Transcendental Journal Assignment: Post 2

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As it turns out, rain does NOT mean spring has come. At least, it doesn’t when it’s still 40°F outside. It does, however, make for a more interesting walk. I began my walk with a specific destination in mind: a recreational-type area which supposedly used to contain playground equipment. The catch was that I really didn’t know where it was; all I knew was that it somewhere along my street. As one might surmise, I spent most of my time walking in search of the place. Perhaps halfway down the street, I found a place which might have been the one. I couldn’t be sure it was the right place, however, and I didn’t want to be accused of trespassing, so I didn’t explore it very much. Besides that, I had little actual experience with what one might call “nature.” I did, however, have to walk through several rather deep puddles.

As the most conspicuous feature of the sidewalk (save a somewhat timid squirrel), the puddles got me thinking. At first, the thoughts weren’t terribly deep: Wow, this is a pretty deep puddle. It’s a good thing I wore boots … Oh, look, my boots are wet. These and other profound insights ran through my head for around a minute. Then, out of nowhere, I thought about how the puddles revealed the imperfections of the sidewalk: how uneven must it be to trap this much water! Indeed, during the uphill stretches, the rapid flow of water down the path (as well as my lack of exercise) revealed tellingly just how steep the sidewalk was. I began thinking about another property of water: it heals things. It was interesting to see that something so healing could so mercilessly reveal the imperfections of the ground.

I think a lot of things in life are like water. Part of the healing process is recognizing that there are imperfections to be healed: “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” No one will fix the sidewalk until it becomes clear that it’s uneven. Someone with a drinking habit cannot make a concerted effort to stop drinking unless he realizes that his drinking is having a negative effect on himself and on the people around him. Ironically, fire provides a similar analogy. For example, one has the Biblical analogy of the refiner’s fire. In order for the “gold” (soul) to be purified, it has to be put through “fire” (trials and tribulations). A more cynical person might say that avoiding Hell in the future requires embracing hell in the present. Healing can hurt. Life requires us to endure unpleasant situations, but sometimes these situations are necessary to take us through, improved, to the other side.

Transcendental Journal Assignment: Post 1

(Image found through Google Images from http://syknox.org/~syknox/written-teachings.php)

It’s springtime. Or, rather, the calendar says it’s springtime. In my backyard, the weather seems less eager to make up its mind. Most of the snow has melted by now, but the little that remains prevents complete optimism, and the temperature still warrants a winter coat. My search for uncivilized nature leads me away from the house to an area bestrewn with leaves and other plant matter, wet from melted snow. The tiny bits of snow on the ground seem delicate, at the mercy of the sun’s vicious beams. This sparks an ironic thought: the frigidity which strips trees and lawns bare of plant life is, itself, dying. Death, paradoxically, can lead to life. I consider writing my blog entry on this idea. Ah well, maybe next time. I make my way over to the treehouse-like structure known affectionately to my family as “the fort” and, scaling the climbing wall, arrive successfully on the roof. I lie down on my back and look up at the sky. I mostly see the branches of overhanging trees. Apart from a few clouds, the sky is mostly clear. Being nearly noon, the sun unfortunately shines directly down into my eyes, prompting me to block it with my hand.

Without the oppressive brightness, the atmosphere was quite comfortable. The lower profile afforded by lying down reduced* the wind chill, and the sun was** delightfully warm. It seemed odd how the sun is so uncomfortably bright and yet so warm and comforting. I realized at this point that I’d found my blog topic. In addition to being quite pleasant, this experience reminded me of what ought to be an obvious truth: a small change in perspective can have a powerful effect on how someone sees his surroundings, just as someone who looks directly at the sun will have a different experience from someone who guards his eyes.

This idea can be extended to personal matters as well: perspective plays an important role in much of how we experience life. For example, if we view every difficult situation in a negative light, we simply reinforce our belief that nothing good ever happens in life and remain perennially unhappy. On the other hand, if we look on the bright side of those very same situations, we can remain happy and hopeful for a good future. Perspective also plays an important role in our relationships with other people. If we always assume the worst of others, we will never form productive and satisfying relationships with them. This pessimistic, prejudiced perspective is a general form of racism: we consider people “guilty” without ever giving them a chance to prove themselves “innocent.” It takes a bit of optimism and open-mindedness to let people into our lives. In general, it pays to maintain a positive perspective.

*changed from “reduces” on 8 April 2014

**changed from “is” on 8 April 2014