Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Muse Don't

The muse don't care what chords you use
The time to burn is yours to choose

- Rivulets, "Ride on, Molina"

* * *

Some things won't leave me alone. This song is one of them.

* * *

The universe doesn't care about your worry. You do, but it doesn't. The whirling, spinning, expanding math of the universe doesn't care about your worry, your hesitation, your sense that things have to be just so before beginning. It doesn't care about redemption or remorse or reinvention. The muse don't care what chords you use, only that you play. The idea that we have to be right, correct, perfect, spot on, worthy is utter bullshit. That thought does more to stymie, stifle and cut you off from the flow of that spinning, unwieldy math than anything else. Life feeds on life. Motion, motion. The more you do, the more is done, right? Arguing with yourself that because your life, the art of your life is mottled, ragged around the edges, sore to the center, not completely formed and you, therefore, are an imperfect vessel misses the point entirely: you are formed in the floods and waterspouts of attempt, essay, dare, uncertainty.

The task each has set before them is to remain willing to move, to act while all is uncertain, to leave security for the dawning next, to get started, to start a fire with nothing left to burn. 

The muse don't care what chord you use.

* * *

As you stand, so you hold within you the possibility of entering into the stream of the mad math, the burgeoning sense of the new, the birthcry of what happens next. It is within you to engage it, to run to the space just ahead of you, outside of your well-worn path and be struck dumb by what you find there: such is the beauty of such daring. No ease, no promises of peace, no money to be made, no pats on the back, no love save for the love of belonging to the world and it to you and seeing, seeing, seeing it as a god might see it, as God might see it, as you, the god within you sees it. 

In dire times, when institutions are failing, our patterns failing, the cure is not to cling to the past, but play the future into being. It is entirely within your capability to form the world, to bend the math, to bring about a life you'd put your name to and so alter the arc of the spinning math for others, who then are dared to do their part as well. Circling back, retrograde dreaming keeps you stuck, keeps you trapped, cedes your freedom to choose to choices already made. Do not wait on moments, do not tend to ceremony. No time will ever ripe.

Of the river's secrets, however, today he saw only one that seized his soul: This water ran on and on, it always ran and yet it always was there, was always and ever the same and yet at every moment new!

* * *

We believe the gods fussy, jealous, hard to please because we are fussy and hard to please. But the flowing math is not anthropomorphic. It is a flowing fire and it seeks fuel. You, my love, are that fuel. The doings of your days are the straw for the fire. This is no bad thing. It allows you a hand in the arc of the math, the river's flow. What you say and do here and now will set the stage for what happens next. What will you have that be? If you stay where promises can be kept just know you've stood on the shore. Is that the inheritance you meant to leave? There is time. There is time. If you can read this there is time for you to enter the stream, to be part of the flow, and even now, even now, even now after all you've lost, suffered or feared, after all of that - whatsoever it may be - you can still add your weight to what happens next. The specifics of your life are simply what brought you here.

The muse don't care what chords you use.

* * *

I wish you well.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Cannot Mend

You cannot mend the chromosome, quell the earthquake, or stanch the flood. You cannot atone for dead tyrants' murders, and you alone cannot stop living tyrants.

- Annie Dillard, For The Time Being

* * *

The strength of our weakness is without end.

* * *

We exist in an agreed upon space. All that has been determined as good and meet has been determined long before you arrived. We rise into forms predicated on such agreements. Our ideas about self, marriage, community, work, faith, aspiration, desire are agreements we enter into. It is here we search for, discover or build meaning into our lives.  We, by every decision made or unmade, accumulate by degrees, the life we are now living.  To be an outsider, a rebel, a non-conformist is simply a function of the agreed upon space. It helps define the norm.

This is where the limits of our will meet the vastness of proscribed forms: this far and no further. You cannot mend the chromosome, quell the earthquake or change, by one iota, the forms of religion, politics or money. You are but one in a sea of ones who cannot agree that the sea even exists. What are you going to do? 

W. H. Auden once said, "Poetry makes nothing happen." He's right. It, too, is one of those proscribed forms that very few now bother with. Yet, I'll argue that it is poetry, or something very close to it that does not yet have a name, that makes everything happen. Poetry is pattern, sound, and seeing. Done with some sensitivity to those three things it mirrors the experience of cresting a hill. While you are walking, or hiking, the hill looms in front of you, occupying most everything you see. In those last steps as the hill lowers itself under your feet, what had been unseen now reveals itself and you stand on the edge of the new.

This sensation of emerging into the world, or having it reveal itself to you, is the synapse of creation. What hadn't existed a moment before was now present, a new connection forged between you and the world as it is, not as you've presumed it to be. The key to this revelation are those steps, those acts undertaken to find and meet the world as it reveals itself. The world where you know what happens next, the world of proscription and damnation, of rewards for compliance is the wasteland, the land of the dead who just don't know it yet: the tyrant's schoolyard. The wasteland is where you are trapped by your job, your obligations, where you seethe in your inability to change your circumstances. It is where you die each day instead of once and for all.

The cure, if there is one, is something like poetry. It is pattern - both obvious and latent (ten fingers, ten toes, the slalom curves footsteps make on unmarked paths, Fibonacci, atomic numbers, slant rhymes, breath) - interacting with sight and sound that draws you forward, carries you forward, draws you on to the emergent, unknown territory between what you've experienced and what happens next. Sitting back births the same thing over and over again. This is why you are trapped, stuck, lost. It takes courage, the courage of a poet, to crest the hill in front of you and find the world you haven't been able to imagine.

The problems we face, as a species, are vast and overwhelming. You cannot stanch the coming flood. You can, however, create a way of being in the world, as it is, not as your fantasy wishes or your pastor tells you, that can forge the connection to the next step, and then the next step and the one after that. It is always the same step, but you must take it for nothing can happen until you do. 

Don't worry about looking foolish or failing. That is the judgment of others and of little use. Those worries are part of the closed loop of the wasteland. Take a step, and another. A world you did not know existed will come into view. To walk like this is poetry itself.  To walk like this is to join life's inherent, creative pulse for what comes next.

* * *

The poet Christian Wiman wrote: 

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shapes exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows.
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

* * *

I wish you well.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dark Night

The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost and all seems darkness, then comes new life and all that is needed.

- Joseph Campbell

* * *

We are in the dark night as a nation. We have reached the same nadir as Reconstruction. The forces of racism, misogyny, homophobia and violence have taken a majority of those who voted. What comes next is terrifying if you believe in a liberal democracy, if you care about a warming planet, if you are trying to raise children to be kinder than you were. Make no mistake, millions are celebrating the return to white, male hegemony. The flirtation with a post-racial America is long dead. It wasn't simply rural whites, it was across the board: educated or not. It was fear made manifest: fear they no longer mattered if a black life mattered, fear of global others who took their jobs, fear that the mythology they were born into no longer fit the world. It no longer fits the world, but they could not change, so they sought to destroy what had changed around them, passed them by.

This has nothing to do with free trade or immigration or any of the excuses made to paper over the unalterable truth: the long dominance of white males over national life is coming to an end and they don't know what to do except re-trench, destroy and lash out at the change that will consume them anyway. They are fucked not because same sex couple can marry, but because they have lost the ability to change, to evolve, and emerge as something other than what they were born into.

I do not pity then. I loathe them for what they have done. This action contains the potential not simply to destroy American ideals of civic responsibility and equality before the law, it threatens the planet. The men who surround the next President are vile, corrupt, angry, lecherous men. I do not overstate the matter when I say, we may not survive.

I loathe the stupidity.
I loathe the sense of spoiled entitlement.
I loathe the smug satisfaction of promises to upend our laws into vehicles of vengeance.
I loathe the willful blindness to what can happen next.

These are no longer ordinary times with ordinary political disagreements. We now live in a authoritarian state that must be resisted.

* * *

For six years, seven years, I have written here about the trials of the individual to find his or her name, to come to a place past the the fear and mistakes and inequity where one could stand, could be who they were complete - no part left out.

I hope you were listening, because things have changed with this election.

It is easy to point to figures like Dr. King, or Susan B. Anthony, or Cesar Chavez and say you're just an ordinary person, there's nothing brave or special about you. It takes a figurehead to lead. But that is exactly wrong. First, each of them had people who were willing to be beaten, jailed and killed to serve the cause of justice. You and I are foot soldiers here. But more importantly, if you have gleaned anything from these writings you know it is incumbent upon you to act from the truth you know. You don't have to lead a march, or be jailed. You simply stand against racism in your day to day life. You stand against misogyny in your day to day life. You act out of a sense of shared destiny rather than self-interest. If you have children to raise you must model this or they will take on what is being modeled around them by those in power. Are your children to be bullies? Your daughters to be objects of male violence and gratification? Your sons perpetrators of these crimes?

Whatever life you imagined for yourself has now been altered by these facts on the ground. As Campbell says, you have to let go of the life you planned for the one waiting for you.

* * *

I woke this morning after a night of little sleep and suffocating dread. Years ago I berated an older gentleman for the shit world he'd left behind: the work of his generation the atomic age and ecological destruction. This morning I realized I was of the generation that allowed this horror to come to pass. Not by the way I voted, but by the way I lived: never working for anything other than my ego (at first) and then my kids. But don't be fooled by that last clause. What I did for my kids was necessary, but missed the mark. My spirit should have been broader, more generous, more willing to fight for an inclusive world. I could have been a better example of how to fight for what is just. Instead, I circled the wagons, got us through and could only think about how to pay my fucking bills. I didn't do them wrong. I just didn't make clear the larger circles.

And now we stand on a precipice. If you think I am over-exaggerating, then fuck off. You've learned nothing here and you are beyond my care.

But if you recognize that the life you have lived, that you assumed would be there has suddenly shifted under your feet with this hideous expression of male impotence, then I have something for you. What was true once remains true now: The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost and all seems darkness, then comes new life and all that is needed.

A fight has been joined while you slept. Your old life has ended whether you wanted it to or not. You are now being called out of yourself to act from the truth you know in your bones: you are not alone. It is frightening to stand in the open, but you are not alone. It is difficult to resist racism, to call out misogyny, but you are not alone. It is dangerous to disagree, but you are not alone. What you need is at hand and it is enough to begin. The courage you are uncertain of is already in you. 

For people who think like this, we face hard times. Do not be afraid. You are not alone and together there is hope. I have no idea what shape any of this will take, my only promise is that I will not relent, I will not give up, I will not give in, I will serve and give by whatever gifts I possess and the ones I'll need to acquire along the way. Life demands life. It insists on your full measure. I promise you mine.

* * *

Noli timere, my friends. Noli timere.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

I'm Gonna Take

I'm gonna take that fear and wear it like a crown.

- Rebekka Karijord, Wear It Like a Crown

* * *

The Japanese phrase "wabi sabi" roughly translated means a lonely freedom, a solitary melancholy, a stoic acceptance of change, the ability to hold life with an open palm. It is the source of haiku. It can become precious, self-referential in unskilled hands. The best haiku is an explosion outward: revealing the sum of life in the particular. But outside and beyond haiku, past poetry itself, I am certain that wabi sabi is something altogether different. It is a type of fearlessness. Neither proud nor foolish, it is a courage to persist, to journey on regardless of hardship, equity or justice. As such it is fiercely subversive. It does not require being alone, but draws its strength from the ability to be alone, to choose for oneself how one will encounter the road, to know, just as haiku knows, that the individual, the specific, the momentary is eternal and encounters the universal by the very nature of its arc, that the arc of one's life is the very nature of eternity. We are eternal while we last. By our individual names we contain multitudes. 

All of this may or may not be true to you. It may or may not strike you as a type of poetry. What cannot be dismissed is that such things as wabi sabi and haiku and the arc of our days insist upon facing our fears (loss, money, love, adequacy, our physical selves, death, illness) and make our way not in spite of them, but because of them.

This is great poetry to do so.

* * *

We ebb and flow. We ascend and decline. We run on and we run on fumes. We burn days like a spendthrift. We count them like a miser. We want to make the good times last and the bad times to disappear. We want the bills paid and bit more. We desire love and touch. We get drunk and don't mind the hangovers (for a while), then, then, then, then, then, then, then, something shifts. We learn hunger, dis-satisfaction. We notice calendars. Our children seem ungrateful. Our partners unfaithful. Everyone is hungry though their bellies are full.

Sick on my journey
Now only my dreams
Wander the empty fields

We get sick on the journey. What we began with hope or enthusiasm, or at least the sense that we'd find our place, is detoured through losses and fears. We stumble over roots. We fear the dark. We drink too much, distrust too much, withdraw by degrees and bitterness comes easily. This is the sick part of the journey. Wabi sabi tells me I am free of constraints, tells me I am free to meet nature: my nature, God's nature, the natural world of leaf and worm and cycles and rain and snow and its effect on each and all. Bitterness is the opposite of freedom. The narrow mind the narrow gate while the world is free and open. It is refusal because it is hard or unwanted. But that is of no matter. What matters is your willingness to move past the sickness of wanting what you don't have and encountering the world as it is, where you take the fear and wear it like a crown.

This is the single most subversive act available to any of us: to journey on.

When you cease trying to box life into a shape you approve of, life quits resisting you. When you accept your fears, the amor fati Nietzsche called for,  the love of one's fate, when you are able to name the fear and not run from it, but defuse its power by wearing it, by taking it by the hand showing it the world before you, you become free, a solitary being at home in the world. But to be clear: you, as a single being, in this time and place, are, of course and by needs be the reflection of all that is not you. You are all beings, all times, all distances, all suffering, all joys, all that has been experienced. Your eyes are the eyes of God, and if God is too much, then your eyes are how I will see.

A wild sea
And arching to Sado Island
the Milky Way

* * *

We need poetry for the road. We need poetry to make it through the sickness that tells us we're wrong, that we've been wrong for some time. We need poetry like graffiti to let us know others have made their way. We need their stories so we can venture our own. If one can transform sickness and fear, then all can. It is how any of this works.

The old dog
Sleeps heavily–
A lifetime of rabbits

* * *

I wish you well.


Monday, October 24, 2016

One Paradox However

One paradox, however, must be accepted and this is that it is necessary to continually attempt the seemingly impossible.

- Hermann Hesse, Journey to the East

* * *

I will tell you this: the impossible exists solely to draw you into your name.

* * *

Most people operate under the assumption that life will recognize and reward their effort: straight A's, cum laude, staying late, above and beyond, the extra mile, the Rosary prayed, the candles lit, the donation made. And it is true enough that these things tend to be traded for certain comforts - both material and spiritual. But, I'll argue it is none of that, but is, instead, a sort of bribe, a pre-emptive payment to a protection racket. Those good things, when understood as a metaphysical quid pro quo, lose all their goodness and leave you unarmed, unprepared for the real task in front of you: to attempt the seemingly impossible.

Job was a good man who prayed the right prayers, lived according to the rules and his life was destroyed on a whim by a capricious god to prove a point. His fortune was lost. His children were killed. He reputation covered in ash. When he dared to complain he was met with the question: did you make Leviathan? When he begged forgiveness for daring to cry out in his pain his fortune was restored, new children were given to him and his happiness and equilibrium were re-established. It is an odd and affecting story, but Job did nothing to earn his loss or his restoration. He was a spectator to his life.

Did you make Leviathan?

No. I've made something more remarkable. I've made my way year by year, month by month, day by day, thought by thought.

* * *

Each has the tasks set before them. Each set of tasks is utterly unique to the life that confronts them. Each must answer or run away as the case may be. Each is solely responsible for the answer they give or withhold. None of this touches on the impossible. It is only a statement of existential fact: you exist and so you must respond to the call of that existence - whatever it may be. The impossible is woven into your life, whether you acknowledge it or wish it there. The impossible is the obstacle before you. It has no name save for the one you give it: health, violence, economics, psyche, emotion, faith, etc. It can be understood as a tormentor. It can also be seen as a doorway. What it is not is absolute, for what was impossible changes by your response to it. Things expand and contract according to its contact with you. And where you set out for is never where you land.

What to do?

Attempt the seemingly impossible again and again.

It is a false assumption to believe that overcoming an obstacle removes all obstacles - or that you'd want them removed anyway. Certainly, violence, poverty, illness are not things to want to relive, relitigate. But what we want and what we get are different things and if your life presents you with these hardships then that is what your life will be spent answering. What is just or fair has little to do with it. By insisting that life comport itself to an ideal state you are robbed of the experience of attempting the seemingly impossible. It is there, in those attempts, year by year, month by month, day by day, though by thought, that you wind up becoming who you are. And by doing so you alter, by degrees, what is possible/impossible for others. The personal, the private, the unique, the individual is transformed into something public, social, universal.

We are as waves. One after the other altering the direction and flow of the next, being altered by them in turn and so move on to the next and the next and the next.

The idea that you can pay your way out of confronting trial by praying just so, and achieving these grades, and following the rules laid down by long habit is doomed to upend you when you come to recognize the task that awaits. Yet, those prayers, those grades and even those rules are what you will have at hand to work with. You may need to fashion other tools, but if you have lived so, then these will be your first choice as they are at hand. Again, it doesn't matter where you begin, or what tools you have at the start, or what the nature of the impossible is for you. It only matters in its specifics: this task and not that task. Everything depends on your willingness to engage it, to try. No one gets it right, but we're all supposed to try.

* * *

One more thing: this in no way suggests that anything we do is futile. Quite the opposite. The impossible is slayed and re-defined with every step you take. Every step. Every thought. Every gesture. Everything. Nothing is wasted. It is wildly efficient for as long as you draw breath you hold within you the possibility of overcoming the obstacle before you. Not a final obstacle - there is no such thing, just the one before you. It adds ballast to the wave, roots it deep below the surface where the true tides are made, where distant ocean engines run their course: informing each crest and trough on the surface of the water.

You are the impossible made manifest, my love. It is only right that you extend such miracles regardless of your trial.

* * *

I wish you well.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Irony Is A

Irony is a hedge, an insurance policy against further affliction. It erects boundaries that we hope will protect us from the world by forbidding it access to us. Or, differently put, we double the world, creating a safe, fictional version atop the real one–whether in our heads or on the Internet. We believe that interacting with this fictional copy of the world will save us from both pain and boredom.
     But instead, once the distinction between fiction and reality breaks down, as it always does, we end up rewrapping the proverbial sofa in a new layer of plastic. And on and on and on we go, wrapping and rewrapping our lives and everything within them in increasingly more futile layers of protective covering, all the while knowing that the last one failed to protect us even more than the one before. Irony is an asymptomatic death march into nihilism, one that legitimately claims it averts futility by never quite getting there.

- Ian Bogost, Play Anything

* * *

     Our ages have evolved. We have moved from the Holocene (the interglacial period that birthed us as a species and encompasses the whole of our history) to the Anthropocene where the impacts of that history, especially since the Industrial Revolution, are destroying our ability to sustain ourselves and myriad other life forms on the warming blue marble we call home. With this move from history to the effects of history we have also moved from paranoia to irony as the singular means of confronting reality. Paranoia is the watchword of politics, of nation building, of enemies of the state, enemies of the church. Paranoia exerts itself in the tribalism of opposite pairs: us/them, black/white, capitalist/socialist, Irish Catholics/Irish Protestants, Republicans/Democrats, north/south, ad nauseum. It is the product of believing in acquisition, conquest, control, as if a final good could be reached once and for all to enshrine the winning team's history (to be subsequently erased by the next set of winners). But even the most full-throated endorsers of the way it's been know the chain has slipped. We swim in new, warmer waters: the bill due on hundreds of years of extraction and conquest.

Enter irony.

Irony is the arm's length, the refusal to be sincere, the smug appraisal and the snark driven commentary. Irony withholds itself, holds itself above the fray, outside the toil and moil of securing a livelihood, a shelter, a way to try and stem the tide of rising tides. Irony doesn't lift a finger; it is clever, self-satisfied, the smartest guy in the room able to riff on all that is wrong or unworthy, but incapable of anything more. To do more, to do something would be to betray the distance created by irony, that carefully curated distance broadcast on every social media platform that both begs for attention and dismisses said attention as folly. Irony numbs us to reality. It takes the actual and places it on a shelf, behind glass, where it can do us no harm. Except the seas still rise and they care nothing about shelves or glass or how many followers you have on Instagram or how clever you are or how sad you are that you were born too late to enjoy the days when no one cared about who or what has been lost or the simpering namaste whispered to one's self as a panacea for sins. Irony is always self-centered, narcissistic and cruel. It is the nadir of the chant to "mindfulness."

* * *

Bogost quotes Oliver Burkeman, who works from a quote from Alan Watts:

"When we feel insecurity, we are really feeling the wish for our own permanence. "We do not actually understand that there is no security," writes Watts, "until we realize that this 'I' does not exist."

And as Burkeman also divines, mistaking the world for our world is another name for irony. Thinking of ourselves as centered bodies drawing meaning and contentment towards ourselves like gravity to planetary bodies, bodies that deserve something from everything. But our refusal to relinquish faith in the "I" that does not exist, says Burkeman,

...explains in the most complete sense why our efforts to find happiness are so frequently sabotaged by 'ironic' effects, delivering the exact opposite of what we set out to gain. All positive thinking, all goal writing and visualizing and looking on the bright side, all trying to make things go our way, as opposed to some other way, is rooted in an assumption about the separateness of "us" and those "things." But on closer inspection this assumption collapses.

* * *

Which is to say that the central construct of human life as played out over millennia, namely that we human beings are of a higher order, closer to God, chosen by God for dominion over the things of the planet, that we are central, Ptolemaic, the heavens spinning around us, serving us as we serve as overseers is the defining assumption of history: conquest has its rationale. And now, with no more territory to claim, no more gold to mine, no more room to move (save for the last strips of rain forest), the effort to control the terms of our willingness to meet the world has moved inward. The self-help section is larger than the history section at Barnes and Noble. It is all about you, baby. You got this. You can do this. You can find love, lose fifty pounds, work 2 days a week, start a revolution, raise charming children, improve your SEO, and find your inner goddess by throwing runes. 

We have subverted the idea of mindfulness and turned it into a competition, a spiritual one-upmanship that only leads back to the self, the impermanent self, the self that craves permanence. It cannot be done, so we hold all things at arm's length and criticize the thing we'd like to be able to love: life itself. We deem life an unfaithful lover: why bring me here, why show me this beauty, this horror and leave me so helpless in front of it, so transitory?

But that is what fucks us, love.

We are of life, not separate or above it. We are one of many, of millions, of billions. We are owed nothing: not happiness, not fulfillment, not meaning, not purpose. Nothing. 

We are, however, free to see what there is to see. But the price is to stop placing yourself in the center. The center is everywhere at the same time. Our innate ego, the thing that convinced us that we were essential, is stubborn. It wants the stage for itself. How different would your life be if you could share that stage, let go of the need to be right, to win, to control? This isn't to say what makes you unique and singular is to be discarded. Not at all. This isn't binary. You are one. You are one of many. You are whole. You are part. We destroy our lives and the lives of others we share this planet with by insisting on an imagined primacy. It simply doesn't exist.

Yes, be mindful if that helps you. But try being worldful as well. Meet the world as it is, not as you would have it be for yourself. Meet it in its desolation and dream. Meet it and love what you love without reservation or distancing. Meet it in its transience. Love what passes away. Love what comes next. Our ego, our "I", wants permanence, but all is transformation. Paranoia and irony both refuse this. 

* * *

You are here, so you might as well play. Your life is not for you alone. It belongs to those closest to you, to the ones who knew you when, to the ones that will follow. Your life belongs to the stories you tell and the stories told about you. Your life is larger than your solitary self, it reaches further than your ego. To unfuck what's gotten fucked in your life you have to be able to see yourself as something other than your personal desires and tragedies. You are in context, here, now, at this moment and not any other. Happiness cannot be pursued. It can only ensue when you give yourself to a cause other than yourself. And through that door no irony can pass.

* * *

I wish you well.


Friday, September 16, 2016

They Ask Me

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep remembering

- Lucille Clifton, "why some people be mad at me sometimes"

* * *

You see, it is through poetry the world is known, made knowable. At least in part.

* * *

We toggle through our days running for something, towards something, from something: running because others run, because there's a track, because we have feet and running feels right, because stillness brings an encroaching fear that maybe we aren't certain about our running and our feet and the track and the others out there running. We toggle through. We run. We get good at it. We get good at not noticing things, at not seeing the details clearly - more a blur, something possibly seen at the corner of our eye - at not wanting the detail for it would bog us down, slow us up, trip us up and bring us down. But even as we run, even as we toggle, topple, toddle, tipple and fall and catch ourselves before we fall a memory appears against our will: a piece of grit in the soft palate of an oyster. This memory troubles, grows, becomes a pearl of very great price: it is us, it is our I-ness, it is the burr of our soul irritating every step we take. It will not let up. It will not cease its growth until we stop to consider it, to turn it over in our hands, to marvel at its color, to wonder at its presence in the midst of all this running. And there it sits in the palm of our hand, small, round, the size of a hazelnut. We look and we say to ourselves, "What can this be?" and the answer comes without volition, "It is all that is made."

* * *

To know a truth about yourself is to be in opposition to the truths others have for you. To know your story against the stories others would have you know is to be in opposition to them, to their stories. Not as an adversary, but simply separate, distinct, vital without needing approval. Others, unless they are strong in their own story, will find your insistence on your own memories, your own knowledge about yourself and what your life might be, difficult to understand, possibly a threat to their own participation in the running stories that keep them runningandrunningandrunningandrunning without a moment to themselves. You might be asked about your story, but they really want you tell them about themselves, to assure them they've done well and they did you no harm. Give them this story, give them this memory and approval awaits. Validation is yours. Refuse their offer and your story finds no venue.

And it is here doubt comes calling. You may decide you've been kidding yourself (it's so hard to know for sure!) and you set aside that truth, that story, that memory, that pearl of very great price, place it possibly in a lovely box that you keep on your dresser as a sort of talisman to youthful exuberance, a talisman to being unwise and you find you can forgive yourself for such indiscretions. It is easy to do and you get on with living a different sort of life, one that knows very little about pearls and hazelnuts, but a great deal about running and blurring details and being welcomed home by the other runners.

And if you are lucky, very lucky or blessed as you see fit, a memory appears against your will: a piece of grit in the soft palate of an oyster. This memory troubles, grows, becomes a pearl of very great price: it is you, it is your I-ness, it is the burr of your soul irritating every step you take. It will not let up. It will not cease its growth until you stop to consider it, to turn it over in your hands, to marvel at its color, to wonder at its presence in the midst of all this running. And there it sits in the palm of your hand, small, round, the size of a hazelnut. You look and you ask, "What can this be?" and the answer comes without volition, "It is all that is made."

* * *

You are free to repeat this as often as you need to.  Some will need to gather but one pearl in their lives. You and I, well, we might need a bag full. Our sorrows, our failings, our losses, our missed chances, our mistakes, our fears, our doubt, our tragedies, our wonderment, our hope, our memories, our desires, our love, our goodness, our faith, our laughter are all bits of grit, the source of our identity. Or at least, they can be. It is up to you what you will remember, what you will use to build your life around. For, in the end, anything can be the place where you begin and the rest of the stories separate themselves from you. And make no mistake, you will make others angry and uncomfortable with your insistence to build up your life around an idea or memory that they consider odd or difficult or unworthy. It can make for loneliness, but only for a while. That never lasts. It isn't permanent, or doesn't have to be. By staying rooted in yourself, by heeding the call of this memory, this truth about yourself and by organizing your days around that you become a light that draws others into their name, into their memory, into their truth. Your life, lived by the soul of your truth, becomes connected to others who live so, or are trying to be so. In the simplicity of being true to that which animates you, you are a sign and a signal pointing to a truth larger than yourself, a cause greater than yourself. And you accomplish this by letting others be mad at you, and keep on remembering that pearl, that bag of pearls, the hazelnut in the palm of your hand: everything that is. 

And you are its keeper, its steward. At least for a while and then it needs to be handed off. The works you leave behind are the means of that transition, a bet placed on the courage of those you'll never know.

* * *

I wish you well.