You Don’t Owe Me Anything

The world does not owe you anything. That is one of the greatest truths I believe I have learned in my life. When I was able to release the notion that I deserved something, that the world had let me down, that somebody ought to come and ‘fix’ me, I was finally able to find something worth living for.

Do not be ungrateful! The world has given you life! If you want to change, if you want to make connections with others, and if you wish to live a genuinely fulfilling life, you must go out and create it. Every possibility in this world lies one step in front of you; No organization, no amount of donation, and no amount of lovely words will fill this desire for connection.

 I represent nothing and nobody but myself. My impact is much greater when my efforts are authentic, and my goal is simply to connect with others. It works – it is the reason I am alive today. 


Throughout life we each seek connections with others but we often make a crucial mistake: we reject connections with those who seem different than us even in the slightest. We expect institutions and elected officials to do something that is impossible – we expect them to create happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

We see injustice in the world and we take up arms on the internet, hurl insults at political parties, and complain to our friends over the phone and over happy hour. But what have any of us done? What has this actually accomplished? There are groups, organized events, and cocktail parties for every cause imaginable yet what connections have they created? We have created a system where we blame the world for societies ills, create groups where we sit and complain about them with like-minded people, and return home to search for more news to complain about.

We are still alone, still not connected to anyone or anything besides ourselves and in most cases not even that! We are desperately seeking a way to make an impact yet in all of our desperation we have overlooked a simple fact: Connection, positive impact, and a sense of belonging begins with our hands. We do not necessarily need million man marches to create change. We do not need badges and memberships to select organizations to make connections. And we do not help anyone by choosing who we connect with – instead we punish ourselves and society altogether.

The connection I speak of, what I believe is lacking in our lives, is one where we show up when the other is bleeding. It is the relationship that stirs us from sleeping to only listen to another howl with pain. It is the realization that others feel our pain because they have taken time to relate to us. I cannot fix anything but I can find a way to connect with almost any person who is willing. The compassion we show, the identification we find, and the sacrifice we make  to form these connections is what makes life fulfilling. One must have discipline, yet every good thing in this world comes with a high effort. You will not need to question if you are this type of person – one who is fulfilled and impactful knows it – it shows up in their eyes.


I have seen change in my life – I have experienced emotional, physical, real change and I have seen loneliness vanish from the world – I saw it first in myself. My entire life was changed because people postponed their Saturday night plans to come and visit me in hospitals. I have been treated by very fine physicians, given first class treatment, and am educated enough to understand quite a bit of politics, psychology, and philosophy. While I am grateful for treatment facilities and big ideas I did not find lasting change within these places – more importantly I never believed I was owed any special consideration by these institutions or our government.

The actual change that was created within me and still persists today was made by individuals who wished to form a connection with me. Some of these connections still remain, and some were only present for an hour or two. And this is the confusing part for many, the defining of connection and the return people expect for their efforts. To connect with another person, all one needs is to be authentic with their efforts – to listen with sincerity and to speak honestly. One’s motives ought to be finding a way to ease the suffering of another, and in turn, this creates a bond which provides each person with fulfillment.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge to overcome in all of this desire to connect with others is our at times inability to forgive others or to stop blaming others. Blaming others for our situation in life is easy and is often times enjoyable. It may not seem pleasant to you at any present moment. However, there is no real effort in blaming, and that is why we choose to hold onto it so often.

The pain in being a part of this world involves facing life, confronting the difficulties involved and living through them in order to change your life. Forming connections takes real effort. It takes times and sacrifice, and most people are not willing to put forth this effort when instead they can wake up each day and feel comfortable in their belief that everything is societies fault and they can do nothing to change it. They can change things actually, it is just too damn difficult for most.


Many people look at this world with such disgust that it seems an overwhelming task to make any change whatever. When this lack of action is taken seriously we find that people have given up, though they may still donate to the local animal shelter. People become resigned to life the way it is – they don’t understand others so they stay away, they don’t believe others understand them so they become resentful, and they end up believing this is all too much work so why even put in the effort. The bar is often set way too high – the idea that in order to create change and form connections one must heal an entire country has become the war song of the world. The belief that changing one person life for one day has lost importance and so the effort is no longer there. Once we subscribe to the idea that our impact is too little we resign ourselves to a life of no connection and no impact – we live an “all or nothing” life, and it is always a “nothing” life when put to use.

I have come to believe through experience that forming a connection with someone takes effort and discipline but it is what makes life worth living. I believe strongly that if I can positively impact a person’s life for only one day then I have made a worthwhile change. I believe this because the modification is never only for one day, not for either party. The people who have changed my life were often there and connected for only brief moments, but they are links in the chain of my life. They won’t receive any recognition or badges from me but these people do not need or want that. Once you have connected with others you find the reward within this connection, and no amount of press or praise will outshine it.

I don’t come here and write to tell anyone how to think or what to do – though I have my fair share of opinions. What drives me is not the hope that you will do what I want – my hope is that you find a way of life that is fulfilling for yourself and that alone makes a positive impact on my world whether you live in Brooklyn or Botswana. I do not come here to tell you how I spend my days or to catalogue any success I may have experienced in life – instead I come here to examine how I can be of better service to you and in the process I find a new fulfillment.

I share with you the innermost parts of my life so that we may be able to connect. I may be judged by others, I have given up my anonymity, I have released to you my greatest fears and failures. But what I get in return is far greater than what I get by remaining silent. I find connections with people on a level few are able to. I can connect with individuals who wish to remain anonymous but are still honest. This is part of what has changed my life – it is not easy telling you that at 32 life is still damn hard to figure out. I don’t celebrate every time I say how much I struggle with self-pity and self-centeredness – but I also know I am not the only 32 year old who finds life difficult. If one is honest they will tell you that when confronting life with a desire to create positive change it is often difficult. Forming connections means going right to the source, sitting next to the hospital bed, and telling someone that life can be something worth living. It means being honest, humble, and disciplined.

The world gave me a gift by giving me life, and each time I curse the world and its cast of characters it is like spitting in the face of my Creator. We fight each day to be meaningful people, and throughout this battle, we find that victory rides with us daily and change reside in our hands before we ever leave home. You won’t find what you are looking for at the next fundraiser – you find it on the 20th floor at Bellevue Hospital. The world is waiting for your help – go find your 20th floor.

One Memory

“You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky


I do not want to forget who you are

Within the ever-changing exterior, I see a shadow

I do not want to forget that person, yet I often do forget

I do not want my words to drift

this is about me, not them or you

this is my labored error, my fault, and shortcoming

It is not without forgiveness and repair

I do not wish to forget who you are

I know who you are yet at times you escape me

You seem heavier at times

and other times appear blissful

Where is it that you go?

Are you seeking anything or are you content to wander?

It is no matter to me; I only hope you have found something

Something that keeps your mind moving amid the chaos outside

I hope no regret rests deep in your heart

For there is none in mine

Do not waste time illustrating errors of time gone by

I will not bear witness to this, do not waste your effort

I have been reborn in time for this

Gratitude pervades my soul

I am but a whisper with a crack in what was a steady voice

But my whisper is sunlight; the steadiness was a disguise

As for this sunlight, thank you for allowing it

Your softness is not weakness

It is what allows me to speak

Your softness listens deep into the darkness

Do not fear this dark; I beg of you

For it is this darkness that allows the sunshine to persevere

Instead anticipate what this night brings forth

Cling close to my chest if you wish, I will not allow darkness a home

And as I must not forget you, I urge you not to forget yourself

Recollections of small towns and big dinners

A storybook grandmother still vivid in the mind

Her cigarette filled ashtrays and working class love

Do not lose grip of these memories

For they are here in place of those that won’t stick around

They are warmth, truth, shadow and light

You hold onto these; you are not missing anything

And I will do the same

I will hold you as I know you

I cannot forget you even if I tried

I am so much of you; I grow closer to you

Do not read my words with sadness

I do not write them through tears or lost time

Time stays still so long as we remember

Time is but a moment passing by

 

 

LEAVING THE DEBATE BEHIND |

Just before sunset, before the lightning dazzles the earth, everything seems to stop. My heart sinks, the universe beckons me closer, and my hands are steady. At this moment my mind is consciously still, my thoughts unknown to me, and I stand alone and at peace. This is my moment of clarity. At this time I know nothing, I do nothing nor do I say a thing. I am still, and my body beats and moves the way bodies do – and at this moment my mind relinquish all power, all control, and all design. I give in.

This is the calm I feel when I have fully surrendered my will and my life to something other than myself. I understand that my life cannot be run by self-propulsion. I have tried this way of life, and I have failed at this way of life. I have tried it backward, sideways, inside-out, and upside-down. I have tried it in different shades of color, different tempers, sharper lines, wild obscurity. None of it works when I am the one in control – and the reason is simple: I lack the power to run my life, and I certainly have no authority to run anyone else’s life.


This idea, the lack of authority, takes on greater meaning then I will discuss at the moment. Within this lack of power is an admittance that I know very little if anything at all. It leads me to this idea that for me the debate is over. The stage where I once argued politics, religion and ideologies is now empty. I am not withholding judgment; I am not biting my tongue believing this a more proper, tactful way to present myself; I simply do not have an argument for you. About my past self, my ego is shattered, and humility has risen exponentially. Consider also that my ego reached to the heavens and my humility, on some numeric scale, would have measured a .01, so I am not saying I have these qualities in surplus.

What I can say is that I no longer believe I have the answer for you. I do not have the answer for myself! I have had to seek out a power which could grant me direction and lend my feet a path which directs me straight instead of in circles. To debate my beliefs with another means I believe my answer is superior, and I have no way of knowing this. Common sense tells me that I do not have the answer for a country of 400 million people – humility tells me instead of arguing I ought to listen.

I have opinions! I am not claiming that I don’t feel strongly about certain things. In fact, I feel incredibly passionate about the ideology which my life has taken hold of – but I am humble enough to understand that this is my path, my ideals, my structure, and it works for me. I have no idea what works for you. There are things I do each day that I believe would make others more efficient, perhaps lessen the anxiety of others, allow others to lead a day with more clarity – but I only know that these things work for me. I will not tell you that following my morning routine will make you more connected and transparent – my opinion is that it is a fine method, but I know nothing of how you operate best because I do not know what you need.

This is not to say I keep my mouth shut. Many have come to me and asked me what I do, how I do things, how I arrived at certain points, and I am more than willing to sit down and share what I practice. I suggest my way of life may work for you as it works for me, but I do not proselytize. Often I hear others say “if only people would listen to me! If only things were done my way this world would be a better place” – Or the nonstop political debates roaring incessantly, opinions thrown to the wind and leaving me curious if the thought given to these opinions is genuine.


For me, the debating committee has resigned. And where it leaves me is often apart from many discussions and outside of certain social gatherings. But this is my method of recognizing my role in this world – that when I give up the notion that I have control over the day, over my life, and over the lives of others I find a new freedom where my choices become easy, my mind able to focus on things I consider important, and my heart able to be tolerant and compassionate instead of vicious and cynical. My life run on my accord leads me to darkness; it prompts me to make decisions based on selfishness and greed. My position in life becomes your fault, the government’s fault, the world’s fault – never mine.

I am limited – I cannot make this world whatever I wish it to be for myself by myself. I need help, and I have found help. Original thought is not something I am against, but it is not something I seek out. I find what works and what has worked for those who have come before me. I look to those who live a life of self-confidence, stillness, and ease. I look to those who do not admonish others for their beliefs but rather pay no mind to their opinions and instead seek to understand rather than be understood. The ones who listen with intent, who do not give answers but instead share their experience.

Others may question me, others may find my way of life peculiar and still others may find my stance weak. My stance, however, has the strongest backbone I know of, and it is not my back which carries the weight. I do not have answers for you; I cannot fix anything or anybody. I have suggestions, I have experience, I have scars if you need proof. All I need is to turn and ask for guidance, for direction, to be shown the next right action – I need to be taught how to be useful in the stream of life and how to be best of service. This life leaves me asking questions alone, sitting in reflection and searching through spiritual channels for the right action, the most useful action to be shown to me. I have lived a life where I chose my path, where I opted to believe I knew what was best for the 7 billion inhabitants on this earth and I ended up lost over and over again. Today I ask how I can be of service and how I can be useful and it leads me to others who need someone to listen to them. It brings me to individuals, not countries. And in turn whatever loneliness I encounter on this path is turned back into fulfillment when I need someone to listen to me.

I do not wish to debate with you anything at all; I simply do not have any answers. It is a shame if you feel I have let you down, and I would be more than willing to listen to you and share my experience.

Beauty and Terror

I took one last look into your bedroom, my eyes filled with life, and turned away. The weakness of human design effortlessly revealed by nature, dissolving structure and breath in a matter of moments. Dogs barked in the alley and neighbors rushed to the scene as smoke settled among us. I remained still, unmoved – shattered. My tears, black from smoke and ash, painted trails on my cheeks. It was as though I was waiting for something, for the whole of life to collapse as well. The morning stars distanced themselves, giving way to the sun, and I remained. I never once glanced towards the sun; heartbroken, I knew it was there. In a moment it had all vanished. In a moment it all remained.

The following months passed with dizzying speed, then years passed, and then it didn’t matter anymore. Leaves fell hard, and for some those leaves were rocks on their backs, but I felt nothing. I was such a sick man, such a selfish man; I hadn’t noticed any of this passing. My sickness and self-centeredness do not excuse my actions; I was well aware of myself, even if my self-deception and delusion were reaching new peaks. Instead of taking responsibility for my disappearance I blamed my actions on the nature of things. Instead of helping others heal I took advantage of their pity; for I was the one with blackened tears and a wounded spirit! I stole years from myself, years from others, and I did it all in the name of self-defense.

Slowly, I began to die. You had always asked about me, worried for me, even had dreams for me. But I knew nothing of dreams or gratitude. You had given me your heart and your words; I gave nothing in return. I left home, trying to keep balance amid the chaos, and distanced myself further from the sun. As the days grew colder, my eyes lost focus. Ice poured from my heart into awaiting hands, slowly forcing each one to retreat. And, forgetting more and more of myself, I retreated as well. A numbing pain was all that was left; and then –

The thick of winter had broken me. Surrender had been given to me and life restored to me. Like a blind man given sight, I have much to discover; I have made so many mistakes, so I have come to offer what I can.

You have left indelible marks on my life. In the past, I was not the type of man who could appreciate your effort and sacrifice; today I am. Your kindness overwhelms me now; I am left with immense gratitude for the moments of happiness which you gave to such a lonely heart. I am of service to those you understand; I see you in their faces and am reminded why I am there. You are one who has given me the strength to show up for others, and though I wish my character were the same back then, I can only hope that somewhere you are smiling.

My mind eases and lets go of the past; I let go of the horror and keep the beauty. I have let go of you and our past, choosing to keep you with me in the present moment, heart beating alongside my heart.

Today let us walk with hazard, setting our sights towards the sun as though we were walking straight into her. There is no parting and no sorrow; we were raised to see life as an unmerited gift, thus we leave this life with gratitude for being born, sentient and feeling. And in many ways this is only life as we know it that is ending; Perhaps this life is the caterpillar and ahead of us is a greater beauty. Perhaps once we make it to the sun we will find butterflies. We never look back, and as fear falls from us we see a glimpse of truth in this world and it is in one another.

H | 22 & 3

Sir,

Great moments in one’s life happen when one has given up desire, settled for whatever outcome may pass. If one hopes to inspire he does not try to inspire, he just is. And that was you; you were just you. And within this transformation, you became an inspiration, a teacher, and most importantly an example of how a good person ought to live their life.

When I think of you I think of waves: I do not know you on levels others do, and I am happy with it because I was fortunate to see the boldness of your heart when you spoke even the softest whisper to another. You are guided by an unyielding pursuit to help others and in this pursuit, you left behind trails for others to follow. Trails which beckoned us to be a student, a student like you. 

Your sincerity resonates deeply in the hearts of us; I know this to be true. I have left many times feeling myself unstoppable – feeling as though a spirit has reached out and given me grace. You are one of the waves through which the fire can boldly show itself, can instill in us the most fragile foundation, a most connected moment.

Do not despair – it would be a mistake. To despair would suggest that there is unfinished business, and there is none for you. Your example is alive and well, and around the waves float specks of water and dust – all hoping one day to become the wave, to become more like you.

I know where to find your voice and so do others. And I will seek out this voice, as tears roll down my cheeks and onto my hands typing these words, I will seek to follow your example. You have set beauty on the horizon, enjoy the sunshine, sir.

Rhett B.