Friday, January 24, 2014


The other night I was meditating to make sense of my life.  I'm always trying to make sense of my life (sometimes I feel like that's all I ever do with it) but this time I went at it a little differently.  I decided that since I'm always asking myself the same questions, over and over, it must mean two things:  Firstly, I must have the answer, somewhere; otherwise why would I be bothering myself with these questions?  Secondly, I must really suck at listening to myself.

So with that in mind, I shut up and started listening to what I had to say on the matter of life, the universe, and everything; well at least as far as I had anything to do with it.  Blah blah blah, anybody who's ever read a page from any book in the self-improvement/spirituality section knows where this is heading so I'll cut it short.

After a whole lot of silence I was galloping in first-person, on horseback at good pace.  Not a full-out sprint, but fast enough to where I had to keep my eyes trained a good distance in the future and most of my concentration was concerned with keeping clear of trees etc.. and staying on the horse.  For some reason, this made a lot of sense to me and I knew it was an allegory for my life, but before I really started picking it apart another image appeared.

A yellow road sign, diamond shaped like the ones that caution drivers of bumps or turns or crossings, but on it, perfectly profiled and silhouetted in the universal style of caution-sign language, was a child swinging  forward on a swing. The child figure was near the top of the arc in the swing and the top of the swing was not shown, just the seat with the rope slanting backward and off the top of the sign.

The vision of riding the horse was affirming.  It gave the scattered, hectic nature of my life a kind of romantic air.  Sure, I'm disorganized and often feel rootless, unsettled, and unable to maintain a grasp on anything I'd consider 'solid', but I'm living at a faster pace than the rest of the world, and a natural consequence of squeezing my given time with so much life is that I miss (and miss out on) certain things.  Both the big picture and the small stuff suffer the cruel whip of my ambition which continually drives me on.  But it's a sacrifice that I can reconcile because there's a great big world out there, and I'll never get to see it all if I start letting myself get caught up in particular moments or I start worrying about who's going to be with me at the end..

And I felt like there was some insight to be gleaned from the fact that I was riding a horse and not driving a car or a bike or some other machine.  Something about being bound to a force that wasn't really completely under my control, something that required more of a relationship than a steering wheel, something with a rhythm that was more felt than mechanically timed. Less predictable, but more trustworthy. Something that would allow me to close my eyes at times and I could trust it to make basic decisions for me, but perhaps required more care and oversight at other times.  It made me feel like I don't need to completely understand the underlying physics of everything so much as I need know which way to lean and when to shift my weight.  I'm not working with gears and shafts or chains and pistons, I'm in a symbiotic relationship with a living being and what I lose in absolute control I gain in a second soul to watch out for me.

However the caution sign was unsettling.  The first thing I felt when I saw it was that I wish I could draw/paint so that I might re-create it.  It was so vivid and struck me as being hauntingly poignant for traffic sign (or just because it was a traffic sign?), but the meaning was cryptic and certainly twofold.  Firstly, it was a caution sign, and it reminded me that one of trade-offs to the pace of my life is that its fucking dangerous.  If you stumble while taking a stroll you might skin a knee, but lose your balance at full gallop and you could break your neck.

But within that uncomfortable reminder was a child on a swing. On the one hand it summoned the likeness of one of those stupid "Children at Play" warnings that feature two children on a teeter-totter: who the fuck is putting playground equipment in the street!?  But this is something different, or something more.  For one thing, there is only a single child, and this being my vision, it has to be me.  And the swing definitely embodies the cyclical nature of life, its like a great pendulum of existence.  And its trying to warn me of something.  But what?

There's something hypnotizing about swings. Successfully operating one requires a person to completely submit to a natural, inescapable rhythm.  It's 'back', and then its 'forth'; and proportionally so.  A little bit of 'back' isn't going to give you a lot of 'forth' You can't change direction arbitrarily.  You can either perpetuate the motion, or resist it. Or you can dismount.  But this child was not dismounting, this child was swinging.  Momentum is everything, alternation inevitable.  The higher you go in one direction the farther you'll fly in the other.  There is nothing truer or more predictable than the motion of a swing. Swinging is like listening to the heartbeat of the universe. That's why pendulums are trusted with noting the sacred passage of time.

But you never actually get anywhere on a swing. It's like a kind of trap.  It gives you that sensation in your stomach like your flying (or falling) but no distance is covered nor any notable event taken place. Its an isolated experience with no significance outside of itself.  It's lovely, but its pointless and time-consuming.

I still cannot decide if I am being warned against swinging, or against not swinging enough.  It's a emblem of pure rhythm, and racing at my speed I need an excellent sense of rhythm to survive, but its also absorbingly distracting, which can be very dangerous.

Maybe its both. Maybe the doubt and indecision that arise when I consider this warning and situations like it are actually what I'm being warned against.  Maybe when I encounter an ambiguous caution sign its actually trying to let me know that I'm already over my head.  The time for consideration and thinking has passed and now is the time to act.  If I don't have a decision made, at least I have a partner to whom I can yield the reigns, and maybe that's the lesson I'm supposed to take out of all of this.  Maybe that's the answer to all my musing:

Dude, just trust the fucking horse.

I don't know, it sounds a bit derivative and underdeveloped, but its 2am and the horse needs some rest.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Life-to-date post

The other day I was hanging out with this guy from New York named Ben, who was cool enough to add on Facebook, and he subsequently mentioned reading my blog, which freaked me out because I forgot that it was linked on my Facebook page, but then I realized obviously I needed to read his and having just finished doing so I'm all pissed off because his blog is better than mine (No, I'm not going to link it, you don't know him).

It doesn't help that my post rate has dropped to twice/month or that I haven't been posting any photos (mostly because my I lost the charger for BOTH of my cameras)

Since my last post I traveled to Lanquin, Guatemala with 3 of the girls from Mayan Families where I've been volunteering, Amy, Hannah, and Helene.  I'm really bummed I didn't have my camera because it's one of the most beautiful places I've seen so far on my trip. I may return when my dad comes out to visit in February.

We stayed at El Retiro lodge for 3 days. On Christmas day I decided to drop acid because we didn't have any plans for the day and it was so beautiful.  I didn't handle it particularly well and made a less that ideal first impression with my future volunteer colleagues (Did I mention Helene's family was visiting from Australia?) Coincidentally, that's also when I first met Ben. On the plus side I have two full, typed pages of LSD stream-of-conscious that I may eventually be able to work into something interesting.

20 minutes into the bus trek back to Antigua, I realized that I didn't have my phone with me.  I stopped the driver grabbed my bag and started walking back to the hostel hoping to find it back there. I did.  I then hopped on what I thought was another bus to Antigua.  It wasn't.  There was a bus switch in Coban, somehow I got back on my original bus which for some reason had been kept waiting for me. I still don't understand how the shuttle system works in Guatemala but I certainly know what it feels like to be the least popular person on a bus.

 In Antigua we met up with Mike from Canada who we had all met back at Puerta Viaje Hostel in San Cristobal, Mexico.  I tried cocaine for the first time ever. Apparently its cheaper than weed down here although, according to Mike, its not as good as the stuff in Honduras.  The night ended with me and some crazy-haired girl from Mexico in the back of a Guatemalan Police vehicle.  Relax. they were just giving us a ride.  Apparently that's normal here.

The next day Amy, Hannah, and Helene left for Honduras and I stayed and took some pictures that I'll post in like 3 months.  I ended up hanging out with 3 young woman from the States who were also staying at our hostel in Antigua. They were all college buddies from New York and must have been a few years younger than me.  Turns out one of them works at Tesla, one works for the Federal Reserve and the other works for a private equity company that she was reluctant to name.  We talked about Bitcoin all morning. Crazy fucking world.

Then I came back to Panajachel to celebrate New Years and get settled before Mayan Families started up again on the 6th.  I didn't do either. The only girl who's number I had in the friend-group I was going to hangout with on New Years said she was sick and I was feeling depressed so I stayed in and played computer games, for like 3 days straight. I told everyone that I did go out and just didn't see them, but I doubt they believe me because this town is really small and there's only one bar that people attend regularly.
Apparently I did go out one night and I had everybody back at my place for a house party and everybody says it was a good time but I blacked out and can´t remember any of it.

Work at Mayan Families has been good, but I´m insecure about how much work I do.  Mostly I help Helene, the communications director, running errands, she´s crazy busy all the time.  Sometimes she gives me bigger projects, like re-doing the youtube channel or something.  Then I feel over my head and I spend a bunch of time trying to figure out exactly what a perfect youtube channel looks like what obstacles we´re looking at and I have to reddit a little bit to relieve some of the pressure and hope to God that Helene´s expectations of me aren´t half as high as the expectations I put on myself.

This last weekend Ben was in Panajachel and visited. I hung out with him Saturday. We went to the Atilan Nature Reserve. I took a lot of photos of butterflies that I´ll post in a few months.  We all went out and got drunk and I dropped my phone off a dock into Lake Atilan.  Yes.  The phone for which I became a bus-pariah not two weeks ago.  The phone that I had shipped to Mexico and had to pay a 30% import tax on. 20 meters under.  I didn´t even realize it until I had got back to my place.

Maybe I went to the Nature Reserve on Sunday? Yea, I did. I don´t remember what happened Saturday before I lost my phone.

On Monday I didn´t have a desk because Steve is back in town.  He is another volunteer that has been with Mayan Families for a few months.  He does something with Excel or databases or programming or something.  Helene sent me out to take photos with a bunch of volunteer nurses. I forgot to put a damned SD card in my camera but one of the interpreters let me use his.  I actually put those photos up on Facebook already because that´s kind of my job.  Although I didn´t go in to work to day. Because I wasn´t feeling well. I won´t go into details.  I mostly had to come to terms with losing my phone. That and reconcile the amorphous blob that is my life.

Well, I did get a new phone.