Icarus

“Parody of an angel
Miles above the sea
I hear the voice of reason
Screaming up to me
‘You flew too high, for now you’re too close to the sun
Soon your makeshift wings will come undone’
But how will I know the limits from life if I never try?”
The Melting Point of Wax, Thrice

I always liked the story of Icarus. The idea of taking a risk, soaring high, and experiencing the joy of the moment and seeing just how much you can accomplish fills me with inspiration. I know it is supposed to be a cautionary tale about finding the middle ground between laziness and over-ambition, but I think that is giving it too much credit.

These tales were not bestowed upon us by impartial and perfect gods. They were told by men to others as a means of providing guidance, and that guidance did not always come from a good place. I interpret this differently, the tale is meant to control ambition and keep people (particularly children) docile. It is meant to scare those who would excel, keep the populace from standing up to do what is right or pursue their passions.

Instead of fearing the sun we should all be children of Icarus (Spoiler: I think I’m going to introduce a group of technology anarchists called “The Children of Icarus” in the book I’m working on). We should thrive to cast off the chains of our fathers and push further towards the stars than they ever dreamed. The tale of Icarus falling to his death is just a scare tactic, like Hell or the Boogieman. We should work to show these tales for what they are, an attempt to control people and maintain the status quo.


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

A Weekend Feast

For the last three weeks or so I have been really focused on developing productive habits, getting fit and healthy, and moving away from Facebook. I’ve been pretty successful at it but over the last week or so I’ve begun feeling kind of burnt out. I decided to pause the productivity and spend the weekend feasting a bit, every fast needs a feast.

So, on Saturday my partner and I biked up to the beach to enjoy the weather, enjoyed a beer at the 20th Birthday Party for Lighthouse Beer & Wine, and then went home to roll the night away. We walked around, chatted with friends, and just enjoyed the ecstasy that comes with serotonin (and the Snapchat sharing). Sunday was spent recovering with beer, pizza, naps, and Grey’s Anatomy. It was wonderful, and it had the intended effect of reigniting my passion for improving my life.

It was nice to spend some time without commitments, without goals, without minimum pages read or words written or minutes exercised. Sometimes, I just need some controlled time off to recharge and love life a little bit. Now, I’m excited to work out, get writing, improve my work skill-set, and continue reading about the random things that interest me. It was a good weekend.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Going Deep (Not a Blog Post About Sex)

I’m reading “Deep Work” by Cal Newport right now and I’ve come to a pretty interesting conclusion about myself: I’ve never really “gone deep”. I have never had periods of uninterrupted focus and work on a project or to develop a skill. I’ve never studied, written, or thought about something without interruption for 45 minutes, much less hours. And, of course, this makes me want to try.

I’m not sure what area of my life to give a trial run to in order to develop this skill. I’ll probably start small(ish) with one hour where I shut the door, turn off the phone, and unplug the internet; and then build up this skill from there.

But what should I work on?

My first instinct is to work on Work (as in, what I get paid to do), but I don’t think that is a good first run. I don’t currently have any projects that really lend themselves to deep work right now.

Writing is also near the top of the list, and probably will be the one I go with. I am most likely to develop a flow feeling while writing and I also have a hard time getting going, which some uninterrupted time should help with. But what should I write about? Not a blog post, that is over too quickly. And not something that requires research because I don’t trust myself with the internet. I think that leaves fiction writing, the thing that simultaneously terrifies me and excites me the most. Or maybe I’ll just write some erotica.

I could also work on some sort of skill development like coding, data visualization, a foreign language, musical instrument, or dancing. But, again, this would probably require the internet or a training schedule that I don’t have the base knowledge for. There are also some job and art ideas floating around my head but I haven’t flushed them out yet… though I guess I could use that deep work time to actually flush them out.

So yeah, it is probably going to be writing. Right now, I’ve got it scheduled for 10am on Tuesday. One hour of deep work. Let’s see how this goes…

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

It Started Last Night

It is no surprise that I am someone who is fascinated by human potential and productivity. I read self-help books, experiment with drugs and fasting and practices, I seek guidance from trainers and coaches and therapists. I love the idea of making the most out of this (probably) limited (probably) one life we have. I want myself (and everyone) to figure out what they are truly capable of, to aim for mountains to climb and books to write and children to raise.

Out of all the practices for a productive day, I’ve found that the most important one for me starts about 9 hours before my day begins. At night, I try and take some time to prep the next day. My motivation is lowest in the morning, I’m kind of a grouch, and I need to have minimal barriers to productivity before the day begins.

So, the night before I set out my journal and books to read. I put a printed plan of my daily schedule next to my computer (I rarely actually follow that schedule but having that foundation helps). I make coffee the night before and I set out my running shoes, shorts, and socks. If there is anything I need to download (podcasts, books, songs) or a run route I need to plan then I get that in my phone before I go to bed.

Also, I clean. A cluttered home and workplace puts me in a funky headspace in the morning. I pick up the house, do the dishes, put away the laundry, and clean off the table. I make sure my computer desktop is cleaned up, browsers clear, and programs closed. The only exception is I open a single browser with Asana open with my planned tasks of the day.

Then, with the house and life set up, I lay down in bed and run through a short mantra. This may sound corny, but it works for me. The mind is a powerful thing. I lay in bed and think to myself “I am thankful for this day and thankful for the rest I’m about to receive. My body is an amazing machine and the upcoming X hours of sleep will be enough to restore me. I will wake ready for another amazing day.” Now that I’m waking at 5am I am usually only getting about 6-7 hours of sleep, but since starting this practice I really haven’t felt that tired in the morning and I wake ready to roll.

Then, after all that work, the day begins. 🙂


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Week 3 Progress

This week was a little rough. I was good all the way until after the run on Saturday and then my motivation started to tank. I think it is a combination of things. First, I’ve been in the new routine for about 20 days and I’m past the exciting stage. Second, I have a hard work deadline this week that has been adding stress (more on that below). Lastly, now that my 9-mile trail run is over I need a new upcoming goal… luckily, I have one at the end of next month which will require some training.

So, in the spirit of my post on Sunday I’m going to start mixing the mundane and intimate.

  • Tentatively and cautiously, I’m going to start logging onto Facebook daily with the sole intention of checking three personal groups, my messages, and to share my blogging. If this practice turns into a distraction then I’m going to go cold turkey again.
  • This week I’ve only been able to hit the gym once and only ran a handful of short runs. I have a deadline this week that has been taking a lot of time and stressing me out and, unfortunately, yesterday I backslide and turned to food. It didn’t really help (it never really does).
  • My daily journaling has become really therapeutic to me. I didn’t think writing down my (mostly) mundane details of my day would be beneficial but it has been.
  • At D&D my character (Gory)  got swallowed by a giant fire centipede thing and was almost digested to death. He always rushes into combat a little recklessly and rarely does that much damage, at least the rest of my party (who are mostly pretty squishy) stay safe while I distract the baddies. He also almost got squished by a boulder and tried to climb a statue of a Giant god and steal a weapon, much to the annoyance of our Frost Giant ally.
  • I had a much-needed massage on Tuesday. It was super relaxing and therapeutic. I wish I could have got myself into a more present headspace though, I kept thinking about work and house hunting. It was hard to be in the moment.
  • Also, I’m interested in going back to school for massage therapy again. This happens every year or two, but this time I’m actually in a stable financial position to give it a try. I have some reservations though.
  • I volunteered to head the Marketing Committee for the Cape Fear Community Land Trust. CFCLT is a non-profit that I volunteer for that helps low-income residents with affordable housing in the area. I feel like I’m in over my head a bit but the whole board of directors is supportive.
  • Anna and I put in another offer on a house this week. Like a previous offer, it sounds like we have a lot of competition and someone is driving in from Charlotte with cash… so we may be fucked. It sucks, we can’t seem to find a house that is both in our price range, in good enough condition to pass a VA inspection, and have just a few of the things we are looking for in a home.
  • I’m currently reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, “Time Travel: A History”, “Deep Work”, and slowly working through “Getting Bi”.
  • Our new kitten is freaking hilarious and I find him infinitely distracting.
  • I’ve started experimenting with fasting more and did a 42-hour fast this week that went really well. I think I’m going to implement one every week or so and stick with my 8/16 (or 4/20) eating window.
  • I started a fantasy world-building writing project in the last few days that I’m actually really excited about and enjoying. It has been a while since I had that kind of love of writing. I don’t know what it’ll turn into yet, but it feels good.

As far as physical fitness progress goes, things slowed down a little this week but I’m still on the right track. Hopefully, next week I can be a little more focused on health and fitness because I shouldn’t have a heavy workload. No major changes to my weight but I am starting to notice some more muscle definition, particularly in my back and shoulders (the pictures don’t really show it that well, but my love handles and terrible posture are out in full force)

Weight:
Beginning – 187.5 lbs
Week 1 – 177.5 lbs
Week 2 – 176.4 lbs
Week 3 – 175.8 lbs
Total Loss – 11.7 lbs
Weekly Loss – 0.6 lbs

Waist Measurements:
Beginning – 37.75 inches
Week 1 – 36 inches
Week 2 – 36 inches
Week 3 – 35.5 inches
Total Loss – 2.25 inches
Weekly Loss – 0.5 inches

               Week 3                                                   Beginning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m pretty happy with my progress, even if it has slowed a bit. Each day has been in the right direction, sometimes the progress is slow but it is still trending towards health and fitness.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Struggle

I’m struggling this afternoon. I don’t have Facebook to distract myself (which is a good thing) but I’ve been turning to food (not a good thing). I know the triggers, work stress. I have a deadline fast approaching and I don’t know how to get into the deep work state without food. Knowing this doesn’t seem to be preventing it.

I guess I’m just going to push through today, do the best I can. Get my work done even if it means packing on an extra few kCals today. I’ve been pretty good with my workouts and diet over the last few weeks and I don’t think one bad day will hurt things too much.

The Subject of My Desire

First, I want to thank whoever sent me such a nice message on SurveyMonkey. I know you said that you didn’t need a response, but I still want to thank you. It is nice to know that we’re not alone in our home purchasing struggles. Camaraderie during this process is incredibly nice. Also, I’m glad that my openness about my health and fitness journey has been beneficial to you as well. To be honest, it is difficult not to only talk about that because it is such a big part of my life right now. I’m not turning this or my Instagram into “fitness only” but I will continue to update with progress, struggles, photos, and my thoughts when I want.

Anyway, thank you so much and I’m really happy that my request for deeper connections is bearing fruit. I think I’ll do weekly summary blog posts about the intimate and mundane in hopes that it will plant seeds for private discussions with friends and strangers.

Now, onto my normal blog post.


“Remember that it’s not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel, and learning. It doesn’t matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another… where our heart is set, there our impediment lies.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.1-2; 5

The problem isn’t what we want, it is that we want it. The desire for things outside of our own control is a slave-master and a roadblock to happiness and fulfillment. I don’t know where the line is drawn between the healthy pursuit of things and an unhealthy craving or desire. Maybe it is about recognizing the journey and the impossibility of a destination. I can develop healthy habits to grow stronger and healthier but if I allow the end goal to be my drive then it becomes a craving.

There are so many things I want and would like to experience… a six-pack, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, writing books, traveling the world, being debt free, doing DMT… but when I strive after binary things then I reject the fluidity of life where true beauty and meaning lies. If I associate my identity with a task, with an end goal, then what happens to my identity when I reach it? Instead of wanting a “thing” I think it is better to develop a process.

Instead of a desiring a six-pack I become someone who exercises regularly and eats well. Instead of desiring to publish a book I become someone who writes daily and works to improve my communication skills. I am in control of the process, but not the result. At least that’s my reflection on today’s stoic passage.


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Why Fasting?

Fasting is my newest experimental interest (obsession?). While it may seem foolish to intentionally go without eating I think there is a lot of value in this ancient practice. It really speaks to me on a few different levels.

First, our bodies and minds (but I repeat myself) evolved in a world where famine was inevitable. We have mechanisms in the body that not only work to address periods without food but actually work better in fasted states. We did not evolve to have access to glucose 24/7 and it taxes our internal systems to be constantly in a feasted state. It is beneficial to my health to fast from time to time.

Second, it is a good Stoic/Buddhist practice. If free will exists, then I want to exercise it. I don’t want to be a slave to a few molecules of sugar or a pleasurable sensation. Food is a tool that can serve many important purposes, but like all tools it can be dangerous if used improperly. Far too often I’ve turned to food in times of stress or to get pleasure, I let the food take control of my actions. I don’t want that to be the case, I want to have a healthy, happy relationship with food and fasting helps me accomplish that.

Third, I love experimenting on myself to see what I’m capable of. I jump into new things just to see how it feels and to break myself out of my comfort zone (comfort is my number one enemy). I don’t want to look back at my life and think “dang, I wish I would have tried that” … I think that thought process will be inevitable but at the very least I don’t want to see much wasted, stagnant time. Fasting is an experiment to see how my body reacts. Can I work out without food in my belly? What happens when I don’t eat for a few days? What times or situations do I struggle the most with food? What are my stressors and how can I handle them without hummus? My life is a test against myself and the ideal me.

Lastly, the studies showing the long-term health benefits really speak to me. I’m almost 40 years old and I know that if I want a chance at a healthy heart and mind later in life then I need to start building healthy long-term habits now. I’ve seen members of my family and friend’s families face diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other health issues that accompany age sooner than necessary. I don’t want to be a burden on my family and I want to be able to enjoy as much life as possible, and that means taking responsibility for my health now instead of later. Fasting is a tool to help me with that. Studies show that it helps with treatment and prevention of obesity and cardiovascular problems and slows aging. There may be future studies that bring these results into question, but with the best information I have available it seems that fasting is a great regular practice to add to my health routine or, at the very least it is not harmful when done responsibly.

I’m currently about 36 hours into a 42(ish) hour fast and I actually feel really good. I’m no longer hungry (but I was yesterday) and I have a fair amount of energy. I also have a sort of mental, euphoric high. My mind feels at the top of it’s game (which is another evolutionary feature, we get sharper as we have access to less food). I’ve been doing the 8/16 Intermittent fasting pretty consistently for quite a while now and I think that was necessary to get me comfortable fasting for over 42 hours, and I’m glad I’m at this point. I think this will become a weekly thing for me.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Being Social

My time away from Facebook continues to benefit my mental health and productivity, but there are some downsides that I want to address. I miss having social interaction with the people I’ve met and become friends with online. I want to maintain those relationships and even build new ones. I’m not exactly sure how to do that, but I have an experiment in mind that I hope you’ll help me with.

Serendipitously, a friend of mine recently brought my attention to a practice that he learned about from Gretchen Rubin (personally, I haven’t read any of her writing yet but I plan on it). Apparently, evidence shows that maintaining close relationships is mostly about knowing mundane and intimate details about each other’s lives. The practice she uses involves keeping open-ended threads and conversations going. Neither party is obligated to respond to all or any part of the thread, the main goal is storytelling about your life to the other person.

I’ve been told that I generally do a good job of this on Facebook because I’m so open about my life (for better or worse). I want to keep up that openness, which leads us to this blog post. I’m going to share some stuff about my last week (and life in general) and I’d love for those interested to either respond in the comments, send me an email that will start a personal chain between us (pjneiger@gmail.com), or perhaps send me an anonymous message that I can respond to here (pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). It doesn’t matter to me if we are close friends, acquaintances, or strangers at this point. I want to see if this practice can deepen our relationship and allow for a healthier, more personal alternative to Facebook in our lives. Again, there is no obligation to respond directly to what I’ve shared, this is more of an opportunity to share about your life and allow us to have a forum to deepen our understanding of each other. All too often we make assumptions about people based on a few small bits of information.

So, without further ado, here is a bulleted list of random things going on in my life or that are on my mind.

  • My partner and I are currently house-shopping and it is the most stressful thing we’ve ever done together. We’ve spent years travelling by bicycle through rain and snow and summer heat, but that was a cake-walk compared to this for me.
  • I am currently in love with trail running. I ran a 9-mile run on Saturday and it was fucking fantastic. The people involved with trail running are so much nicer and laid back than road racers. I am already excited for the next one.
  • I have recently been given a raise at work and more responsibility. I love it, but I’m nervous about it too. My imposter syndrome has kind of been hitting me hard recently.
  • The worst part about working from home is the lack of social activity. I’m trying really hard to get out there and make friends, but doing that as someone in your 30’s without kids in a new city is tough. Anna and I have a couple friends who are awesome, but I still feel a bit lonely because I don’t have any friends of my own.
  • For the first time in a LONG time I’m actually excited about a book I’m writing. I’m not sure what form this world will take yet, but I’m stoked about it.
  • My D&D character (a Level 7 Paladin/Barbarian Dragonborn) had a really epic week this week. I was betrayed by an ally and almost died, I knew the betrayel was coming but I didn’t expect it so soon. I survived though, the traitor is dead, and I got to slaughter some barbarians that were entranced by the illusion of flying fish that my Triton clan member created.
  • One thing I really miss about California is having access to clothing-optional venues. There are beaches, festivals, and friend’s homes where it is okay to be nude. I don’t have that here and I didn’t realize how much I miss feeling that free. We have a few friends who we are comfortable sending and receiving nude and/or sexual snapchats, which is nice, but I’d like more.
  • I have become increasingly aware that my relationship with food and alcohol isn’t great. I have been scaling them both back to a healthier level but it is tough, I tend to turn to them in times of stress and I need a better way to cope.
  • This year has a lot of beautiful things lined up for Anna and I. We’ve got Austin for Kesha, 10-days in Iceland, and a week-long bike ride across Iowa. I’m so excited and I’m working hard to be at a level of fitness and confidence for all these events.
  • This last week I finished reading three books: “Principles” by Ray Dalio, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling (side note, did you know that the British title of the first book is ‘and the Philosopher’s Stone’, but they changed it for Americans… dumb) and I’m probably going to finish another 2-3 this week.
  • I decided to start talking to a life/career coach this last week and I’m really glad I did. She gave me some fantastic feedback and perspective that I think will help me reach more of my goals.
  • This next week I’ve got a Marketing Meeting for the Cape Fear Community Land Trust (I’m the new chair of the committee), a workout with my personal trainer, a massage scheduled (treat yo’self), D&D, and Anna and I plan on going to the 20th Birthday Party for one of the bottle shops in town. I am also going to start rucking again because of an event I have coming up next month. Oh, and there is a group called “F3” that I may join for a workout or two. All in all, a busy week. 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. I would really love to hear from you all if you feel inclined to try this experiment in increased friendship with me.


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

“The Raft is Not the Shore” – A Reflection (Part 5)

This is the final part of a short series where I reflect on one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward A Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan.

Part 1 is available here.
Part 2 is available here.
Part 3 is available here.
Part 4 is available here.

But first… a very quick question from my Sarahah page. If you’ve got something on your mind feel free to submit it and I’ll respond here. As you can see from my AMA page, I enjoy discussing all types of subjects that most people consider off-limits.

“How do you pronounce your last name?”

🙂 I have definitely had this question before in my life. Whenever people find themselves in the unenviable position of pronouncing my last name (Neiger) there is always an awkward pause. I actually had a drill sergeant in the Army who refused to say my name and a squad leader who just called me “Peanut Butter” (because, apparently, I looked like the type of guy who would put peanut butter on my dick and have a dog lick it off). *le sigh*

Anyway, I’ve done some research into my name. My family told me it was German in origin. While it follows the German pronunciation rules with the hard “g” and “when two vowels go a walkin’ the second one does the talkin'” I’ve found my last name is likely Jewish and is more common in Israel than elsewhere in the world. (Note: my research is very elementary and shouldn’t be taken as fact).

The easiest way to pronounce my last name is to remember that it rhymes with Tiger, which actually happens to define my attitude (in bed). Rawr.

Now, on to “The Raft is Not the Shore”.


Chapter 8: Jesus and Buddha

“As the Buddha says, ‘My doctrine is only a raft helping to bring you over to the shore, not ultimate reality; you shouldn’t worship it.” – Nhat Hanh

This teaching, which is clearly the source of the book’s title, is something that I never really saw growing up. There was no sense of modesty in how Christ’s words were taught to me. Jesus was shown to me as a god to be obeyed (sort of) and not a guide on a path. His word was the shore, not a raft to find the shore. I should re-read the red letters to see what impression I get from his actual words now that I have been away from church indoctrination for over a decade.

“I always try to be aware of the fact that when the Buddha or Jesus said something, they were saying it to someone or some group of people. I should understand the circumstances in which they spoke, in order to get into communion with them rather than merely take their saying word for word.” – Nhat Hanh

This view of the big picture, this nuance is sorely missing from a lot of religious teachings. Instead of looking at patterns of love or tolerance or forgiveness, many churches get stuck on specific words or rules. I think this is truer when you read Paul than Jesus, but Paul’s impact on the church shouldn’t be understated. He may have more influence on modern American Christianity than Jesus.

“I thought one reason for the deep trouble among the students at the seminary was that there was no atmosphere around them inviting them to become Christians. Rather, the atmosphere was urging them to become experts in Christianity. And the two are very different things.” – Berrigan

I don’t have any particular knowledge of the seminary (obvi), but if this is true I find it troubling. Samual Clemens old saying, “Don’t let schooling interfere with his education,” applies to seminary as well as secular education.

Chapter 9: Communities of Resistance

“One should not be idolatrous or bound to any doctrine, any theory, any ideology, including Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought must be guiding means and not absolute truths.” – Nhat Hanh

This mindset has become increasingly appealing to me. It is like Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy” or even Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and Jung’s “Collective Unconscious”. Our species uses stories, mythologies, and religious teachings in the pursuit of an absolute truth that is larger than any of the individual means of attaining that truth. All are different paths up the same mountain, and no path has all the experience or knowledge to fully understand the mountain. I think this is why pagan practices and the Unitarian Universalist church both appeal to me so much. They are seeking truth and justice and peace without ideology.

“And resistance, at root, I think, must mean more than resistance against war. It is resistance against all kinds of things that are like war… resistance means opposition to being invaded, occupied, assaulted, and destroyed by the system. The purpose of resistance, here, is to seek the healing of yourself in order to be able to see clearly.” – Nhat Hanh

Resistance to sexism, racism, bigotry, emotional attachment, animal abuse, pollution, government… all things that invade, occupy, assault, and destroy our bodies and minds and others.

“the invasion, the loss of soul, loss of self-understanding on the part of many modern people. In the form almost of madness, one is invaded by demonic values of this world, and runs with them.” – Berrigan

We are a culture of damaged souls.

“If in many monastic communities people are praying and meditating but do not resist, maybe it’s because they do not pray and meditate properly… meditating and praying should be in the context of life. And if you isolate yourself from the reality of suffering, I think that something is wrong.” -Nhat Hanh

It is easy for me to scoff at religious people who fall back on “thoughts and prayers” for every tragedy or ounce of suffering in their community. But I’m just as bad. My time is often spent in relative luxury while others suffer and I just hope/think someone else will take care of it. Is that better or worse than just praying about it? I don’t know.

“Do not judge each other too easily, too quickly, in terms of ideology, of point of view, strategies, things like that. Try to see the real person, the one with whom you live. You might discover aspects that will enrich you.” – Nhat Hanh

Amen.

And this ends my reflection on “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan. I highly, highly recommend picking up a copy and flipping through it from time to time.


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”