Monday, October 31, 2011

My Gentle Hill

Poet as farmer
My gentle hill, I rest
beside you in the dark
in a place warmed by my body,
where by ardor, grace, work,
and loss, I belong.

- Wendell Berry, "Song (2)"

* * *

I once owned a slim hardcover of The Wheel, a poem cycle of Berry's published in 1982. The cover was a dark, leafy green and a first edition to boot. It was holy to me. It was lost somewhere along the way, somewhere between the dozens of times I've moved, somewhere between the dozens of times I needed to raise some cash and sold my beloved books to do so, somewhere in the intervening years - almost 30 now - I lost track of it, my holy book. I hope I lent it to someone and forgot, or if not that, I pray who ever has it knows just what they have in their hands.

Though it was the poems, the effort made by Berry to fashion those poems that spoke directly to me, that moved me as few poems ever had before, that got me thinking about poetry as I never had before, the physical thing - the paper and board glued and stitched together - became a talisman, a reliquary of ideas and experience and hope that I might one day know where, by ardor, grace, work and loss, I belonged.

* * *

Some lives are in motion. Some lives settle in. As someone who has lived peripatetically, who has sent down no roots, I have envied those who did. Berry decided to forgo a promising literary career in NewYork City to return to Kentucky to farm and write. He sank down roots and watched the effect of his efforts to transform the land season after season until the land had taken on some of his intention, watched the effect of writing and working in the same place until the he had taken on some of the land's intention. It was where he belonged.

And you? Where do you belong, my dear fucked friend?

It's not that we all need to become poet/farmers, but we do have to become our true selves.

And how do you do that? You may well ask.

Listen to the poet: by ardor, grace, work and loss.

* * *

Ardor, the heat of desire, the zeal that does not flame out, is the most beautiful word I know. It sounds old-fashioned to our modern ears, but once language was unafraid to be say exactly what it meant and did not hide behind euphemisms, and ardor does not hide - not on the page, not on your tongue and not in your life. It is the spark, the holy spark of your essential self trying to light you up. Fucker that you are, you worry about burns and never consider the light. It is this quality, this unquenchable fire, this fire in the belly that allows you to find your work, to work with grace, to bear your losses with grace and still work, still believe that you were no fool to light such a fire as burns within you. No one lights a fire and then hides it under a bushel, but the very fact of light demands that it shine.

What are you doing with your light? Have you forgotten it? It hasn't died out, but it needs your attention. It needs you to tend it. It needs you to leave New York and come home, if that is what calls you. It needs you to stay on the road and see the endless forms and resolutions of the world. It needs you to record the quality of light you live by so that some other, some other one unknown to you or blessedly next to you, will know your ardor, your grace, your work and your loss and then, and then, and then and then you will belong to your time, your place.

Communion.

* * *

Heed your call. Tend your fire: a summons un-refused. Light it up.

* * *

Boom

__________

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Waterfall For A

Where the wandering water gushes
Waterfall
For a million days
Fall with me for a million days
My sweet waterfall

- Jimi Hendrix/Emmylou Harris, May This Be Love

* * *

A million days is just shy of 2740 years. Might as well be forever.

* * *

The difference between a simile and a metaphor is the difference between saying Joe runs like a deer and Joe is a deer, is the difference between saying love is like a waterfall and love is a waterfall. There is no qualification. The subject is the embodiment of the metaphoric image, not merely a reflection of it, but the thing itself. This is poetry's great gift to anyone who would bother with it: the thingness of the world holding the mystery of the world deep in its pockets. Lazy, approximate thought assumes metaphor is a humbug, mere semantics, a rose by any other name and utterly misses the knife-edge clarity, the unsayable rightness of a metaphor offered, understood deep in the pockets of your soul and then lived out in the field of time.

By what metaphor or metaphors do you understand your life? What image are you the embodiment of? is your life the embodiment of?

* * *

I can see
A rainbow calling me
Through your mystery
My sweet waterfall

* * *

Images litter our lives. We are heirs to millenia of struggling to find the words and images to describe what it is to be alive, to know we'll die, to organize our lives around something. We trip over the easy analogy, the worn out metaphor and move in a trench of no insight, no second sight, blindness and fear because these images that litter our lives have all been turned from their metaphoric powers into facts that are to be understood historically: virgin births, crosses, bodhi trees, mountains on the move, bangs that are big.

We fuck ourselves by demanding facts, expecting facts, historical, agreed upon facts, where there are none to be found. There is only the metaphor and what it means, what it can mean, how it can produce meaning in our days. Historical events pass out of existence with every breath. All that remains is the image of the event, the story of the event. The event itself is as surely gone as if it had never existed. All we have left is the memory of it, and the means by which we can recall it: image, metaphor, story.

* * *

When I go
When I go down deep
I want you here with me
My sweet waterfall

* * *

Living historically, moving from point to point to point, accepting only the actual, what you have witnessed, what you have done is impossible. It cannot be done. You always have to accept someone else's image, story in order to function in society: this food is clean, these lights control traffic, there are soldiers dying somewhere on my behalf. But that is the trench of images, the tumult of images produced and accepted and never re-examined. Living through metaphor, through the language of images, the thingness of the world revealing the mystery of being alive, knowing you will die and living by what light you have anyway is how you unfuck your life. A focus on the immediate, the tangible without the ability to find, or build a context for it is to live fucked and stuck, world without end. Amen.

I'll ask it again.

By what metaphor or metaphors do you understand your life? What image are you the embodiment of? is your life the embodiment of?

* * *

Waterfall
Nothing can go wrong
Nothing can go wrong
My sweet waterfall

* * *

Boom.

___________

Monday, October 24, 2011

So Make Sure

So make sure when you say you're in it 
but not of it
You're not helping to make this earth a place 
sometimes called hell

- Stevie Wonder, As

* * *

My mother is 80 years old. She has high blood pressure and diabetes; her kidneys are failing and she had open heart surgery a while back; She has an abdominal aneurism the size of a party balloon and this past week suffered two TIA's (mini-strokes). She is a calamitous wreck physically. Live long enough and all the wheels start to come off. But beyond the inevitable reduction and failure of physical systems there lies a deeper woe, a disease that traces its roots back to her earliest days. She always described it this way: This is hell. This life is hell. We are here being punished for something we can't remember doing. This is hell. We're not alive. We're dead and living in hell.

Merry Fucking Christmas.

* * *

Live fucked long enough and my mother's description becomes a balm releasing you of any responsibility for the way you have conducted your life. Forces larger than you can imagine were in control from the start and, well, you never really had a chance. It is the complete abnegation of your chance to live. What the fucked assume, what my mother assumes, is that somehow Life owed you something more than the opportunity to live, that Life owed you happiness, or ease, or peace, or success, or money, or contentment.

Sorry, dude. Not how it unfolds.

Life owes you nothing. You owe Life everything.

The world, your world expands and contracts with your willingness to engage it, to give to it, to feed it upon your commitment to a cause larger than your own: acts of love, acts of creation, acts of suffering. (It has been my experience that when I am firing on all cylinders it is all three at once.) And it is these acts, these ways of being that create meaning, add ballast against the tide of decrepitude, and release you from the bonds of heaven or hell or purgatory and you are free of any such categories.

There is comfort in imaging, believing in a heaven. Great comfort. The inequities of living will all be made right. There is comfort in imaging hell. Dante put many an irritant and foe in his icy depths, ordering the afterlife to suit the demands of this life. But in the end it is not Dante, or the Bible or any holy book that knows anything about heaven or hell. It's my mom. She hit it right on the nose.

This life is hell. She made it so, and so it is.
She's got 80 years of proving herself right under her belt.
This is why the last shall be first and the first shall be last - so much more to overcome.

* * *

My mom taught me many things: how to play poker, how to make Irish soda bread, how to pick myself up after I got knocked down, how to be generous. She also schooled me in believing the odds were permanently and purposefully stacked against me, that happiness was a humbug and who was I to believe different. But I do believe different and neither her sadness, nor any other person's influence on my life - for good or not - can shake me from the belief that we are here to live as fully as we can in spite of the trials we encounter.

Setbacks, wounds, tragedies, losses are the lot we are heir to. No one misses it. No one gets a pass and no one gets out of here alive. So the task that is asked of each of us, that is demanded of us is to figure out what we're going to do in the face of those (seemingly) cold facts. And cold they are because it is all at such a remove from our ability to alter. We can't change time. We can't stop aging. We can't avoid our deaths. The question before us is then does that excuse us from avoiding Life? If you're a fucked fucker you know that answer better than most.

Seamus Heaney sings: Human beings suffer/they torture one another/they get hurt and get hard./No poem or play or song/can fully right a wrong/inflicted or endured.

What the fucked presume to be the fates arrayed against them is just some other poor fucks who know no better than they do and so lash out at the inequities and injustice that they themselves breed.

We're pigs for punishment. We hurt ourselves and others because we get hurt and get hard and inure ourselves to our prophecies of woundedness and despair. Yes, this life is hell because it has been made so out of a lack of imagination and daring to make it anything else: hell as the default setting. But great goddamn is this hell so glorious that you'd rather cling to it than venture the risk of being free of it? Since you are the one creating the world in which you live with every choice made or unmade, what the fuck are you doing putting crenelations on hell? If this is hell, why are you protecting it?

* * *

My mom has always gotten up from the mat whenever she's been knocked down. Always. It's fucking heroic. The problem is she's been fighting herself the whole time.

80 years is a long time to knock yourself around. It eventually ends, but is a waste of time and ability.

How long you been at it?
When you gonna stop?

Merry Fucking Christmas.

__________

Friday, October 21, 2011

Your Problem Is

"Your problem is that you bring in the critical factor before the lyric factor has had a chance to express itself."

- Friedrich Schiller, in a letter to a young writer who had writer's block.

* * *

The cart before the horse, chickens before they are hatched, etc., etc.:  the precondition of the fucked.

 * * *

The life you are living is the one chance you get to do this. Perhaps there is another life of some sort to follow. Perhaps! Perhaps! If there is, and you knew it with unbridled certainty, would that relieve you of the task of living now? Fuck no. And if you could only guess or hope for another round after this attempt at living would that relieve you of your obligations to be awake and alive now? Not a fucking bit. And if there was only silence at the end of this road would that relieve....  well, you get the idea.

So, what, exactly, are you doing with your time, this time, this life, this chance?

Putting carts before horses, counting chickens before they hatch, bringing in the critical factor before the lyric has had a chance to express itself. That last one isn't exactly an old saying, but it cuts closer to the bone.

* * *

Any time you find yourself thwarted, impeded, blocked by your own thoughts you have replaced the primacy of your creative response to living with the easier and stultifying response of finding fault with your works before they are done, finding fault with yourself for even venturing the game.

Get this through your fucked-in-the-head head: "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by what light I have."

That is Abraham Fucking Lincoln there, my friends. He knew from fucked and this was his response to it. Quit doubling down on yourself before you even get started. Schiller's "lyrical factor" is emergent not fixed. It is always in the process of becoming. It isn't one act, one poem, one song, one dance, one story, one home built, one toilet unplugged, one checkbook balanced, it is the life that contains those acts and there is no end to your obligation, your joyful obligation to act. Death brings the proceedings to a close, and if you knew with unbridled certainty there was some sort of life to follow this one how much more satisfied would you be for having left it all on the field here? And if you could only hope there was something after this, how much finer would your example here be if you lived out loud the greatest charity of all - a life lived fully? And if there is only lights out and nothing more, then this is your only chance to make hay.

So, what, exactly, are you doing with your time, this time, this life, this chance?

* * *

Schiller wrote the following:

Joy, fair spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Drunk with fiery rapture, Goddess,
We approach thy shrine!

Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing. 

May he who has had the fortune
To gain a true friend
And he who has won a noble wife
Join in our jubilation!

Yes, even if he calls but one soul
His own in all the world.
But he who has failed in this
Must steal away alone and in tears. 

All the world's creatures
Draw joy from nature's breast;
Both the good and the evil 
Follow her rose-strewn path.

She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
She gave lust for life to the lowliest
And the Cherub stands before God. 

Of course he wrote it in German, and you probably know it better as this, but what is essential here is not its fame, but the simple fact of it; it exists. It did not until Schiller wrote it down, hewed it, formed it, re-worked it and built it. Over two hundred years on, it exists while Schiller does not. His bones are mold, yet are his bones him? Or is some elemental spark still alive because of the work he did while he could, bestowing, without knowing it, on those who followed and cared to seek it out?

Your task is not to write the next Ode to Joy. Your task is to let the lyrical take precedence over the critical. The critical is a whole clusterfuck of rules and expectations and customs, stern customs, that put you in and keep you in a trick bag. The lyrical is the mystery and force of Life moving through your life.

Schiller believed in angels and a heavenly Father. You needn't in order to do what life asks of you. It is your choice. It isn't required. What is required is joy.

Now get out the fuck out of your head and start living. You owe us some work.

__________

Monday, October 17, 2011

But I'll Teach

But I'll teach my eyes to see 
Beyond these walls in front of me
And someday I'll walk out of here again
Yeah I know someday I'll walk out of here again


- Jimmy Cliff via Bruce Springsteen, Trapped 

* * *

Being fucked is being trapped. The absence of options - perceived options - is what seizes the engine and you are left with only time's empty cup to remind you that your life was for naught; it went speeding by you while you gnashed your teeth and rent your hair over how fucking unfair everything is, how you were trapped by circumstance and could never break free and live.

Fuck and you.

You may never break free, but that does not absolve you of the effort to live.

* * *

Listen, honey, I know from trapped. I bet you do to. Maybe it was a relationship, maybe it was drugs, maybe it was money, maybe it was the place you were born into and that sickening wave of helplessness pervaded every pore of your life: swamped, fucked, stuck, trapped by circumstances beyond your ability to control.

It is so. It is so. It is so.

Until you decide it is not.

There may be nothing you can do to change the outer circumstance of your life, but you can change your approach to it. The truth is when you change your approach to the stuff of your life you inexorably change the circumstances as well. What keeps us trapped in despair, resignation, futility is fear. We fear the changes required to alter our circumstance because they are either uncertain or come with a cost we are unwilling to pay thereby prioritizing our trappedness, our fuckedness over the risk of fighting it out.

It is said that discretion is the better part of valor; yet you are fucked - what do you have to be discrete about? Better than discretion is discernment. Look. See. Think. Act on what you see and think:

But I'll teach my eyes to see 
Beyond these walls in front of me
And someday I'll walk out of here again
Yeah I know someday I'll walk out of here again


* * *

 When it gets to the point that your fears and the patterns of habit those fears breed inside of you have become as stable and predictable as gravity you are lost. If you thought that laying low, causing no waves would serve you well, you were wrong. Make some fucking waves, dude. If only in yourself and the way you think, the way you see, in what you believe is possible. By doing so you inexorably change the world in which you live. As you change, so it changes. As you stagnate, so it stagnates.

When you forfeit the authority for change, you forfeit your freedom. What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation to live? Fuck and you, my friend. Fuck and you. If you can't muster the spit to teach your eyes to see beyond the walls in front of you, then what are you doing here, what are you doing with the gift (the gift, I say!) of your life? I know it is hard to overcome fear. I know it is hard to risk change, but truly, what are you risking? Your fucked life? That's no risk at all.

What you are risking is freedom and the responsibility that comes with it.

* * *

You got to make dea kuleana pono, bro. You do that and you won't be trapped no more forever.

__________


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Person's Life

The Generous Writer
A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.

- Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar

* * *


You have been forgetting. I know, I know, it is hard to keep everything relevant. What once seemed the whole of your experience, your understanding, your sense of place in this uncertain place is gone, or poorly remembered or only refreshed with the sudden appearance of a face you'd once known, a smell you once loved, a sound that echoes deep in your still beating and splashing heart and then...  you remember.

All this living you've done. How are you supposed to keep it all straight? What defines you now is not what defined you then and this moment is the one you have to attend to. No?

But fucked fuckity fucked fucker that you are, you have done what all us fucked fuckers do: you've lost sight of the forest because of all these damned trees.

* * *

Among the fucked are two great camps of misunderstanding: 1) the linear and 2) the absent. The Linear believe there is a line from cradle to grave that propels each event into the next; a causation as solid as ore and that brooks no challenge to its headlong rush from hour to hour until there be no more hours. The Absent want there to be such a line, but their lives are pocked with absences - yawning gaps where they have no idea about what they experienced or how to incorporate that experience into their worldview because, frankly, they have no worldview. All those absences thwart any such thought if they'd bother to think it all.

When you are tied to time, the measurement of it, the ticking of it, you force an order on yourself that does not exist without that ticking. When you cannot recall the name of one you once loved, or why you might have loved her in the first place, you strip yourself of the meaning you built into loving her in the first place. Great blanks, great dead spaces pollute your life and you tell yourself this is simply the way things go.

In both instances you are nothing but a coward.

In both instances you cede the authority for your life over to either a construct outside of yourself (time), or to no construct at all (apathy).

My dear friend Epictetus would tell you this: Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life!

* * *

The generosity of Calvino's spirit, as expressed in his writings, is such that he looks deeply into such questions and plumbs an answer that he freely shares in a clear and elegant language so that you might understand it: ...events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.

It is this inner architecture, this inner construct of meaning that determines not only the outward appearance of any life, but also (and more importantly) the value you, and you alone place on the life you are living. This is why the linear and the absent are so very fucked. You are the author of your days. The narrative you build is all you have to help you navigate this experience of living in this uncertain place at this uncertain time.

* * *

I prefer drinking coffee and chicory, the impoverished coffee of New Orleans, and am stupidly happy when I search it out and start my day with a goddamn pot of it. Most people I know can't stomach it without cutting it with milk or cream. Black, a bit of sugar and I am stupidly happy. Why is this so? Because once I was in love in New Orleans. The love did not last. It turned sour, but part of my inner architecture hoists that experience up as a beam supporting an expanse of meaning: I was such a man as who could fall in love in New Orleans, suffer its consequences and still believe I was no fool to do so. The difficulties that grew out of that experience are another part of that inner architecture that moves not according to a calendar, but rather according to harmonies and resonances with other experiences. All of which allows me to sit here in the morning with a cup of coffee and tap out these signals.

Each experience does not fall into line; it re-jiggers the whole, helping it come into focus, helping you see the shape you, and you alone, have given to this uncertain place, this uncertain time.

So, the question must be asked: what are you building?

* * *

I take mine black, with a bit of sugar.

__________

Monday, October 10, 2011

There Is A

The Weary Monk
"There is a love like a small lamp, which goes out when the oil is consumed; or like a stream, which dries up when it doesn't rain. But there is a love that is like a mighty spring gushing up out of the earth; it keeps flowing forever, and is inexhaustible."

- Isaac of Nineveh

* * *

Isaac The Syrian, Isaac of Nineveh lived until study and his asceticism induced blindness and his weary bones, like the small lamp he wrote about, gave out. He refused to write about the controversies of his time, the theology, the politics of his time and instead lived as a hermit writing and writing and writing about an inexhaustible stream of which politics and theology mattered not.

Would all the saints were so.

* * *

The politics of our time, this time, has become a theology filled with true believers and heretics and councils to decide how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is feverish and entirely out of balance, lacking any sense of proportion, justice, equity, or comity. I rage and rail among those close to me about it, but not here and I never will. Here's why: it's a pig fuck that keeps you distracted from attending to your work; a cluster fuck of lamps going out and streams running dry. There's no life in it.

And if you (and I) are going to unfuck our lives then we need to focus on life, not theology; life, not politics; our work instead of being someone else's pawns.

* * *

The shelf life of politics is about that of a household fly. And by politics I mean anything that is external - any arrangement, any organized prerogatives, any influence that is not self born, self described, self administered. Some politics is necessary and inevitable, but to elevate it to a passionate hatred of all who do not think or act or look like you do is to fuck yourself and those you oppose. Remember, things change. Politics and politicians come and go like lamps using up their oil, like streams running dry from a lack of rain. Clinging to these things, like guns and religion, is to mistake the puddle for the stream, the stream for a river, the river for the sea.

To unfuck yourself you have to find the inexhaustible waters inside of yourself. My friend Isaac names these waters as love, inexhaustible love, a love outside of time and politics and theology.

I'm good with that.

* * *

David Grey sang about This Year's Love, a weary plea for this love, the love in this moment to last. Who hasn't felt that sense of love never taking hold, taking root, of too many possible loves fading into regret and the ache of what could have been if only...  It is that "if only" that fucks you because you are looking outside of yourself for the thing you already possess - ancient and inexhaustible. You cannot cause another to love you. It never lasts because it is all a manipulation, a personal politics that exhausts itself. It is a sputtering lamp. You can however tap into the well spring of love that walks around inside you, going where you go, expressing itself when you allow it some breathing room. This is what will allow you to walk in this time, your time, tending to your immediate needs, a member of this time and place and still not be tempest tossed by it.

This is how Isaac of Nineveh still lives: He refused to write about the controversies of his time, the theology, the politics of his time and instead lived as a hermit writing and writing and writing about an inexhaustible stream of which politics and theology mattered not.

When you tie yourself to the politics of the moment (and all politics is not only local, but also momentary) you remain tied to that moment and when things change - as they will, as they must - the stream you've been floating down dries up.

Before you can unfuck the world you have to unfuck yourself. Before you can be loved by another, you must love yourself first. Same thing. There's no way around it, but there is a way through it: on the waters that forever flow through you.

* * *

O, Love, that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
 
Damne, I am tired, me!

__________

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Man Who

MdM
A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.

- Michel de Montaigne

* * *

There is little to do but suffer it: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse, ad infinitum. If you live you suffer, but that truly is the good news for us fucked fuckers.

It is the fear of suffering that fucks us, not the suffering itself because the suffering is simply the common condition of being human. Follow. In your life you desire happiness or peace or whatever thing you tilt toward and you imagine such a thing enters your life as a reward for the way you conduct yourself. But you and I both know waiting for external events to mature to our liking, to come under our control will only breed anxiety and fear. For locating one's happiness or peace or whatever thing you tilt toward outside of your own thoughts and deeds is a pig fuck, a cluster fuck and a guarantor of fear dictating your thoughts and deeds.

Now imagine the obverse. Your circumstances are whatever they may be, yet you retain the freedom and responsibility to choose how you respond to those circumstances. The externals remain as ever they were: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse, ad infinitum. The suffering never ceases, but the fear of it is gone, subsumed into your character, your faith and fidelity to withstand any headwind for as long as needs be, as long as you can, as long as you must. Living such, the fools, the arrogance, the physical calamity, the heartache, the economic collapse, ad infinitum become objects of your compassion, your forgiveness, your patience, your will to remain free.

* * *

Over half a century ago Kurt Vonnegut sat in a Humanities 101 class at the University of Chicago. The room was filled with other GI's taking advantage of the righteous opportunity of the GI Bill and was asked by his professor, what is it that an artist does? The young men, so recently removed from the unique suffering of war, raised their hands and said what you and I would say: they paint, they write, they sculpt, they dance, they compose and play music. The teacher, a genius in Vonnegut's opinion, said, yes, those are the ways artists express themselves. But what an artist truly does is say, I can do nothing about the chaos that surrounds me, but I can reduce to perfect order this block of stone, this canvas, this eight and a half by eleven inch piece of paper.

If it is true (and it is true) for blocks of stone, expanses of canvas, pieces of eight and a half by eleven inch paper how can it not be so for you, for your life? You are the artist of your life. Now start acting like it.

* * *

In Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl reminds us that our lives are imbued with meaning when we create, when we love, but he takes the seemingly radical step of saying there is a third way: suffering. Not needlessly, not falsely, but if external circumstance overwhelms those avenues of expression you can still fill your life with meaning by suffering the circumstance. By suffering he and I mean bearing it, withstanding it and the ability to bear and withstand it is a direct product of abandoning your fear of suffering.

You dig?

But most of what we are asked to suffer is common: fools, arrogance, physical calamity, heartache, economic collapse - not the entire collapse of society as Frankl and millions of others have. No, we are lucky in that most of our suffering is pedestrian. So stop fearing it. It only fucks you. You have to live in spite of life's inequities, in defiance of them, in joyful defiance.

Now is not forever.
Death is.
Live without fear.
The suffering will take care of itself.

* * *

You dig?

__________

Monday, October 3, 2011

To Straighten The

Tat Tvam Asi
To straighten the crooked
You must first do a harder thing–
Straighten yourself.

- "Yourself,"  Dhammapada

* * *

The end is the beginning. Always. Always. Always.

The challenge of our days is to be who we are–completely, without apology, without hesitation. Thou art that, motherfucker, and anything less is a dodge, an excuse, a willful cowardice in the face of the tasks life continuously places before you. Yet we play dodge-ball with our lives all the time. We sign up for shit we don't want to do; we set aside our internal compass for the one put in our hands by our parents, bosses, lovers, friends and we do great harm to ourselves in the process. It fucks us up because there is a disconnect between the way things are and the way it could have been had we chosen differently, had we chosen in accord with what was present inside us from the beginning. And so it goes until we become so sick of living our awful half-life and get back, somehow get back to origins, the impulse to be what was there from the start.

The end is the beginning. Always, always, always.

* * *

Keep this in mind: that compass put in our hands by our families and cohorts is offered by them, is insisted upon by them not out of malice, but love. They want things to work out for us and so give what they believe works (for them).

But listen:

No one purifies another.

Never neglect your work
For another's,
No matter how great his need.

You have your shit to do and they have theirs. There can be harmonies between you and them, but not replication because you are a fiercely unique expression in the field of time, in the field of your time. It is easier to follow a worn path, than it is to cut a new one, but for better or worse, that is our task, our privilege, our one true thing. Refusing the call just fucks you deep and for a long time, maybe for the length of your life.

Baby, this I know.

* * *

Goodbye To All That is Robert Graves' autobiography, written at the age of 34. Trench warfare, the end of Victorian England and the acceptance of his own poetic sensibilities - and the demand those sensibilities placed on him - form the core of the book. Graves writes, "England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war madness that ran about everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language; and it was newspaper language."

The disconnect between his own sense of life and the one that saturated the society he was born into, that sent a young poet to war, that imposed limits of respectability and acceptability caused him to reject the one in favor of the other. And here's the thing: the imposed prerogatives were not malicious, but an agreed pattern that most believed would bring happiness and a successful life. But as in all things with broad appeal, it was the lowest common denominator of imagined happiness that bound them. Again, Graves, "There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either."

* * *

The world is mad for conformity. It is a greased groove. Yet to conform is to abandon your own shape in order to belong, to fit into another. What if your greatest service was to conform only to your instinct, your own habits of mind, your sense of what was possible with your life? How would that change you?

Here's the news: that is your greatest service.

It is difficult to stand outside the common current, the well worn path, but nothing advances in this world without individuals willing to do so. That's why poets are so vital–though no one much reads them. You must end the pursuit of happiness as defined by your times, your circle and instead claw your way back to your original self and live as if you never abandoned it.

The end is the beginning. Always. Always. Always.

* * *

Boom.

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