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Sunday, 16 April 2017

There Is No Light Without Darkness

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Beauty of Things, where I shared my perspective of where beauty can be seen in this world. A friend of mine commented on the blog, saying I have a great outlook on life, and that she enjoys the things I write about.

This was, of course, a very flattering compliment. But, knowing me better than she did, I had to think and reflect long and hard about how true this statement really was. Especially in a social media society where everybody only sees the best of everyone else, and none of the demons which even the best of us, including myself, have.

Truth be told, I had a pretty difficult winter, where I nearly fell into depression. And as much as I wanted to reach out to the FB world for support, it wasn't quite the right avenue for me (though I have seen other friends do this well with humility and vulnerability).

We all know the classic dualities in our universe - there is no light without dark, love without hate, good without evil, beauty without revulsion. I guess I see the beauty of this world because I am aware of the revulsion and ugliness that simultaneously exists.
Beauty in the dark. Fire spinning - Cherry picking, BC 2014

I grew up listening to emo rock music, and today most of the music I listen to is pretty dark in flavor. The way I describe my favorite song, a horrific mass of eerie sound effects, screeches, bangs, gurgles and bangs, goes like this: "All the chaos in this world, all that's wrong with humanity, which I can't explain, and which makes me want to cry - this song is that chaos put into sound, but in such a way that it is beautiful and makes sense of all the chaos. This song speaks to me, soothes me, tells me everything will be okay."

And indeed, I am painfully aware of all the hate and injustice that exists; the darkness that plagues this world. Anyone who would meet me in person during a discussion about global issues, would have a mightily different impression of me than if they simply read my blog, or scanned my FB page. I remember once getting to know someone while volunteering at a vipassana meditation course, and he stopped me, saying I was getting into very negative territory.

But if I weren't aware of that darkness, I wouldn't be able to see the light. Or if I just lived in a comfortable bubble, ignoring the darkness, I would also deny myself access to the light. Instead, I invite the dark stuff in, and deal with it. The process is similar to the five stages of grief and loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (I think).
Eagerly awaiting the sunrise - Singalila trek, Nepal/India border, 2014

So I have come to acknowledge that there is darkness in my life, I process it, accept it, and swim through it, toward the light on the other side. And in the right situation, I am willing to share my darkness with others to create a sense of solidarity.

But I am also aware that there is a distinct difference between darkness and light, and negativity and positivity. Negativity is borne out of darkness. But while in some cases it is good to share your darkness with others, there is no good rationale for spreading negativity to others. Spreading negativity only creates a vicious circle that will spiral out of control, and there's already too much of that going around - social media is a big vicious circle of negative news.

Positivity, on the other hand, creates a virtuous circle which can start a chain reaction of positive energy.

So I invite you everyone to start their own virtuous circles, create positive energy for those around them. But all the while maintaining the awareness that no matter how positive we seem to others, and how positive others seem to us, that we all harbor a little darkness on the inside. We couldn't see the light without it. And that darkness will be shared when the time is right.
A little fun with friends - Vancouver, 2015
If you feel ready to share with me or the world, then I ask you, "What is the darkness in your life?"

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Beauty of Things

*** A Perspective of the World Seen Through the Lens of Beauty ***
(5 min read)

(To the Canadians, sorry for my title`s parody on David Suzuki.)

"Sometimes there is so much beauty in the world... I feel can't take it... and my heart is just going to cave in." - quote from American Beauty

As far as my life experiences have taught me, there is infinite beauty all around us. One of our grand purposes in life is to explore it to the fullest.

I see two kinds of beauty in the world. Natural beauty. And human beauty.

Natural beauty essentially comprises of everything created by the earth and not by humans, such as mountains and oceans, living creatures and plants. The beauty of nature can be experienced mainly through the five senses.

Human beauty comes in many forms. Beyond the simplicity of our naked bodies, the clothes and jewellery we adorn; humans create things. Individually, we create art and music. Collectively, we build skyscrapers and monuments.

But I think we all experience human beauty with a sixth sense, something unexplainable at the level of spirituality or consciousness (we do this with nature too, but to a far less extent).
My nature playground - the Rocky Mountains

Cities - the critical mass of human beauty

This is because there is beauty in the unknown.

And while science has explained most of nature, it has yet to have an answer for human consciousness and spirituality - that non-physical part of each of us that makes us uniquely us - what makes you uniquely you. When I listen to a song, I am witnessing the beauty expressed by an individual. And then I make a connection with that individual on a spiritual level, to say, "I recognize that beauty within you. I understand you."

If none of this were true, then we would all compose the same song, or draw the same art, look the same, and walk the same way.

And so it goes, on our individual journeys as physical human beings. We are born innocent, empty vessels ready to be filled up by the beauty (or the darkness) around us. Growing up, we as children take for granted human beauty, as we are surrounded by humans who nurture us in a closely guarded bubble.

As we grow older, we explore human beauty through friends and relationships, and find niches of beauty, specific types of music or art that speaks to us, that reflects the beauty inside of us. Then we burst forth out of our bubbles into the world, exploring human beauty through exotic cultures and big cities, and natural beauty through hiking mountains and relaxing on tropical beaches.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

While a lot of people tend to hate big cities, I realized that I can't live without them. I love big cities, and not only that but I love the biggest cities, because that's where the arts and culture come together. The biggest cities is where you have the critical mass of humanity needed to make possible the ultimate creations of human beauty.

So I understand why people love big cities. But what I fear is that many city people become too urban centric, and forget that our species' roots are in nature. I used to love the skyscrapers of Toronto and New York, but studying and working in urban planning taught me they're not very practical on the human scale, but that many skyscrapers are actually built simply to look impressive from afar. Then my forays into nature taught me the humility of worshiping nature's monuments - its jaw dropping mountains and untouchable oceans.
Taipei 101 - a monument to human progress and technology
Vancouver Island cedar - a monument of nature, a reminder to be humble
Because while city skylines are a beautiful thing, they're also monuments to human glory. The biggest cities and its iconic structures serve as symbols of our dominance of earth, which feed our egos as a species and justifies our behaviour of devouring earth's resources. If an alien looked down at Earth and saw the Burj Dubai, I'm sure it would think humans are a pretty glorious but stupid race for building cities in the desert which suck up and desiccate the lands around it.

This is why we need a balance of city and nature worship. Because with an urban centric approach to living, humans forget to take care of the earth. We stay indoors and consume excessively. By exploring nature's monuments we learn that there are places on Earth that humans cannot and never will conquer. And that humility for nature transforms into stewardship.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In essence, every human is beautiful in their own unique way, but many individuals, especially in cities, can get caught up in superficial standards of what beauty is, forgetting that you can't express your unique beauty by trying to be like everyone else. Getting in touch with nature brings humility, brings us back to our roots, where we can get in touch with our own unique beauty. Then we can learn to express it, and learn to create instead of just consume.

So get out and explore nature. Go to festivals! Because festivals bring the critical mass of human beauty seen in cities, into the natural beauty of the forests and mountains (or the desert - Burning Man is the pinnacle of human creation and beauty).
Shambhala, 2016 - near Nelson, BC

Tribe Fest, 2016 - near Canmore, Alberta

Soo River Festival, 2016 - near Whistler, BC

So go find yourself, find the beauty inside you. Then express it by creating more, and consuming less.

There is beauty in you, and it is reflected in everything you create, whether it's growing your own garden, knitting a sweater, or making music.