Lucas Weismann

On Forgiveness

This is a note that is 90% for myself and 10% for anyone else who wants to read my thoughts.  Don’t take the advice as being for anyone but from me to myself.  If you have ideas that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them.

 

After watching a buzzfeed video about – yes, that buzzfeed…- one of the Mengele twins and the power of forgiveness, I’ve been thinking about the idea of forgiveness.  What does it mean, when should we do it and for whom. I’ve come to the conclusion that forgiveness is essentially a selfish act.

To me forgiveness is the act of giving up your eye-for-an-eye right to retribution or revenge.  It’s giving up the idea that I get to use someone’s past as a trump card in future arguments. Not out of laziness or fear, but because of something calling me to let go.  

We all have people who we’ve wronged and people who have wronged us.  The degree to which you’ve been hurt may make letting go of that anger incredibly difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.  I remember reading about the idea of a teacher asking a student to hold a light weight at arm’s length and pointing out that it’s not just the weight of the object that makes it difficult to hold, but the length of time you’re required to hold it.

All of that anger and frustration, that hurt and hate, that justified scabby black poison we cling to as our right as survivors of past wrong.  That proof of the evil of others.  It poisons us far worse than it will ever poison them.  It cripples us in spirit and makes victims of the same wrong over and over again.  

Worse even, when we realize how many of the things we hold on to are our own choices.  Things we can’t forgive ourselves for.  Oh, and if you have nothin for which you need to forgive yourself A) you might be very, very young, B) you might be in denial, C) you might have done the hard work of forgiving yourself already.  If C, good for you!  Please share what you did.

In any event, the forgiveness we give ourselves and others is a selfish act because ultimately we don’t forgive people for the sake of their own souls, but for our own.  It’s a psychological ablution, an enema for the spirit.

When forgiving those who’ve done you evil, you take a stand and no longer let that part of your past control you.  

 

I can’t say I know what’s best for anyone but myself.  I know that giving up that poison is like giving up coffee or sugar.  It’s good for you, but oh, so hard.

For the sake of me (since I’m with me almost constantly), and my loved ones, I’m doing my best to forgive.  Which is not the same as doing my best to forget – perhaps I’ll have thoughts on that sometime soon.

Action to Motivation

Sometimes motivation breeds action, but just as often action breeds motivation.

This is one of our pre-release black walnut presentation boards being used as a serving tray/centerpiece for dinner at a friend’s house.

Yesterday (Sunday), I spent the evening with my dad Jake; cutting and sanding some boards that should become our next batch presentation boards for our soon-to-drop online store.  They’ll become slab furniture and presentation boards.  A piece that should last at least four generations if treated well (more on four generations later soon, I promise…)

Afterward, I performed some minor repairs on some leather items in the house and worked on a design for a sheath for one of my knives.

I should probably be exhausted, but for some reason, my stupid mind brimmed with ideas of what I can do next week and the week after! This is especially true given that I’ll be flying to the Tucson Gem Show this weekend and won’t have all of my tools with me.  I could barely sleep.
Today, I spent the day working on the final phase of an ash entertainment center for work. Assisting the designers in the basic skill-related aspects of it and keeping an eye out for questions I have about design.

Afterward, I went home and practiced using a plunge router for the first time to cut a Mortise into some scrap I brought home from work.

Finished up the day playing with West System Epoxy and Waterlox Poly Finish on some walnut. Things are moving and that movement is helps to build inertia.  What kinds of things do you do to build inertia?

 

Just a thought – Love

Anyone who knows about fire knows that sparks aren’t supposed to be the whole of it. They just get things going. Then the flames provide light so those around can see. Then the coals keep you warm through the night.

Perhaps that’s why fire as such a good metaphor for love.

Every Soul is for Sale

Did I ever tell you about the time I met the Devil on the road?  It’s true.  I did!  Well-dressed chap on the side of the road.  Small goatee, suspiciously cloven feet, faint smell of campfire… Anyway, I was tired so I sad down next to him.  “Ho, Old Scratch!” says I, to show him I’m on to him and not interested in any of his tricks.

He nods to me and moves aside to make room on the log on which he was sitting.  Well, not being ignorant I’m ready to make the sign of the cross or quote a scripture at him at the first sign of trouble.  But he just sits there, as if I’m nothing more than any other traveler.  Finally he looks at me and says, “Well?  Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”

This has me at a loss, as it would you I’m sure.  That’s the one thing I couldn’t have expected him to say.  “You mean you don’t already know? I asked.

“What?  You famous?” He asked.

“No,” I said, “I just thought you knew these sorts of things.  In all the old stories you-“

“Bah, stories,” he dismissed them like he was waving away a bothersome fly.  “Stories are troublesome things, can’t trust ‘em.”

“Huh.”  I thought about all the stories I’d heard of an evening and realized that more often than not they were more than just exaggerated.

“Stories.  I suppose in the stories I’m out to get your soul and trick you out of it right?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Hmph.  That would be the ones that get around.  As if no one ever went though a time when they were a bit of a jerk.”

I had sympathy for him at that point, for I remembered a time when I myself had been the subject of scurrilous rumors.  Then I imagined what it must have been like these last 5000 years the priests tell us the world has been around.  I told him my name and asked him his.

“Lucifer,” he said, “Not that anyone asks any more.  They just call me Satan or Deceiver or any number of other insults and eventually my temper gets the better of me.”

“Must be awful,” I said.

He nodded.  “You’re the first person that hasn’t tried to ward me off with the sign of the cross or quoted scripture at me.”

“Yeah, that would be rude.”

“It’s always ‘begone deceiver’ this and ’get thee behind me that’.  I mean, if someone has a nice posterior or flattering jeans I don’t mind, but it gets so old.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”  I asked.

“Go ahead,” he replied.

“What do you do with them?”

“What?”

“With the souls.  What do you do with them?  The ones people sell you I mean.”

He looked tired.  “You too?  What the hell would I do with souls?  I have no use for them.  Besides you can’t be separated from yours.  Not until death!  Can’t happen.”

“But what about…”

“Can’t happen.  That Faust thing is just a load of fiction.  Hell, I can’t even get back into Hell because I can’t find the keys.”

“Hell has keys?”

“Of course it does.  You think I want to go letting it open with all the murderers and demons and bad guys running around there?”

“Huh, I never thought of it that way.” I said

“Ugh and the smoke.  I can’t get it out of my clothes no matter how much I wash.”  I remembered my grandpa’s sweaters and how even after he quit smoking they always smelled like cigarettes.

“Sounds rough.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“So you don’t buy souls?”

“No.  Course not.  I was just sore at my dad for taking me off the angel choir to babysit a bunch of delinquent humans for all eternity.  You have no idea how terrible the company was for awhile.  Out of boredom I started trying to attract people I’d want to spend time with.  You ever wonder why there are so many musicians in Hell?”

“Because they sold you their soul?”

“No… because the music filled them to the point where there was nothing left.  No room for anything else.  They resonated with the divine music of the spheres and as reward, Dad sends them to me.  All the greats are there.  Even some of the really good gospel musicians.”

“Even the gospel ones?  How come?”

“Because they loved music more than they loved what their music was about.  Dad hates that.  He thinks everything has to be about him.  All the time.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.” I said.

“Of course it’s fair” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Dad said it, so by definition it’s fair.”

“This is very illuminating.” I said.

He actually laughed at that point.  “Well it ought to be.” He said.

“What?” I asked.

“My name is lucifer.  Means morning star.  Or Light bringer.  Illuminating.  Get it?”

“Oh!” I said, comprehension dawning.

“That’s actually my job.”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said.

“My job is to show people the light.  Teach them things.  Things they might miss otherwise.”

“What about all the punishments in hell?”

“Teaching too.  Dad was really old-school about it.  Wanted fire and brimstone.  I asked, ‘why not have some rehabilitation classes and reincarnate until they get it right?’ He just said it wouldn’t work and that it was better to start with something pure and clean.”

“His ways are mysterious” I said.

“He’s impatient and hates admitting improvements could be made.  That’s why he tried to keep a lid on evolution for so long. Everyone brings up the bad stuff, but I ask, what about the good stuff?”

“Good stuff?”

“Yeah!  Good stuff.  Like giving Eve the apple.”

“Good?  That got them kicked out of paradise.”s

“Nah, they knew what would happen.  I told them.”

“Yeah, but how could they know what it would be like?  I mean, he said ‘don’t eat’ and I said, hey.  You eat this, you’ll know right from wrong and be able to make your own decisions.  I helped them to find free will.”

“But we have to work now.” I countered.

“Instead of what?  Being two birds in gilded cages, they became to adults.  Free and able to choose your destiny and do more than just sit in a garden eating and lounging about?”

“Okay,” I said, “What about Job?”

“What about him?”

“What about the fact that you tortured that poor man.”

“Hey I get it.  I say in passing that he wouldn’t be so loyal if he wasn’t being protected from harm.  Right?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not what I said.  What I said was, Job probably wouldn’t be so cheery if you treated him like you treat me.  I was griping and next thing you know God is ordering me to kill Job’s wife.”

“Really?”

“Really.  Look none of that really matters, you know?  All that matters is this.  Every soul is for sale.  You will sell it.  But not to me.”

“What?” I asked.  “Who wants to buy then?”

“You do.  You buy it with every action of every day.  It’s the energy you have to spend becoming who you are.  The only question you have to ask is this?  Would you rather sell your soul at a high price to get something you want, or sell it at a low price to get something you don’t want?”

I thought about this for a minute.  “Are you talking about not wasting my time?”

“Well, no time is wasted really- otherwise you’d have some left over at the end.  I’m talking about spending time on something worth the value of your soul.”

“You mean like practicing an instrument to become a musician?”

“Right, but it’s only compared with the relative cost of another way to spend time that the value can be measured.

“So, watching television for 30 minutes compared with practicing an instrument.”

“Exactly.  It’s like buying something with cash versus buying it with-“

“Credit.  Oh I see.  So, you’re saying I should only spend time on things that will get me what I want?”

“No, no, no.  You’ll have to spend time on other things too, after all you need to eat.  But that extra time.  The time you have to find your passions.  That’s the time that usually gets sucked up with trashy novels, re listening to crappy pop music you have memorized and tv-reruns you’ve seen a thousand times.  All of that is low effort, instant-low calorie return.  Just bad economics.”

“You know prince of darkness as guidance counsellor isn’t what I expected.”

“You and me both,” he said with a sigh.  “You have a lot more opportunity than I did.  You can literally go to the moon if you put in the effort and sell your soul to physics.  Me?  I had to choose between Prince of Darkness, lord of hell and tempter of souls, or leader of the angel choir”  at this, he folded his hands mockingly.  “Trust me, with all its problems, this world is still better than it ever has been and you have more choice than ever.”

“Well, Mr. Morningstar, this has been enlightening.  Thank you for lighting my path and giving me a rest.” I said.

“Of course.”

“I feel like I could go out and take over the world!” I said with enthusiasm.

“You can if that’s what you want to sell your soul for,” he said with a wink.  “Just promise me you won’t sell it at a price less than it’s worth.”  And he extended his hand.

“It’s a deal.” I said and shook his hand in good humor.  Then, I walked down the road feeling strangely lighter than I had before heading off to make my mark on the world.

(To hear what happened when I ran into the prince of darkness at a later date, click here)

What is the Point of Teaching

Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching?  What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?

Why do I spend the effort teaching?

There are several reasons I suppose.  

1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.

2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me.  After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.

3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before.  This is a big one.

What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning?  Well knowledge, for one thing.  Knowledge of a particular art.  This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese.  Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.

One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.”  If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.  

As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.  

There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher.  The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.

The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both.  This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.

If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted.  If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.

There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.

On How to get what you want.

In life there are three ways to get what you want.

1) Adjust your expectations.  You can’t always get what you want, so one of the ways you can is to realize you want what you have.  That’s a good aim in situations where you need to adjust your expectations.  I want to fly by flapping my wings, but since I have no wings, I need to adjust my expectations to fit reality.

2) You have to know what you want.  This is sort of the literal version of a lot of the “manifesting your bliss” type advice you hear, but this doesn’t have the lens of spirituality.  Here’s the deal:  In life, there are opportunities around you all the time.  Most of us are too busy with little things in life or don’t know that we might want something and so we’re not looking for it.  Then those opportunities pass us by and we missed our chance. 

We can flip this script.  By knowing what you want and focusing on it for a few moments (as a starting point not an end).  You start to notice the opportunities around you.  The clearer you see what you want, the further from you your desired end can be and still exist within reach.

To one using their logic backwards one could think:  I really, really wanted something to eat as I walked down the road and ‘lo I manifested the apple tree as I came around the corner.  No.  No you didn’t.  You used the desire of nourishment to focus your mind and prime you to see food as you came across it.

In fact, if you’d broadened your mind to include grubs and crickets, you might have eaten sooner (principle 1 in action).

If you had desired specifically a pear, you might have walked by and thought the apple not worth your time.  Sometimes gaining what you can now with the apple, in order to keep yourself going until your pear arrives is the best option. 

This is obvious in the case of a hungry person and food.  Less obvious when the ends we seek become more complex.

3)  Set a goal.  This is taking steps down the road toward a known likely end.  In example 2, we’re still opportunistic and so, it’s a matter of chance whether you’re going in the right direction.  Perhaps you walked the wrong way and found only twigs and branches or a desert.  More on goal-setting in an upcoming post.

On When to Quit

There comes a time an anyone’s life when it is time to stop doing what you are doing and do something else.  Sometimes it’s for obvious reasons like the idea that if you don’t stop it will kill you.  Mostly though, the reasons people quit have nothing to do with that kind of risk.  Most of us aren’t taking the sorts of chances that would lead to this being a likely outcome.

In most day-to-day situations, we quit because of the momentum loss of breaking a habit we’re trying to establish.  Often times when we make a mistake, we end up feeling a sense of guilt or hopelessness that attaches itself like a parasite on to the thing we were doing.  This is not the time to quit.

You are going to screw up.  Repeat this out loud.  (I don’t care if it’ll get you funny looks.  Do it).  I am GOING to screw up.  I am going to fail.  I am going to mess things up so badly that I need to bulk order duct tape and super glue in order to even THINK about fixing it.  Did you say it?  No.  Didn’t think so.  It’s true though.

You learned to walk?  That means you’ve fallen a lot.  I’m sure you probably got back up.  Well guess, what.  You need to be as tough as you were when you were like 13 months old.  Suck it up.  The alternative to tenacity in the face of messing up is misery and death.  

How do you do this?  I’ve had a few teachers and summer camp counsellors use the “how fascinating” method.  Throwing your hands in the air, taking a big breath and shouting “how FASCinating!!!” instead of beating yourself up is silly, but it can be really effective.  More importantly, you need to lear to forgive the sin and repent.  

What repent?  Luke, you adding religion to this?  No.  To sin means to error.  To repent means to turn away from that error (sin).  See?  No biggie.  That means, if you mess up and have dessert when it’s not your “cheat day”, you need to acknowledge it and move on.  No big deal.

This is not when to quit.  This is a minor setback.

 

***

 

There are a few times you SHOULD quit what you’re doing and they are as follows.

1) you realize your goals have changed.

2) you realize your actions are not leading to your goals

3) you realize your pursuit is harmful to yourself and/or those around you on a level you’re unhappy with.

 

You realize your goals have changed

Now is what you’d think would be the most obvious time to quit. 

Meditations – A reminder

When I am traveling and cannot get to the wilds and the quiet places, I must remember to cultivate the quiet place within myself.  To find the space and center in myself so that I can find peace and clarity, even when surrounded by the din and clamor of the city.

To find grounding in the bustle so that I’m able to think, and write and be.

A test.

I’ve been tested.  Immediately.  I’ve been up for 22.5 hours now, and drove across the midwest from Stillwater, Minnesota to Westminster, Colorado.  I enjoyed the ride (except for the part where I was in a construction zone I could’ve bypassed and had to go to the bathroom).

The whole way, I listened to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and resolved to attempt classical stoicism for my dealings with people.

Upon reaching my house in Denver, I parked the truck and trailer in front of the crotchety old woman’s house across the street, ferried my things from the truck to the house and unlocked the door.

The smell that reached my nose was hard to place at first.  Then it hit me.  I mean it really hit me.  Waves of garlic, stale sweat, unwashed dog and cumin wafted in.  Then I detected a hint of marijuana.  None of these things are smells that a sleep-deprived Luke wants to run into after being away from home for a year.

I had been expecting someone there.  My dad mentioned that he had a scuba friend who would help out and wondered if I minded if she and a girlfriend stayed there.  I said of course not.

When I arrived, I found there was a tiny mowgli-aged girl child sleeping on the couch.

No problem!  I’ll just go downstairs to my nice bed, with the clean sheets.

Nearing the door, I heard a dog growling and then it hit me.  For the first time, I could totally empathize with Papa Bear.

“Somebody’s been smoking pot in my kitchen.”

“Somebody’s been stenching up my house.”

“Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed!  And there they are?!?”

So far, the count is not two women.  It’s a woman, her boyfriend, their daughter (I hope), their dog, and possibly the other woman.

I reclaimed the futon mattress from the top of my bed and a pillow and hunkered down in a free room.

I’m not sure if it’s the delirium talking, but I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to find this funny.  Though, I’m a bit worried that protocol might demand I eat them all up.

PS.  I even found cold porridge left out on the table in the kitchen.

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