28.9.09

Dawn has yet to break and I feel as if I am truly alone as I eagerly await her arrival on this dark and silent morn. As I sit here in the dark trying to find words to express my situation I meander aimlessly through my thoughts as though I might accidentally stumble upon that which I seek, but an(other) accident is precisely what I am trying to avoid.
Some days come and go without but a whisper, while others make such a spectacle of themselves that it is impossible to ignore their arrival, presence or departure. The darkness and silence of this early hour may not be extraordinary, but it is strangely awkward, as if this day has yet to decide whether it will fade calmly into the endless cycle of life or "rage against the dying of the light." Perhaps it is because of what happened on this day last year that I am having such trouble, for to set this morning against the backdrop of its predecessors makes its arrival all the more imposing.
Today is the day of reckoning in my father’s house: On this day, we, as individuals and as a group, are told to offer our case for being written into “the book of life.” By joining together and, simultaneously, retreating to our personal space, the task is first to know, and then to show, that ours is an energy worth sustaining. Last year, in order to delve deeper into my inner being, I charged heedlessly into the mysterious void within and, in my blind scrambling to “know myself,” I crashed violently into the lives of those near and dear to me. In my attempt to better understand who I was, where I was going, why and how I needed to continue, whether on the path which I found myself on or a new one of my design, I set in motion a series of events which made abundantly clear to me that my role in this drama is not entirely inconsequential, albeit only on the limited level of my limited life.

Ah…the dawn is come! As the light creeps steadily across the threshold of my entryway I can see now that this will be a beautiful day. Last year’s bout with introspection was tainted with juvenile and selfish indulgence; this time around (the sun), as I find myself in such a different place—mentally and physically—there is no doubt that the results will be dramatically different, as opposed to merely dramatic, as they were one year ago this day.
I need not revisit the particular goings on of last year’s debacle. I was sustained in my prolonged stillness, not by the light of life that I had hoped to assure myself, but rather by machines of life whose touch I never wanted to have known. I was seeking the reigns of my spiritual half and in that process all but gave up control of my physical being. If I had died before I woke it could have been said that I had already lived, and yet, having been to the edge of death and back, I can see how much more there is before us all.
In the aftermath of my calamity I remained calmly aware of the fact that all which lay ahead of me—from that point forward—would have a new light shed upon it by the specter of that which could have been. While I pursued the age old adage "know theyself" I ran smack into another one, “be grateful for today as tomorrow may never come.” It was thrust upon me with such force that it is impossible to ignore the simple truth that this may be the last day. We can’t go calmly into the dark night. I have no qualms with procrastination, but I have developed on overactive unwillingness to compromise my beliefs, desires and intentions. This has irrevocably changed the way I interact with others, just as it has undoubtedly changed—for better or for worse—how they understand who I am.

Another result of my experience at the end of last year’s Days of Awe is undeniable: I couldn’t care less about what others think of me. Today’s task, however, is not about deciphering what others understand me to be, nor to better know the role that I play in the performance that is life in this plane of existence; I sit here, plodding through the inner workings of my self-awareness, my doubt and my hope, all in pursuit of a truth that has evaded me since I woke in that strange and sterile room last year. "Know thyself."

Unlike last year, when I was surrounded by everyone who loved and cared about me, today I find myself 10,000 miles away from the nearest familiar face. This doesn’t change a thing, though, because even then—as I lay, motionless, in a foreign bed…just as I do today—one great truth remains: No matter where we find ourselves, we are alone in this life. When our last light fades to black the only thing we have that can keep us sound is ourselves. To some this may seem a discouraging reality, but the only thing daunting about the independence implicit within this is the veracity of its responsibility.
Today, exactly one calendar year after my greatest trauma, I am half way around the world, hailed by many as “one lucky guy.” Luck has nothing to do with it! (This is not to say that I am what kept me alive—that would be absurd…but luck?) True, I know of people who had similar things happen in their lives and they are no longer with us because of a similar accident, but that does not excuse me from the inescapable dialectic of cause and consequence. Many people said that I must have had a “guardian angel” watching over me, but that is just a veiled way of saying that something else controls our “fates,” and that the course of my “destiny” is not under my control. Just as I am unwilling to allow anything else to take credit for my successes, so will I forever stand up and claim responsibility for my failures.

       It is impossible to know precisely how that which came before us determines that which stands before us, or to make out from that what will come as its result. It is in that uncertainty—though it may be but the blink of an eye—that we can find our freedom. Sure, there is no denying that equality before the law is nice and justice is wonderful, but it is freedom that is of supreme importance. Freedom, the fundamental feature of human life, that which makes us human, is what guarantees that each new day will be worthy of attention and action, and ensures that each individual in this life is unique and full of promise.
The wake of my accident has shown me that I cannot hide from my mistakes, nor run from the consequences thereof, as it is precisely those things that I have erred in doing which make me who I am. I have also learned that there is nothing meaningless in this life, even if it is frivolous beyond a doubt, for no puzzle is complete with even one piece missing. Mistakes are an essential part of who we are, because it is mistakes that help us form the questions which populate our lives with meaning. I can’t guess at what will follow from this day, but I can deduce from my actions what got me here, and if I want more of the same then I must follow that which has guided me up to now. Does that mean I will unabashedly risk my life in pursuit of knowledge when stagnating contentedly as I was one year ago yesterday? To do that would prove I paid no heed to what there is to be learned from my mistakes. I have fulfilled a dream in the year since that tragic day, which, in a way, transforms that tragedy into a triumph: I sought control though awareness, and now I am aware that I was in control the whole time.
I have said it before, but I need to say again: I am sorry to those who suffered because of my actions. I am also sorry that I cannot promise that I will never wake up in such a condition again, for tomorrow’s script is yet unwritten, but I am no longer the same person, so concerns about that "happening again" are not worthy of serious speculation. Everything I do is done in light of the past, just like you, I hope, and it is that same light which makes the future seem bright. Gloriously bright it is, truly. To my family (and friends): thank you for having had faith in my ability to come back from what happened: without your love and support I may never have achieved anything more.

One last thing I have learned from this whole experience, and the year that followed it, is that, despite the fact that we are ultimately alone in this life, we are nothing without the bonds that tie us together: In the fabric of life we are each our own thread, existing entirely on our own accord when removed from the whole, but it is the knots that bind us which form the whole of our existence, our culture, our world of meaning in a universe of blind being: without each other we are all nothing but useless threads floating in the void, where together we are that richly woven tapestry which keeps us safe and warm in the cold darkness that surrounds us all.

2.9.09

7/17/2008 3:00 a.m.

(Page 3)

Why can't we, instead of talking endlessly about trivial things, talk trivially about endless things.

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(Page 9)

I would say,
"Speak to me about the world without you in it. Tell me if what you put in is equal to what you take out. Not only do most people take out more than they contribute, but most of what is put in is filth--waste. The world needs more than greed ridden refuse in order to thrive. If you can't stop consuming, at least, then, try to add to the world around you -- even if it is just a kind word to a stranger.
If you need someone to tell you something, to tell you what to do, then you haven't been listening. Don't ask me what you should do, ask yourself...

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(Page 4)

We are all but shadows of ourselves. The cave we have been led into is not the world that we have been told it is. There is so much more that each of us are capable of, and could become a reality, if only there were a muse for every pair of hands. There are projects to be undertaken, words to be spoken, thoughts to be heard. We, finally, have been given a set of circumstances that beg for rebellion. Our time is one of epic proportions--just like the time before ours, and the one that will come after us. There is nothing banal about existence!

If you are bored it is your own fault.

There is absolutely no limit to the full potential of your imagination. Nothing is impossible. There is always something. Nothing escapes you except that which you let freely evade your senses. The world we live in lives with us, breathes as we breathe, in flux to the point where -- in order to function communally -- we have developed the cultural illusion of consistency, which is what has duped us all into civility.
There is no constant but the inconstant.

We are at the whim of our own creation until we are ready to be free. The key to freedom is in your hand. No one else holds the secret to your happiness. How could they? The only wisdom that exists has been and always will be, forever. To become aware of it requires only that you be receptive to its presence. The knowledge of life exists in everything; we are living vessels of knowledge, as are trees and mountains and animals.
Knowing anything starts with having a sense of what question is suited to the situation, not what answer is sought at the end. ALL of what we are is a series of questions. The answers accumulate into the balancing weights of a scale, but it is the questions that shape and sustain us.

The consequences of our choices are the knots in the fabric of existence; the questions, the eternal quest for knowledge, make up the colorful strings that weave the patterns of the infinite realm.

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(Page 3)

When a fish moves through the water it has no sense of up or down the way we do; Isn't it it is as easy/difficult for a fish to move upward toward the surface of their realm as to move down toward the bottom? If so, then they exist free of gravity's burden.

Does that make fish special?

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(Page 7)

::CURIOSITY IS TANTAMOUNT TO FREEDOM::

How can freedom, once attained, ever be taken away from someone while they still breathe?
Death, even , is not a restriction of freedom--no, it frees us from the tyranny of the senses! We are free in death to enjoy pure existence, without all the glitz and sham, crash and ahh, that we have come to know in life. We will have peace.

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(Page 1)

Out upon a midnight, weary, the hour's hands are quietly touching as the rest is brought to bare. The crest is broken on the sand, the rocks lay still and moved. Without but a whisper the wave builds itself from the foundation of its own ruin, only to crash again, and again on the same, moved sand.


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(Page 8)



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(Page 3)

The point of philosophy is not seeking wisdom, but loving it.


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(Gabriel Garfinkle)

21.5.09

Without Hesitation (Chapter Two)




As time passes and life rambles on, good friends sometimes manage to slip away and get lost in the maze of our memories, especially when the force of life's current causes their path to move in a different direction from yours. When this happens, a touch of serendipity is often required to make possible a reunion of fates, but--with my new approach to life--I would no longer allow my future to be dictated merely by chance and circumstance; I was determined to take an active role in sculpting the shape of my future.




When an old friend told me she would be coming to Europe from South America for a medical conference, and asked if I would come and stay with her in Paris, it gave me an opportunity to act on these new impulses: I would go to Paris to reunite with a woman who, though I had only known her for a matter of days, had several years earlier left me on a train platform in Munich completely captivated by her confession of love, which happened to come--inconveniently-- on the eve of my departure for the United States...but that is another story all together.



In the weeks leading up to this chance at a Parisian tryst I remembered that part of my desire to visit France came from the fact that someone who I had promised to visit, but who I had not been in touch with for so long that I did not even have contact information for him this point, had been living in Paris the last time I heard from him. Years before this took place, when I was but sixteen years old, one of my best friends—Hugh—went through some familial upheaval and was forced to move to France in the middle of our sophomore year of high school. We tried to keep in touch, but, what with my aforementioned tendency to completely consume myself with the clamor of circumstance, and the fact that our paths had been so far removed, we lost contact completely.



By the time I was living in Europe, however, what with it having been more than seven years since we had traded words in any form and my having no way to get in touch with him, I very highly doubted that I would be able to find him in only two weeks. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he’d be interested in seeing me even if I could find him—especially not on such short notice. Nevertheless, I ventured what I thought would be a futile query on the World Wide Web for “Hugh E____, Paris.”


Low and behold, Google™ got a hit! Someone named Hugh had, at some point, run the American University of Paris’ music club and their website even had his email posted as the contact information for the group. My friend Hugh was a musician and, for all I knew, he could have been a student at AUP. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately sent an email detailing my studies in Germany and my upcoming trip to Paris. I waited eagerly for signs of life from my old friend, but instead I got an automated message saying that the email address was no longer valid and could not be delivered. Damn! With only ten days before my trip to Paris I was running out of time. As a last ditch effort, I then sent a formal email to the registrar’s office of The American University of Paris. The letter inquired about the status of Hugh E____ and if he was by chance a student at AUP. I asked simply if they could put me in contact with him, or at least give me his last known contact information; They sent no response.


Only a week before I was to arrive at Gare de l'Est train station in Paris to meet my friend from Brazil, I got an email from Hugh himself! The office at his school had sent him some seemingly banal message that, once he finally got around to looking at it, gave my email address and said I was looking for him. His response was nothing short of epic: he went over all that had happened with him over the years, what he did in high school and college, and how great Paris was. He lamented on how he had always planned on coming back to the United States to see me and our friends and to go to college in the States, but wound up falling in love with France and had resolved to stay. He asked about all of our old friends, most of whom I was no longer in touch wtih, and—though he was convinced of it being totally impossible—he even invited us to visit him in Paris, assuring me that we could all stay with him if any of us ever made it to Europe.

------- ------- ------- ------- ------- -------
Here is the text of the actual email Hugh sent me that I conveniently have saved:
Von: Hugh E____

Gesendet: Dienstag, 4. November 2003 07:25:24

“WHATS UP MUTHA FUCKA!!!!!!! I've been trying to get a hold of you guys for ever! I've been to the LMHS website and everything and couldn't find anything. That's fucking great to hear from you man!! what's up?! what's happened to you? do you still see any of the old guys anymore? dave, pete, darrin, greg, zohar, shana etc (and anybody else i forgot)?? are you still in Narberth area? shit, it's basically been since 10th grade right?? I have been so pissed cause the past years I've lost COMPLETE contact with everyone back there and I haven't found any info on anyone. shit what's up??

Here's my story: I'm still in Paris. yeah, I was expecting to get out of here as soon as I finished high school or whatever, but guess what I fucking loved it here, so I've stayed and I'm graduating this spring from the American University. Wow. let me tell you my life has changed since I left. I'm still the same, but I've gotten used to life in France. It's mad cool here and Europe is surprisingly totally fucking
awesome. I speak basically fluent french now. I went to an international high school, so that, like AUP, is filled with people from all over the place. even though I'm in France mostly everyone I know speaks english and is not actually french. after high school I was like it's cool here, I'm gonna chill for another semester or two at college, which has turned into the past few years at school. I'm doing a french major (just because it's easy and i can do it) and a film minor.

as you can tell, I'm still into music. i'm running the music studio at school and I have a band wiht some good friends that i've been playing with for the past 3 years. it's totally chill. I'll have to send you a cd. I really don't know what I'm doing after this spring, it's all up in the air. I might stay here, might go somewhere in the states, who knows. I'm seeing this girl right now, she's mad cool, from South Africa. Europe is mad cool man. they're so chill about drinking and chilling and shit. I'm 22 now, and have vague ideas, but nothing concrete whatsoever about what I'm doing next. has everybody stayed in the Philly area? what's happened to everyone?? you have to give me everybody's email that you have. man, you seriously have
to get your butt over here and make a trip to visit me and party. free room + board etc. seriously. guess what, my parents are totally down with chillin now, so I chill with them every so often. what ever happened wiht you and Morgan? I thought you guys were gonna get engaged in like 11th grade or something.

shit, it's awesome to hear from you man. I can't believe it's been like 5 or 6 years right?? keep in touch and tell me whats going on.

Hugh”

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Needless to say, this was good news…


Sure, I could have written back with a quick note outlining what I was doing in Europe and how I was planning on coming to France in a few days, but that wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, I set down a very long and involved letter, detailing exactly what had happened with each and every one of our friends Dave, Pete, Darren, Greg and Shana since he had been in France, and even even mentioned Zohar, who had died a few years earlier.


Naturally, I saved my story for last and only started discussing my studies and where I was living after three or four pages of densely packed pieces of information about everything from our childhood memories to what my favorite band was. Only after having put his memory through a work out of phenomenal proportions did I sneak in the fact that I was at that time living in Germany, that I was already planning on coming to Paris in ten days and that I could not wait to see him.



You know that feeling you get when you see an old friend for the first time in too long? Sometimes that nostalgia hits so hard that it is difficult to accurately gauge (and control) your emotions and act normally; other times, however, the overwhelming sense of wistfulness yields to evocative moments of happiness. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but when I finally met Hugh on the platform of the train station in Paris, where he greeted with a serious hug and a salubrious smile, it was as if no time had passed between us! True, we didn’t look exactly the same after 6 years, and we didn’t know the same people anymore, nor did we really even know each other at that point, but it didn't matter. I mean, a lot happens to a young man between the ages of 6 and 22, but whatever it was that had brought us together in the first place was clearly still there.



Once we boarded the subway—which, by the way, are incredibly treacherous in Paris, what with how hard the doors slam closed—and made our way toward his place, which I half expected to be a dump the size of a shoebox. We broke into such a natural banter that it seemed like we were still back in Philly, and, though we reminisced for a few minutes about what had happened to all of our dearest friends back in the United States, it was no time at all until we started talking about funny things we had heard that week and interesting ideas about what to do over the coming weekend.





Having finally made it to Paris, after hours on the train from Germany engaged in deep philosophical conversation with a lovely young German woman, Hugh took what could already have been described as an idyllic situation and made it truly magical when he lead us back to his place in the center of town to get settled and go out for some culture.


Now, when I say the “center of town” I could be talking about any given neighborhood within the city limits and relatively close to the interesting areas. Not in this case. Here I literally mean the exact geographic center of Paris!


Most people who have been to Paris, whether they are there on vacation or for business, at some point pass by the Cathédrale Notre Dame; very few people, however, get to actually spend their nights within a hundred yards of its gates!

Turmoil had sent Hugh and his family to Paris in the first place, but the move did not solve all of life’s’ problems; A few years earlier both his mother and father decided to leave Paris in favor of Belgium and Switzerland respectively, which meant that my slacker friend was, at this point, the sole tenant of two beautiful apartments in the spectacular city of Paris, which fully lives up to all the hype that surrounds its legend, and the apartment that he lead me to was actually on the Ile de la Cité in the middle of the Seine. It's not every night that you get to sleep on the island where Paris was originally founded over 2000 years earlier.



Needless to say, the atmosphere was charged with history and culture. It was so wonderful to see my dear, old friend again after so many years; it was like a dream come true: after six years apart, in the dead center of Paris, was extraordinary enough...but it was only the beginning.

18.5.09

Without Hesitation (Chapter One)




Without hesitation, or anxiety, I embark now on of tale of lucid madness. Fraught with foolishness and frivolity, adventures of (yet) untold decadence transpired under exotic suns and bohemian stars. If you will but suspend your pragmatic impulses and loose yourself on a whimsical flight of fancy, you will be whisked on a journey that crosses oceans, mountains, deserts and dreams. As I marinate in my nostalgia, try to take from my tale that which made these moments so delectable, disregarding the unpleasantries, and - if at all possible - enjoy what you can, for pleasure is pleasure, whether first hand or vicarious.



The suffocating humdrumery of life at home lit the fire in my furnace and set my sights on distant horizons. The crashing waves of the tropics and wandering dunes of deserts called to me from afar, but, before dancing wildly on moonlit beaches and meditating on misty mountain tops, our story begins in the depths of the Black Forest, nearly frozen and half blinded by blizzard gales, nonetheless not in seek of shelter.
While meandering through the frosted forests of southern Germany’s fabled Schwarzwald
I trudged, knee-deep through snow, in search of what could not be found. The nooks of the mountain, veiled under a blanket of swirling mist and snow, hid that which I sought: respite from the predictable reality that lay ahead of me.


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I was studying at Albert- Lüdwigs – Unidversität - Freiburg and living quite well. Having earned a spot on the Baden-Württemberg international fellowship/exchange I was welcomed to the storied university and given full access to its extensive academic catalog. I was also set up to share a flat with a motley international crew: Ziyad, from Lebanon; Mi, from China; Irma, from the Republic of Georgia; Kyung, from Korea, Hannes, Catherine, and Florian from Germany; and myself —the lone American of the group. Among our ranks were forestry students, engineers, mathematicians, musicians, computer programmers and—in Hannes and myself—students of philosophy.


(Solidarity—
NOW!—Against Thoughtless Politics)


A student of philosophy stands in a unique position at the precipice of adulthood: instead of seeing the world merely as a venue for success, usually judged by bank accounts or bulging muscles, life is to knowledge seekers an infinite playground to explore, question and comprehend. I studied Gadamer’s hermeneutical methods
(φ), read Nietzsche’s brilliance captured in Zarathustra’s words(η), and even made exploratory jaunts into the practically insurmountable enigma of the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus(ψ).

I was adrift in a universe of curious enthusiasm that was piqued by everlasting doubt.
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φ Hermeneutics is essentially the art of understanding. Hans-Georg Gadamer established philosophical hermeneutics in his magnum opus Wahrheit Und Methode (1975); to him, hermeneutics is not a method for understanding but an attempt "to clarify the conditions in which understanding takes place" (Gadamer 1975: 263).
η Nietzsche was one of the most subversive and controversial thinkers in Western philosophy, and Also Sprach Zarathustra (1885) remains his most famous and influential work. It describes how the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra
descends from his solitude in the mountains to tell the world that God is dead. With blazing intensity and poetic brilliance, Nietzsche argues that the meaning of existence is not to be found in religious piety or meek submission, but in the all-powerful energy of life: passionate and free. Although his ideas were often harsh and uncompromising, Nietzsche’s main purpose was not to crush the reader’s spirit into the same mold, but rather to spur each individual to rise above the much-loathed mediocre conformity that plagued society then, as it does now.
ψ Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is
the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein during his lifetime. He wrote it as a soldier and a prisoner of war during World War I. First published in German in 1921 as Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, it is now widely considered one of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century.
Though Wittgenstein's later works were less austere, and contained notably different philosophical ideas, all of his writing had the same basic writing style of short sentences or paragraphs rather than narrative exposition. It has also been noted that Tractatus contains almost no arguments as such, and is instead comprised of statements that are meant to be self-evident. It is, in essence, an ambitious project to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science, but at the same time delves into the nature of spirituality and its place in philosophy.


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Unsure whether to follow flights of fancy down a path of epicurean indulgence or to undertake more ambitious activities, I found myself caught between responsibility and respite. I would oft
en seek escape from the streets of scholarship in the forests of the surrounding mountains. In the silence of the shadows there lay profound truths. I sought perspective with open eyes and an open mind, but my horizons were frequently muddled by distractions ranging from mundane financial concerns and international travel arrangements to social sensualism and calamitous carousing.



As paradoxical as it may seem, the moment of clarity that would eventually lead to my deliverance from a pigeonholed sense of purpose did not come until I was, for all intents and purposes, completely lost in the mire.
When the last rays of reason seemed to have retreated—once all hope of finding happiness in the humdrum had been lost—only then was I ready and able to acknowledge and accept the new possibilities on the distant horizon.

It took a genuine condemnation of conventions, an enthusiastic embrace of eccentricity, and an absolute acceptance of the ceaseless change that is the cornerstone of life.


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I was gradually enlightened to the value of life’s details—I began noticing the beauty, appreciating the significance and understanding the nature of the phenomena that fill our lives, and I also began to grasp the fundamental structure of how I understood everything around me—it was as if the sky cleared and the sun began to shine on a world full of fresh opportunity!



13.5.09

Lost in the Dark; Looking for Light

Without the slightest inkling of doubt, I am confident of what I must do: I must, nay, I will, strive to remain en-route to my full potential.

Life has it's ups and downs, of that there is no doubt. Timidity is naught but fear manifest as action, or the lack there of. Hubris breeds contempt in it's purest, and most vicious forms. So, then, it seems clear to me that the only tenable course of action is one of forthright honesty with a dash of humility.

Though I try to conduct my interpersonal relations with scrupulous truthfulness, the fact is, I desperately need to engage in some profound intrapersonal exploration and probity. I have, for too long, been at the beck and call of my desires. Much has been said, by many a wise man, of how desire is the root of all suffering; I disagree. Desire, when left unchecked, leads invariably to spiritual (and financial) ruin. But, when harnessed appropriately, with prudent pragmatism and ardent analysis, acceptance and pursuit of desires can lead to untold insights regarding one's own character and serve as a catalyst for growth and fulfillment.

I am in no way advocating, or condoning, the frivolous vanity of the global fashion industry or anything like the selfaggrandizing greed that can be seen in everything from luxury cars and boats to high-tech gadgets that serve hardly any purpose other than to distract you from their petty insubstantiality with a little glitzy garbage. Remember, "all that glitters is not gold."

Although I truly intend on seeking out my muse and pursuing my passions with gusto, I am utterly lost...

I cannot see any light at the end of this vast darkness; it may be a tunnel leading me to the destiny that I have spawned for myself, but, then again, I may indeed be as lost as I feel in the blind chasm that is my status quo.

...

If found, please return to reality.