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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thrive in the Chaos

          I have promised that I would eschew religious dissertations on this site, and I will to the greatest extent possible hold to that promise.  It may, however, be instructive to impart the briefest of overviews of my belief system, so the reader can understand the views that are coloring my interpretation of recent events.
          I am a Taoist.  I had been raised by fire and brimstone, Old Testament fundamentalists who taught me from the age of awareness that I was a direct descendant of Satan who was irredeemable in the eyes of God, and the punishment awaiting me in the afterlife would surely warrant another book of the Bible to be properly documented.  Rather unsurprisingly, Christianity never figured high on my list of things to get into.  My first brush with The Way was thanks to the old Kung Fu series from the early 70s, with David Carradine.  Most of the people my age or younger who were influenced by it tried to emulate Carradine's serenity with a studied undertone of implied violence; they desperately tried to be seen as dangerous.
          I had been studying martial arts for several years by then, and flatter myself that I was dangerous.  I was bullied at school, beaten at home, and assured daily that God had far worse in store for me.  I had a huge chip on my shoulder, and all my martial arts studies were based on a desire to not be bothered; in other words, if you looked at me funny, I'd rip your lungs out.
          Then I met Kwai Chang Caine.  Here was a martial artist whose skills were on a superhuman plane, everything I was aspiring to be, and more.  Yet, with all this training, he harmed no living thing, he neither challenged nor offended anyone, he was humble.  He swallowed every insult with only a quiet apology for his own shortcomings.  He only fought as a last resort, and when he did, he only did enough harm to end the fight, and not one thing more.
          I understood that this guy was a fictional character, the construction of screenwriters, but without conscious awareness, I realized that I needed what he had.  Did such a thing really exist?  I watched every show, listened to the dialogue like it was a college course, read up on Eastern religions.  To my delight, I discovered that there was indeed such a thing, and its name was Taoism.  I embraced it more firmly than any drowning man ever clutched at a straw.
          Now, there is a dearth of Taoist temples here in the States.  My knowledge comes from books, DVDs, documentaries, and any other source that wanders into my grasp.  "Real" Taoists who have had the benefit of years in the temple with wise teachers to guide them might not claim me as one of their own.  Nonetheless, there is plenty of material available.  Much of it is imparted by parables, stories of the sort you would be told by a wise master, and I have read it thousands of times, and meditated for many long hours.
          The result?  For the past forty years, I have "been" Kwai Chang Caine.  Oh, I can't fight like him, but as he would be the first to tell you, that isn't what's important.  I improve what I can, accept what is beyond me, take care of my own affairs and leave you to yours, and as the Christians would say, peace has followed me all the days of my life.  One of the teachings is, "The wise man does not quarrel, so no one quarrels with him."  Or, as the Klingons like to say, "Never fight a battle that you don't have to win."  I extend this philosophy to not quarreling with the things that life throws at you.
          Case in point:  Two weeks ago, I reported that my XBox 360 had taken its flight to that electronic scrapyard in the sky.  Well, within the last three days, my old XBox and my PS2 have given up the ghost.  I'm a man without a game system.  I have played for hours almost every day since my children were small, and right now I feel like I went outside the Shuttle to repair a satellite, and when I looked back, the Shuttle was gone.  I have that deer-in-the-headlights feeling right now, but, have I not, on these very pages, complained about not having time to do everything I want to do?  Well, I've just gained three to ten hours every day that I used to piss away in front of the TV with a controller in my hand.  Once I shake off this shock, the question will become one of what to do with this gift.  Yes, I said gift, for gift it is in every way.
          I have spoken of not having anything interesting to talk about.  Now I'll have time to find that something.  I can take whole days out (with Lady Bonnie!) to explore this beautiful county I live in, from ocean, to mountain, to desert.  There are museums of everything here, from prehistoric man with his rock paintings to the fine art of modern impressionists; from scientists, to pioneers, to sports stars.  There are eateries of every price range and ethnicity.  There are panoramic views and intricate patterns on tiny leaves.  Photo essays all.  There are movies to view, TV to watch, books to read, and concerts to attend.  So many new things to take on, and I wonder whether losing my gaming habit will free up a quarter of the time I need to pursue it all.
          And then there's writing.  I told you I had developed an interest in the steampunk genre. I told you I had a lot to learn about it. I told you I wanted to write some stories in that broad, sweeping style. Every time the research began to demand too much of me, I would say I was going to take a break for an hour, and go to play a game. Eight hours later, I would turn off the game and turn in. No more of that. I mentioned that Chops and I were going to collaborate on a steampunk saga to span two generations.  I collected some material and passed it along, and never received a response.  I then threatened to write my own stories.  Well, that may never happen, but the point is, there will be time for all this stuff now, and all this stuff will naturally lead to a wide range of interesting things to post for your enjoyment, and ultimately mine, as my payoff from all this is the conversation that comes afterward; I love talking with you guys, and have been worried about not having anything to talk about.
          And all this comes about because the Laughing Gods of Fortune got together and decided to screw me.  Well, was it good for you, hunny?  As I always tried to instill in my children, the most important ability is that of being able to thrive in the chaos, turn on a dime, and make the surprises work for you.  I can't change the fact that these game machines all decided to stop working, so the next question is whether there is a way I can benefit from the fact that they did.  Well, it turns out that, not only can I benefit, but my wife can, and so can everyone who enjoys reading my work here, and hopes that I'm not going away.  Good news: I'm not.
          All these benefits may not be apparent by tomorrow, or maybe even next week, but they're all coming, and they should amount to a long and happy run for the Hideout and its fans.  My suggestion now is that everyone get ready to do some reading, and while you're waiting, look for ways to take advantage of things in your own lives that look bad on the surface, but may have opened other doors for you.  And be sure to do what I do from now on:
          Get out there and live life like you mean it!
          Maybe I'll see you out there...


  1. I really do enjoy your writings and I am glad to see that your pallet will be expanding soon because I love your take on things. Your topics are interesting and your vocabulary is tantalizing! By the way, have you ever read "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse? A wonderful book about a man's spiritual journey.Anyway, Keep up the good work! I can't wait to see what you talk about next :)

  2. Welcome back, Jenny, and thanks for the words of encouragement. I managed to miss Siddhartha (a true modern classic, by the way), but now let me ask you something? Did you ever see the 1971 film Zachariah (A Head of his Time)? This was billed as the first acid western (remains the only one, to my knowledge), featured Country Joe and the Fish, and The James Gang, two bands from the acid rock era, and was based on Siddhartha. Not having read the book, I can't tell you how faithful it was, but it was uncredible (and that's not a typo). IMDB or Wikipedia will give you a good rundown; be sure your seat belt's fastened, though!

  3. Very wise, wish I approached things so philosophically. I waste to much energy on being annoyed and I know it. I have been meaning to find the time to come back and comment, I first read this a few days ago, sorry I have been a bit slack. Enjoy the extra time for other things.

  4. Hey Jack, 8 hours of games? Yikes, welcome back to reality, it's the best game of all. I play golf once a week, so I do know something about escaping, but it can also be a harsh teacher.

    Speaking of reality, I recommend reading Siddartha, and Mindfulness in Plain English. It explains insight meditation quite clearly.
    Just got the call for dinner. See you. Richard

  5. - Hello, Arabella. Always a pleasure to hear from you. One man's wisdom, and all that. Self-taught Taoism has given me a very good life's philosophy. The important thing is to find one that works for you. One good way to relax is to incorporate that Klingon proverb: Never fight a battle that you don't have to win. That eliminates almost all of them...

    - Welcome home, Richard! Always good to see you back safe; the world's getting awfully ugly these days. Your show looks like an ecclectic bit of entertainment, probably with a wealth of hidden meanings that will hit you days after you see it. Alas, getting up to Northern California is not on my radar right now, but things happen. For example, Lady Bonnie and I just got in from seeing Allison Adams Tucker perform a Valentine's Day concert. I wouldn't have been available for that had Left4Dead been in the way. Should something happen and we do make it up that way, I will definitely drop in for a look.
    Well, settle in, catch your breath, and continue with the enjoyment. BTW, games began as a bonding activity with my kids, and they worked very well. My favorite way to play is still with my daughter. They put so much quality and development into the games these days that they're like weekend-long movies where you control the decisions for the characters. It doesn't take long to get addicted to them...

  6. Not sure I can say I thrive on chaos, but I used the subject for a blog post in 2007, while we were volunteers at a fish hatchery in Kentucky:

    If you read my blogs much at all, I think you will soon discover that I do not consider myself a writer and lots of my posts are what I call "copy-cat" blog posts of something someone else has done.

    I do not have a clearly worked out philosophy and do not even wish to discuss religion unless it sorta sneaks its way into a conversation.

    My friend, Roger, and I have both discussed how some of us who hang out at the closest watering hole to where we live could even consider that activity as a subtle witness for faith because we both consider ourselves sinners pretty much like everyone else, but may have a chance to let people know we do worship God in church as well as other places. One other person we know has probably approached hanging out there in the same way. Our common bond is music.

    We have made many friends there and could have never met so many REAL PEOPLE by joining or attending a church. Indeed, I would find it very difficult to give up this habit of hanging out with true friends. It remains to be seen if I, personally, will make any true friends at the church I have decided to join, just because I miss not attending church regularly.

    Since I have been shopping for a church for almost four years now, I have decided that has become tiresome, so a decision has been made while realizing the church I have belonged to in another city is exceptional and will not be duplicated where we live now. But, I do feel sorry for the many people in churches who are dogmatic, or is it pragmatic, about so many of their beliefs. I think, but am not absolutely sure, that some have made our Creator God too small. But, whata I know?

    This does not really respond to your blog post above, then again, maybe it does. Mainly, I do not feel the need to nail down lots of things without receiving a gut feeling that tells me it is really true. I feel okay with leaving lots of possibilities open because I feel many questions cannot be answered with certainty but can still be a possibility. For instance, "God is love" seems pretty real to me, but I also feel others may not think they believe as I do because they have arrived where they are by a different path. Does that make any sense to you?

    1. Don't minimize your ability. Unpredictability IS chaos, and anyone who has chosen to practically live in an R/V for any period of time must thrive in it.

      Not being an accomplished writer doesn't mean you have nothing to say, and if you really aren't one, you've compensated well.

      I do have a clearly worked out philosophy, and I also don't like to discuss it; it has been my experience that people don't discuss religion. They want to know what yours is so they can begin the process of tearing it down, either telling you that you are doing it wrong and need to convert to theirs, or interrogating you for the purpose of proving that you aren't really what you say you are. I felt that you needed a little background on mine to understand what I was trying to say in this post, but I don't make a habit of it.

      Hanging out with true friends is one of the Great Purposes of Life, isn't it? I don't have many, but the ones I do I would step in front of a bullet for; that's sort of my definition. Nowadays, everybody wants to count everyone they've ever nodded to at the bus stop as a close friend. I just can't see it.

      I have no personal experience with shopping for a house of worship, but I've watched Lady Bonnie doing it. One must be careful. Religion, per se, is a positive thing, and everyone needs a moral compass if they aren't going to become creatures of pure hedonism, but it seems like when you get a group of people of the same stripe together, they tend to start feeling like they somehow have acquired the right to stand in judgment of you as soon as you walk in the door. My opinion as an outsider? If you find one that doesn't give you that feeling, that's your church. Even God doesn't judge you until your life is completed.

      And yes, you make very good sense. Change is opportunity, and the more choices you have, the freer you are, in the truest sense of the word. We are all products of the paths that brought us here. What a dull world we would live in if we were all just the same. So don't sweat the small stuff, and also don't forget to thrive in the chaos, turn on a dime, and make the surprises work for you!