2014: A Year in Four Chapters
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
2014 was by far the most difficult year of my life…
… by far the most beneficial year of my life…
2014 was a year of progress, momentum, connection, patience, love, understanding, and discovery...
… a hazy ephemeral dream; a surreal journey…
This has been a year of rediscovery, of focus. A year of reconciliation, letting go; of patience, of understanding, and of love.
2014 has been a year of immense vulnerability…
Being the scientist that I am, this year can be dissected into four quarters. Music, I have discovered, is one of the most important aspects of my life. Music is my avenue for expression when words can’t quite … I have added links to the music I listened to during these quarters for those interested. This music selection was not intentional, but emerged naturally as a consequence of my personal metamorphosis.
Quarter 1: fear, loss, doubt, frustration, hopelessness, minimalism, silence
2014 started with a complete unraveling of all of the notions I took for granted in life. I suddenly found myself no longer surrounded by friends or roomates; left to confront and evaluate my personal direction and existential worth. I quickly adopted the idea that the clutter of things, of mass, of relics from old times past do not define me as a person and actually diminish my quality of life. I immediately began purging materials from my past; attachments to my childhood that lost relevance years ago. As I let these materials go, I found myself realizing that my anxiety over losing them quickly turned into relief and ultimately joy. The baggage from materials, especially those that represent or remind us of certain times, distracts us from those things which are truly important.
My family began to ask questions, to wonder what was going on: focus, focus was going on. Focus on the things that are important and expulsion of distractions- by owning less we take true ownership of the things we value most. Coincidentally, around this time I saw a lecture by Joshua Becker which validated many of the conclusions that I had recently reached independently. This sentiment is not new- like many things, it is ancient sentiment repackaged in modern terms.
“Most of the luxuries, and many of the comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”
-Henry David Thoreau
…The elevation of mankind. Here is a common motif found in the thoughts and writings of ancients and philosophers alike. It also seems to repeat that predominately during times of great struggle is when people seem to think the most about elevation, transcendence, enlightenment, nirvana, etc… As I tear down the materials from my past, expel ancient memories, focus on identity, and question my external and internal self, I begin to break down all concepts of my personal framework: my cognitive schema, my moral values, my hobbies, my career, my friends, my family, my plans, my Atman- I enter into the realm of nihilism. That is to say, I completely deconstruct everything it is I know, and everything it is I want to be. I leave it all on the table without purpose, reason, desire- structure becomes chaos, death becomes rebirth: Samsara. I stare into the abyss; nothing stares back.
This state is one of absolute despair, hopelessness. All that defines you, or has historically been thought to define you loses meaning. This is the realm where God dies, where morality dies, and where we die- we die to be reborn. This is the state where we all become children, once again innocent and without moral judgments- a new opportunity to experience ourselves, our world, our existence. We are reborn to redefine, to bring clarity, and to bring new hope. We can establish ourselves as the Ubermensch- we can transcend the despair of our current moment, we can personally evaluate and stare beyond the abyss.
“You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape... The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth... Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss ... what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”
“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
Quarter 2: liberation, motivation, connection, discovery, community
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
It doesn't matter what you do… so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching... The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
If we all spend one hour a week, if we all dedicate sixty minutes every seven days to connecting with our communities, the world will be a profoundly different place. It does not matter if we choose to connect through our church, our schools, a homeless shelter; if we all take the time to experience our communities, if we all take the time to be a bridge and not simply an end, we will have a radically different perspective on place and the people with which we occupy this place. Through discovery and connection with our community, we will all have greater clarity. When we embark on our Great Departure, we will discover the struggles of our neighbors, discover the joy of their accomplishments, and discover the connection we share with the individuals that surround us. Spending time with, and understanding community, allows us to tread softly, to break down prejudices, to practice empathy.
Becoming president of the non-profit organization with which I have been an active member for ten years, enabled me to reestablish my connection with community and to define my place. Speaking publically about my research at Comicon, schools, libraries, and universities, enabled me to reestablish my connection with community and to define my place. By playing an active role in our communities, we are granted access to leave a lasting impact and develop a sense of profound responsibility- we take ownership of that which is worth owning.
The second quarter of 2014 was one of liberation- liberation from the elements that planted me in the roots of misguided youth. It was a time of connection with the scientific community from which I have so long been isolated. The inward abyss that had so starkly tormented the year’s beginnings had begun to shift toward outward expressions of love and hope. Love and hope directed through motivation, competence, love, esteem, and an appreciation for my ability to self-actualize.
Quarter 3: confrontation, contemplation, understanding, melancholy
“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
During the third quarter of 2014, I began to challenge conclusions I had drawn before divorcing myself in early 2014. Having allowed myself to deconstruct and reconstruct, I was granted the opportunity to reevaluate in my new headspace. Looking back at myself, in that time, in that place, brought about an uncanny awareness of self- of how I was and how I am- I began to realize the magnitude of my transformation. The headspace of my past began to lose importance. I began pondering the origins of my divorce; the beginnings of my journey. I understood the purpose of my journey and began to attribute meaning to my new frame of mind.
Confronting this reality, the reality of my transition and self-intervention, brought about intense melancholy. I began to understand the magnitude of myself that I had lost; how little focus I had left. Who was I? Who am I? I understood the purpose and importance of my journey, but in understanding those things, I was forced to confront a past; a past that brought a sense of guilt and shame- guilt and shame I sought to reconcile. It also brought a sense of vindication- my journey began on justified pretenses and although difficult, soul-making does not come without immense insight, personal development, and gain.
Quarter 4: love, optimism, forgiveness, transcendentalism
“I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”
The last quarter of 2014 corroborated the previous three into one cohesive world view. Confronting ideals, questioning values, contemplating frustration, and empathizing with my journey have established a renewed optimism. The despair and frustration, guilt and shame, have all found their way to forgiveness and love. Forgiveness of myself, forgiveness of others, love for myself, love for others, and a renewed optimism for the potential of the present.
“But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy [material things] is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, which has them not, is rich as a savage? […] the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
-Henry David Thoreau
I often think about what it is that is most important to me in life- I believe we all do, or should. Expression of love is the most valuable asset we have. Empathizing with others’ expressions of love and allowing them to shine, in their own way- that is my most valuable asset. How is it that man must have first expressed his love- before the materials and distractions of the modern day? Before we had cards, and chocolates, and bears, and plastic hearts? He may have picked flowers, he may have painted murals, or, perhaps, he just listened. Before man developed surrogates, before man developed materials for self-expression, he surely had to rely on his innate ability to express love. Perhaps it was a hug, perhaps it was a kiss, or a loving embrace, but no doubt, there was expression of love before the material world. That, I believe, is our most fundamental human quality, and one that I sincerely advocate for all of humanity.
2014 was by far the most difficult year of my life…
2014 was a wedding; cloaked in black veils, accompanied by rain…
…and by far the most beautiful year of my life.
“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear…”
Love always, Bradley
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