Monday, December 14, 2009

Catching up with the blog, but mostly with myself.

I realize it has been a while since my last blog updates, to those of my persistent and very supportive blog followers (I'm talking to you Mom and Dad) I am sorry. I know you're excited to see the evidence of my latest adventures and escapades, and it's not that I've been too busy to post. In fact, I've got most of the posts up here just not published yet. I've just been trying to find the right reasons to justify me doing these things that I have been doing. BASE jumping, highlining, even climbing have inherent dangers. But worse than these dangers are the effect they each have on my own mental establishment. I know you're worried about me dying or getting injured or whatever, but I'm still too naive to actually care about that. What I am most worried about, however, is my mental attitude in approaching these activities. Lately I've come to some stark realizations about my personality that have more or less disgusted me.

When I was really young I was always excited to learn, and this followed with me into middle and high school. By that time I had established a stigma that I intended to keep: the smart kid. I was eager to learn, and eager to succeed in school. But somewhere along the way my motivation for learning made a shift from genuine interest in the subject matter, to interest in the enhancement of my ego. While it surely didn't shift so drastically as to be 100% in either category, the obvious balance was noticeably skewed. Why it did this I am not sure, but it has certainly had a resounding affect on my personality today.

This ego-inflation has always repulsed me, and as you know I've been prone to shy away from it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize exactly how ego-driven I've been in the last few years. I've been asking the question "why" about nearly everything epistemicaly possible. Why I'm here, why I interact with the world that way that I do, but more recently I've been answering even more complicated questions: why do I highline, why do I BASE jump (or so I thought I was answering the questions). In asking these questions, I would often follow up with an answer somewhere along the lines of "because I find some sort of philosophical peace and overarching truth in these activities", or perhaps I declare a "moment of clarity found in nothing else". However I've recently begun to realize how far this actually is from the truth.

The only true reason "why" is because it fills some sort of gap that requires personal affirmation. My soul has a fundamental desire for the appreciation of others. And what better way to be viewed in a positive light as to do something extreme with my life, that nobody else does? While, again, I realize that it isn't this black and white, but the general trend has been in this direction. I'm not proud of it, but ignoring it certainly can't help. Recently I've been trying to discover the real truth behind my actions, and this is why there has been an obvious lack in blog postings.

I suppose looking for a reason for something isn't necessarily the right way to approach this problem, but it is a pragmatic way. It helps me begin to understand, in my own little way, and gives me small amounts of comfort. I suppose the most harsh reality is that my actions have been so driven by my ego that I have not had the chance to enjoy them. Highlining has lost its appeal in my quest to be one of the best in the world. BASE jumping fills me with emptiness, but not the good emptiness they talk about in Buddhism class, the emptiness that feels like a hole in my chest, makes it hard to breathe, a sinking feeling like you realize that your girlfriend is about to break up with you. That kind of feeling. Why could something so potentially liberating have such a negative demeanor attached to it? Mainly because I have been doing these things for the wrong reasons.

Flaunting my accomplishments on facebook posts and status updates, rambling about my supposed "self-awakening" on this blog, putting up trip reports on forums. All these things are ways that I have been consciously inflating my ego, and further burrowing that hole into my chest. I am left with a sadness and pain that baffles me.

I've started to realize how unhealthy this process is, even on a subconscious level. Even without posting the media that I collect, I still am drawn to watch videos of my jumps over and over again. Without fail, every Monday after a fun weekend of adventuring I am so distracted with my accomplishments that I let other important things fall by the wayside. I am unavoidably infatuated with my own experiences that I fall victim to the role of "living vicariously through myself". This isn't a joke. I've realized how dangerous this is. I am so caught up in watching the videos and looking at the photographs that I lose track of what is really important. Therein lies the real crisis. Right now as I am typing these words, I have absolutely no idea what is important in this life. That is a serious dilemma. Further, my entire life in the last few years has centered around the cultivation of these activities. I am at a loss.

Because of a thirst for acceptance and a drive for greatness that was instilled within me from an early age (no blame Mom and Dad, I'm sure it was entirely coincidental), I have pursued these extreme sports with vigor. And while I do get a great deal of personal enjoyment out of them, if you would ask me right now why I do these things, I could not give an honest answer. I have no clue (except for the fact that my ego needs a boost every day, just like someone else would need their coffee).

My studies of Buddhism have helped me to discover this, and have aided me in opening my eyes into my own life. I don't have a curiously wonderful life of adventures, free of worry. It is certainly far from that. It is wrought with the suffering that ensues from my ego-driven conscious trying to kid myself that what I am doing is for a good cause, such as mental cultivation or meditative training. It is really only so that others will look at me and say, "hey that Scott is pretty cool, I wish my life were like his". I realize this with disgust. My motivations are reprehensible.

Based on these findings, you can understand why I have been hesitant to post any information whatsoever online. I'm realizing how the life as I have lived it has relatively little importance. It is something that I have done purely out of the selfishness in my heart. Sure, it may inspire others, but by living my life for the wrong reasons I am consequently inspiring others in the wrong way. I need the chance to step back and rework my mind, I need the chance to start approaching life from a more beneficial perspective. I know that you both love me more than can be stated on paper, and the feelings are absolutely mutual. Right now that is one of the only tangible things in my life. This love, combined with my ability to reflect are the only tools I have with which to rework my life, so I'm making some sort of game plan.

I am no longer going to post photographs on any social networking sites. They are too driven by my egocentric greed. It has gotten to the point where I can't even be doing something without thinking about what I'll post about for my next facebook status update. I can't even take photos without thinking about what my friends will comment about, which ones they will like the best, how they will think that I am a good photographer. This whole process, once a passion of mine, has only become a hindrance.

I will, however, post photographs on the blog, mainly because almost nobody looks at this thing, and those that do I share that tangible love for, so I know no harm can come from it.

I have also decided to cease BASE jumping and highlining until I can discover beneficial reasons for partaking in these activities. I obviously would not have pursued them with such an eager spirit if there wasn't an inherent beauty about these activities. However, I am going to turn that childish determination from a necessity to be the best, and use that energy to determine how to enjoy these things as much as possible, and for the right reasons. I know this will come at a relief to you because of my decreased risk of danger, but don't get used to it. There will always be something that I do that will consistently bother you.

I also hope that you take this opportunity to be honest with yourselves, and look into your own lives with this objective analysis. None of us are perfect, and I feel that it will do you each a great service to think about your life, maybe only seriously for 20 minutes each day. Think about the motivations you have for living your life the way you do. Think about the impacts this has on your loved ones. Think about the important things in your life, not necessarily family, but other things too. Your passions, your outlets, things that you hate about your life as well. What can you do to change them? Our minds are neuroplastic entities that are in dynamic balance with our bodies and our surroundings. We never observe the same thing twice because we are always changing from our experiences and our reflections on those experiences. We need to be living this life in the best way possible. Maybe this is a generalization, I suppose the only truth that I know is that I myself am compelled to live my life in the best way possible. I challenge you, because of the love that we share, to do the same. It will be uncomfortable, but I hope that it will be liberating.

Thanks for reading, and know that of everything in my life, the one thing that I appreciate most is you, my family. My love for you is unexplainable, but it is the most real thing that I have, and through constant internal struggle in my life, this always brings me back to a comfortable mental place, so Thank You.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott,

You think more deeply than most young people I'm sure, and even more than people of any age. For the 1st time in my life I have been alone (especially at the cabin) and I have come to realize that love for each other is the most important thing in the world. Not just for our families, but for strangers that you may meet during your life. Many of the "strangers" that we have met in our life, have become good friends over the years. I love you.

Dad said...

My Son,
I am struck by so many things that you have written in your blog…your capacity to think goes far beyond the expectation most people have of others, except for a gifted writer in a philosophical relationship with his world. Your writing is beauty in and of itself. Your self-awareness is deeper than most of us can ever achieve in a lifetime. I say these things not to stoke your ego, but to be honest about how I feel about you.
You were born, son, an old soul. I have always known this. Your awareness of the world and the truth that lives here has been pretty profound from a young age. Your wonderful grandmother Marilyn, whom I have always adored, and I would talk about this often. We just knew, we had this feeling that you have been here in this experience many times in the past. I saw it when you were young and I see it through your struggles here in your blog. This is your last time, so make it count. And you certainly are.
First I want to give you some validation. Your adventures, your pursuits, your passions do not define you. They are your inner spirit, a reflection of your strength as well as your struggles. But they don’t really mean that your extreme adventures are definition of life. Even though you are an old soul, you are a young spirit and you get this time to achieve the enlightenment you seek, so embrace it as you always do.
Clarity: I do not fear your adventures, or your extreme nature, or even whether or not you get hurt or die. As you fondly remind me, the glass is already broken. This helps to give one peace in knowing the inevitable. None of us hopes to hasten that event; we all hope to have a long and fulfilling life. The choices you are making are no different from the behavior going on at every college campus, high school, or city in the world. Youth always wants to press some sort of boundary. Some, like your mother, press the boundary of knowledge, focusing on improving her mind and her body. Her behavior has always been above reproach. That right there was one of her most attractive qualities. It is not easy to live up to or to live with, which may explain why we are where we are, all of us. My behaviors bordered on the other edge – knowledge certainly, but I push out against all boundaries. I try far too many things that I should not have – professionally and personally. Experiencing the extreme pain what happens when you do fall too far – both physically and mentally. But that gave excitement to an otherwise unfulfilled life. That leaves you son with a complicated history to live through. A lot of ego existed in the house you grew up in, without much balance. So it is not surprising that you had to struggle to show your own.
You are certainly not alone in struggling with ego, we all, in some way, deal with ourselves, justifying ourselves and our place in this world. We all want to be perceived in a positive light. But that perception of others does not define you either. You talk about your compulsion to view your pictures and videos over and over again, to relive those adventures, often before they have even settled into your mind. There is nothing wrong with that. I think it is rather like people passing a traffic accident, we thank God (or whomever you want to thank) that it is not us, but we can’t help to look, even when it might be gruesome. Again, human nature here, but that doesn’t make it bad.

Dad said...

The comment that your grandmother made in your blog is the real truth. Love for each other is the most important thing in the world. This has been a foundation in my life, and it is a fundamental truth that I have always tried to instill in your life. Some reflection here son: some of the most beautiful moments that I have seen in your life have been when you give your love to others. Remember when you won that photography contest in Fairfax. You took the accolades with grace. You took the winnings to buy toys not for yourself, but for others. Do you remember those feelings in your heart? That is the real you. You give to others. You give through your heart. You teach others to try the unexpected, to try to push themselves to a new level of understanding. You give yourself completely. When you were in middle school you were pushing forward with all kinds of community service activities, you were always conscious of helping other people. And you gave some pretty incredible examples of giving experiences to others. A good example for you to remember is the work you did in the ceremonies teams, both in Virginia and in Colorado. Yes, some of it was to fit in, but look beyond, to the experiences you were giving to those young men. And then high school, one of your significant mentor teachers saw your capabilities so early that he made sure you had a place to shine your light. You started some pretty amazing traditions that reached many people, young and old. How about the Senior Citizens Prom? No one else had taken that on like you did. And look closer, what a model you gave to your sister!! She carried on your work and made it even greater…impact my son. And through all of those experiences of giving yourself to others is love. Love for other people is the most important lesson. And how about Big Horn? Few have been as focused on learning and fun as you have. You touched people with your leadership skills in a most amazing way. And you cannot see those results because they take a lifetime to measure, but one you can see and measure is the impact you have had on your brother. There are no better moments than when the two of you have worked together, played and wrestled together and made a difference to others together. He now takes his commitment to others to the most impactful we can see, giving great self-sacrifice. I can only thank God that I have been there to observe these events. Through all of these experiences has been your love for others.
So, now, as you complete your college years (one that are specifically designed I believe to be completely self serving, self discovering, self motivated, and self experiential) it is only natural to ask – “is this all there is? What am I doing? What do I want to do?” The fact that you feel disgusted with your self-focused behavior only reinforces to me the fact that your path continues to be along to road of helping others. Share your talents and your love with other people; strangers become friends as your grandmother so eloquently put it. We would have loved to have you join us in Belize, but you were not ready. Perhaps you have grown beyond the need to experience extreme feelings that are hollow at heart. Pursue those things that give you great feelings of the heart. When you do that it makes for great relationships…ask your sister to tell you some of her experiences here.

Dad said...

And thank you for your admonishment to me. I have reached a level of happiness that I didn’t think that I could. I have cast off the baggage that I was dragging around for so long (ok, so maybe I have a small bag that I am still dealing with, but progress takes time). Being a teacher gave me a great perspective of helping other people grow and learn. And now I have a completely new circle of friends and colleagues that I have been trying to effect in a positive way. I have been placed in a position of mentorship that I am taking on with relish. I am trying to walk the talk that helps make people and organizations successful, and I am getting those ego boosting compliments from very different places. Those comments now serve to reinforce doing the right thing. I have learned so much from you, my son, just as I have from your brother and sister. Being a parent is definitely a two way prospect, and one of the most rewarding in life. So live to love, live to help others and you gain love, live to share love and you get to take that with you – into the next place for you. Make the most of the moment, and love one another while you do.
I love you more than you can ever imagine!!
Dad

Erin said...

Hi Scott!

I feel like a bit of a voyeur now, since you said that pretty much nobody reads your blog except for your family. And I'm a complete stranger that found your blog through a random series of mouse clicks a few months ago. Right now I'm sitting in my office in Lansing, Michigan, looking out my window at the side of another office building. I love looking at the colorful pictures of your adventures, since they're so different than what I experience on a daily basis.

Anyway, I felt that I should let you know that I'm here, so now you get a response to your post from a total stranger who doesn't know anything about you: On one hand, I think you're being WAY too hard on yourself. The character "flaws" that you described are human nature. From an evolutionary perspective, they would have helped your ancestors survive and reproduce and therefore are a big part of the reason that you (and any of us) exist today. On the other hand, I admire your attempts to rise above your genetic programming and become a better person. I struggle with the same issues, although my hobbies are decidedly less glamorous (like...um...knitting). A big part of my enjoyment from doing anything that I'm good at is thinking about how people will be impressed by it. And even though I don't like that part of myself, I don't know how to overcome it. I can pretend to be a better person on the outside and act modest, but I can't stop the thoughts from coming. I have chosen not to beat myself up about it (see my Darwinist rationalization above), but I still feel guilty for being so ego-driven.

So...that was really unhelpful, as I obviously do not have the answer yet. Good luck with your journey, and I hope you share anything that helps you along the way. I also look forward to seeing more pictures of your adventures at some point. And should they be awesome, I promise not to comment on it. :)

- Erin

theascentofem said...

Scotty,

It's Emily. I want you to know how much I relate to what you've expressed in this post. Ever since I started highlining, I've felt that strange emptiness in my stomach as well and I've realized that it comes from my ego wanting to be "the best female" at highlining. I have also been trying very hard to step back from that and enjoy the sport for what it truly is, and not for what people will say about my photos or accomplishments. Because all in all, what will I get from people telling me how great I am? If I don't feel great inside, I'm never going to feel great no matter what people say or think of me. It's hard to separate myself though, especially when a lot of people I am surrounded by are also plagued by the "ego" and strive to be the best. It's amazing what such a great sport can do to the soul if it's for the wrong reasons, you are right. But don't worry, you are not alone. I am actually relieved that you wrote about this, it makes me feel less alone. Thanks...

-Emily

Anonymous said...

Love is the only fuel that can sustain our ambition without destroying ourselves internally. Without it, we perpetually run on empty and that ambition begins to eat away from our inside in a desperate attempt to nourish itself.

Donna said...

Hi Scott,

I've enjoyed reading your blog and following your adventures. It's exciting, and a good thing, for you to explore your spiritual self along with some good old introspection.
The first thing that struck me is that you're way too hard on yourself, as Erin said. You are already miles ahead of most people (let alone most students) in terms of the issues you raise. The answers will unfold for you, just be patient.
Spirituality gives depth and texture to life. I have found my own peace in right relationship with God, and from that flows right relationship with my fellow human beings.
With respect and admiration,
Donna

Anonymous said...

Scott,

When will we every be free from ourselves? From the full time job that is the maintenance of our own personal fronts?

There are two of me. The first is my external self. This is the guy that looks at himself in every reflective surface on the way to class. He checks his Facebook often, snaps photos, tells people about the weekends to come, etc. Months ago he became self aware, as you have, and now feels deeply shameful but cannot break the addiction.

The 'second me' is climbing. He is aware of his hands, feet, pulse and the wall in front of him. He has no Facebook account.
The 'second me' is highlining. He is aware of his hands, feet, pulse, and the webbing beneath him. He has no reflection.
The 'second me' exists only through motion.

I am not strong and will likely never kick the addiction, but I am thankful for the time I have in which I am able to escape it.

I hope to see you soon,
Your friend
GingerX

Anonymous said...

Hello Scott,

I just came across this philosopher named Julius Evola. I thought of you when I read about his book titled:
Meditations on the Peaks: Mountain Climbing as Metaphor for the Spiritual Quest.

Best regards to you


http://www.amazon.com/Meditations-Peaks-Mountain-Climbing-Spiritual/dp/0892816570/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267048252&sr=1-9

Anonymous said...

Well, mostly I just read blogs, and move on without comment, but I'm compelled to comment here, because
1. You seem to be able to think.
2. You seem to want to be honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
3. You are young.
So, here is some perspective, which is yours to take or leave, from a source that you can credit, or not.
At this point in your life, your world is without real boundaries, without real, tangible, everyday obstacles. Without those obstacles, you can have no sense of 'getting over', which is how you get the sense of progress, of connectedness, and of motion through life that you seem to be lacking. You need more obstacles.
In your life, you are without the constraints by which to measure your freedom, so it feels like nothing. It feels like emptiness.

Well, it's not.

You have mistakes to make, lessons to learn, naivety to lose, experience to gain.
But real experience can not be obtained with shortcuts. You can't learn about life simply by risking your own. Dying is easy....it's living that can be hard.
The thing you may be starting to understand, is that life is not a question to be answered. Life is an answer to be created. Everyone gets to create their own life....within constraints.
So stop looking for answers, and start trying to create something. You may get it wrong....maybe even a few times...but the act of attempting to create your own life will teach you more than you will learn if you don't try.
Also? Nobody can answer the question, "What is life?" for you. Not in a blog, not on Facebook. Facebook is just a bad habit which many people have. It is today’s “Smoking”. Eventually, studies will prove it to be bad, but you’ve already intuited it…good for you. The most important stuff in life is communicated person to person, face to face, only you to only them, with both of you really invested in it, with something to lose. Blogs and FB have none of that.
That is the eternal mystery of this place. Everyone makes their own answer....and "time", btw, is a motherf*cker. "Time" has a way of dissolving lots of things we think of as universal and inalterable in our lives.....which is why your grandmother's advice in the first comment should carry lots of weight:
So find someone in particular to love you, that you love back…and start the adventure of real life. If you're not ready for that yet, try this:
To get some perspective, maybe try something harder than jumping out of perfectly good airplanes: Go try to make a living in the world...to earn enough to theoretically support a wife and kids. *Then* you'll have a way to measure the infinite freedom that is your current every day.
Oh, and read stuff by real authors...see if it resonates with you. Read "Feed" by M.T. Anderson. Read "Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman". Read "The Old Man and The Sea". Read "Touching the Void". Read "Brave New World". Read "Darkness Visible." Read "Looking For a Ship" or anything else by McPhee.

You want to try a real obstacle? Try to get a story published. ;-) Dare ya.

Also, maybe, take up a competitive contact sport,like MMA. It's good to know that when you want to push on the world, sometimes it will push back. Everything is not ephemeral and experiential. Everything is not "Man against Himself", or "Man against Gravity"....sometimes "Man against Man" feels more immediate....and it underlies most of what really happens in the world anyway....good to be familiar with that too.

Anonymous said...

Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans.
John Lennon

Anonymous said...

Hers something to do (Happening now): http://www.yachtpals.com/rowing-atlantic-9022

Lissette said...

Hi Scott,

This is Lissette from Xpress Magazine, I just read your article on Slacklining. I'm working on a similar and I was hoping I could get some of your input.

Let me know what you think as soon as you get this message.

Here's my email: lyalva89@gmail.com