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Archive for the ‘Existential Crises & Epiphanies’ Category

well, I'm almost done my coursework for the term. I have one more paper to write, and one exam later in the month that I'm not really all that concerned about right now. Then the term is done, and I will be one step closer to completing my degree. I've bene thinking about my term, and the courses I've taken. I've kind of been a bit unsatisfied with this term. I feel like in a couple of courses, I haven't really learned anything. What I mean is, I feel like the courses are such a short survey of relevant arguments and papers, that it's hard to get any depth out of the subject. I guess that's what grad school is for: take a subject you find interesting and study it intensively for a year or two. I don't know. I mean, I know I'm learning a lot and that it's affecting the way I view the world and blah blah, which is all very important and yadda yadda. But I still feel like I need more depth. Hmmm. Maybe a master's is the ticket. I do like research and writing. I'm not sure it's hands-on enough for my liking; I still feel like in my lifetime, if I work hard enough and enough other people work hard enough, things might change for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. I feel like I have to roll up my sleeves and get in there, into the fray, make some sort of difference. But I need more tools, more tools. How do I go about it? More school, more school. But the longer I study, the longer I am till I can do the work that will help. I don't need to make a name for myself; I just need to make a difference.So in one sense, this small accomplishment of getting through another term, getting one term closer to graduation, feels like some daylight is bleeding in. But in another sense, it still feels pitch black and long from dawn.

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well, by now if you've been reading my posts at all, you'll know that I'm not religious. I was raised in the baptist church, and at about age 14 I started to have serious doubts about the validity of what I was hearing each Sunday. After a couple more years, I wasn't going anymore even to appease my parents on a regular basis, and this past christmas was my first on record that I did not attend christmas eve service. I've had enough, and I don't want anything to do with it anymore.That said, I've been having some interesting discussions on the subject of faith lately with two different friends. I'll briefly outline the positions: one position is that faith is misplaced and misguided at best and it's a bit foolish to believe in something that shows such a poverty of evidence in its support. The other is that personal experiences of faith/divinity are important to an understanding of faith, and if we have no personal experience of faith, who are we to criticize others who have.

In my Philosophy of Religion class this week, the instructor made the claim that belief is not something you can choose, but that it is something within you that you discover. I was very resistent to this claim; for me, faith is exactly choosing to believe in something despite the fact that there is an absence of evidence or even evidence to the contrary. I don't think it is sensible to speak of believing in fact: it doesn't make sense to say, "I believe in gravity" or "I believe in World War II." I think belief is something that you can hold until you examine the evidence thoroughly, or that you can choose to hold despite negative or absent evidence. Yet, when I brough up the subject with my friend who holds faith to be important, she thought it made sense to talk about discovering one's faith within.

When I began to think about my own experience with faith, it is very difficult for me. I was indoctrinated into christianity at a young age, and it's hard to remember how I felt about what I was learning at the time. What I remember more accurately was coming out of faith in christianity. I began to become disillusioned with church and the teachings of the bible as I got older and began to think about the miracles, and heaven, and angels, and the immaculate conception, and the trinity, and I wanted more evidence, more explanation. No one could answer me satisfactorily. I began to think about how the bible came to be, and how the people in my church claimed god had written it, that the men who wrote down the words were divinely inspired. I began to think about that, and how it was at least possible that these men had faked it, or at least had been under some sort of delusion that made them think they were listening to god. on and on it went, until I finally began to think of the stories in the bible as plainly that: stories. good stories mind you, but stories nonetheless.

I began to look into other religions, and see if I found the claims there to be more tenable. I looked at judaism and islam, neither of which I found to be very appealing considering the position of women being no better than that of christianity, and the strong reliance on divine inspiration/miracles. no thanks – I need evidence to believe that sort of thing. so I turned instead to eastern religions. buddhism required too much suffering, and I like to think of the purpose of life to be to live with joy as much as possible. also, the pesky problem of the buddhist version of reincarnation was insurmountable for me: reincarnation presupposes a continuation of selfhood, which is in direct conflict with the buddhist teachings of no-self and impermanence.

the belief system I can come closest to believing is taoism. basically, in taoism the focus is on nature, and one's own natural tendancies. why fight what is in your nature? go with the flow of the tao. the quintessential taoist handbook is the Tao Te Ching, attributed to the taoist master Lao-Tzu. it's a lovely and inspiring book full of wisdom and enigma; for eg: 19 says "Throw away holiness and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times happier. Throw away morality and justice, and people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit, and there won't be any thieves. If these three aren't enough, just stay at the centre of the circle and let all things take their course." It doesn't ask us to make any leaps of faith, to believe in nonsensical stories that lack evidence, or to suspend common sense.

anyway, not that I'm advocating taoism, but my point is that I don't know what to think about this idea that belief is something you discover. I discovered that christianity wasn't for me, because it didn't resonate with me on an intellectual level. somehow, taoism resonates with me and I feel comfortable with it. does that mean I was always taoist and I didn't know it until I read the Tao Te Ching? Or that I was always an agnostic with atheist leanings and didn't know it until I discovered that because no monotheistic religion made sense to me?

what do you guys think – is belief something we come to intellectually, or is it something that resides in us somehow? And if it is something that is within us, does that beg the question of the existence of god? (how did that belief get there in the first place?)

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As 2005 fades to black, it's time for an annual review of my personal goals. I guess they are resolutions in a way, but I do resent the pressure involved with that word and concept. I guess these are just goals for the year. Here goes:

  • health and fitness: I am renewing my commitment to my health and fitness, including finding ways to deal with stress. My goal is a 3 times a week workout and a weekly yoga class, combined with a fresh start on the South Beach Diet to cleanse myself of bad stuff from the holidays/end of term.
  • organization: here's my big confession: I hardly ever open my mail. I open things that are clearly from friends, but I hardly ever open things like credit card bills. I check those things online all the time, so I don't need the statements, and they end up piling up in a big cluttery pile. I'm renewing my commitment to keeping my space neat and clutter-free. I'm also renewing my commitment to a regular study schedule (this hasn't been a problem at all for me this past term – I had no time for anything but studying!).
  • creativity: I think I may be ready to find a new creative outlet. I've always wanted to take a class in pottery, so I think I'm going to look for one starting in the spring when school is out. Also, I may buy myself a small paint set and try it out.

That's it! I don't like to overwhelm myself, and I make goals for myself all the time, but these are the main ones I'm going to keep in mind for the first quarter of this year.Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they for 2006?

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well, it is officially time to say goodbye to 2005. Once again, I am glad to see the end of this year, and excited at what the next year might bring. This was a tough year, but also one filled with a lot of wonderful times. Here's a recap:

  • January 2005 – started going to school full time with a full course load (Sept 2004 had me taking three classes) while working 40 hours a week at my job (which I hated).
  • February 2005 – had a fantastic time on spring break with one of my best friends in Toronto, including a week of Oscar movies and an Oscar party!
  • March 2005 – got fired from my job (which I hated).
  • April 2005 – went on Unemployment Insurance for the first time.
  • April 2005 – my best friend returned home after a Big Trip – I missed her so!
  • May 2005 – was forced to move home with my parents (OUCH!). Lucky I had a place to go, and that my relationship with my parents allowed me to return in a way that doesn't cramp my style too much.
  • May 2005 – started working a bit with my friends who own a small business. This provided me with a lot of enjoyment, good laughs, and a bit of money for my bills! Thanks forever Tan and Leah!
  • July 2005 – turned 29 – my last year of being 20-something!
  • July 2005 – took my first feminist theory class, and found a theoretical base for much of my future work and studies.
  • July 2005 – had a visit from my Dad's sister, her husband and their daughter. I had never met my cousin, and had only met my uncle when I was too small to remember. We had a wonderful time together!
  • September 2005 – saw the Rolling Stones live in concert with Maroon 5 and the Tragically Hip with 79,999 other people!
  • September 2005 – stopped hearing from one of my closest friends after her engagement. weird, and sad to lose the friendship. hopefully things will turn around one day.
  • September 2005 – started my third year of my philosophy degree; decided to change to a combined honours in Philosophy and Gender and Women's Studies.
  • October 2005 – started a new job working for a plastic surgery clinic. It suits me just fine, part-time hours for a decent wage and no weekends or evenings and no work I don't want to do! It's just about the perfect job for me! FINALLY, after three years of the worst working experiences ever!
  • October 2005 – had a very sad split with a best friend after finding out about something she was up to that I just couldn't support and didn't know how to handle for myself. I'll forever be sad about this, and I hope one day we will be able to reconcile. I hope she is moving on with her life and that things are going just great for her. I miss her like crazy.
  • December 2005 – met my cousin (son of the aunt and uncle who visited in July). He's going to be living in my city for a while, so I'm looking forward to spending some more time with him.
  • December 2005 – paid off a loan – what a great feeling, especially with the financial hardships I endured this year!
  • December 2005 – had a quiet break after successfully finishing all my classes. It was a tough term at school with a lot of reading and writing assignments. So far, I have two A grades… can't wait to find out about the other three marks!

I guess that sums things up. Also, in general, this year was one in which I became more politically aware than ever before. I found myself much more committed to myself, in making decisions that were best for me, whether they were what I wanted or not, and whether or not other people understood them. I made an increased commitment to my health and reducing stress. I became more organized in regards to my space and my time, and I began to get on track financially after years of incurring debt to support my shoe habit. I made an increased commitment to living according to my own beliefs rather than doing what others would want me to do. I'm proud of my progress this year, and I think I'm ready to move into a new phase of goals for this year.Happy 2006 everyone! I hope this year brings you health, much happiness, laughter, joy in your hearts, and success in all your endeavours! Peace!

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I've been kind of neglecting posting lately, instead using self-portrait Tuesday as an excuse not to actually write something in this space. I have been enjoying putting together visual images, but it's not really why I wanted to create this space for myself. I may post something photography related over the weekend, but I might just skip this last week altogether. Perhaps it's for the best for now.

I wanted to write about something that has happened in my life recently that is very personal and very difficult for me, and that has given me cause to pause. This week, I made a decision to walk away from a very close long-standing personal friendship, based on something this person did that I believe to be detrimental to herself, and indirectly, to me and our friendship. I won't go into details, of course, but this person is very dear to my heart, and I think our friendship is a bit more complicated than most in many ways, so it was a difficult decision, and it has made me quite sad.

Rather than going into reasons why I felt I had to walk away, I'd like to work through my feelings about the idea of unconditionality in regards to love and friendship. I think unconditionality is something that is extremely hard to reach. It's the idea that no matter what another person does, you will love them and support them. In the case with my friend, my love for her is absolutely unconditional. I will never stop loving her, no matter what, and although I don't feel I can be friends with her now, I will always cherish the friendship we had together, and I really feel that this is the best way for me to be her friend, which requires more explaining than I am willing to do here.

When do you stop loving someone? Is it when they are no longer interesting to you, when you don't feel any fire or passion for that person? Is it when they have done something that hurts you very much, or when they do something that is hurtful to someone else? Is it when they hurt themselves? I guess everyone has their personal dealbreakers, things they simply cannot tolerate from another person. But does that mean you can continue to love the person – love the sinner, hate the sin?

These questions are rolling around in my mind, mostly because I tried to be very clear with my friend that I haven't stopped loving her. I'm not sure if she understood that or not, but I hope so. I don't even love her any less. I do, however, feel that there are things I can't stand for, things I can't accept from another person. Some of these things have to do with harms I couldn't bear for myself, like physical abuse or emotional degradation, or lying. But others have to do more with my own personal moral code, and whether or not I can stand by and support someone whose behaviour is not in accordance with what I believe in. If, for instance, I had a friend whom I knew to be a criminal, I could not sustain the friendship anymore.

I guess what it comes down to for me is consistency of moral character, or integrity. It is the things I strive for in my own life everyday – to be exactly who I puport to be, to be myself and honest in every situation, to be true to my own definition and not act in ways that subvert my sense of who I am. I think integrity is something you can take to the bank in many ways – the emotional bank, that is. When someone does something that shows me they are other than what they say they are, I lose faith and trust in them. I just don't know how to reconcile that with the idea I have of who they are, who they have said they are, who they always have shown me they are in the past. And I begin to doubt myself, my choices, my sense of character. I begin to think of myself as naive, gullible, a chump. It's important to me that I be able to trust the people in my life to be who they say they are. In that way, when I find out something about someone that makes me question who they are, it makes me question everything about them, all their reasons for behaviours, and it makes me question myself.

I know I will always love my friend, even if we are never close again. I hope she is well, and that in time we are able to mend our shortcomings. I don't feel like I have put conditions on my love for her, but perhaps I have put conditions on our friendship. That makes me feel sad, because I never thought I would have to do that with her. But, as another very dear friend pointed out, the love I have is my own: It was never hers at all, it was always mine, always in my heart. And I will continue to have that love in my heart, and own it, and that will always make me happy.

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I like being me. I have a good life. I am blessed with a lot of wonderful people in my life. I have been lucky in a lot of ways, endowed with natural talents and abilities that have given me great joy. I am fortunate to be situated in this world in a way that gives me opportunities that many people don't have.

 

I like lots of things about me. I like that I am silly, smart, creative, honest, warm, kind, generous, a good and loyal friend, independent, optimistic, sarcastic. I like that I am tall, that I have brown hair, green eyes, and curves. I like that I can laugh at myself – I'm usually the first to do it! I like that I can see multiple sides to any issue. I like that I can sing, play piano, swim. I like that I enjoy and thrive on change, and welcome new experiences and points of view. I like that I am open-minded, particularly in regards to other people, and that I try my best not to judge others. I like that I have a strong sense of justice. There's lots of good things about me.

 

 

Now, all of this is not to toot my own horn. There are also lots of things I don't like about myself, too: I procrastinate, I eat too much chocolate, I have little will power, I spend too much money, I can be whiny when I'm sick, I sleep too much, I read too slowly, I drive too fast, I am quick to anger, I have a bad knee, I get stressed out easily, I bottle up my feelings, I'm scared of bugs, I hate camping, I take showers that are too long, I get road rage, I can be cruel with words. So the picture is far from perfect. But all in all, I'd have to say I like who I am, and I wouldn't want to be anyone else – and if the faults are included, I'll take them and deal with them as I go.

 

 

I have always believed there is an essence to a person; we all have an specific identity that is essential, and cannot change. This is not to say that I don't believe people can change, because I wholly believe it. But I think there are certain things we definitely cannot change about ourselves, no matter how we try. This is what I try to see in people – the essence of who they are.

 

 

I want to discover more about myself, and what it means to be me. I know that no matter where I go, what I become, who I am with, that I want to be ME. To me, this is what integrity means: to integrate all the aspects of oneself into one consistent persona; to be all parts of oneself in all situations. I think being a person of integrity necessarily means that no matter the situation, I will never act out of character, that I will always retain my identity, and that I will not give up any part of my system of beliefs and ideals.

 

 

As I move through life, this sometimes isn't easy, but it is an idea I am committed to. I'm curious to see what life will throw at me to test this commitment. I hope I am up to the challenge, and that on the day I die, I will look back at my life and smile, knowing that I never gave up on myself, that I always stayed true to my essence.

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I saw an old friend the other day. We met several years ago, and despite various circumstances, we always stayed in touch. We always used to have great talks, good discussions. He is one person who sees the world in a similar way to the way I see do, and so our chats always end up on the same note, the same page, or in a similar way. He had been away in a foreign country for a long time, and we hadn't seen each other in quite a while, so we had lots to catch up on. What we mainly talked about was how we felt we had changed in response to things that had happened in our lives during that span of time. It was fun to find out we had both learned similar lessons, and had both changed in similar ways.

 

One thing that kept coming up in our chat was the way we had overcome various limitations that we felt had constrained us in the past, how patterns of behaviour keep on cropping up, and how difficult it sometimes could be to succumb to the old ways of thinking or doing things. For him, he was able to sustain some major changes while he was away from his friends and family, and he was very pleased about that. Now that he is back home, certain pressures to conform to the old idea of who he was and how he acted are coming up all the time. I found this was true for me, as well, when I came back home from only a few short months of living away. I had made changes that I was happy with, and when I returned, it was very easy to revert back to old habits. For example, both of us, when we lived away from home, were very active and fit. When we came back, we stopped working out. Why? Because when we lived here, we were not active and fit, and so it's easy to revert back to the old familiar life.

 

The main thing we agreed on in regard to limitations was that most often, nobody hold us back but us. If you think of something that you have "always wanted to do", but haven't yet done, 9 times out of 10, the reason you haven't done it is because you haven't allowed yourself. It's not that somebody else is preventing you from doing that thing – it's you! So, then, the question becomes: do you truly want it? If you haven't allowed yourself to accomplish that thing, why not? Do you really want it, truly? Or are you perhaps afraid of what will happen if you actually do it?

 

I have discovered a limitation of my own, or rather, I have rediscovered a limitation that I have always had. I enrolled in a class this year that I thought would be difficult but interesting: philosophy of biology. Difficult, because I do not have an affinity for science, and I didn't study even the basics of any science in high school, which was 11 years ago. Interesting, mainly because of the philosophy of Darwin. Anyway, I went to my first class the other day, and I was completely overwhelmed. It was a two hour lecture, which didn't help, but I felt like I couldn't keep up at all. My head hurt by the end of the lecture. I went home dejected. I started the readings for next week. By the third sentence, my mind was wandering and I had that headache again. I was disappointed in myself. When I signed up, I really felt as though I could do it; I could take this course and do well, and learn a lot and enjoy it. After the first day, I realized that was a pipe dream. There was no way I was going to be able to write knowledgeably about biology – NO WAY! So, this seemed to me to be a natural limitation. But, it's not, really. I could, if I so chose, study really hard, read additional text books, talk to people who know lots about biology, get extra help from the prof or TA, study with a partner, etc. However, I am making the decision not to do that, because it just isn't that important to me. I dropped the class and transferred into one I know I will do well in – philosophy of language.

 

I hold myself back in all sorts of ways. I prevent myself from being as creative and artistic as I think I could be, and want to be. Nobody is stopping me from playing piano everyday, or painting, or writing stories. Just me. I prevent myself from being as active and fit as I want to be. Nobody keeps me from working out, or doing yoga, or going running, or lifting weights. Just me. I prevent myself from doing all sorts of things that I would love to do, like travel, buy a home, be debt-free, learn a language. I just don't do it! But I am slowly getting there, breaking down the limitations I have set up for myself. After all, I always wanted to study philosophy, and look at me now! It just requires the right amount of energy and dedication, and I know I will be able to do all the things I want to do in life, one limitation at a time.

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