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.

* * *




  1. I found this post just after I had lost my 2nd job this year, and my family had suffered a great loss. I felt fucked. I was the one who had done a majority of the fucking. Thanks for the posts Mark.

  2. Jack, sorry for the difficulties you're facing. I've been there/am there. You'll find your groove when you quit trying to fit into the ones other folks want you to fit in. It may look a lot like what they want, but you'll be doing the choosing. Now is not forever. Keep moving. Keep trying. All the best. You know where I'll be.