Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2014 year-in-review: Marking Existence

At the end of every year I carry out a personal ritual where I reflect and talk about my own experience of the year that is ending. Here is what I have to say about 2014.

In general, I would say that this year is characterized by a few different things. One is that I continued to feel estranged and disconnected from various sub-cultures that I once felt a part of and used to derive much meaning, inspiration, and solace from. In particular I am referring to those surrounding anarchism, Nonviolent Communication and to some extent even Buddhism (this article series in Tricycle magazine helped with the later). My core beliefs and opinions are pretty much all the same as they were before, it's just that my feelings of alignment, affiliation and belonging with groups of other people who believe similarly to myself has very much evaporated.

At the same time as this, this year I have met my needs for belonging and social connection with other people through other, more "mainstream" means. This year I got married, and as a result I have been feeling more connected with both my wife and her family. For much of this I also worked at a regular full-time job, and I felt very much connected with and a part of those people whom I worked with. These are all connections not necessarily based on shared belief systems, goals, and values, but they have been real and meaningful for me nonetheless, and they have stepped in to fill real needs for me that were not being met through the ways that I was previously used to meeting them.

This year I also engaged in international travel for the first time in my life (not counting my previous small excursions into Canada and Mexico). In particular, this year I traveled to northern India and Macau (which is a part of China), with a small little jaunt into Hong Kong in-between these two places. During this time I have met and talked with a lot of people from these places, as well as people from different countries who are also travelers and/or expatriates. This has been very profound and fulfilling for me, and it continues on into this next year, 2015. So this is not over yet, by any means, and I very much look forward to seeing where it all leads to in the future.

Speaking of the global scale, one thing that I have wrestled with a lot this year is that of wrapping my head around and accepting the likely demise of modern civilization at the very least, and all complex life on this planet at most. The scope, scale and intensity of the global ecological destruction that life on this planet is facing, combined with the intractable institutional interests and forces that are producing this destruction, makes certain doom out to be the most likely future that we all face. Much of this year I have spent a great deal of inner effort towards coming to peace with this.

I have come across a number of fictional works that have "met me where I'm at" with all of this and that likewise express a lot of similar thoughts and feelings that I have towards the world these days. Movie-wise this year, the two that most stand out for me are Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho and Zero Theorem which was directed by Terry Gilliam. In the realm of books, the two that stand out the most for me this year are Eyeless in Gaza that was written by Aldous Huxley and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. All four of these pieces I strongly recommend that you, my dear reader, take the time to watch/read yourself.

Perhaps one of the most interesting anomalies and conundrums for me this year has been my relationship with Vipassana Meditation (as taught by S.N. Goenka). On the one hand, I do not regularly practice Vipassana Meditation, I have no interest in setting out to be an evangelizer or proselytizer for Vipassana Mediation, and as a result, I would not really make a very good poster child for it. At the same time, I have now done so many of these ten-day courses, both as a student as well as a volunteer worker, that I am often now given roles and positions within the Vipassana social settings of being some kind of Vipassana example for others to emulate. Vipassana Meditation has continued to be a very meaningful, helpful and important part of my life, but not in the ways that most people usually expect and understand it to be so. It is all just a bizarre situation all around.

Speaking of Vipassana Meditation, one experience that I had with it this year that really stands out to me is that of volunteering during a ten-day course at the center in Dharamsala in northern India. That experience was definitely the most intense volunteering experience with Vipassana that I have ever had. There were new situations and circumstances that I was confronted with that I have never before come across. Through it all I met some quite wonderful people, and I feel more capable than ever of being able to positively confront various difficulties in life.

I realize that I am leaving out quite a lot of details and specifics in this piece. That is done intentionally - I am speaking in broad strokes on purpose. If you are interested in knowing more of the specifics, I welcome direct and personal one-on-one conversation. Beyond that, what I have here is the beginning of the the painting of a picture of my year 2014 for you here. I hope that you enjoyed it. :)

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