I’ve spent an unnecessary amount of time looking at social media posts this morning.
Every so often I’ll do this. To catch up on the lives of those I know, used to know well, or have recently met. I often don’t enjoy my time on social media – I rarely post on my own. At the end of a perusing session, I feel as if it’s time wasted. Sure, I get to see so and so’s new ugly baby (because all new babies are ugly), or chuckle at a video here or there. But it always leaves me thinking, “Oh that’s cool they went and did this, or that, but I wonder how they really are.” Because while people will make something public, rarely is it as real and raw as we think it to be. And when we post too real or too raw too often, well, then it becomes less appealing and people tend to treat us like pariah’s if our posts aren’t done in a creative and artistic way.
I digress. This post is not at all about social media. I don’t care enough about social media to write that post (and, add to the fact that it’s kind of an exhausted topic in our society right now).
What I did want to write about is Nature vs. Nature.
There were two experiences I saw on social media in the 30 minutes I just blew… One where an old friend of mine (But I wouldn’t call them a friend now, so I guess he’s just an acquaintance) talked heavily about how they are awesome. They have the power to change their destiny. They are creative. All with beautiful nature scenery that accompanied his post. Oh, it wasn’t a narcissistic post. They were trying to inspire others to think the same. I just remember reading it and being like, “Oh god, I am so sick of hearing this kind of shit.”
Just a few moments right after that, I saw this heartbreaking video story about a baby chihuahua that had been snatched by a hawk and dropped. Now, as a near-diagnosable obsessed dog lover, I didn’t watch that video. When I see harm befall dogs (or any animal), it untethers me in the heart-heavy places that few other things seem to be able to do. Tears are imminent. Feelings of harshness and cruelty from the world ensue. However, this was a good story (I do like those). The puppy survived if I read the arching storyline from the pictures correctly. It just was a little beat up from the “after picture” displayed next to it’s healthy, happy puppy picture on the left. Still, I chose to think, “Oh, he’s just fine, not going to get my emotions all worked up just to see that he’s okay” (or I guess it could have been a she).
These two experiences on social media triggered a concept I’m pondering from a book I am reading. I picked up this book under $5 on amazon and it’s written by a fellow wordpress author, www.dirtyscifibuddha.com (Kent Wayne). It’s called The Filthy 108: Mystical Teachings of the Buddha Bro. Now, while the author has made claim that this book doesn’t reflect his current thinking (he says he now embraces an “it’s all okay in the end” mentality, whereas his book was written from more of an embittered, hard-edged self), I am drinking in the pages. Fair warning, if you buy this book, it’s very possible you’ll need some thick skin, or at least a honed practice of appreciating others’ raw and abrasive styles, so as not be offended by it. Yes, it is wildly disgusting and dark humored, but it is dripping with richness in spirituality. And these conflicting concepts (offensive humor meets spirituality) make my heart light up. The brilliance of being able to take two seemingly opposing concepts, bring them together and create this impactful, entertaining, powerful message is literally the workings of my favorite stuff. I deeply enjoy people who push the acceptable boundaries of society, but have meaningful underlying messages of love to give in the process. But let’s get back to my point… Nature vs. Nature. In his book, Mr. Wayne’s “Buddha-Bro” character is in the middle of teaching a vapid young college-aged asshole on lessons in spirituality. Buddha-bro proceeds: “Regarding your insipid fawning over nature, that is a loss in awareness because you refuse to acknowledge that nature isn’t always pretty sunbeams and beautiful redwoods. Nature is the still peace of the redwoods; it is also a screaming animal shitting itself while it dies. Nature is the gentle lull of an undisturbed pond, and it is also the smell of burning flesh as a hungry fire sweeps the forest.”
This is a tough pill to swallow. And rightfully so.
I am often in conflict about what my focus is or should be. When I focus too much (or only) on the beauty around me, or my incessant cheap gratitudes for the day, I get sick of it – like I ate too much candy. Something starts to derail inside and I feel cheap, like I haven’t eaten my vegetables before dessert. It’s as if I carry a deep underlying knowledge that I haven’t taken in the whole picture – I haven’t seen the entire truth. So when I read those words, I was like, yeah, dude. It really is both. It’s both all the time. The trick is not to be overcome or overwhelmed by one nature or the other. It’s learning the fucking balance. When I read the happy, peppy, you have everything you need to make your life awesome posts on social media, I am like, yeah, sure, but what about the darkside? Disclaimers really should accompany every happy, peppy, motivational post. It’s not that I am trying to be pessimistic, I just don’t want to be bamboozled – And I have drank the kool-aid on both sides. I have been burned from both sides. I have been the advocate and onlooker of only the positive and beautiful aspects of nature only to look up and realize, well fuck, I haven’t accomplished anything of value, and I just feel fake. And I have also been on the dark side of nature – ravished by despair, destruction and loss and thought, well, this isn’t working either… I am just hopeless and helpless all the time.
And you know what the hardest part is? Knowing when to evoke one side or the other to ensure you stay balanced and aware. When is it time to douse yourself with the reality of the harshness of nature, or when is it time to force feed a good dose of positive nature into your soul?
I don’t have the answer to this. Fuck, the ecclesiastical writer even stated there is a time for everything, right? He was still working it out, and I am still working it out, too. Hell, I am not sure that there is an answer at this point. But I do know it’s a fine line on both sides – to either being a sissy victim, or to being an arrogant asshole.
I work with this guy who is a really great guy. Positive, upbeat, wonderful. However, the slightest mention of negativity around him will be beaten out of you with a positive response. While, I do agree that he is doing the hard work of making the workplace more enjoyable, and that we all have a responsibility to promote joy and collaboration around each other, what happens when it just gets really bad? What happens when the darkside must be confronted? When you’re about to lose your shit or just need to vent for a second? Well, people like that, in my experience, go silent. They don’t know what to say, because they typically haven’t sat in the shit long enough to work through their own discomfort of the nasty side of nature. They choose to see only one side.
I am not advocating that we all go and focus solely on the darkside, but why do we keep acting like the dark doesn’t exist? It very much exists. It exists in the uncle that perpetually fondles and rapes his young niece. It exists in the hurricanes that devastate cities and people. It exists in the meaningless deaths of car accidents or out of the blue illnesses that have no cure, no cause. The darkside of nature waits for no man. It’s on no timetable. Do we not have the ability to at least equip ourselves for the darkside? In order to equip ourselves, we have to face it, sit with it, let it make us wildly uncomfortable and learn what we can, as we can. But this is dangerous ground. For as much as it is encouraged by me, one must be willing to pull out and allow (or force feed) beauty back in their soul to once again refresh and rejuvenate their exhausted being. One must be willing to learn, or know themselves deep enough, to identify when they are tipping over into one side or the other.
I see why many don’t do it. It’s hard, scary, exhausting work. But I also see why more and more people in today’s society are on this frenetic search for more meaning, more purpose. Be warned my pretties, more meaning, and more purpose comes with more dark-sided nature confrontation. We have to be willing to see both sides of the same coin. We have to be willing to battle it out and reconcile truths. However, do it in the way that heals and helps your soul, yeah? If you’re depressed, maybe it’s time to open up or fight to see the positive side of nature. If you’re so positive that you’ve become completely unrelatable and out of touch with reality, perhaps it’s time to allow yourself to see the darkness and wrestle.
Not the most inspiring post, and that’s okay. Because this is life. It’s the fucking thrill of potential love that you met, and the abortion you had to have without them since they left you high and dry. It’s the joy of a new puppy and the loss of her unexpectedly through death. It’s the fucking high of climbing a mountain, and it’s the contemplation of another’s demise on that same mountain.
We can only truly see beauty when we also embrace the ugly. That is when beauty becomes precious, a gift, and not something you have to summon or force. That’s when it becomes real. Nature vs. Nature means we hold hands with both sides to see clearly.
Let’s let it battle out, yeah? And in the process, try not to lose ourselves to either side.
*This post was originally published on January 17th, 2019 on the Honesty Project.