Life Is All Around You

August 17, 2012

Are you living it? You can say yes, I’m not judging you. Today’s entry is a more intuitive philosophical expression of the only place anyone can find truth in any aspect of life, namely relationships. Having been lucky enough to experience Western yogic venues like Omega Institute, and then summarily compare that experience with the everyday hum-drum droll of back-to-reality in the bustle of New York City, there doesn’t have to be a changing of gears with regard to behavior if the key concept of strong relationships is left intact. When smiley, glowing, cultish, robed people walk around Omega and places like that, they are in a state of unbelievable (to them) bliss, because they feel safe, secure, confident to let their inner expression of ultimate relationship with every matter particle in existence shine from them with no more walls and barriers to protect themselves from possible attack. I’ve felt this, and it was good, but immediately the question I posed to myself was, “Why can’t everyone be like this, everywhere, all the time?”. And that bothered me, a lot.

You won’t catch me walking wide-eyed in slow motion, smiling at people and things as if I was on rave drugs, but you will get a pretty consistent manner of being from me that won’t change. Last night close to midnight I walked by the Starbucks in my neighborhood, and three young women were talking loudly amongst themselves, one of them more than the others. All three were dressed in all black, wearing nylons and short skirts and seductive makeup, dark hair. The one doing most of the talking seemed annoyed at her disappointment in what the night had previously brought her, and as she shifted her weight around and shook her hair every now and again, she caught a glimpse of me approaching from about 30 feet away. I thought, “Oh boy, here we go”. She kept talking but her words were decidedly more distracted, her eyes quickly darting over at me again while trying to keep her conversation going. As I got close, she couldn’t take it anymore and had to stare up and down and right in my face as she said, “Hey now! Where do you think you’re going?”, and I just smiled back and as I kept walking, with a laptop in one hand and a grocery bag in the other, I replied, “home, where else?”, and shook my head a little. Then it occurred to me that this was the same as every stranger feeling comfortable to say hello and smile to every other stranger as if on ecstasy and LSD in the confines of unthreatening and beautiful nature where everyone is wearing sheets for clothes, a sandal or flip flop or Croc or clog, except this is real life in the real world where everything is an attack on your survival. Sure, this girl may have been speaking from her lustful loins, but I like to think that some smaller, more basic part of her had innocent intentions and she just wanted to say “Hi”, expressing her relationship with the world around her, a person who sees the truth.

About two years ago at a casual meeting on the Upper West Side in a small cafe with, among others, Soren Gordhamer about Wisdom 2.0, we discussed the relationship between people like all of us at the cafe at different tables, strangers, and the lack of relationship, the fact that we are essentially closed off from one another although we all decided to come to the same place, generally at the same time, and sit at different, very separate tables. We surmised that technology would eventually change all this, giving us not the free will we have now to come up to one another and start talking, but the option to shut off and not connect to one another in a world where as soon as we enter the cafe, we are all networked instantly.

I’ve been intently reading a book called To Be Human, which I accidentally left on a plane from Narita to Seattle, Washington. Before I go to a bookstore to purchase it and finish reading it, I have hopes that it falls into the right hands and another person has his or her mind blown like mine systematically was with each page. And, since things happen for a reason, another book has come to me called Positively Fifth Street, an equally enthralling book about life, how just about everyone you know is connected by one of the deepest metaphors for living life on this planet in a capitalist society, namely Poker, and more specifically, Texas Hold ‘Em, the agreed upon purest form of the game made popular by Binion’s Horsehoe Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada beginning in 1949.

When I first caught the poker craze about nine years ago watching it on television, I got to know faces and table personalities of people like Texas Dolly Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel, Jon Juanda, Chris Jesus Ferguson, among others, and this book is from that exact era and explains in greater detail things I had seen only as glimpses on the screen. Although the point of the game is to stay aggressive and end up with all the chips after knocking everyone else out of the game, it can’t be done without understanding subtle concepts like playing the game without needing anything, as Cool Hand Luke famously drawled, “Sometimes nothin’s a pretty cool hand.” Philosopher John Lukas called poker “the game closest to the Western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered moral agents, and where—at least in the short run—the important thing is not what happens but what people think happens.” Poker is also the choice of pushing the boundaries of game theory in Daphne Koller’s robotics program called Gala, short for “game language”. In Gala’s largest possible application, Daphne hopes one could extrapolate from poker to “an automated game-theoretic analysis of complex real-world situations”, defending ourselves from cunning, no-limit assaults of all kinds.

After reading about 40 more pages of this fascinating account of the 2000 World Series Of Poker, predicated by the story of the murder of Ted Binion, I could have fallen asleep easily, but something was pulling me to stay awake because it was really late already, and if I could hold out just a little longer, I could make it to the gym when it opens at 5 am. I did. I warmed up with about 50 pullups with a weighted vest, 50 pushups on one leg and leaning from side to side, then went to put some life back into my body by starting with one of the most difficult exercises I ever do, dumbbell squats followed by other comparatively easier lifts. I did about 16 sets of different exercises in all, with as much weight as I could handle, and finished with dips to failure. At one point I decided that a forward bend would be a good idea, and I slowly bent at the hips, breathed slowly and evenly as I drew my heart to my thighs, placed my fingers under my toes and held the pose for about ten seconds before I slowly came back up and continued the strength training.

On my way out of the gym, a BRINKS security truck pulled up beside me and someone called my name. It was my uncle, and he was just starting work. We caught up quickly and I told him about a dream I had with him, involving carpentry, woodworking, and he said that wood was a good thing in a dream. I then proceeded to tell him the part of the dream where he held a severed head in front of me and shook it until its jaw and face started to come apart and I had to tell him to stop it or I was going to vomit, but he had no reference for the severed head like he did for the wood.

We parted ways, and I walked home at the top of the morning, feeling incredible. I felt similar to what people feel like playing a rush at the poker tables, also described as “having a horseshoe up my ass”. To quote Lou Reed, who was talking about heroin, “When I’m rushing on my run / and I feel just like Jesus’ son”. Before I get too full of myself, I try to remember my relationship to everyone and everything and how that defines living, exposing the truth, the only truth that can be found in life. Remember that for yourself, and if you’d like, do 5 sun salutations, 2 plows, and one headstand.