The other day I was scrolling through Tumblr (animals and tattoos and random hippie stuff) and I saw this little chart about planets and their meanings. I’m not into astrology, but Jupiter is my planet and means “expansion, optimism, abundance.” That resonated with me so much I made it the tagline of this site and I’ve been repeating it to myself in my head ever since. I always wanted a mantra and nothing ever stuck. (The only other ones that ever gained any traction were “anicca, anatta, dukkha,” which means roughly nothing to cling to, nothing to cling with, all of life is chaos, and “nam myoho renge kyo,” which means “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra” (more on that here).)
On the journey of life (When I start saying shit like “On the journey of life,” you know what follows is going to be kind of out there.) I’ve always been trying to find some sort of deeper meaning. From time to time, that has involved religion. When I was in high school, I got into church for a brief time. We were not a religious family but my mom and I (my dad is a Catholic from the old country who now believes in science and math, not God) sometimes attended a Presbyterian church and I went to confirmation class and was confirmed (which involved wearing an awesome white hat with flowers on it). I mostly thought that was a joke but got more involved freshman or sophomore year when I did a brief stint in the choir and youth group. I tried to read the Bible but got bored.
What I was after when I was in church wasn’t really church. It was the deeper philosophical thing that happens when someone says something you wouldn’t have thought of on your own and you think, yeah, I get that, and it kind of takes you to a higher place of understanding. Do you know what I mean? I swear I am not high right now.
In college I dabbled in substances and Eastern religions (who doesn’t). After 9/11, I became a Baha’i and was pretty dedicated to it for almost a year. (I even avoided alcohol that entire time, which honestly wasn’t hard because this was right after that time I got really shitfaced, bought a bottle of Cristal at a bar, and vomited all over a cab.)
When you have a kid, a thing that happens is you think about finding religion if you don’t have it. I think this is a natural thing. You want your kid to have a way to find meaning if he wants to, and religion might be a means of doing that. I don’t know. It might not. It never really worked for me, despite my best intentions. When it came down to it, I just don’t believe in God, no matter how comforting I might find the idea. Buddhism is the only thing that makes sense, but to me, Buddhism is the kind of thing I can do at home (which is probably why it works for me because, for example, I have a serious problem with authority, but also probably why it sometimes feels like it’s not really something).
Someone once said to me that she raised her kid with religion because she wanted something inconsequential for him to rebel against when he was older. That seems really smart. Sometimes I wonder how Soren will rebel. How will the entire generation of children raised by hipster Gen-X parents rebel? Become Mormon republicans? I have no idea.
Even considering that, my heart just really isn’t into religion other than trying to mostly live my life according to Buddhist ideals and philosophies. So sometimes I try to find meaning in other ways. Jupiter is a perfectly reasonable source of meaning if you ask me, so it’s what I’m going with for now.
Another thing that has always existed in my head is a desire to live close to the ground. In Chicago, I’d look up at the highrises and think about how living like that just isn’t natural for me. I don’t mean to be a judgmental asshole about it — it’s totally cool if that’s your thing, but it weirds me out to even work in an office building where you can’t open the windows and I’m claustrophobic so taking an elevator to my home is not an option. So in a simple sense, I’ve always lived in places I can access by stairs.
But living close to the ground is more than that. It’s sitting outside in the back yard after dinner, eating a carrot grown from seed in the garden and then watching the chickens eat the carrot greens. It’s becoming who I’ve been, albeit slowly, becoming over all these years, finding meaning in chickens and Jupiter.
It’s expansion, optimism, and abundance. And it’s really all I need.