Orlando for Four Months?

I’ve been in Orlando for about 10 days. Already, it feels like home. How weird.

Renting in Orlando

I’m renting a room in a tiny house with four roommates, 3 bed, 1 bath. Too small. I plan on moving to a much nicer place in Downtown Orlando next week with only 1 roommate. The new place is in a great neighborhood and less than a mile from the grocery store, the bars, the gym, and a pho restaurant. However, the lease runs until January so I’m committed to staying in Orlando for several months then.

This will be my 10th+ (?) dorm, house, or apartment since I was 18. I’ve probably had some 20+ roommates too. I’m starting to see trends in terms of what my ideal living space and roommates are.

Training Postponed

The only reason I came to Orlando was to do physical training with a world class trainer. Unfortunately, that training program is indefinitely postponed leaving me a bit anxious and confused. What am I doing here then? Should I leave? The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. I’ve thought about just returning home. But, I’m taking a leap of faith and hoping the program begins soon. I plan on training myself in the meantime. I always believed my weakness was never eating enough.

Exploring Orlando

Meanwhile, I’ve been exploring Orlando and meeting new people. More has happened in the last ten days than I ever did in a month back in Washington DC.

  • Rode a hour bike trail on West Orange Trail. Not a big deal, but I honestly never rode a bike before.
  • Went to a private BBQ Pool Party. I got invited while I was buying a blender off  of Craigslist.
  • Ate Dim Sum with a bunch of local foodies.
  • At a bar, befriended new friends recently moved from Kansas. We went to Daytona Beach on Monday.
  • I got a haircut with a guy from Craigslist after checking out his house.
  • Did a group meditation yesterday with a good, local Vipassana meditation group in Winter Park.

daytona beach, top down

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m happy to be meeting new people. My biggest worry was leaving my friends back home. While, I still miss all of them, it’s nice to be around people.

The RV

Meanwhile, my RV motorhome is only being used as my city car. I would much prefer my old Nissan than this gas eating monster. I think I’m getting 10-15 mph in the city.

Part of me is regretful that I ever purchased the RV. I haven’t lived in it yet, and I still have more repairs to be done. Last week, there was a brake spring broken ($150) to replace (shouldn’t of taken it to a dealer). There’s a transmission seepage problem which the VW Dealership quoted me $500, but found a local mechanic willing to do it for $220. Also, an A/C Pressure Switch literally blew up ($100-$300?) with plastic fragments everywhere. Pretty sure, this can be blamed on my last VW Dealership in Dover overfilling the freon (1 lb) despite my repeated warnings. In the future, I need to replace the 3 way refrigerator with a AC/DC only refrigerator that works on any angle. That will cost at least $500. If I live in this thing for at least a year and able to sell it, it will have been worth it. 2 years, and it’d pay for itself. But, I’m not sure I’m up for it now.

Somehow, my charge controller fell off the wall despite being screwed in. After a hour of desperate labor, I got it mounted back on permanently. But the battery voltage sense wires went dead or something because it’s no longer working. It’s not necessary to recharge the batteries, but it is something I need to fix eventually.

What am I Doing? What’s the Future?

Everyone asks, so what are you doing? Wish that I knew. I’m continuing my normal IT job which is suddenly much more attractive now that I’ve moved.

After last night’s group meditation session, I remembered how much I miss contemplative practice though. These are my people. This is my destiny. But I’m not ready to fully commit myself to spiritual practice yet. But I see a day when I’ll spend a year or lifetime seeking God, Moksa, Dharma, Buddha, Dao, or whatever.

The goals remain the same I guess as always.

  • Get physically fit. Eat right. Gain some 10-20 lbs of muscle.
  • Deepen my spiritual practice. Zen & Vipassana Meditation. Tai chi. Yoga Practice. Reading.
  • Further my career and life skills whether it’s Internet Marketing, Web Development, or so on.
  • Keep the RV road ready and eventually travel cross country.
  • Get my social skills to the next level. Befriend anyone anywhere.
  • Become more and more a minimalist.
  • One day be a mentor, teacher, coach.

Physically health. Mental health. Spirituality. Self-sufficiency. Independence. Travel. Money. Relationships. Giving Back.

My entire life, I’ve spent trying to figure out my identity. Constantly evolving. Giving up pieces of my identity that were once my core. Gamer. Webmaster. Philosopher. Spiritual Seeker. Academic. I want to be a fully balanced person as far as possible. I’m reminded of the last 11 lessons in Neil Strauss’ Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead.

  1. Let go of the past.
  2. Fame won’t make you feel any better about yourself.
  3. The secret to happiness is balance.
  4. Fix your issues now, because the older you get, the worse they become. (this one in particular I wish people focused on)
  5. It takes more than confidence to succeed; it takes unshakeable belief.
  6. Derive your self-esteem from within, not from others’ opinions.
  7. Say yes to new things.
  8. Live in truth.
  9. Trust your instincts.
  10. Be happy with what you have.
  11. Everyone loves you when you’re dead.

My life lessons from Springsteen, Gaga and Clapton

I Must Be Absolutely Insane

This one will be a 2fer. Update on my RV, my trip across the south, and present mindset on my move to Orlando

After driving five days across 7 states and 1,000 miles, I finally arrived at my new home: Orlando.

The experience was a little surreal driving down I-4 and seeing familiar buildings like the Crowne Hotel. I had gone to Orlando almost exactly a year ago and had only seen these sights from a plane and walking. Now, I was entering the city in a RV on the highway. Speaking of which…

Thankfully, the RV performed beautifully the entire drive down. I found out that 65 mph seems to be the sweet spot, and it starts sounding off at 70 mph. I was worried initially that the engine wasn’t shifting past 40 mph, and my RPMs were running up to 4,000 so I posted on a Yahoo Rialta tech group and got a great answer:

It is probable that you have the 5 cylinder engine. It will get to high gear at 40 under normal acceleration
and it will run 4000 RPM at 70 MPH. – 60 MPH will be about 3500 – 65 will  e
around 3750.
The 2001 Rialta has a 6 cylinder engine and has different specs .

Along the way, I slept at a friend’s apartment in Washington DC, couch surfed in Richmond, and slept in the RV both in Raleigh and Savannah. Thankfully, no police or curious guests came knocking. I just parked on the free weekend, metered spaces near downtown. Nothing better than walking back from the bars to your RV and going to sleep. However, I did find some annoying paradoxes.

If I want to be 100% invisible then the windows and curtains have to be closed. But in order to stay cool, I have to open the windows with the curtains up. But opening the windows invites both eye balls and sound. Also, even with cold weather and rain outside, the RV is so well insulated that it’s still burning hot inside for hours. It wasn’t until midnight that it was cool enough to sleep in. And then, I wake up by 8am due to noise and heat and can’t fall back asleep.

I did have a supposedly great $60 12v huge fan, but it broke along the way. Hopefully I can get that returned or a replacement. Also, keeping things grounded is hard on my wooden floor. My chair and desk kept rolling around during the drive.

Oh yeah, I also got my cabin A/C fixed. They just filled it up with a pound of freon, but it’s still not enough to cool me totally cool while driving. Why am I going down south again?

Anyway, since I purchased the RV and brought it back home, I’ve clocked around 1,300 miles on it. If I include the trip when I purchased it, probably close to 2,000 miles.

I wrote my thoughts on this page while staying in each city. Overall, I was surprised to find I like the South a lot more than I thought I would. Even more uprising is the number of northerners I meet who now live down there.

I finally got to Orlando this afternoon after some 5-6 hours of driving and fighting off sleep. I made a rash mistake of accepting a month to month lease in a room near downtown. The original room I wanted was way too small, but they had a much larger and slightly more expensive room available, and I readily accepted. I guess the lack of sleep and desire for a shower cut my brain. It’s not a horrible place, but I feel like there are better options available for this price.

After getting here, I talked to two of my friends and couldn’t believe what I’m actually doing. This is nuts. WTF was I thinking? I drove to a city where I know no one. Not for work or school. It’s 1,000 miles away meaning anything I left at home (a ton of clothes, my desktop, my steamer, etc) is inaccessible. I likely won’t see any of my old friends while I’m down here. My hometown’s weather was just cooling down to that perfect temperature. And, now, I’m in Florida where it rains every day, their lows are 79 degrees, and mosquitoes are everywhere.

Nevertheless, it was the right choice. Driving city to city would of killed me in the long term. Not enough sleep, no showers, and so on would of been all too much. Staying at home doing the same thing I’ve been doing this entire year would of just lead to hopelessness and despair.

In fear and trembling I start my new life in Orlando. But also with excitement, hope, faith, and confidence.

Each time I move, I bring less and less. This time just my laptop, a few gadgets, barely any clothes, my bedding, a tiny desk, and my office chair that I’ve owned for over 7 years now. A single wok. No cups, no glasses, no plates, no desktop, no bookshelves. Only 4-7 actual, physical books with me.

And probably the hardest challenge of a new city beyond meeting new people? All the small stuff. Those tiny things that you never have to think about at home, but now, everything is in question. Where do I go to buy groceries? How do I do my laundry? Is my roommate okay with me using his butter?

This time a year ago, I also moved with high hopes and dreams. Except that time, I thought I could hole myself up in a room and create greatness. This time, I traveled to a new city to train with one of the best. To work under a teacher face to face. But still, I must be insane. Then again, normal is just what everyone perceives the average person would do. And living the average person’s life is only so good if you happen to be in a privileged position in that society. Because in the end, the illusion of normalcy is to sustain that social structure, those patterns, habits, and activities that keep a group, a city, a nation moving. Without that consistency, you’d be like me in a new city utterly lost and thinking they’ve gone insane.

Next Step: Florida

I’m moving to Orlando, Florida for several months.

When Did This Happen? Why are you going?

I’ll be training under a physical trainer. Many of the best seem to be in Florida. I just found out about the opportunity and decided to go last Friday.

What about your job?

Luckily, I have a great job that lets me continue working from Orlando.

Are you living in the RV?

No. Getting a room I calculated would only cost ~$100 more than urban camping / boondocking. If I did boondock, I’d need to pay for parking, gym membership (for taking showers), and renting coworking space / coffee shop. I could go through the hassle of looking for free parking, but it’s just not worth it in my mind. One or two parking tickets would ruin any money saved for not paying parking. Not to mention the hassle of constantly moving the RV back and forth.

Plus, Orlando is extremely hot and gets hit by hurricanes so I’d rather have an air conditioned, safe room. Nevertheless, the RV will be my only travel vehicle, and I plan on many weekend adventures.

When are you leaving?

Today. I’ll be taking the ~950 mile trek over the next 5 days crossing Washington DC, Raleigh, and Savannah.

My Thoughts on Religion

I was raised in the Catholic Church. The Church that determined what books would be included in the authoritative Bible and what would not. As a kid, I grew up believing in God. I was even an altar boy although it was against my will. In high school, I stopped attending mass. In college, I studied religion from medieval Christian mystics to Zen Philosophy. I went to temples, churches, and mosques wondering if there was any trace of truth under all the man-made rubble. I dreamed for a long time traveling the world’s holy places like an agnostic’s spiritual pilgrimage to religion.

These days, I would defend religion when speaking to an atheist and would defend atheists from the evangelicals. Naturally, this confuses most people, gets me into a lot of arguments where I’m forced into a position that doesn’t fit me, and no one seems to know “what” I really believe including even my parents. I agree with parts of what others believe but rarely all of it.

The Ground We Will Travel Together in this Post

In this piece, I’m going to dissect the challenge I have with exclusive religions like Christianity that demands faith but their members seem to mistake faith as full knowledge. Then I’ll argue that religion is about transcendence of self and why it’s true, real, and important. Finally, I’ll end with a metaphor that a pastor once gave me and share a similar metaphor from another faith.

1. The Challenge for Faith Based Evangelicals

There’s one point I want to present to the devout Christian. Especially the newly converted who tend to be the most hot and inclined to feel the need to attack / defend themselves in a way that most lifelong Christians never feel the need to do.***

As far as I know, to be a Catholic or Protestant Christian is:

I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the Cross to repent for the sins of humanity and that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ alone.

Secondary beliefs include the idea that human beings are sinful beings who can never come close to perfection. We are limited creatures incapable of having full knowledge or understanding of God, at least while we’re alive.

Therefore, it’s impossible for a person to die without sin. It is because of Jesus Christ that we are ever able to ascend to Heaven, he wipes our sins clear through his love. And that’s why we should have faith and worship in Jesus. Why Christians believe it’s not enough to just be a good person who do good acts because only Jesus Christ is perfect Good and only through him is salvation possible then. Even the best man dies with sins and without Christ would be stuck. (Ideas of limbo and purgatory though mitigate this challenge)

However, this belief in Jesus Christ is one of faith. A faith that always contains a seed of doubt. The condition for faith is doubt. Without doubt, there can be no faith.

The atheist who asks for empirical proof of God’s existence is understanding religion incorrectly. God cannot be proven which to a strict empiricist would seem insane to believe in.

For example, let’s say you have faith in your husband or wife that they love you and would not cheat on you. If you tracked their every movement and knew everything they did all the time though then that’s not faith. That’s absolute knowledge that they are not cheating.

Faith is saying that I have a trusting relationship and based on that experience, I believe in you despite any doubts I may have.

So, no Christian, no matter how good, ever has perfect belief in God. It is faith that despite any doubts that may arise in my mind, I believe.

But, if you have followed me thus far and overall agree with the underlying argument then here’s the challenge for those extreme evangelical Christian. Not all Christians. Not even all the evangelical. But just a reminder to those trying to convert others to their way.

What right do you have to tell other people that they are going to hell if they don’t believe in Christ? That Christianity is the one and only true religion?

Built into the very fabric of faith is a lack of this knowledge; an ever constant existence of doubt.

You believe based on your experience with God that he/she must be there at the end. But you cannot and will not know until your death comes.

In reality, it was your experience that lead you to taking on the faith for Jesus Christ, whatever that experience was. Maybe, it was even an experience of God.

So, the challenge is perhaps how do you get others to have their own experience that leads them to religiosity or God?

And the ever constant fear is do these newly converted people believe in God only because of the physical, social, psychological, and other benefits they received by being around Christians wanting to help them? Does it even matter? Maybe Christ is acting through his agents to help in matters of the soul as well as the mind and body. But if that person had been given free psychotherapy sessions instead, would they instead be champions of Therapy instead of Christ?

2. So, what do I believe then?

“Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.”

My interest and belief in religion is that there’s a real experience of transcendence beyond the self which I think is a fundamental part of all religions. An experience of godliness. And this experience is actually more closer to the truth, to reality than our daily, normal experience. That our experience of selfhood, of individuality are artificial constructs of our mind that actually divide and separate us from the truth, from God, from reality, from things as they are. Neuroscience has already proven this is true. Just watch Jill Bolte’s TED Talk:

This godliness is a universal experience therefore I cannot accept exclusivity of salvation by one religion only.

3. Religious Metaphors and Stories

A pastor once gave me a metaphor that there’s a burning house with only one exit. Jesus Christ is that exit. I responded that Muslims would believe that your Christ door has been shut off, and a new door has appeared with the Koran. So, who’s right? Actually, Buddhists have a Lotus Sutra with a similar story:

One day, a fire brokes out in the house of a wealthy man who had many children. The wealthy man shouts at his children inside the burning house to flee. But, the children are absorbed in their games and cannot understand his warning, though the house is being consumed by flames.

Then, the wealthy man devises a practical way to lure the children from the burning house. Knowing that the children are fond of interesting playthings, he calls out to them, “Listen! Outside the gate are the carts that you have always wanted: carts pulled by goats, carts pulled by deer, and carts pulled by oxen. Why don’t you come out and play with them?”
The wealthy man knows that these things will be irresistible to his children.

The children immediately race out to get into the carts. In this way, the wealthy man is able to get his children safely away from the burning house.

Once outside, the children demand the carts they have been promised. Instead, the wealthy man gives them a much finer and larger cart — one that runs as swiftly as the wind — adorned with many jewels and drawn by a great white ox. This cart is called the Great White Ox Cart.

Interesting to note here that first of all the children inside the burning house don’t even realize the house is burning. Likewise, human beings are often very ignorant not just of spiritual truth but of their surroundings and themselves. Second, the father promises various gifts to each son, different strokes for different folks. But, in the end, the importance is that they are safely outside now and can learn the truth about things now such as the fact that they’ve been living in a burning house/life.

To the Christian, to the Muslim, I wonder perhaps your Bible and your Koran are like these different carts. Useful, good, and real items of salvation that bring people out of their ignorance. But, in the end, truth is universal.

It is an elitist viewpoint for me to say. I say it based on my own experience, study, and reasoning. I argue for the university of religion by interpreting every founder of every religion being an outsider, a mystic who questioned everything and wanted to know the meaning of life. I make this claim having had a mini-transcendental experience where I was not me but entirely only me.

If the real importance is getting out of the fire then what are we arguing about? It seems more likely that the people arguing are the ones still in the burning house and arguing which door to take.*@

Faith is ecstatic:

… “It transcends both the drives of the nonrational unconsciousness and the structures of the rational conscious…the ecstatic character of faith does not exclude its rational character although it is not identical with it, and it includes nonrational strivings without being identical with them. ‘Ecstasy’ means ‘standing outside of oneself’ – without ceasing to be oneself – with all the elements which are united in the personal center.”

Paul Tillich


*** As it so happens, this entire discussion on Christians fits atheists, scientists, Muslims, and a lot of other groups. Any good science should first agree on the claim that their knowledge is incomplete. The magic of science is that it’s always on-going, and that past mistakes can be corrected and better and better truths found.

*@ Likewise, I find most discussions between friends talking about the world to be a useless exercise. Two people saying what each other already believe and agree on. “God, everyone should recycle.” “I know right, people are so lazy.” “Yeah, yesterday, I saw this guy just throw a can of soda on the grass, it made me so angry.” yadda yadda yadda. Let’s focus on action. Thought not implemented into action is just a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Frustration and Judging Value of a Religion: I get frustrated sometimes because the atheist gets caught up with the idea of religion as believing in some Fatherly God in the sky who rains punishment and gifts to his people. But I also get frustrated with those of faith who truly seem to have more normal problems of how to make friends in a new city, how to deal with losing a loved one, how to change one’s life for the better and turn to the church for answers. Not to say any of that is wrong. But what about the question of why am I? What is God? I ask the member whether they have experienced a compassion and love greater than themselves? I wonder if their faith is actually making them any better to their fellow brother or just helping them adjust better to living normally? I question the spiritual leader how do they and I get closer to God, to be both sensitive to others and fully me?

Trying to figure out how to put this into words. People become a member of a religion for some benefit to themselves. You are the subject, and religion is the object that shall help you, guide you, maybe reward you for good faith and action. However, there comes to a point where the subject/you become the object of question. Who am I? Why do I exist? Is anything real? True? Good? When the meaning and purpose and value of everything is put into question and then religion becomes the subject, and you are the object, the vehicle through which religion works through. Wei-wu-wei. Action without action. Holy Spirit. You will never fully capture enlightenment, God, or whatever. But there are glimpses.