Month: October 2007

The Hard Road to Enlightenment

The hardest part about getting somewhere is knowing which way to go. Because so much time is wasted on paths that lead us no closer, we, of course, get no closer to our goal. And the hardest thing of all to realize is that we, in many ways, are already there.

I think the hardest thing to realize is that enlightenment is not about gaining things (wisdom and knowledge). It is about letting go of what you have already accumulated. All those things you have learned along the way have served you in your life but have not awoken the person inside you that is the most essential you. To give you an example, let us say that you have learned many things from books. This is fine, but consider this. There is no way those books can possibly teach you all the combinations of what might happen to you. You cannot learn your life from books. You can only use the resources you have inside to deal with those big issues that come along. Sure, you can turn to others for support, and struggle with the dilemma, but the truth is that the answer can only come from within.

Even having enlightenment as a goal can be a bit misleading. A goal really shouldn’t be so intangible and seemingly impossible to achieve. You really just need to be yourself. That is the secret that you have been searching for.

Ever wake up from a dream you had? Ever wondered how you could experience such things when you have never experienced such things in your normal life? Your mind is incredibly creative. It is much more creative than you give it credit for. If you were to use this creativity in your everyday life, imagine what kind of possibilities could emerge. Situations that might normally be tragic or worrisome would suddenly turn into a joy. When you have to power of the universe at your disposal, what can go wrong? You say plenty… but the answer is that nothing can go wrong when you realize that nothing can go wrong.

Part of enlightenment is to realize that there is no right or wrong. For example, if I chose to spell the word Hadspen as Hadspeen, I am wrong? Probably. You see it is a town in Tasmania, Australia that I visited last year. I honestly could not tell you which of the two spellings is correct. In truth, it does not matter if this spelling is correct. It is easy to judge something as wrong and also to have reasons for it to be wrong but really the difference between what is called right and wrong can be so small. It is our judgement that places such a high value on what is correct and what is not. Judgment often blocks us from seeing things as they really are.

It is the classic case of jumping to conclusions. Before letting the events reveal their true nature, we often jump to categorize the things around us. It is a reflex really. We often cannot help but find judgment in everything around us. It normally is how we deal with all the things around us. Those pre-conceptions often get us into trouble. We do not let people be who they are and only see what we expect to see. It is safe to live this way but really it is nothing but self-deception. You cannot see the world clearly if you refuse to drop the accumulation that you have built up over the years. It is important to take the time to see things as they really are.

It is about this point that you might say what does this have to do with me reaching enlightenment?

Absolutely nothing. How honest can you get? You do not become enlightened from reading things. You become more enlightened by allowing yourself to live. This implies that you are willing to look death in the face and laugh. Really, you must not fear yourself dying. Death is an old friend and if you knew it properly, you would actually respect what it means. You lose nothing by dying. You do not lose yourself or anything that your life meant or your loved ones. These things are always with you regardless of what you do in the future. In other words, you lose nothing. Death is not to be feared because it is a natural part of life. Time defines that things have a beginning and end. Why not accept this truth? Do you think you are really going to get away with living forever? What the hell do you think you are going to do with all that time anyways? Everyone else you know will be gone and there really won’t be much for you to do anyhow. It all comes back to being afraid of dying. If you can drop this fear, this is a huge step towards becoming more enlightened.

The hardest thing to accept (and I still have trouble with this one) is to accept everything and everyone as they are. It is so hard to leave things alone. It is so tempting to try to manipulate the situation to the way that I think it should be. Usually this is nothing but dangerous. My meddling actually causes things to be a bit worse. If I go with the flow of life, things tend to flow very smoothly. If I interfere, things become a bit rougher. I see this as life trying to teach me to relax and let go of my desire to control. The script is always being written for me. When I try to change the script, things go askew. When I say my lines as I am meant to, things flow so beautifully. If it works for the movies, why should it not work for me too? That seems a bit funny to me since I just realized that I am talking about the script when I am actually writing what I am supposed to say.

I think the bottom line is to drop the desire to become enlightened. This goal will happen more naturally if you just try to understand yourself and then be yourself. How can you go wrong by being who you really are? That seems like a bit of a silly question, but really, who are you and what do you really want to do? That answer is up to you.

[This was written in 2002 by me and very recently rediscovered.]

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First Car – Renault 5

Renault 5

 In 1975, my Dad bought our third Renault car.  In 1982, it would become my first car.  The family had already had a Renault 12 and 16 by 1975.  I couldn’t explain why he preferred Renault.  I’m sure being French had something to do with it.

I’m a bit nostalgic about this car because it was my first.  It was too small for me behind the wheel even with the seat pushed back.  I learned to wrap myself around the steering wheel with my knees pulled up.  Long after this car, I tended to pull up my knees even though there is plenty of space.

The car, an early Renault 5, had much more power than would seem.  It is clear that the French are good at squeezing out power from fairly small engines.  I used to zoom around Tucson and would even qualify this car as being fun to drive.

I remember first using this car in 1982 to get to high school and also out to IBM Tucson (about 16 miles away in the desert).  Tucson is such a big city that you really need to have a car to get anywhere.  Sometimes I wouldn’t take the car and would end up trying to catch buses.  Buses would often not arrive on time so I would walk.  I’d play this game of trying to catch the bus while trying to get to the next bus.  It rarely worked and I would end up walking around 5 miles just to get home.  This wasn’t so bad in winter but summer in Tucson can be a killer.

Mom had used this car exclusively from 1976 to 1982.  This included a major trip around the country and even Canada.  The family joke is that we got to Banff National Park and she managed to run over a section of glacier.  This caused a dent in the muffler pipe that pushed the muffler against the car.  The result was that it started to cook everything in the trunk (boot in Australia) and the smell of burning plastic filled the car.  I remember trying to fix this with a screwdriver at the side of the road but this failed fairly quickly.  We had to relocate stuff and the car was already too small as it was.

Considering all the things which that car did, it was an amazing vehicle.

In 1986, the Renault 5 was passed onto my sister.  She didn’t have a good experience overall.  Within the first few weeks, she had managed to not only have the rear view mirror fall off the windshield, but also have the lock come out with the key on the door.  She was convinced that the car didn’t like her and given that it didn’t give me trouble I would tend to agree.

One time I was driving to university from Mom’s home at night and something very odd happened.  I got to an intersection for a stop light and the car seemed to want to stop working.  The engine was sputtering and lights were coming on that had never come on before.  I couldn’t understand what could be wrong so I just gave it more gas and did my best to keep it going.  Ignorance is bliss.  I managed to get it to the parking lot after a lot of close calls with stalling.

The next day it would not start.  We called the mechanic and he came down to look at it.  He quickly surmised that the main belt had broken.  This belt was the link that made everything work and served as the timing belt for the engine.  He was surprised I hadn’t destroyed the engine.  It was an excellent lesson in paying attention to those obscure lights.

John was our mechanic for years for this car.  I think his nickname was “Frenchie” given his specialization in French cars.  A serious downside to Renaults of the time was limited service and parts.  If something went wrong, you were going to pay and pay some more.  John was the solution.  He would come to our house and always charged fair prices and gave great advice about the best way to solve the problems.  I enjoyed talking with him as he worked on the car.

Dad had bought this car in Illinois when we stilled lived in Woodstock.  When the divorce happened, Mom got the car and took us and the cats to Tucson to start a new life.  I remember how crowded it was.  I also remember how exciting it was to get close to Tucson.  We had only been there once before from a plane.  We arrived in late 1978 with the Renault 5 being our only car.

It wouldn’t matter being a single car family until 1982 when I got my driver’s license.  Mom bought a 1982 Toyota Corolla which turned out to be a much more practical choice.

I’m thinking that this post isn’t overly interesting.  Perhaps it’s just a fun way to spend time remembering.  Most men would probably tell stories about their first car if given a chance.   I’m lucky I guess.

The picture of the actual car is at the top and was taken in Tucson around 1986 in Tucson.  I cropped the photo down but if you could see the original picture you would see sections of the other two cars the family had at the time.  One is Mom’s car (Corolla) and my sister’s Toyota pickup truck.  Around 1992, Mom had a serious accident in the Corolla and it was totaled.   The pickup would last much longer and I don’t remember when it was sold.  If you click the picture above, the full size image will be displayed.  I don’t know why but I decided to take this picture from the roof of our house.

Not long after having bought the car in 1975, the car dealer insisted that Mom enter a contest to see how many baseballs could fit into a Renault 5.   Basically he gave her the answer.  She entered and won.  The prize was a trip to see the Chicago White Sox.  Being a huge Cubs fan at the time I was a bit disappointed.  However, Mom and I went and we had a great time.  I just remembered that there was a bigger prize of winning a new Renault but obviously the salesman wasn’t there to give us the winning ticket for that.

As the final trivia point, there was a movie called “Dude, Where’s My Car?” At the end of the movie it is revealed that the missing car is a yellow Renault LeCar.  The LeCar is just a renamed Renault 5.  When I saw this I was surprised and extremely funny.  It brought back memories of the Renault 5.  The movie triggered me to want to write about the first car I had.   Finally I have done it.

Mom and Dad – Early Years

Sometimes it is hardest to write about the things the mean the most.  I had this problem when I first tried to write about my grandparents years ago for their 50th anniversary.  It had been asked at the time (around 1990-1991) to have people write down memories of Grandma and Grandpa.  I tried to write how I felt about them but I just could not capture it well on paper.  I would start to write but it just came out all jumbled up.

Not until this blog have I been able to write about them clearly.  I’ve been wondering why it was true.  There seems to be a few different reasons why.  First of all, a relationship with your grandparents is largely based on things that are inherit to the family.  Many of these things are assumed and also are not ever in any way written down.  I’m not trying to make excuses.  I just have realized how difficult it is to write about relationships that are so close.  This is usually because the relationship has a strong context and also is much more complicated than it first appears.

My strategy here worked because I have only focused on one topic at a time and also tried to tell you about my family from stories more than through descriptions.  My story about learning how to drive illuminates how understanding my grandfather was.  I guess that is the only decent way to represent someone is through their actions seen through someone else’s eyes.

Mom and Me – 1966

There are people in my life that are much more difficult to write about than my grandparents.  My Mom and Dad are two people that I could say are going to be incredibly hard to describe here.  It’s not really that hard to summarize the elements of their lives but rather it is frustratingly close to the most complicated relationships I have.

Mom and Dad met at the University of North Dakota around 1960.  Dad was in the USAF program for flying jets and Mom was doing undergraduate degree work for business.  Mom had a two year degree whereas Dad took the whole four years.  There are a few old stories about Dad doing work around the campus.  One of them was to reset pins at a local bowling alley.  This is before Grand Forks got the first automatic reseting machines.  It sounds as if they really hit it off in the early days however neither of them now recall much about this period.  I suspect that both of them had bigger plans than going back to the small towns from which they had grown up from.

Mom and Dad got married in 1963 in Humboldt, Minnesota.  I believe the date was April 11th to be exact.  I don’t remember much about this time except that it was not long before they moved away.

The first assignment in the Air Force took Dad and Mom to Laredo Texas.  This is where they bought their first car, a 1964 Chevy Corvair.   It was a strange small car with an engine in the back.  I only remember this car when I was much older when it was retired to a shed on the farm and which it still sits today.  This was a very different time for both Mom and Dad having only experienced North Dakota and Minnesota small towns.  No one in either family had ventured so far away in recent memory.  Mom has talked many times about how hot it was and that Laredo had lots of bugs and wildlife that she had never seen before.  I don’t know exactly what prompted the next move but it must have been Air Force related.

In 1965, Mom and Dad moved to Topeka, Kansas and lived at or close to Forbes Air Force Base which was closed in 1973.  Topeka is where I was born later that year.  It is strange to say that I was born in a place that I do not remember but it must be fairly common for children born on or near military bases.  The stay in Topeka was relatively short due to Dad being sent to fly based out of Taiwan at the end of 1965.  Mom and I went to Humboldt, Minnesota.

This lasted for around one year until Mom decided that she wanted to be closer to Dad even though he was based out of Taiwan.  So, not knowing anyone there, she concluded that living in Taiwan was a good idea and that it wouldn’t be that hard to take a one year old there.  I’m being a bit cheeky but this really shows how strong Mom can feel about doing something when others would have considered otherwise.

For one year, Mom and I lived in Taiwan while Dad flew flights on C130 Hercules cargo planes.  As revealed in another post, most of this flying was related to Vietnam and I only knew of this within the last 10 years or so.  Mom adjusted fairly well to being there and had an apartment in Taipei Taiwan .  Mom has told stories of having to go light the fire under the water to get hot water and also having to hire a maid to help out with the chores.  It certainly was a different lifestyle.

Mom didn’t see Dad much during this time.  I imagine it would have been mostly weekends when he was off duty.  I’m not even sure that he was always based out of Taiwan.  Mom managed to keep busy and even took trips to other Asian places like Hong Kong and Japan.

Mom has lots of souvenirs from that era including chopsticks, tea sets, dining sets, and even some nice bamboo based furniture.  Many of these things have survived to this day and Mom has taken very good care of them.

1967 would see the return of the family to Topeka.  I imagine that Dad’s tour was over and it was time to prepare for the next stage of life.

I know this is all action and not really about the relationships but I’ll be able to cover that in a future post.  This is really just to warm up the background of where things came from.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m bothering to write this down but I’ve concluded that the answer is really about sharing this information with family.  It really isn’t meant to appeal to the wider audience.   As I stated in the beginning, this stuff is important to me and that is why I write about it.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write enough to collect enough together to preserve it in something more permanent like a book.

Until then, I will struggle on.