Right now, I'm sitting at a desk in a cabin, looking out from the top of a mountain. I see the rolling hills of Mill Valley, California, and the soft, protective ring of fog and cloud coming in from the ocean, resting gently all around me on the hills beyond view. Interspersed in the new growth of trees in the foreground, I notice the singed and dead reminders of a raging wildfire that burned brightest where I sit now, so many years ago. Sitting just outside the door is the love of my life, with our two dogs: Luna and Moose, writing in her own journal; and just below us on the hill, the eldest son of Alan Watts is laying the foundation to a new cabin that will decorate the hillside. As I sit here I start to wonder how I ended up in such a dream-like situation as this. I could say luck brought me here, but it wasn't that at all; this situation I so graciously find myself in is the culmination of every past experience good, bad and ugly, all leading to Now. To this fulfillment, this inspiration, this joy. I have, as a result of reflection on these things and the outcome of Now from them, an acute sense of appreciation and understanding for any suffering as well as good fortune that I have experienced in my short, dense life.
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I wanted to begin all this, the blog as a whole and this individual post, with what I'm feeling absolutely now, not 'now' these past few weeks and not 'now' until I say otherwise, but as I put ink-on-the-paper type of now. Capital N Now. This post is going to be a general .. connecting of thoughts .. on some basic feelings and a basic timeline of my headspace that you'll see echoed in further posts. This should be much like a movie that shows you the last scene, to your confusion, and then begins the story in effect clarifying the bigger picture with necessary context.
My present feelings being the last scene, here I go now and in future posts with context …
The earliest memories I have are some of the most cherished, if not for anything else, the simplicity. The most prevalent memory I have is when all my siblings and I would load up on my dad's Kawasaki Mule — which is essentially an off road golf cart — for a ride around the farm. We would beg him. We would always stop along the way, picking the myriad of fruits to be had around the farm, for my dad to oversee one of his many construction endeavors, or my personal favorite, just for fun. My sister and I were always a pair opposite my twin older brothers and for several summers we would all build rickety forts, as if we were clashing tribes, in any tree we could find, sometime consisting of only three or so 2x4's with a knotted rope to climb up. My brother Zach and I always had the most fun with our collection of G.I. Joes, staging elaborate battles and journeys across the farm, or excitedly chasing them down the nearest stream in their G.I. Joe canoe. By far the silliest and most innocent of these memories coming to mind is that of my dad and I driving around on the Mule, maybe checking on some mole or gopher traps, and eventually ending up at the back of the farm visiting the Magic Apple Tree, tucked away in the forest. The good ones were high up, so he would back the Mule close to the tree and I'd stand on the top of the roll cage and pick enough for us both. The special thing about these apples is that the tree they grew on has inside of it the genes for the five "best tasting apples you could imagine". My dad had absolutely convinced me this tree was Magic; I remember picking them one year green, and the next - white, and the next - yellow, and the next - back to a green/yellow. It had to be true.
Alas, I eventually learned that it was a Golden Delicious tree all along — I 'grew up', and coincidentally the tree died about the same time.
I started playing soccer about this age as well, with my mom as the coach. She worked a lot, so soccer was a significant amount of time we got to be together outside of home. My brothers, Zach and Jeremy, were already twelve or thirteen years old by that time and we three spent a lot of time on the back lawn practicing together. Zach was a soccer guru from the beginning and he taught me all the basic technical skills and strategy that made me a better player later on. "70 / 30", he'd say. 70% accuracy / 30% power. If I had ¢5 for every time I should've listened to that... On the other hand, Jeremy quite plainly taught me how to be better by beating me, a lot, which forced me to compete harder in my own games; if not for anything else, to have a better chance at beating him back home. I remember all these memories in such detail: What the apples tasted like, sticky hands from the sap-covered tree we were attempting to colonize, fetching a shanked soccer ball and getting that friendly advice from Zach, yet again. It all seems like yesterday — and lately I am beginning to realize why.
Before I go on in this post and future posts, I'll ask the reader to keep in mind the appreciation and understanding I expressed in the first paragraph for both the 'bads' and 'goods' of my past experience. To further understand my attitude, keep in mind this allegory I heard from Alan Watts that I will only summarize, sufficient enough to get the point across:
The Chinese Farmer
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer, whose horse ran away. And all the neighbors came around to say how sorry they were for his misfortune, "That's too bad," they said.
And the farmer said, "Maybe."
The next day the horse came back, bringing seven other wild horses with it, and everybody came around to congratulate him on his luck, "What a great turn of events."
And he said, "Maybe."
The next day his son tried to break one of the horses and was thrown off and broke his leg. And they all came around and said, "Oh dear, that's too bad."
And he said, "Maybe."
The following day the conscription officers came around to force eligible men into the army, and they rejected his son on account of the leg. And they all came around again saying, "Isn't that great!"
And he said, "Maybe."
You see, I am not here writing to damn my misfortune and to hold onto my good fortune, rather using this writing as an artistic expression of my growth and flow through life. This isn't a judging of my life but a growing, changing, observational account, and meditative for me writing it.
So going on; after that stage of sentimental, innocent simplicity, or rather, what makes it necessary to be a separate stage, my family agreed to do a TV show with Discovery. Hearing that at the time didn't mean much to me since my database of memories was so recent, and lacking, so it was as normal as having parents — dwarf parents at that. Of course that's why the show was happening after all: my dwarf mother with my dwarf father had twins, one average height (Jeremy) and the other a dwarf (Zach), along with my sister Molly and I, both average height. It ended up taking shape as a reality show creating awareness on dwarfism and attempting to expel the misinformed attitude towards them. I think it did an alright job for its part, since there seems to be about a dozen shows with dwarf casts now. Looking at some of them however, there is a fine line between educational exposure and exploitation. The genetic makeup of our family, coupled with my dad's imaginative development of the farm with: a castle, an Old West town, a house-sized tree fort and the now-decommissioned Jolly Mo pirate ship — to name a few, made things interesting enough for one Joe Freed to originally pitch the show.
At the same time all that was developing, I was growing up going to a Christian private school: Faith Bible. I got a fantastic education in writing and math and developed work-ethic standards I still employ today. My family was also a regular Sunday church-going Christian family, with all of us kids going to Wednesday youth groups at one time or another. I had virtually no exposure or knowledge of any other religion. I had seen and heard the words Hindu and Buddhist, never Taoism, and that was about the extent of it. Because of my ignorance I didn't question periodical snide remarks on this or that illegitimate religion by the Christian folks around me; I never had the resources to look into any other way because the trusted authorities around me implicitly discouraged it.
Religion, to use a Buddhist simile, is like a finger pointing at the Moon. The finger being religion and the Moon, union with God. I think, to have the gall to say your religion is the one true religion for everyone, representative of God's character, is just as silly as saying your index finger points at the Moon better than your middle finger — or that your finger points better than his or her finger. It's just spiritual pride talking there. So, being isolated in the Christian bubble I was, in effect, chopped off all my fingers but one; one that someone else told me I should keep. This all has great, far-reaching implications, this isolation in philosophical/theological language, for my development in understanding of those fields and my world-view in general. "A thousand obvious differences about minor points are rooted in a few unconscious differences about major principles." And this isolation fostered a one tiered, incomplete world-view, that is until I noticed it and could start saying otherwise.
The beginning of filming and my coming of age in a solely Christian community were particularly formative and useful experiences, however carry with them many, many subtle negatives, like the aforementioned isolation in theological language. Filming, and the positive and negative things that come with it are a bit too complex to sum here in total. In future posts, I expect to relate or reflect on filming in more detail. For now it's well enough to say filming simply exposed me to and immersed me in adult life on a constant basis. If not directly involved with inner dealings, the sheer presence of adults roaming around the house and farm, eventually inhabiting our first barn completely, affected and matured my ability to socialize with people older than myself to a great degree. In the beginning we were filming about 6 days a week with a break on Tuesdays, with Wednesday eventually becoming a 'morning routine' day. Those are the most shocking to remember, in a purely abnormal way. On several Wednesdays I remember opening my eyes for the first time with the dark monocle lens of the camera staring back at me. Always with a perfectly normal human person behind it, and at least one other 'sound guy' in the hall. I learned early on how to pretend to be asleep, and the value of patience (applied to many more important things) — boring the camera guy until he gives up in exasperation.
Essentially, filming complicated my life and made it busy and serious, especially in contrast to the ever sought after simple life of childhood, with "no worry for the morrow." That simplicity for me came to a halt when the pilot was filmed, I was six years old then. It all lasted until my 18th birthday, 2015, when to my great relief, I saw my name crossed out in red ink on the newest season's contract.
After this, I moved away from the farm with my rescue dog Luna Beth and started living with my girlfriend Izzy Rock and her rescue dog Moose. Through several intermediary renting situations, we ended up in Arcata, California. Since moving out and especially since arriving in Arcata, I have made constant effort to live simpler, truer, more real, more in it than before, being protected by the dozen or so TV folks planning my days and vacations and everything else. This conscious effort to change some fundamental aspects of my life really jump started with the conception of my pseudo-family in Izzy, Luna and Moose, and with the reconnection to my love of books. I've always tended towards self-education and I now had the time and freedom to pursue any avenue I pleased. In the process of this I've regained a certain aspect of childhood wonder again. Of course, pure childhood wonder, when I was collecting Magic Apples for two and sending G.I. Joes on dangerous missions down the creek, is only accessible then — that Now. This wonder, found again later in life, has the spirit of that pure wonder in a child, only, it's applied to and also considers the life that has been lived in the meantime, giving beautiful new meaning and attitude towards the world around you — still the same Eternal Now. Undoubtedly, Alan Watts, writer and philosopher, has had the most discernible impact on me in post-filming life. With the exploration of his work came satori, Japanese for sudden realization or awakening, dozens of times over. This new mindset, in contrast to the one under the auspices of filming, helps me reflect on my life and see the beauty in the misfortune and benefit to the negatives. Most importantly too — I see that it really was a Magic tree after all. That little kid, happy enough with fruit for all three meals and who sincerely hoped that drifting G.I. Joe would complete his mission, as I've come to realize, possessed high wisdom. That wonder, enthrallment, and sense of peculiarity in everyday life is what so many spiritual seekers and religious followers fail to feel, and so resort to moral one upmanship — something they can do and feel.
It's really a funny thing, we are born with this wisdom of enjoying life, and as we grow we trade that wisdom for knowledge and things, "This that and the other is how you achieve the title of success." After a while, though, of having that knowledge and getting the things, we get bored. There's still this hunger somewhere. So we spend our lives searching deeper in what we think has worked so far: knowing and getting. This process is an itch that we are taught, and through the years we continue obliging the itch until it spreads and grabs nearly your entire focus. Some folks can never resist trying to know or get more, others are presented with a breaking point, or a low point, or just a significant crossroads that 'realizes' them out of it. At least for a time, as is pointed out in the Greek phrase panta rhei ; everything flows. They realize what they already have is enough, and heaven is on earth, and each moment alive is a significant moment in and of itself. This realization is available to everyone should they just let go of trying to know and have and control everything. No one with an adequate understanding of this will tell you it's only for a privileged few, but rather a self-evident reality to be lived daily. We have literally designed a way of life, society, that spends it's time tricking people into thinking they don't have what they're born with. There is ironic humor in that when remembering the Hindu view of the world as drama, and that is exactly what God (though they use 'Brahman') does. He tricks himself by playing the part of the world we know, he needs a surprise, following eternity after eternity of being omni-everything. The surprise is us. Me sitting here typing and you sitting wherever you are with everything around you; the noises you hear, your heart beating, your lungs pulsing with life; this is the play of God, the expression of Brahman, the flow of the Tao. None of this should be taken literally. It's mythology. Our human way of describing the indescribable, which is not to say it's meaningless; not in the slightest.
This realization, it should be said again, is not a goal to be reached but a life to be lived. It changes your very demeanor, your aura. Every day, I am actively working — playing — to cultivate a state of mind with this realization always at the forefront. In this, I appreciate anything 'ordinary' kind enough to show itself to me: a beautiful sunset, trees swaying in the wind and creaking their songs, people-watching in the town plaza, the love of my life walking into the room, ...
... "Plucking chrysanthemums along the East fence;
Gazing in silence at the southern hills;
The birds flying home in pairs
Through the soft mountain air of dusk—
In these things there is deep meaning,
But when we are about to express it,
We suddenly lose the words."
... It is all a fantastic, admirable, beautiful, meaningful play. In this way, it seems like my childhood might as well have been yesterday after all, or even today!
In my writing I enjoy using the art of words, symbols, to point to and admire the world as it happens in front of me, in all of its glory and despair. "The world is love to him who treats it as such, even when it torments and destroys them.." (This Is It by Alan Watts, pg. 146). If I could help any one person see the benefits of this ordinary joyousness sorely lacking in our society, it would be a happy bi-product of my journal-esque musings on life...
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It seems necessary, with the power of poetry, to end this post with one of my favorites on this joy and wonder for everyday life, and the same characteristics within the Creator of these things. If you click the image it will lead you to audio of Alan Watts reciting this from his talk titled "G.K. Chesterton" on YouTube.