we are immersed and conditioned to live in a culture of idolatry and I think I’ve figured out how exactly this leads to a path of self-destruction…problems I didn’t even realize I had until I was in my mid 30’s and as recently as a few days ago…

(this is another long one)

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Attitude: A Corollary

I have an addendum to yesterday’s post about attitude that came to me during my walk again today. Since this line of thinking is largely foreign to me, I’ve been trying to let that whole “attitude” thing I wrote about yesterday sink in a bit, and while I was ruminating over it during my exercise walk today, a natural corollary set in that deserves its own mention.

Each and every human being on this planet wishes for positive things in their lives. Be it health, love, success, friends, recognition, appreciation, enlightenment, wealth – whatever – it doesn’t matter. We all want for those things that we perceive will change (or maintain) our lives for what we see as the better.

Positive changes. Positive outcomes.

I want to be a better artist. I want to be a better programmer. I want to lose weight, and be trim, fit and attractive. I want to be loved and I want to be smart and funny, because I have an unhealthy obsession with being respected, recognized and validated because my self-confidence and self-esteem cratered sometime around 1982. Some of these things are healthy desires, while others are not. But it doesn’t matter, because I think that these things will bring about changes that will result in fulfilling my desires.

The point is, is that my perception mandates that each and every one of these outcomes are POSITIVE by their very nature. None of these outcomes are perceived as negative. No one (with a healthy mind at least) sits around and fantasizes about how wonderful it would be to be broke, sick and unloved. These things, in turn, are perceived as NEGATIVE things.

Now ask yourself one, simple thing:

When was the last time in your personal life, that a negative thought, approach, or perception, brought about, or contributed to a positive outcome?

When has a negative approach to anything ever result in a positive outcome? Let that sink in — I mean, spend some time on that…really think about that. Believe me, this line of thinking is as foreign to me as the Klingon language is to my mother-in-law.

But think about, and at the same time, allow me to plug in a few examples from my own life to underscore what I’m babbling on about here.

I want to be a better artist. The “better artist” part of that statement is the positive outcome I desire here. But, I will never be as good an artist as Tom Richmond no matter how hard I try. “Never” is the negative approach here. Do you see it? Do you see what’s happening there?

I want to be trim, healthy and attractive. But it’s too hard, and I will never look like Brad Pitt anyway. Again, do you see it?

Oil and water. Ice cream and Tabasco sauce. Diet cheeseburgers. Things that do not go together.

If all of my desires are positive outcomes, how could they ever be attained with a negative approach? Wouldn’t positive outcomes, I dunno, require, um, perhaps, a POSITIVE approach? Or even worse — a positive attitude? Thinking back on my life, I can’t ever think of an instance where I achieved a desired result with a negative, defeatist attitude. When was the last time you achieved a desired positive result with a negative, defeatist attitude? My guess would be never. Or, at the very least, dumb luck on those few occasions where you did. “I’m so gonna bomb this test.” “My bass playing will never be as good as Cliff Burton’s.” “I’ll never be able to learn this new programming language.” So on and on it goes, and guess what? Well…I don’t think I need to tell you, as I’m pretty sure you can “guess what” already.

In other words, if you desire a positive change in your life, try approaching that change with the appropriate attitude that would be conducive for affecting that positive change. In this instance, perhaps it is like that definitely attracts like.

I may never become as good as Tom Richmond at drawing (which may or may not be true), but I can always try to be a better artist than I was yesterday. I may never look as good as Brad Pitt, but I can always do the positive things that make me healthier and thinner tomorrow than I am today. We must anchor our metrics relative to ourselves, and use only ourselves as our own measuring stick. Since we cannot be other people, the only thing we CAN be is better versions of ourselves than we were yesterday, and a negative approach in reaching for those positive changes only serves to undermine exactly that which we desire.

As Melville so poignantly articulated in Moby Dick, Queequeg was equal only to himself.

So, give it a shot for a little while, and get back to me on how it worked out. I know I’ll be trying my hardest to implement this “paradigm shift” myself. It won’t be easy, but I cannot ignore the logic, so I’m going to put forth a genuine effort to change my perspective, and look at negativity, and all natural hurdles as merely challenges only to my attitude. For once the attitude is in check, and under control, then, perhaps, all else will naturally follow suit.

It’s All About Attitude

I came to a rather profound conclusion today, of which I will get to shortly, because this one requires a little bit of context.

So I decided to get up and out for a little spot of exercise, by taking one my little nature walks down the street. After all, if I am to keep my cholesterol under control, I’ve got to get back to what I was doing before my world turned upside-down.

When I got to the park, I took a little breather on a bench that happens to be one of my pre-determined rest stops. As I was sitting there, letting the sun wash over me, my thoughts turned to Hugh. The next thing I knew, I was talking to dead people, my mother included. So, I let the little exercise play out – I got up and began walking again on a rather hidden, secluded path behind the actual park – where I would have the privacy to talk to myself, er, dead people.

I told them both that if ever there was a time in my life when I needed help, now is that time. I’m facing many different challenges in my life today, some known, some private. I told them I needed their help, their strength, their attitude and wisdom if I am to overcome these challenges. I gently reminded them both that I don’t recall ever asking for assistance from the great beyond.

I then came to a fork in the path behind the park.

I chose to turn around and head back, as I didn’t want to overdo it. As I was heading back upon the twisty little path, and pondering the hereafter (and asking Hugh and my mom for any sign), I came across an older gentleman who was out walking his dogs. Up ahead, he had sat down on the only bench on the trail to rest. As I shuffled past him, he asked if I was counting my footsteps. I told him no, I was instead talking to dead people. “Ahh, sorry to hear that.” he replied.

He seemed friendly enough so I decided to sit down next to him and his two dogs. We started talking. We talked about this and that, the absurdity of life, the transient nature of reality, and so on. He had mentioned something about how little control we have over anything, and how drastically rude people can affect us, and then suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, an epiphany struck my brain.

“Eureka!” I exclaimed.

Attitude is the only thing we as human beings can truly claim to have absolute control over. If someone is awful to us, and we respond in kind, we effectively relinquish what tiny piece of control we truly have over to someone else. As if enough of life wasn’t out of our control, we invariably give up THE ONE THING WE DO have control over. To put it another way, say you have 1,000 dollars tied up in various assets and things. But, you only have control over 10 of those dollars and they are in your pocket right now. If someone comes up to you and kicks you in the shins because they suck, would you respond by giving them 8 of your 10 dollars?

Of course not. But that’s exactly what we’re doing when we submit control of our attitude over to others, who, of all people, are the least deserving of it. We’re allowing awful people to take control of the only thing we have control over.

We allow them to negatively affect our attitudes. And the last thing the world needs right now is more negativity. I’m not saying to go out and buy the jerk who cut you off lunch. What I’m gently suggesting, is perhaps we should maintain control over the last bastion of what we can rightfully claim as ours: our attitudes.

Maybe that was Hugh’s secret. Maybe that was my mom’s secret. I think they refused to give up the one thing they knew they had absolute control over — their attitudes. I told this to my park-bench friend, and with a furrowed brow, and upturned finger, he said “You know, I think you just might be onto something there.”

As we parted ways, I thanked him, and told him that I was walking away from the encounter a richer person.

“As am I” he said.

Serendipity? Coincidence? Synchronicity? You be the judge. All I can tell you is that I’ve never lost a friend before, and I’ve never walked around a park talking to dead people before, and I’ve never sat on a park bench talking to a complete stranger before. Statistically, perhaps it was time for all those things to finally happen all at once…

…or, maybe not.