Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'm Working On

I'm workin' on the high hope
And if it all works out, you might just see me
Or hear from me in a while


- Glen Hansard, High Hope

* * *

When I die I hope to be reincarnated as Glen Hansard.

* * *

This is really hard for me.
I have to leave.
I have to leave.
I have to leave.
I could not imagine my life without having been part of this, whatever the fuck this is.

I have written to understand, not to be understood, and I hope I hope I hope I have given you something that you can carry with you, the way music echoes inside of me: solace and a foot in the ass.

I have covered some ground with you and I am grateful beyond my ability to say how glad I have been for your company. You have been the reason I have stayed here, stayed working, stayed true to the desire to be the man who stayed true to his desire. And now that desire is asking something different from me: a new form, a new venue, a new way of doing my work.

* * *

I still have some road ahead of me and I have to go find out what is there, what is there for me to see, to do, to get done before the clock stops. So, I'm going to go now. You might just see or hear from me in awhile. Until then, I will carry you in the pockets of my soul.

If I forgot to say so earlier, know this: your life is beautiful, you are beautiful just as you are. All you need is to be you: complete, no part left out. And that is how you unfuck your life.

Be well.
Be fierce.
You are forever young.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Remember Buying

I remember buying a little Indian sort of chest of drawers once. And I was so intrigued by it, the color of it, and I thought, this, if I let it be, could be the beginning of a new life for me. If I followed the message of this little set of drawers and built everything else around that, that would be a different life.

- Brian Eno, Here Is What Is


* * *

There is a moment, maybe dozens of them in a lifetime, maybe just one, where you have to decide to organize your life around something, anything, even a little Indian sort of chest of drawers, in order to ground your life, to give it a place to depart from. These somethings can change, sometimes they stay for the length of your days, sometimes you change them like shoes when they wear out. You can layer them, move between them, but always there is the primacy of one, one thing, one somemotherfuckingthing and your life opens by the fact you have chosen, by the fact you have imposed an order on the chaos of your days, by saying, "This chest of drawers, this child, this love, this eight and a half by eleven inch sheet of paper, this light, this work, this image, this story, this bowler hat, this box of ammunition, this pen knife, this cuff link, this song, this house, this memory, this business card, this phone book, this wooden mallet, this coffee cup, this chair, this stone, this drum, this boat, this dream, this dream, this dream, this beauty, this horror, this will to impose order on the chaos of my days is the doorway to a different life - mine."

Choose. It is the first step.
Live by it until you know you are ready for the next thing, and then choose again.

* * *

You'll know your life is running under its own power when you use your power to choose and choose from the deepest well inside you. Choose and live. Thomas Merton in The Sign of Jonas writes of the monastic ordering: prayer and work, ora et labora.  I appropriate his construction and christen it eligere et vivere, choose and live.

But unless you have chosen, unless you have already tasted the freedom of being bound by your choices, you do not believe it, you do not believe you can do it, you do not believe it is possible. You doubt your ability to choose from the multitude of possibilities in front of you. The critic in your head reminds you of the guitar lessons you gave up on, the marriage that dissolved, the jobs you've changed with the seasons. Listen to me: choosing is easy, committing to the choice is how you unfuck your life. And there's this as well: you can walk into a flea market and find a little Indian sort of chest of drawers, be intrigued by the color of it, the message it has for you, and choose a different life. The key is to organize your life around that choice: each time. In time, over time, you'll find that thing that is you and then, then, then, then, then, then the residual of your hard work will appear to be luck to others who have not chosen anything, and because you surrendered to your choice your life will bloom in ways you cannot imagine. 

Yet.

The more I write the more I want to write.
The more I want to write the more I write.

Rinse and repeat.

I want to be good at words.
I want to be good at being a father.
I want to be good at being a friend, a lover.
I want to be that man who could be that man.

Such are the drawers in my little Indian sort of chest of drawers, but the one that informs the others, makes the others possible, is the principle I have organized my life around is this: I want to be good at being a father.

Right now, tell me yours.

* * *

Serendipity is the heart open wide, is seeing what is there for you: everywhere. But don't think for a minute it's that "secret" bullshit. It is not you who manifests the stuff of your life, but Life who manifests just such a you as who can see a little Indian sort of chest of drawers in each place the eye falls: all the way down and all the way back.

* * *

Oh, where will I be when that trumpet sounds?
If I choose and live it won't matter at all.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It Matters To

It matters to me
Took a long time to get here
If it would have been easy
I would not have cared.

- My Morning Jacket, "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

* * *

The greatest challenge in a fight is recognizing when it is over, when the slog has concluded, when the long hoped for, long desired, long dreamt end has come and the next thing can begin. Being practiced in suffering it is difficult, to the point of being crippling, for the fucked to lay down their weary tune, to recognize they have come home, come free, come to pass and the defensive posture that has been integral to surviving now has no use.

The fucked do not trust happiness, do not trust the end of their servitude.

Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field
Let him look up into the heavens and laugh in the bright air
Let the enchained soul, shut up in darkness and in sighing
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years
Rise and look out; his chains are loosed, his dungeon doors are open;
And let his wife and children return from the oppressor's scourge
They look behind at every step and believe it is a dream
Singing: The sun has left its blackness and found a fresher morning
And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear and cloudless night 


Oh, the fair Moon rejoices, my fucked friends. It rejoices every time one of the fucked brethren come to the threshold between life as it has been and life as it can be and then walks through. The fair Moon rejoices. 

O graziosa luna, io mi rammento che 

There is a test, if you will, one last labor before you can move through that door, before your life is truly unfucked. You have to let go of all that's held you together, that got you to this place. Every pain suffered and endured, every hurt that haunted and motivated you, every link on the chain has to be dropped, broken, left behind or you can't make it through. See, on the other side of your trouble there is no room, no place for the ephemera, all the accoutrements of your suffering, all you've gathered to carry yourself this far. 

It's gotta go. If you hang on to it, you'll drag your trouble with you, attached to you like a shadow, never leaving you. 

I get it, bro. I get it. You're so accustomed to atonement you don't how live without it, without carrying your mistakes and your regrets and your redemption with you like an albatross. I get it. It is part of our fuckitude; but I'm telling you upon your face, let it go. You have to trust yourself to figure out how to live without it. And get this, when you let it all go, all those lessons, all that miserably hard-won wisdom does not disappear. It become part of you. Unshakeable. You don't need to carry your determination with you, it is now cellular, lighter than air, the juice of your synapses.

* * *

I am scared, my brothers. I am scared my sisters. The hard road down, at least this section of it, is over and I'm going to miss it. I find myself on that threshold and I doubt I'll know how to live without the pain to push against, the determination to outlast my troubles. Can I be as determined in happiness? Will I know how to let my guard down and enjoy the fruits of my labors? Or will it always be labors and an inability to live at peace with myself?

There is always a choice, a final freedom left to each of us, and that is to choose how we live, how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. Like you, I must choose, and as scared as I am I choose to let it all go. I choose my children. I choose work. I choose an end to servitude. I choose to step through the door.

* * *

A flight of larks is called an "exaltation of larks."

All is cast to the wind, an exaltation of my ragged soul.

* * *

Boom. Boom. Boom.

__________

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Let Me Ride

Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Let me take my chances on the Wall of Death

- Richard Thompson, Wall of Death

* * *

A good and kind man died the other day. He'd been desperately sick, was getting sicker - pain, the shame of his body betraying him, a burden on those closest to him to tend to his most elementary needs, and so he tossed a rope over a tree branch and saved them the trouble of watching him die slowly. Maybe it was a kindness he offered them. Maybe it was despair. Maybe it was both. No one will know. It will all be conjecture colored by the experience and beliefs of those left to riddle out this good and kind man's last act.

For me, I will miss him. Kindness is far too rare a trait, as is goodness and patience and selflessness. This good and kind man lived a life of service to others, of walking among the lowest, the untouchables in our society and celebrating the gifts of those who dared to follow their talents. I will miss him. Maybe it was the weight of selflessness, the weight of all that service that bore down on him at the end causing him to believe he was unworthy of the same kindness and patience he'd given others. He knew only to tend, not be tended.

Who knows?

A good and kind man died almost 20 years ago. He'd been desperately sick, was getting sicker - pain, the shame of his body betraying him, a burden on those closest to him to tend to his most elementary needs, and he looked me in the eye knowing he was dying, knowing the pain would ratchet up as the days ran out, and said,"I'll kick it along as far as I can for you." This was my father's greatest kindness, his last act of selflessness, his last gift to me: the willingness to walk through the teeth of the Reaper's grin. It scared him at first, but he bulldogged his way past that and rolled on until the night my brother and I sat with him listening to his last breaths - two sons bereft of their father able to love him to the last.

I miss him still. Kindness is far too rare a trait, as is goodness and patience and selflessness. He was a good and kind and sad man who lived a stumbling life burdened by poor choices in love and money. His work was a job you wouldn't wish on an enemy: low, untouchable, unspeakable. Maybe it was the weight of his regrets, the weight of all the things who couldn't make come right that lifted him up at the end and set his feet on the road he chose to walk, causing him to believe "At least I can do this much."

Who knows?

But this is the only way I can understand the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

* * *

You can go with the crazy people in the Crooked House
You can fly away on the Rocket or spin in the Mouse
The Tunnel Of Love might amuse you
Noah's Ark might confuse you
But let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death


* * *

It started in the US: an Indian motorcycle at the bottom of a large wooden barrel and the rider would slowly build speed riding in circles at the bottom, slowly rising up the sides until he was riding perpendicular to the side of the barrel, the audience peering in over the top: the Wall of Death and the gift of momentum and gravity.

Is there a more apt analogy for our time on this earth than a daredevil in a barrel defying expectations? It is all a function of having the willingness to find another gear, to coax a bit more speed out of the machine and in so doing finding freedom, flow, the perfect state of momentum and gravity.

In what state is your momentum and gravity?

Where is your speed? Where your glue?

Gravity is inexorable. It always wins no matter what, but it is also part of the equation, the thing pushed against in order to rise above. There is no speed without it. At the end, when there is no speed left, when the tank is empty all you'll have is the momentum of your life to guide you. My father found a gear he didn't know he had. It was not speed he aimed for, but a lower gear in order to have the traction necessary to kick it along as far as it could go. The other good and kind man put a rope around his neck when he believed there wasn't a gear to be found.

Now listen to me: THERE IS ALWAYS A GEAR TO BE FOUND. IT IS YOUR SOLE PURPOSE TO FIND IT.

* * *

Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Let me take my chances on the Wall of Death

* * *

Boom, goddamnit.
__________

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To My Soul

To my soul:
   Are you ever going to achieve goodness? Ever going to be simple, whole and naked–as plain to see as the body that contains you? Know what an affectionate and loving disposition would feel like? Ever be fulfilled, ever stop desiring–lusting and longing for people and things to enjoy? Or more time to enjoy them? Or for some other place or country–"a more temperate clime"? Or for people easier to get along with? And instead be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present–all of it. And convince yourself that everything is the gifts of the gods, that things are good and always will be, whatever they decide and have in store for the preservation of that perfect entity–good and just and beautiful, creating all things, connecting and embracing them and gathering in their separated fragments to create more like them.
   Will you ever take your stand as a fellow citizen with gods and human beings, blaming no one, deserving no one's censure?

- M. Aurelius, Meditations 10:1

* * *

I find that as I age I turn again and again and again and again to Aurelius the way some turn to their Bibles, their Torahs, their Korans, but unlike the religious I don't find, and am not seeking, comfort; instead I find the markings of a single, solitary man wrestling with the facts of his life and trying to transform those facts into a life lived completely. It has none of the easy proscriptions of religious truth (believe! have faith! follow the law!), but rejects such truths for a harder questions: how am I to live pulled by tides of desire, anger, frustration and their opposites–acceptance, peace and letting go. The fact that the document he left behind was never intended for anyone's eyes but his own and is a single voice–alive, aware of its our contradictions, ever leaning forward to get it right in his mind–is what makes it so relevant to me, makes it speak to me as the voice of Ecclesiates speaks to me, the voice of Viktor Frankl, the voice of one crying in the wilderness speaks to me. My brothers, my fathers, me. When Aurelius asks, Will you ever take your stand as a fellow citizen with gods and human beings, blaming no one, deserving no one's censure? I want to kill him; I want to thank him for saying it plainly; I want to answer him: yes, that is what I am trying to do right here, right now, with each word.

* * *

My friend, his questions are your questions, are they not? Questions of wondering when it will be good, simple, whole. Questions of the effort to convince yourself to let go, to make your stand. Thou, we fucked, are not original. We are simply this iteration of ancient mysteries of consciousness, conscience and what the fuck are we supposed to do with it all.

Here is my answer: we are to gather our separated fragments and create.

Aurelius' words were his description of what the gods do with our lives, the impulse and drive of life to create more life framed in a story about it all making sense as being part of a perfect entity - the logos. I hope he's right, but I won't know until I die. In the meantime let me use what is separated in me, broken in me, incomplete in me–my contradictions, my weaknesses, my failings–and use them to create something that had not existed before I put my hand to it: a story, a work, a life spent doing such things.

It is time to do such work. It always has been. It always will be. What is your work? What have you postponed because it was hard, or you felt inferior to the task of building it? What life are you not living? 

There will never be enough money. 
There will never be enough time.
There will never be kinder people.
There will never be a better place.
There will never be a moment more perfect than this one.

Listen, listen to the lion. Listen to the voice inside you begging you to get on with it. Listen, you know all this already. Listen and you will remember and once you do you will not be afraid to live–regardless of your trials. You are on your own here. But keep this in mind, while you must find your own way, men and women who have struggled as you and I struggle, kept records of their struggle. Search them out, not for the answers they came up with, but for the good company of a soul on fire with the desire to live while it could. The fact this is a timed test must not dissuade you from venturing the risk. You'll be dead either way, but this way you'll have done something very few have ever managed: using it up before you lay it down.

* * *

Boom, my brothers and sisters. Boom.

__________