Saturday, July 30, 2016

Joe Omundson

less is good

I'm not fond of the saying "less is more". Certainly, I agree with the sentiment that less is often the preferable option, but it's very more-centric if the best thing we can say about "less" is that it is like "more". More is more; less is less; but sometimes less is simply *better* than more and I think this should be acknowledged directly.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Joe Omundson

phases

It's interesting how the creative process works. I enjoyed blogging here regularly for a few months, but it seems like now I'm entering a different phase where I'm spending time doing more practical things than writing about my ideas. I tend to go back and forth between periods of absorbing and processing; taking in new experiences, and then looking back and analyzing them as a whole. Right now I'm in more of an experiencing and absorbing phase so I don't feel as inspired to write in my usual style. Posts might be less frequent, but I'm not going anywhere.

As I mentioned before I've been working on this house/property where I'm staying. Right now the main task is painting the interior. I'm doing the detail work on the cabinets and I enjoy having a project that's more on the side of requiring careful attention and an artistic approach.

I've also been working on my car. We got the lift working in the shop! I put my car on it for the first time yesterday and did some work underneath. There was a mysterious knocking sound coming from the rear suspension, which I might have mentioned in my post about the hot spring in Arizona because it started happening right after I high-centered on that road. I finally figured it out yesterday: my exhaust pipe was hanging too low, so it was making contact with the rear axle (not really an axle but not sure what to call it, it's more of a suspension bar). So with vibration under certain conditions it would make a rattling sound that I could hear through the body of the car. I fastened the exhaust higher up and the sound went away.

I also installed a 100W solar panel on my car a couple days ago; it's all wired up and working great, I just need to cut a bigger hole in the roof to make room for the small circuitry box so that it will lie flush and I can fasten it all the way down. It's a thin, flexible panel which should not impact the aerodynamics of the car much. I also decided to empty out everything from the car, tear out the 35+ year old carpet and the insulation, so that I can really get it clean down to the frame and make it nice. I'm also drilling a hole in the bottom of the car so I can bring in cool air from underneath, venting hot air out the top of the windows.

I've been establishing a social life too, I have some friends who are rangers at Arches, a cool roommate, and I know a few raft guides and other people in town. Been learning to slackline a bit. Enjoying having a home base where I can make good food and camp privately.

I have a couple more short stories I'm working on, and some other articles that will be more comprehensive, so check back for those in a while.
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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Joe Omundson

like yourself

Homophobia is ridiculous because our primary interaction with sexual pleasure is our own body. Any time a cis male masturbates he is in fact pleasuring a penis, with the goal of enjoying male sexual gratification. He is much more familiar with the patterns of male pleasure than he is with those of another sex.

If we can fully enjoy masturbation and not encounter any problems touching our own anatomy in a sensual way, then shouldn't it be easy to imagine transferring that pleasure onto another person of the same sex? Conversely, if we are repulsed by the idea of loving anyone with the same kind of genitals, are we not also revolted by our own bodies to some degree and therefore blocked from fully enjoying our sexuality?
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Joe Omundson

scissors

In first grade I was told to hold the scissors by the blade when I was walking around with them. I think the reason they gave was: "That way, if you fall you'll stab yourself, instead of stabbing someone else." I wonder what's the moral of that story.
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Friday, July 8, 2016

Joe Omundson

visions

I'm kind of excited to see what happens with the rest of my life. I feel like I'm in a process of freeing myself from everything. Somehow this week I've been feeling happier than I have in a long time, and there's nothing to explain it really, maybe it's just sinking in that life is pretty good right now as I establish myself among new people in a place that I like, or maybe I'm working through the things that have tied me down for a long time.

"Freeing myself from everything" will cause some eyes to roll because we are all dependent on each other. We need certain things, we need community. I don't question that, I know that I need people and actually I think having a sense of freedom enables me to connect more meaningfully. Still, I think many of the things that humans are said to "need" in our society are actually privileges (or burdens) that can be done without once people find a sense of stability, health, and contentedness in who they are.

I'm noticing that when I am happier, I spend more time dreaming about what I can do with my life to make an impact. I have had some ideas about this for a long time, ideas that will certainly be perceived by most people as extremely radical. I don't think I'm in the place yet to pull them off. And I don't quite want to spill the beans yet. But I'm going through the conceptual work to figure out what I want to do, why I want to do it, and considering a lot of other perspectives and factors.

If I pull off the symbolic lifestyle change I want to do someday, there are going to be a lot of sacrifices. I might be very alone, very often. I might risk spending time in prison. I would be removing myself from many of the basic privileges that I experience now. I have a lot to weigh out, and I know I need to be in a healthy state of mind while I weigh it out.

There are so many ways that people can make a difference. What I think is cool, is that pretty much no matter what your personality is like, or what your lifestyle preferences are, there are ways you can adapt that into some form of activism to help change things that are a problem and encourage what is good. So we don't have to radically change ourselves in order to make a difference. We just have to use what we are, and what we have, in a good direction.

For me, I have always felt like the contribution I want to make is one of symbolism, a conceptual act that will inspire some people, lead others to questioning, and no doubt infuriate others. I've been in a process of figuring out what I think are the biggest systemic problems that cripple our lives and steer our future in a direction nobody wants to go. And I want to make a dramatic lifestyle choice that rejects those systems, that demonstrates that life apart from them is possible and even preferable to living in the old systems. I have always been inspired by people like Daniel Suelo who do such things with their lives, and I feel that this kind of activism is in my future.

Yet it comes with a lot of consequences. My ideas would set my life apart even more dramatically than Suelo's. I might never see certain loved ones again. I might be faced with real struggles to survive. Most people would write me off as insane, or ridiculous, or self-absorbed, or ungrateful, or idealistic, and I'm realizing that if you're the kind of person like Suelo or Peace Pilgrim or Garry Davis who has an extreme vision and is unwilling to compromise it, people are just going to think you're crazy and wrong. I have to get a thick skin and strong determination. It's like the stories of Old Testament prophets who lived alone out in the desert and were set apart for their special work, or even like the story of Jesus. To anyone in mainstream society they seemed completely insane to live as they did, their messages were often lost on their audiences, yet something about their lives triggered introspection and important changes in the course of history. They had to remove themselves from the organism of our culture in order to see it clearly; like standing back from a painting to observe the whole, to gain insight on the interaction of the whole picture. It is my firm belief that these kinds of people are important, their purpose is valid, their visionary ideas are needed by society so we can begin to conceive of how things might become different. Contributions of ideas, concepts, and inspiration are still real contributions even if you can't point to a material exchange of services, even if there is no contribution to the economy. People love to hate on these kinds of dreamers, but I know that if I choose to go that route anyway, I will find my tribe and I will have an impact, and people can hate it if they want.

And so I am weighing out my choices. I know I am not a hermit, I am not a loner, I need people in my life on a somewhat regular basis, and I desire romantic love as well. So do I really want to set myself into a life path that might make these things very hard to come by? I have special medical needs with my heart, do I really want to make it harder to access a hospital? Without explaining my vision it's probably not obvious what lifestyle choice might result in these difficulties. I'm starting to do the research for how I could pull off my vision and be happy doing it, with somewhat of a sense of stability rather than constant anxiety and fear, because if I can't demonstrate that I am happy in my rejection of destructive systems then I haven't proven anything. I'm trying to gain more perspective on the statements I am trying to make and the alternatives to the systems I despise.

Some would think that willingly taking on a drastic, difficult, isolation-inducing life change is evidence of depression and masochism. But I actually feel much more inspired to do this when I am feeling whole and happy. Because I have this perspective that, fundamentally, life is very short and very unpredictable. If there is a trade-off between living an exciting, dangerous, purposeful, difficult, painful, fulfilling life, and a predictable, safe, robotic, easy, pleasant, mundane life, I gravitate strongly toward the first option. What is the point of holding back? Pretty soon we are all going to be dead anyway. In 100 years nobody reading this right now will be alive. What is there to protect? What is there to be afraid of? Why live with an illusion of security and certainty when the reality is that my end could come tomorrow? I want to go all-out and push the boundaries of what my experience of life can be. I want to try as hard as I can to change the problems that are affecting life on the most basic levels, so that maybe in 100 years when we are all dead, there will be generations of people who are still alive, who are on a good track to working out systems that are actually sustainable and desirable on a global level. And while I do find value in seeking others' perspectives, in order to refine my own, I'm realizing that nobody really knows what is best, especially for my own life. I get to make that choice for myself, and the consequences will be mine to accept.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Joe Omundson

seed to fruit

Sometimes in life we have cycles that are like the lives of trees, from seed to fruit and back to seed again.

At conception we are seeds; microscopic cellular entities who quickly grow into the macro realm. We develop all the systems needed for life. We take on the form that is typical of our species. When this process is complete, the fruit is ready: a fully developed fetus.

It falls from the tree, it leaves the womb and enters a different format of existence, where it must find ways to meet new needs. Now it is a seed again.

The seed of a baby eventually grows into a sapling, a tree, it becomes mature, it bears fruit, it dies. The whole life cycle of a human could be compared to a tree.

More interesting to me, though, are the smaller cycles we can go through in our lives, processes of growth and formation, maturation and completeness, reduction and pain, redirection and new growth.

It takes a balance of open-mindedness and certainty to maintain health. If we are too certain, then we will never allow ourselves to entertain new ideas, to reflect on what it is we really want, or acknowledge that we are wrong about something. Certainty is an illusion. Yet if we are too open-minded, then we will not grow confident of the things we have learned in the past or be disciplined enough to maintain the best known course of action.

Adopting a seed-fruit-seed pattern in our lives allows us to experience certainty and open-mindedness in a productive way.

When we are sturdy young trees reaching for the sky and working toward bearing fruit, we are confident in our direction. We have chosen our path; we remain certain and committed. Our ideas are congealing into a cohesive whole with a known direction. Our goals are set.

When the fruit falls, and the seed is laid bare and resting in a new location, all bets are off. The rules are different here. Our best tools are flexibility, observation, and adaptation. We can keep in mind what worked best in the past, but it's important not to expect any certain thing.

As we poke from the ground and sample our surroundings, we learn by trial and error where to place ourselves for maximum growth, we throw our roots in different directions in search of nourishment. If we pay close attention we'll soon have a sense for the new game and how to direct our increasing energy into more efficient uses, and then we're on our way to becoming trees again.

One problem is that we all have parts of the seed-fruit cycle that we like, and parts that we dislike.

Some of us don't like change and instability, but feel comfortable with hard work and diligence, so we focus on growing into big trees for as long as possible until life circumstances force us to become seeds again. When this happens it is met with great anxiety. The death of the old tree is like an upheaval in our lives and we're so overcome with fear and loss that we fail to become aware of all the subtle new things that surround us. We need to focus on the present in order to grow strong again in the future. And we need more practice becoming seeds so that we don't feel out of control when it happens.

Others seek novelty and new ideas, shunning discipline and monotony, so we break off of the main tree as soon as possible in exploration. When we find a new environment, it intrigues us to learn about it, but when it comes time for stability and hard work we shrivel up. Then we drop down out of the same tree again, as a new fruit in a different location, hoping to find a situation more to our liking, something that will intrigue us forever. But we need to stick with a plan sometimes, to choose a direction and go for it, not so that we become stagnant but to become stronger in some way which will be useful for our next seeding opportunity.

As we grow from a seed into a mature tree, the goal is to learn something during that growth process and incorporate it into the DNA of the next seed. It's like an iterative algorithm, a feedback loop that keeps improving its outcome. What determines our success then is not where our first seed falls, or what our first tree looks like, but rather how fast we are able to learn and how well we change ourselves; the self-improvement machinery that evolves us more into our true selves.

If we can learn to enjoy learning, and everything it entails - cognitive dissonance, pain, subtle changes, revelations, confidence, endings and beginnings - then we are dramatically boosting the health of every future tree and seed.

The more we practice our ability to learn and improve, the easier it is to go through the various corners of the cycle.

When we do not have an aversion to any part of the cycle, we have a lot of power and traction. The line between seed and tree becomes blurred. We gain a sense of flexibility even as mature trees, and we have more confidence as seedlings, with the ability to learn and adjust DNA at any time. The rate of our personal evolutionary progress speeds up. This in turn enhances our ability to intelligently interact with other people and help them to go through their cycles as well, eventually affecting the evolution of the whole planet.

Going to college was a seed, an engineering career was the fruit. I was a seed when I started on the PCT, and finishing the trail was the fruit. I became a seed in Portland looking for a rehearsal space and my finished EP was the fruit. In all these cases I had a chance to learn a lot about different aspects of life. When I left for Moab I was a seed again, and now I'm working on growing into a tree in these conditions. I expended a lot of energy putting out random feelers everywhere and now I'm starting to see some signs of rootedness and growth. I still don't know what kind of tree this is growing into, but like always I am trying to apply all the lessons I have learned in the past, and to prepare my next seed to be the strongest one yet.
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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Joe Omundson

impartial

Any emotion that I feel about hiking The Trail is a reflection of my own condition. Nature is what it is, regardless of my needs; it cannot accommodate me. This makes it an unbiased, fair teacher. If I feel trapped by my choice to hike the trail, I cannot realistically imagine that this strip of bare ground is making an effort to trap me. It's just sitting there. So I realize that feeling trapped is a sensation I create for myself, and I wonder how many other situations I have been trapping myself in without realizing it.

Maybe part of all spirituality is developing a true sense of a relationship with something "other". Whether you find kinship with nature as a whole, a higher being, a system of thought, an animal, an activity, a sensation, a sports team, or another person, it gives you a reference point against which you can measure your own reactions and feelings. It's some kind of honest mirror into your own condition, whatever that looks like for you.
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