Tag Archives: life

Life Before Death

September 14, 2019

Culture and Society

I can remember the word “heaven” being tossed about since I was a child. At Sunday school, as an altar boy during Catholic Mass, throughout the parochial education I received in elementary and high school, and in virtually every religious ceremony I have ever attended, elements of an ethereal afterlife were always suggested.

When I was 10 years old, my homeroom teacher showed us a small painting of a world with billowing clouds and endless streets made of golden bricks (flanked on either side by singing choirs of angels no less). He showed this painting numerous times and held it as if he was dangling fruit to tempt the hungry.

I understand what that was now. What is deemed as an “education” by some is often a form of propaganda, even if it is well-intended. I see that now, and I actively question the need for the existence of heaven and any form of an afterlife.

I get it. Death is scary, and the fact that all beings are not immune to it does not make it feel any less terrifying. But does this justify the desire for a payoff at the end?

And what if the end is nothing more than blood and bones dissolving into the earth? Is that so bad?

For the sake of discussion, let’s imagine that when we die there is absolutely nothing else that follows. As bleak as that sounds, this scenario offers one glimmering possibility that comes to mind.

What if heaven is a place of our own making while we are alive and breathing?

During our lifetimes . . .

  • What if we chose to deeply and joyously love those who love us and to build long and meaningful relationships?
  • What if we relinquished scenarios and people who cause harm and unhappiness?
  • What if we regularly gave ourselves time to rest and refresh our spirits?
  • What if we invested intention and willfulness within every second of every day against forces that fuel our discontent?
  • What if that which gives us joy in real time is actually the heaven we seek?

No one truly knows what happens after we take our last breath. I imagine that, after years of steady engagement, the human body does not completely shut down immediately. After the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing, other, more remote, corridors of the body take their time to cease operations. Beyond the biological disintegration, no one truly knows what happens.

If there is, in fact, heaven after we die, then so be it, but whether or not there is, would we not be better off to make the most out of what we have right now? To have adventures and be audacious? To go big? Or, if it pleases you, to find depth and joy within the small footprint of your daily existence? Travel? Learn new things? Actively refuse to live a life of discontent?

I propose that we explore the vast, unlimited possibilities of life before death.

Heaven could be somewhere laid out right in front of you, but you have not seen it for what it is yet.

And when we die, we can go toward the unknown knowing the thrill and exuberance of the lives that we have lived already.

If you build your own heaven in the here and now, then come what may, you will always have the sweet and wholesome memory of it until the end.

-Roqué

Solitude Is My Friend

August 4, 2019

Culture and Society / Roque Recommends

The experience of solitude gets a bad rap. Perhaps it is because it bears the same first few letters as the term “solitary confinement”, or maybe most people simply equate it with loneliness. Either way, we impose limitations upon this term by only thinking of it in those ways.

I utilize solitude in my life differently from what those associations imply.

  • I actively choose solitude to be an integral part of my life. It is not involuntary in any way, such as being the result of irrepressible depression or anxiety. Instead, it is a tool I employ to combat sad feelings.
  • Solitude can be physical space and slow time for me to be alone with my thoughts and to clear space in my head to focus in on a question or conflict I need to confront.
  • Solitude is my time to be alone with no one else’s needs to address but my own.
  • Solitude is a forum in which I can openly express my feelings such as anger, sadness, grief, disappointment, or joy. There are no judgments and dismissals from other people in my solitude.
  • Solitude creates valuable moments for reflection and contemplation.
  • Solitude is stillness. The chaos and disarray of modern life fall outside of its calm and peaceful territory.

So, how do I incorporate solitude in my life?

Honestly, there is not much to it. I basically seek out moments in which I can be by myself.

  • When I am driving my car by myself, I turn off the radio and any music. Only the hum of my car’s engine and my speedy tires create a soundtrack to the quiet stillness inside my car and in my head.
  • I go on walks by myself. I am lucky to have a driveway that is half of a mile long and surrounded by trees and hills. I also walk as much as I can pretty much anywhere.
  • I sit on a bench in a park or at a desk in a library and put my headphones on. Usually, my headphones are not attached to any devices. They effectively tell everyone around me that I cannot be interrupted, and they suppress the daily sounds of an outside world.
  • The bathroom is often a sanctuary for solitude. I am alone and relaxed.
  • I lie down on my bed or on a sofa when no one is around and let my thoughts wander.

Perhaps you get the picture by now. Every life, person, and situation is unique. Wherever and whenever you carve out time to be by yourself is your prerogative.

There are, however, some simple rules I follow when I experience solitude.

  • I turn off all cell phones and digital devices. This includes anything that can play music.
  • I take at least a couple of deep breathes at the beginning. Deep breathing gets me to relax significantly.
  • I go to quiet places. They are most conducive to solitude. It is not always necessary, but I find that having fewer distractions around enhances the experience.

Within the continuous juggling act of my daily life, I carve out moments of solitude so that I can find clarity and stillness. This gives me the silent space to look around and take a proper inventory of my life and my struggles. Most importantly, it gives me time to be alone with my feelings and to sit with them. They often have much to say, and I need to listen.

Do you have time and space in your life for solitude?

You have an entire universe of your own making to explore with one gentle and surefooted step at a time.

-Roqué

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My Digital Minimalism Journey

July 28, 2019

Culture and Society

Most people who know me understand that I have quite a lot of interests. I love to read books and play music (with three completely different instruments no less). I also enjoy writing (poetry, songs, short stories, screenplays, and blog posts), photography, and design. Currently, I am in college getting an undergraduate degree in Video and Film Production.

I also love cuddling with my cat, going on long walks, and riding my bicycle. As much as I can, I keep up with friends and other creative folks with whom I make lots of art. My life is full and filled with joyful geekery.

However, over the last couple of years, I’ve felt a drain on my system.

I noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time on my phone and on my computer looking at Instagram, Youtube, and Netflix. I’ve spent so much time on these platforms that other parts of my life have been affected. I do not exercise as much or actually engage in conversations and hang-outs with the people I love as often as I used to.

Before all of this gets out of control, I have decided to do something about it.

Here, with bullet points (because I LOVE bullet points), are the steps I am taking:

  • Remove all social media and any useless apps from my cell phone (except Instagram which is only fully accessible on a smart phone, but I have moved its icon to a distant folder where it is harder to access and not visible).
  • Reducing my social media engagement by only publishing posts related to this blog and my weekly updates/reviews/reflections at my personal site www.roqueinbloom.com.
  • Reserve only 20 minutes each morning to catch up with a select number of friends on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Set up all of my IG and FB posts in advance as much as possible.
  • Cancel my Netflix subscription. Yup, this is a tough one, but since school starts back up in a month, this is an addiction I can truly do without. (I’m gonna watch a couple of movies soon before I do this as a small farewell.)
  • Remove all of my original art and content from Instagram. As long as I am decluttering, why should I let a massive, Facebook-owned, algorithm benefit from displaying my work. The app has not delivered any of the exposure that I would have liked, so no thanks. (You might notice that my photos are mysteriously disappearing lately. Enjoy them while they last.) I am focusing all of my art, films, and music on my own websites. (Facebook is a different matter altogether. I’m still figuring that out.)

What do I hope to get out of this for myself? Bullet points please . . .

  • More time to doing activities that bring me joy such as playing music, long walks by myself, and conversations with loved ones.
  • Less time watching other people living their best lives. When I scroll through Instagram, I see lots of filtered images full of people doing amazing things. They travel and eat delicious food. Smile blissfully and wear fantastic clothes. I am happy for them, but if I spend hours consuming so much of that fun, then my life evolves into being a zombie spectator. Seriously, no thanks. I have to actively live my own best life.
  • I will be more engaged with people in actual, face-to-face interactions. Pressing a “Like” button can only say so much. I often have far more to say.
  • As an artist, I want to create. Aimlessly thumbing through a feed for hours does not a creator make.

Do not get me wrong. Digital devices and social media platforms are not necessarily evil in and of themselves (sort of). I do believe that they are incredibly sophisticated in the ways that they absorb a user’s attention and become easily addictive. As such, it is my responsibility to be hyper-vigilant and massively discerning about how I traverse through our inescapable digital landscape.

I understand that cell phones and computers are part of a modern way of living now, but I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT let them control my life and call the shots.

No. Just no.

I have been gifted with this one life I have, and I will not be a slave to the nefarious corporations of the world. (I’m looking at you Facebook.)

I’m going to play my ukulele now on my front deck and hope my cat is nearby.

I will take in each moment as the gift that it is. Fully mine for the taking, free of digital distractions and free to live my own life.

-Roqué

BLOG BONUS: If you are interested in Digital Minimalism, I HIGHLY recommend reading the book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by one of my favorite writers Cal Newport. Click HERE to check it out.