Tag Archives: Life

Defining Beauty

I’ve been thinking about beauty lately, because this is my purpose, to show people there is still beauty in this world, to show them how to feel again. Yet how can I do that if I don’t have a good definition of beauty. Something which has qualities which are pleasing or satisfying is too broad, it lacks definition, so I wondered how to refine this definition.

I’ve always been able to see beautiful things, even when the night is darkest, especially because the night is beautiful in its own way. I don’t know what makes me different, why I find it hard to hate, why I can’t disconnect myself enough to see the ugly.

I was looking at a photo of the night sky as I was thinking this, looking at a photo of something most would consider beautiful, yet how many monsters have people imagined living in the dark of night. What is the difference between the night in the photo and the night where monsters live? So in wondering why I couldn’t disconnect myself to hate I had my answer, or at least a part of it.

You see I think beauty is the opening of a connection to the things that please us. It is an illumination of the things we find most satisfying. When we see a photo of the stars above we feel connected to how vast the universe is, we feel connected to the light shining on the world around us. When we don’t bother to look up, when all we know is darkness we aren’t connected. The feeling of being alone and pointless, disconnected, is so overwhelming the mind finds it better to imagine monsters to be connected with than nothing at all, at least monsters give us a purpose, to run and hide.

It’s easy to find beauty in the normal things, a pretty face, an idyllic scene, and children playing. These things connect us to health, vitality, life, the world, freedom from responsibility. We understand these things subconsciously. We can’t help but look at a masterpiece and feel connected to each and every brush stroke, the creativity and imagination that went into its design. Yet there is so much more beauty in the world.

We show stories of the evil miners and their sites of devastation, so much ugly they created. Yet I can’t always see that. Sometimes I am amazed at life, how tenacious and unstoppable it is. I see the life at the edges of this ugly. I see the weeds and the grass fighting the toxic soil with the sole purpose of brining more life after it. Little by little it edges it way towards the center of the mine site, never stopping, relentless. I feel connected to the edge of these mine sites, connected to very primal nature of life. Life took this world from volcanoes and acid oceans to what we have today. It connects me to hope that what we destroy may be undone, what we tear down can be rebuilt. Is this not beautiful?

We see story after story of toxic people, ugly people, people who are different from us somehow, male or female, Muslim or Christian, black or white. They tell me I should be afraid of these people, that they will change our way of life. I don’t watch enough TV to keep track of the people I am supposed to hate next, but that’s not what I see anyway. I see a man who has walked from Ethiopia to Pakistan after the military shot his brother, I see a woman who gives an incredible amount of time to those no one listens too, I see people afraid, in love, sad, happy, hurt, alone and in leading groups. How can I not feel connected to these people, they are like me. Are they not beautiful? How can I hate what is like me, that would be like hating myself and I know I am beautiful.

I don’t know how to connect people with the beauty around them yet, how to connect them with the feelings these things invoke. I see it in everything around me; I see it in buttons, power lines, raindrops, machinery, mathematics and more. I don’t know why I can see the connections in all these things but I hope one day I can teach others how to see more in the world around them. It’s really hard to hate something you feel connected to. I’ll work it out one day but for the moment all I can do is illuminate one beautiful thing at a time and hope others can see the connections I see. I have part of my definition of beauty now, it’s a start, one small step on my journey.

Image thanks to Jason Jenkins

What it Takes to See a Man’s Feelings

They say that men don’t feel; that we are stoic, strong and reserved; that we hide our own feelings so we can play games with the feelings of others. The media says we do, it must be true. Cultural stereotypes say we do, it must be true. Some women think it’s true. Some men will try and convince you it’s true. Yet the truth is a fickle thing handed a mask and told to be what it is not. It struggles to break free of the act it must play and punished with shame when the mask is loosed. It is misunderstood and maligned in its natural form, yet praised and glorified when bent and twisted into something unrecognizable. The truth is that we feel, we feel a lot, we feel the same things women feel and we feel them to the same intensity. Yet our role is different, we are the protectors, the providers and the pillars of strength. While we are put in these roles how can we be the defenseless? How can we be the ones cared for? How can we be the sail that needs a tether in a storm? We know we cannot fill two opposing roles so we remain strong, stoic and reserved because that is all that is allowed us.

We are bound by our feelings to act, to solve, to resolve. This is what marks us as different from women, that which is most often complained about is our tendency to fix, but these are our feelings shining through and you sometimes misunderstand us as much as we sometimes misunderstand you. Our feelings are problems which need to be overcome and fixed. This we have learnt from our past, from our peers, from our parents, from the very culture we live and breathe. We learn that our actions are suspect and our decisions while feeling are unwise, so we hide them from ourselves and the world around us. Our bodies when young course with testosterone making us more likely to aggress, to take risks, to take initiative, to dominate and to become more anti-social. Our feelings, intertwined in this hormonal cocktail, we must learn to curtail, to control and to focus. These feelings ride side by side with testosterone and you can’t control one without controlling the other. A decade or more we spend achieving this balance between wisdom, feeling and action yet at the end we still do not trust our feelings. This is because after a decade or more to us the loss of emotional regulation is loss of choice, loss of deliberate focused action and loss social standing.

Women want us to show our feelings yet sometimes misunderstand the perspective we have on feelings. Woman like romance, a feeling of excitement, mystery and feeling special yet to us this requires action, something with a solution so we will buy her flowers, take her to a special restaurant and make an effort to make her feel special. We do not always understand that women do not necessarily want the actions; women want the showing, the looks, the attention, the allure that comes with a man focused solely on them. In the end women can feel as if their feelings are being bought and we can feel as if our efforts are for naught, neither understanding that each other’s feelings are mutual yet simply expressed differently. When women show us their feelings, when they cry, or hurt or are upset they want someone to join them in their discomfort, to understand what they feel, to empathize. When we hear a women’s pain we do empathize, we do understand but we don’t show that we do. We see your hurt and feel it inside and we want to make it stop, we don’t want you to hurt and so we want to act, we want to fix the hurt so we offer solutions instead. So women can think we are not listening and we can think we are not being taken seriously, neither of us understanding that each other’s feelings are mutual yet simply expressed differently.

We are capable of showing our feelings but there must be trust, and there must be strength. We must trust that we will not lose social standing with you, and we do lose social standing because too many women see it as a sign of weakness. We must trust that you will not use our feelings against us, and we do have our feelings used against us because too many women are far better at wielding our feelings like weapons against us. Strength, it is not men who need strength; it is women who need strength because we will not show our feelings to someone incapable of absorbing them and showing us that those feelings can be understood. If you do not have the strength to be unafraid of our fears, our insecurities or the strength to bear witness to our pain and grief we will hide them. When you ask us what we are feeling, when you ask for us to show our emotions you are asking us to lose control. You are asking us to forgo decades of control. You are asking us to no longer act but to release. We cannot do that unless we know you have the strength to bring us back.

If you want us to open up it cannot be done by asking us to share, it will not happen that way. We have far too many years of control under our belt to simply let go in that way, we simply can’t. If you want us to open up then you will need to prove to us that you are the stronger. Join us in our actions as we mindlessly chop 1000 logs for firewood we don’t need, ask us how we plan to solve our problems. Understand that our solutions are just words, they are not actions but the intent to solve the problem of our feelings. Our feelings are hidden, even from ourselves, but we know deep down that we have the need to act, to do and to plan. If you help us in our actions and planning and guide us, steer us away from unwise decisions, we will see that you have the strength to listen. As we talk through our plans and actions slowly will our feelings become clear, even to ourselves, and if you are by our side you will see them too.

Originally published at Good Men ProjectWhat it Takes to See a Man’s Feelings

Photo: Flickr/Sara

There is No Path to Find Yourself

When I looked inside, the person I wanted to be had never existed, I had to create him, not find him.

 —

Find yourself, find the path to happiness, think positive thoughts, ask and the universe will provide, let your inner child free and just be yourself. I see these memes, I hear them said and I can’t help but think there is something I am missing. These sayings come across as so empty, bubble symbols, they look so pretty and rainbow hued on the outside yet so fragile when they meet reality and completely empty when they burst. I tried to live in a world where those sayings were true but life kept busting those thoughts faster than I could construct them. Yet life required my presence and I needed another way. You see I didn’t find myself, find a path or positively think my way to a brighter future. I had to create myself little piece by little piece and it was hard, damn hard. Like Yin and Yang light had to be merged with dark to spin, not grey, but a person of vibrant color.

I had to create a child of contradiction within myself. A kid of immature maturity, a kid who can see the fun in life yet see it between the moments of seriousness. To strive and capture and create those in-between times of gleeful abandon. A child who believes in the fantastically real, a child that sees dragons, knights, spaceships and magic in the world around but yet knows this is all created in my imagination. These things are my dreams, my creations and my stories just begging to be told. A little one who exists in a moment between forever’s, a little one who can be lost in the present but doesn’t forget his past nor forgets to look to the future. I created this dear child of mine and in the contradiction I have created I now grow.

I had to create a youth of paradox within myself. An adolescent with goalless purpose, an adolescent who set aside the goals society deems acceptable and become driven by a single burning purpose. To wear that purpose like a comforting cloak. A teen with calm passions, a teen that can take turbulent troubled waters and create the most serene mountain vista in a story of wonder. To show the world that there is still beauty in this world. A young man with naive idealism, a young man who can look at the world around and see its darkness yet also acts to change it for the better one little piece at a time. He knows that that the world is worth saving. I created this energetic youth of mine and in the paradox I have created I now mature.

I had to create a man who is an enigma within myself. An adult who is an unassuming giant, an adult who quietly achieves all he sets out to achieve yet does it for his own gratification and not for the approval of others. A grownup who is a negative optimist, a grownup who sees failure as a step on the road to success yet can coldly evaluate all that did not go as planned. Unrestrained negativity or unbridled optimism will lead to unrealistic expectations but tempered together they create a path of growth. A gentleman of roguish honor, a gentleman who has principals but will set them aside when the world requires it but he will always honor his word, especially those said to himself. I created this solid man and the enigma I have created I now become wise.

I had to create a conundrum of an elderly man. A graybeard who is an uneducated scholar, a graybeard who carries more wisdom than most ever learn yet understands how little he knows. An oldie who faces forward to look at his past, an oldie that uses his past as a map to things he has yet to see and experience. Because how can you find the unknown if you don’t know where you’ve been. A worn out man who is a defenseless fighter, a worn out man who has been cut down so many times yet he knows deep in his heart that he never gives in, never gives up and he will always grow taller, stronger and wiser because he doesn’t rely on strength, no, he relies on resilience. I created this elderly man and the conundrum he represents is my masterpiece.

There is a furnace that burns in the space between contradiction, paradox, enigma and conundrum and this is my guiding fire. I use this furnace to forge myself anew and create a person of wonder and beauty. I chose this path but it is not an easy path. Those fires, they hurt. For every day I must face my deepest fears, burn them away, and as those fires burn I am left with no protection, naked and vulnerable to the world. Yet as I stand naked, singed and blistered I see the world differently. No longer do my fears and insecurities obscure and cloud my vision and what I see now dazzles my eyes. This is life and oh boy is it worth living.

There is No Path to Find Yourself

Photo: Flickr/Martin Fisch

Why Date a Man Who Writes?

When you date a man who writes he may look a slovenly mess, torn cloths, bedraggled hair and blood stained eyes. But look closely, can you see your reflection in his eyes? Because when you date a man who writes in front of him stands a woman draped in the finest spider web silken dress, a thousand diamonds intricately woven in as if the Milky Way has found its home and every one of your curves and lines accentuated, tucked and highlighted until you radiate sensuality. In his eyes there is no mere woman in his presence but a supreme divinity capable of raising jealous envy from Aphrodite herself. Be warned for when you date a man who writes you can lose yourself in those eyes.

When you date a man who writes there is no story which can not be retold. The coffee spilled on your blouse a rescue by pixies from horrible fates had your path continued unchecked. The flat tire your chance to meet a real knight in shining armor on his way to battle dragons? Yes his armor was in the trunk, it’s hard to remove grease stains from armor. Of course you lost your job, did you not see the morning star blink as the sun crested the horizon, a heavenly signal tolling, your fate has been aligned if only you dare to dream. Be warned for when you date a man who writes no day will ever be ordinary again.

When you date a man who writes you will lose him from time to time. He may be sitting in his chair pen in hand but he is lost in a maze of his own creation. Do not fret for he will return and when he does the tales he tells will have you riveted to the floor. Romance so deep your heart will melt, adventure so thrilling your hands will shake, erotica so arousing crimson will be your new blush and mystery so intricate Sherlock would be lost. When your man who writes returns watch his chest burst with pride as he tells you of his latest world, for his worlds are his children, each and every one. Be warned for when you date a man who writes you must help raise his children, his creations.

When you date a man who writes every person in the world becomes a being of wonder. The curvaceous lady at the library secretly works for the KGB and is deadly with both knives and guns. The nerdy teenager waiting for the bus dances every night and women from far and wide swoon at his feet waiting for him to ask them to dance. The old man playing chess once saved the world from alien invasion in the 50’s but has now retired. No one is safe from his gaze and deep intricate pasts are created in the seconds taken to walk by. When you date a man who writes you will notice how uncannily accurate he is with his meanderings, this man can see the spark that makes every person unique and he has a story for each and every one. Be warned for when you date a man who writes every hero needs a villain and you may never look at your baby nephew the same way again.

When you date a man who dances things around the house will break and fall apart. But he is not an inept man for where others build shelves he builds worlds. To a man who writes everything is connected, he can save the world with a banana or destroy it with a flamingo. Cosmic connectedness is nothing to this man who writes, where the cosmos must work within a single universe the man who writes has no such limits. He will hear a song on the radio and know when he greets you that you will be happy too. When you kiss the lingering melody departing his lips to yours will turn your frown around and to this man who writes this is as it should be. Be warned for when you date a man who writes he fails to comprehend the impossible and his frustration will be evident.

Most of all when you date a man who writes you can always see him for himself. His craft, his imagery and his poetry are tiny pieces of himself at his most vulnerable. No story fails to contain a piece of his soul bared naked to the world. Each and every tale his life, his experiences, his emotions written plain for all to see but cleverly disguised as a piece of fiction. He can not write a sad scene without feeling sad, he can not describe a phoenix without seeing this splendid fantasy blazing in his mind and he can not describe a romance without a memory to build from. Be warned for when you date a man who writes if you use his words against him you will sorely wound him deep in a place no man should be wounded.

A Smudge on the Soul is a Good Start.

Many many years ago now I remember hearing a story in church. I couldn’t locate it on Google but the basic gist of it is this. A priest talking to his Archbishop is complaining about how much sin all his parishioners had staining their souls and he despaired that he couldn’t get a single one of his flock to heaven. The Archbishop asked the priest to give him the night to think about it. When the priest walked into his church the next day a painting on a trestle sat in the front of the alter. It was blank except for a smudge in the middle of the canvas. The Archbishop walked in and asked the priest what he saw on the painting. The priest answered he saw a black smudge to which the Archbishop answered yet so much of the canvas is white and all you focus on is the smudge. The Archbishop then said his flock was like this painting, they had a smudge of sin and as a priest that was all he was concentrating on, he needed to see the white that surrounds each parishioner as well as the smudge.

I’m not always like most people and I completely ignored the moral of the story. I remember sitting there in church thinking there is so much you could do with that smudge. It could be the button on the front of a clown, the shield of a warrior fighting a dragon, a rain cloud hovering over a desert and within the next 10 minutes I was daydreaming dozens of different things that smudge could be turned into on such a blank canvas with a bit of effort. To me that smudge on the soul was a good start.

To me that’s how life has always been. It doesn’t matter how the smudges got onto the white canvas, it doesn’t matter how much white there is. That canvas is the story of your life. We aren’t meant to have a white canvas or a black canvas. We are meant to take the smudges life leaves behind and turn them into epic battles with heroes, love stories or stories of heartache, moments of joy and happiness, stories of birth and death, adventure and mystery. We have to take those smudges and use them to create our story. Those smudges are a good start, they give creativity a place to anchor and build from so we can create the story of our life that is truly amazing.

So the moral of the story I got from that parable was this; The smudges in your past define you, but it isn’t the end of the story. You have a life left to live and you can build on those smudges and define your life as something even better and more wonderful.