Thursday, December 26, 2013

According To Convention

According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost the more "real" me than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exits than what actually is!

- Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

* * *

The past is not just the past; it is also our shadow, our companion, our memories burnished gold, edited to fit the story we tell about ourselves. It is seed and source and it is impossible to ever say we are free of it. Experience is our tour guide. It warns of dangers, identifies patterns and says, "Look here, not there." Right on. We are the accumulation of choices we've made or not made and so become who we are. But that is only one way of seeing it. Useful, true, but also limited and limiting.

The fucked see the past as inescapably the future. Sins and omissions are forever the Mark of Cain and their days un-spool in a set pattern of declination, futility and remorse. At no moment are they able to move freely, without the weight of the past and fear of the future slowing them down, stopping them. We fucked fuckers identify completely with the past precisely because it is fixed and final. There are no surprises, no challenges. We know this shit and in the knowing we are made to feel we know our place in the world. Unfortunately, it is in what is unchangeable, is in what is dead and gone.

* * *

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge." But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."

* * *

You are here because at each moment along the way you chose to respond to the facts and inputs and circumstances and stimuli and wounds and scars and chances and opportunities of your life in the exact manner that you did. No doubt many patterns have repeated themselves and not always to your benefit. As these patterns repeat they take on the tenor of inevitability, fate and you quit resisting it. Laziness, wounded pride, fear of change, or worse, helplessness sews itself into your life and becomes the cloth covering your bones. Men's courses foreshadow certain ends, no?

But that is false, my best beloveds. Oh, it may unwind that way. In fact, it is the way most of us navigate our lives. But is is not inevitable. It is not fated. It is not necessary nor is it what your life is made for. It is simply what we choose when confronted by the enormity of eternity. We go small. We play for certitude - even if it is miserable - because it is knowable. I get that. I know that. I've done that, but I have to tell you, as knowable as it is, there is nothing worth having there. The good shit only exists in one place: the everpresent now, this very moment you are reading this. Not the word before, or the word after, but right now.

Who you are is happening right now.
The past is who you were and there's no fixing it, or keeping it
To unfuck your life you have to be present in it. Right now. And you have to choose to move and act within each moment from the core of your being, not the from the memory of how things were, or the falsity of castes.

You are free to choose.

Really.

* * * 

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

"Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

"No, Spirit! Oh no, no!" 

The finger still was there.

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So The First

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the  ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn't matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

- Roshi Bernie Glassman, Instructions to the Cook

* * *

What fucks us is the mistaken assumption that there'll be time enough, that things will be better tomorrow, that the time's not right, the trial too deep, resources too few, that we can afford to postpone for a even a moment the business of being present in our lives because we promise we'll get to it - eventually. We excuse our mis-deeds, justify out lethargy and inaction, refuse the balm of being alive to the moment and so slide, slide, slide a bit further down a hole that we never notice is closing in on us. Why? Because we place the agency of our redemption, happiness, acceptance and solace in the future where we can never reach it.

That's why.

We are fools for this shit.

* * *

I found this the other day: The point is to gather your resources, do the best you can, and to pursue whatever it is you love to do with an intensity and a resilience and a passion. 

But we don't do that, do we? We judge our resources too puny, our training inadequate, our desire is more wish than fire and we sit on the riverbank and keep our toes dry. We fear failing, humiliating ourselves in front of others, being found to be unequal to the task. But, dude, living like this your life is a constant humiliation to yourself! Fail large my love. Face plant and face plant again. What else is there to do? What else is eternity for? Our lives are to be used, not preserved. We don't last forever. If we're lucky we get 7 or 8 decades. What the living holy fuck are you waiting for? 

You were made to find out what you can do with that strip of time, but you fear it, no? You fear that using what you have will either hurry your end, or leave you without anything to keep you warm at night. Right? Here's the news: a) your end is hurrying toward you anyway, so fuck it, and b) you were born with all you need to find out what it is like to be here - nothing more, nothing less.

Intensity, resilience and passion are the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of being alive, of being present, of being awake to love, to the genius of your love, your service, your faith and communion with this life. It is in you - that genius for life is in you right now waiting for you to recognize it and live by it. Everyday the glory is waiting to emerge from its debasement.

Isn't it time to be done with the fears that have held you still? You are the gold, the glory, the vital breath, the thing the universe has conspired to bring into being. Enough shitting on your gifts. Enough.

* * *

Everything you need is at hand right now. You need nothing more. There is no thing for you to wait on. Take a look at what is at hand. Do not judge it against anything else in this world. Look at what you do have and begin. It will be enough. It will be more than enough. Tend it. Respect it. Use it. You will need every ounce of your passion and resilience to make your way. It is unfair, unjust and unkind out here. It is also the only place where your love can find its expression and so answer and so overwhelm what is difficult, painful and sad. This is the way you unfuck what is fucked in your life. 

Stasis is not an answer. Stasis is practicing for the grave and of that, and that only, there is time enough.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Leaving Pieces

I'm leaving pieces behind
Anywhere I go
Every time I go
I'm leaving behind my soul

I'm breaking into pieces
Every time I go
Leaving pieces of mine 

Every time I go


- Trixie Whitley, "Pieces"

* * *

Lately, the word "combinatoria' has been tracing lines in my head. It feels like the start of something. I'll say this: what is scattered and broken cannot be restored as it was, but can only become something new.

Kintsukuroi, baby.

* * *

I have long argued that the basic need for any last one of us fucked fuckers is to be complete - not improved or made better, but to be complete, completely ourselves and completely at home in the world so we can go see what our lives can do. Right on. Haven't changed my mind. That is still my first foot forward. But I have been thinking lately that there is another layer here, another idea that may belong here. I'm not saying it as fact or gospel, but simply as an idea to consider, test out, to see where it might go. It is this: our completeness is not a restoration, but an on-going process of shedding pieces, adding others, recombining the shards, patterns and impulses and desires into a wholly new thing that in turn will be pulled apart and be reconfigured and reworked into another new thing and that new thing is always the same: you.

Soul sculpture.
Invention.
The combinatoria of history, rhythm, color, sound, desire and its expression from moment to moment: a kiss, a broken hand healed, dinner made, words written, a child soothed, a foe defeated, dancing without music except for the low hum of your love, anger spent, holy silence, letting go, bearing witness, building - always leaning in, hunger, regret, forgiveness of sins, resistance, pride, service, ego, the unbearable lightness of being, transition, omission, spite, a song sung, a life lived out in the fullness of its time.

* * *

When the rains come, when things fall apart, when we fail ourselves we are being asked by life to get to the work of leaving behind what no longer works or serves the invention of each moment. Just or unjust, the breaking apart of the structures that have failed us is the necessary first step to learning where we can rebuild, what can be salvaged and re-purposed, combined with some other thing to make a new thing that could not have existed without the rains and the falling apart and the question asked: now what you gonna do?

There's beauty ahead. I promise.

Leave behind what no longer works. Your wholeness is a combination of additions and subtractions and it changes all the time. Believing it is set in stone leaves you unprepared for the inevitable transitions that will skate into your life. Lean in. Ride the leading edge and be an active participant in the changes.

The Baal Shem Tov walked into fields of grass and prayed for the scattered light of God buried in each blade to rise up and be restored.

Walk into the field of your life and pray that you can take what is scattered, incomplete, broken and use it to find out what you can yet be. It is the privilege of a lifetime to combine your spirit with your body, with your mind and see what you can make of it. Just remember: it is in combining, recombining, and re-imagining that you find your feet.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Thursday, December 12, 2013

If I Really

If I really knew what changed me... I don't know.  I've thought about it and thought about it. You don't go anywhere, because you always see yourself as something you're not. As long as you can say I'm better than they are, then there's somebody below you can kick. But once you get over that, you see that you're not any better off than they are. In fact, you're worse off 'cause you're believin' a lie.

- Peggy Terry as documented by Studs Terkel in Hard Times.

* * *

I'll say this: Studs Terkel is a giant.

* * *

What lies have you been believing about yourself, about others? What comfort have you found in refusing the reality in front of you? Peggy Terry was speaking about the easy hatred of blacks she never thought twice about until a black family fed her and her husband during the Depression, until she came North and poor southern whites were treated the same as she'd treated others. The lie cracked open in her. She continued: "And it was right there, in front of us. In the cotton field, chopping cotton, and right over in the next field there's these black people–Alabama, Texas, Kentucky. Never did it occur to me that we had anything in common."

The easy lie, the self-soothing lie is always the unconsidered impulse, the unexamined habit. It sits and fills your life with its delusion because you never challenge it, never demand proof of its assumptions. Racism is the obvious one, and maybe you're so fucked you're still stuck there. If that's the case grow the fuck up. Take a minute and consider all those truths you believe to be self-evident about life, about your life. Line them up. Demand answers. It is right there, in front of you.

Look.

* * *

The other thing about these lies, these comfortable delusions is you never get past them. You go nowhere. As long as you feed the lie, the lie keeps you stuck and fucked and going nowhere. Your lies tell you that you have no control over your life, but that others, circumstances, the way your mom and dad raised you, the woman who left you, the job you got fired from, the traffic cop who wrote you a ticket that day, the line at Starbucks making you late, your damn boss, your damn teacher, your damn car, the fucking niggers and kikes and spics and chinks, and the goddamned quarterback tossing that interception, the Republicans, the Democrats, the fat cats and the  International Monetary Fund and only needing 4 more credits to graduate, the price of gasoline, the price of milk and the shitty brakes on your car, and the cough you can't shake, the emptiness of your bed, the holes in your socks, the winter, the spring, the summer and fall and time moving either too slow or too fast all keep you from breaking out, from the life you thought you'd have. All those excuses ready made for your bullshit self-pity.

You don't get to pity yourself. Ever.

You don't get to use the externals and your meager perception of them as an excuse to not wrestle with the facts of your life and wring something worth being out of it.

You don't get to blame others.

You are always free to be responsible for your life. Always. In every circumstance. Even the unjust ones.

Ask the family who fed Peggy Terry.

* * *

William Blake tells me wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none can come to buy. And in the withered field where the farmer plows for bread in vain. Hard times - either on a macro-economic scale, or just inside your head, have a way of changing you, of challenging the easy beliefs that have held you and limited you for so long. No one wishes for difficulties, but they crop up and you might as well use them to your advantage. This is the challenge life is tossing your way: are you willing to use what is hard and difficult to break free of what has fucked you for so long?

Are you?

* * *

Boom.

__________

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Am Fundamentally

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

- Nelson Mandela

* * * 

I do not write this blog topically, politically, of the moment. I try to write with a thousand year stare, but the passing of Mandela opens me up to this moment and it is time to get back to business. 

* * *

Asimbonanga
Asimbonang' umandela thina

* * *

Everywhere around you is evidence of the need to let go of those things that have poisoned your life, that have stopped you, wounded you, made you fearful and small. You were not born for such things. You were born to venture this risk, to test the limits of what you know and what you can bear and find that there is always a bit more to do, a bit more to give, a bit more to love. Such is the way of being at peace with the world, at peace with yourself. What has fucked you has been a mistaken assumption about life, about your life and your place in the stream of life. It is not Life's concern that you believe you were entitled to anything. That is your business. Life is only concerned in what comes next. You can serve it or not, but that is the flow of things and you are part of it whether you believe it or not.

The answer is always to keep one's feet moving, to travel the road, to see what emerges. There was no visible path from Robben Island to the reconciliation of a nation, but it occurred. It occurred because one man kept his feet moving and so a nation moved with him. 

You don't need to move a nation. You only need to move yourself, to move with a sense of the possible in your life. There are many dark times that visit each of us. The way out of the darkness is earned by moving while it is still dark, by living by a light only you know: trusting it, tending it, living according to it. And if the external darkness does not change, you will still be living by that light and that is all, that is all, that is all.

There is no cure for life. It is a cluster fuck of beauty and broken-ness, of healing wells and prison walls and it is constantly moving, changing, finding new ways to combine and re-combine its parts to bring something new and emergent into view. Why fear it? Run with it. See what you can do with the wit and time you have available to you.

* * *

Asimbonanga means "We have not seen him."
Asimbonag' umandela thina is "We have not seen Mandela."

For 27 years this was true. He was hidden, but he kept his head pointed towards the sun, he kept his feet moving - even as they were in chains - and because of that we have seen him. Oh, how we have seen him.

Now it is your turn to show us what can be done with a life.

Get moving.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Monday, December 2, 2013

Unfuck Your Life

I am happier than this image might suggest.
Unfuck Your Life is now an e-book on Amazon. Follow the link and download a copy (it will be free on 12/3 and 12/4, so wait a day).

Don't worry if you don't have a Kindle. They have free downloads so you can read it on any device you have (PC, MAC, smartphone, etc.).

Let me know what you think. Leave a review on Amazon or send me a note here and if you find that it works for you, please re-post and spread the word. It's free and I hope it will do some good in
the world.

Thanks for everything,

Mark

__________

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bolt And Bar

Bolt and bar the shutter,
For the foul winds blow:
Our minds are at their best this night,
And I seem to know
That everything outside us is
Mad as the mist and snow.

Horace there by Homer stands,
Plato stands below,
And here is Tully's open page.
How many years ago
Were you and I unlettered lads
Mad as the mist and snow?

You ask what makes me sigh, old friend,
What makes me shudder so?
I shudder and I sigh to think
That even Cicero
And many-minded Homer were
Mad as the mist and snow. 


- WB Yeats, "Mad as The Mist and Snow"

* * * 


There comes a time when it all cracks open and you can never go back. Never go back to a life unthinking, a life unawares, a life unknown, a life unlived. Never not ever. The wildness of your freedom shudders and shatters the paltry foundation you've been standing on and all is in play, everything in play and you are the wind that howls and storms and blows: free, driven by your own force. Even Cicero and many-minded Homer were mad as the mist and snow.

And now you are, too.

* * *

Yeats' poem moves between the wildness of a storming night, the cage of a lettered life and the wildness of childhood. Like most of his poems there is a foolish verve to believe, to look over your shoulder and see the pattern and to mourn for being unawares at the time. This poem came back to me the other day after being tucked away for thirty years. I found it and read it aloud to my empty house - not in some posey, prosey, poetry, simpering way, but at the top of my lungs, full throat and there it was: another gear, another crack in the foundation, another blow to my foolish ego.

As I like to say: boom.

* * *

There is a tendency to think that we once held freedom and madness and wildness in our veins when were children. The woes and wearying responsibilities of our adult lives blotted out the sun of those days. We learn. We grow. We matriculate. Our wildness is left for weekends and vacations and office parties with lampshades on our heads. And we die a bit each day to live separated from the force that once drove us, that made us laugh at the miracle of having a body that could run and fall and bleed now and again and heal and dare ourselves to do it again. 

And so it is. Childhood becomes adulthood and we are done with childish things. And I am not here advocating for a return to childhood. That is, like all things sentimental, a betrayal of the life in your veins.

We get fucked because we lose our way. We get fucked because either we forget who we are, or never make our own acquaintance. You don't find your way by pretending you can start from zero. You find your way by putting one foot in front of the other, by letting go of the things you've carried with you for too long - loss, fear, doubt. You find your way when you quit living by others' demands and instead restore your senses to being alive at this very moment. The past is dead and gone, yet it exists because you exist; it informs who you are moment to moment. The task before you is to move through your life informed, but unburdened by your history. When you come to see that it can be done your life cracks open and the gift you once knew as a child - to be mad as the mist and snow - is restored to you but with the hard earned burnish of having gotten there as the person you now are: history and freedom rhymed.

* * *

It is an easy thing to laugh in the tents of prosperity and in the vintage and to sing on the wagon loaded with corn. It is easy and small and misses the point of being here at all. Better is to sing like a howling wind, a survivor's gale, restored, completed by the force that still drives you, unburdened by the pain, many-minded, mad as the mist and snow.

Boom.

__________

Friday, November 15, 2013

I Use The

I use the state of the art
Technology
Supposed to make for better living
Are we better human beings?
We've got out wires all crossed
Our tubes are all tied
And I'm straining to remember
Just what it means to be alive
A life worth living
Now you can feel it in your chest
Buildin' like little birds
Just building up the nest
And you build it up strong
And you fill it up with love
And you pray for good rain
All from the lord above


- Jim James, "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)"

* * *

There is this: the life you are living is entirely your own creation. If it is fucked it is because the wires are all crossed. You have chosen to let others' ways of being dictate how you will respond to the life in your hands. You are a stranger to yourself. Nothing makes sense. Everything you try, everything you hope will correct, amend, adjust and re-align your life comes to ash because you are still dialed into to living at the (nonexistent) mercy of circumstance. The corrective is not to appease, or acquiesce. The corrective is to reject the premise, quit the field of someone else's expectations and find out - for yourself - just what it means to be alive.

Your story isn't over yet. This fuckedness is not the last word. It changes when you change, when you have had enough of clinging to the idea that things will get better for you by buying in deeper and deeper to someone else's vision of what life, your life is for.

You are the only one with that answer. Start acting like it.

* * *

You know there is a life worth living. You know it. It is what haunts you, trails after you, makes you feel like shit every time you copped out, got drunk, stayed in bed, refused the call to get going. It was there when your employer upped his productivity demands and refused to compensate you for it. It was there when your husband/wife/lover treated you as an after thought and you jerry-rigged an excuse for their poor showing. It was there when you talked big, but delivered nothing. This sense that things could be better if only...  If only, what? If you answer that question with anything other than, if only I'd had the balls to live by the light in my head, then you still don't get it.

The decisions others make about their lives can and will spill over into yours. Some of it is benign, some malignant. It is what society does - it imposes and defines and sets down rules. Right on. Have at it. I'm all for stopping at red lights. But right here is the crisis for each of us. Because we are swaddled in rules and defined by paths laid down over millennia, we matriculate through our lives without testing our own knowledge, or if we are aware of the life in our veins we hesitate to live by it because we don't know how to slip the bonds of expectation.

Here's the news: imagined as a zero sum game, then you will always falter, always be wrong to the light.

Life, your life, does not have to be lived as either a conformist or an outsider. It is simply to be lived by you, by what animates your higher self. And, motherfucker, you know this feeling, this call to your higher self. You feel it in your chest. It is love. It is strength. It is forgiveness. Mostly though, it is love, and if you pay attention to that love you'll always know what to do next (which is to love the life you have).

* * *

Nietzsche wrote about loving one's fate. This is a terrifying idea to most. If your life is filled with pain or sorrow or regret or physical malady how can you possibly love that fate?

There is a Buddhist teaching that says those who harm us are the cause of their own misery, that in striking out against us the damage they do to themselves is deeper, more intrinsic than what they lay on us.

Put the two together. At the core lies forgiveness. Is your life hard because your choices made it so? Then forgive yourself. Is your life hard because of injustice and violence? Forgive your oppressors by being free of hatred. The journey we are on is one whose center is unconditional love and acceptance of the life we've been given to live. The mystery of our days is that we wait so long to embrace it.

Love your life. It is what you are here for.

* * *

Boom, sweet babies. Boom.

__________

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Standing On The

 
Standing on the highest hill 
with a sense of wonder
You can see everything 

is made in God
Head back down the roadside 

and give thanks for it all

- Van Morrison, 

* * *
We are bounded by the parenthesis of silence on either side of our lives: all that was before us, all that will be after us. Life goes on and on, but we'll be dumb to it. And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind how time has
ticked a heaven round the stars. Yet tell I will of the wind at the top of a hill, for when it is silent and we are no more, such a wind will blow on the face of another and if we don't leave behind some clue, some message about such things, such winds how will they know that endless others have stood on that spot and dreamed as they dream, loved as they love, lived as they live? Aren't poetry and song summery words, the summery breeze against you face reaching out across time to say: I, too, lived.

* * *

To be fucked is to be blind. Your pain, your fear, your worry is a darkening filter. You exist, but do not live. You have eyes, but do not see; ears, but cannot hear. Understand this, my fucked fellow, you are not here to see as others do, to live as others do, to hear what others hear, but simply to understand it is for you to do. You alone. There may be echoes and rhymes of others that comfort, support and sustain you (just look ot the right on this page and you'll see the listing of all who have sustained me), but the task of seeing is left to you to figure out.

What is it you see?
Tell me what you see.

A hundred years ago, on a cold, rainy, windy November night, I stood on a roof and understood for the first time that all that I saw, all that existed, all that had ever been, was from a single root and traces of that root could be found in everything: atomic residuals of the Big Bang. There are stories, the metaphysics of it all that explain the why of the bang. Beautiful stories of reunion, communion, of many rivers to cross, of prodigals and if you believe, then you believe and you have guideposts, touchstones, healing wells to help you navigate. I don't think you need to be a believer in the sense of religiosity in order to see wonder, to find connections between the myriad forms of this life, to see it as all being one: Life.

It is a beautiful thing to stand on a hill, to have traveled to that place (wherever it is for you) and seen, if only for a moment, that from one - all; all - one. It steadies you and fills you with a peace beyond my ability to say. It is cellular. But you have to go back, my new bodhisattva, you have to go back down that hillside. What you saw wasn't just for you.

What is it you see?
Tell me what you see.

* * *

You are the weather's wind and the heaven ticked round the stars. You are the hill and the trail. You are the steps taken, the skinned knee, the briar and the bramble. You are the fall taken. You are the thanks given. You are another line in the field of time. You are alive. You are eternal.

And if things are fucked, it is only for a little while. The question before you is this: Is that little while the length of your life, or just the time it takes to head back down the roadside and give thanks for it all?

* * *
Boom.
__________

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kindness I've Discovered

Kindness, I've discovered, is everything in life.

- Isaac Bashevis Singer

* * *

In the end all that matters is kindness. Were you kind while you had the chance to be so? If your life is fucked, ask yourself, when was the last time you were kind to anyone? Let that answer guide you.

* * *

In the story of the Fisher King, Parzival, a knight of the Round Table, has stumbled onto the Grail Castle, wherein lies the wounded Fisher King. The wound is grievous, emasculating and the kingdom surrounding the castle is barren because of it. Parzival's first impulse is to rush to the king's side and ask, "What ails thee?" But he does not. He overrides his impulse to kindness with the intellect that tells him a knight doesn't blubber. In so choosing, the castle disappears, never to be found again. It is then he realizes he had the Grail within in reach and lost it for a lack of kindness.

I love that story.

It is easy, so very easy to only see your own pain, your own suffering, your own needs and be blind, indifferent or afraid of what others need or are experiencing. Multiply that by a factor of ten if you are fucked. You hurt so much, you focus so intently on the problem in your hand that you fail to see that others are fighting tougher battles. You want and you need and those needs are not met and so you wall off your life in an attempt to keep your eye on the prize: an end to your own suffering. You can build empires this way. You die anyway.

There are thresholds, passages you'll move through as you live, as you unfuck your life. It is different for each of us, the path we take, the fears we leave behind in order to take another step. It can be agonizing to let go of the ways in which we have lived and thought about our lives. So much pride is vested in each decision that it becomes difficult to change, to grow, to become our very selves. The last threshold that you must step through before you can unfuck your life is kindness. You may think yourself kind and decent, and maybe you are, now and then, when it is easy, when it is reciprocated and acknowledged. I'm talking about a different sort of kindness, one that is never doubted, or looking for reward, but simply is - at all times: present, willing, generous, selfless.

The pain here is a spiritual pain, a breaking through of forms, shattering them, learning to walk without them. The end to dichotomies, duality - there is only kindness.

Parzival, as you know, wanders for seven years trying to re-find the Grail Castle. But it cannot be done, such is the nature of the quest. He has lost his chance. He continues on knowing it is so, but believing it might still be done. One day he finds himself in the hall of the Fisher King, the wound still fresh, the land still barren. Parzival is battered by his search: pummeled, weary, sore. When he sees the king in such agony he rushes to his side and asks,"What ails thee?" And so the Grail is found.

Do you not know what the Grail is?

It is kindness, above all. It is kindness. It is forgetting about yourself and seeing what others need. It is letting one who has hurt you have your love nonetheless. It is understanding that all whom you meet are stumbling on their paths as well. It is knowing, knowing, knowing in the marrow of your soul that this threshold, this agonizing moment before you step through is that last of your fucked life.

And so you take that step.

* * *

The wounds of others can distort them into hateful, unkind forms and they can cause tremendous harm. Kindness means little to them. The road they are on is a long one. Bless them and move on. Be kind to yourself by moving on. They will have to wander like Parzival until they see what you and Isaac know: kindness is everything in life.

* * *

Boom.

__________


Friday, November 1, 2013

On My Way

Don't forget the fucking joy part of it.
On my way home I looked up at the sky
And the stars held up the night
Destiny set me free, destiny

I miss the games we play
With innocence we place
Oh, yes you still amaze me with your

Joy, joy, joy.

- Daniel Lanois, "Joy"

***

It's all hard, man. Real fucking hard sometimes to put one foot in front of the other. All around it seems like your life is pinched and cut off from the good shit you always figured you'd somehow have. Things narrow. Things hurt. Things suck. Love, money, peace - it's all outside your reach. Right? That's fucked, no doubt, no doubt. Get to this place and maybe you just harden yourself against it all. Your life drains a bit of color each day and though your life is hell, at least you are familiar with it. Maybe you turn inside and start scratching at the door of your soul. Religion, gurus, the spirit seems to invite you out of the dolor. You believe, man. You believe because you are told when you believe all the bad juju goes away. You turn to Christ. You turn to Buddha. You get all esoteric and deep and solemn and you're a right regular pain in everyone's ass with your depth.

All that won't do you any fucking good, my friend. Not a goddamned bit. You're missing something:

Joy, joy, joy.

* * *

You have been down so long, my sweet friend, that up is a joke. No worries. I have been there. Shit, most people who draw breath have been there. It is all encompassing. It is claustrophobic. It is a bitch. So much of our religious education focuses on the suffering part of living as proof that we are born in sin, born unclean, born broken and only through self-flagellation of the body, and more insidiously, the spirit can we be shed of our troubles.

That's a hard road, man. Real fucking hard and having walked it I can report back there's nothing at the end of that road. Let it go.

Oh, Lord, heap mysteries upon us, but entwine our work with laughter low.

That's a bit of Joyce from Finnegan's Wake - maybe the only part that's intelligible, but that's the key right there, my brother, my sister.

Yeah, man, there's pain here. There's getting lost. There's suffering imposed and right next to it there is joy and laughter and peace and love. There is nothing you can do about the chaos that surrounds you, but you can reduce to perfect order your response to it and if you neglect to see the joy in this life you've excluded yourself from the fullness that was possible only by you.

A bodhisattva forgoes nirvana in order to hang out with us and help us get there. He or she won't go until we all go. Right on. I dig that. Joseph Campbell writes that a bodhisattva participates joyfully in the sorrows of the world. I dig that, too. I promise you, you have met and known and been helped along the way by bodhisattvas of unending colors. You were so wrapped in your sorrows you didn't notice or recognize them, but they were there. And here's the thing: we are all each others bodhisattvas. True statement.

* * *

Our worries blot out the sun of our joy. Don't let what is hard convince you there is no joy here. It may not arrive in the shape or form you want or expect, but it is here and without it your life will never get unfucked.

* * *

Welcome to the world, Hailee Rae. So glad you made it. We're good to go now.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Monday, October 28, 2013

Unbidden Universe What

Unbidden universe, what summons us,
Awakening, unbidden, in its midst?

- Gjertrud Schnackenberg, "Sublimaze"

* * *

There is this as well: unbidden, we awaken here and are set in motion - clueless, stumbling, stupefied by the fact we are here - and yet we are capable of hewing the rumpus of our days into shapes of our own devising. There is no answer to what summons us, only that we answer the call.

* * *

I think this is our only task: to answer the call. Trouble is most people never hear it, or once they hear it, they fear what it asks of them and so take no action, or they hear it, venture it, stumble because they don't quite know how to handle it and then quit, accepting the general blandishments of credit scores, new wheels and a mortgage for a house too big to be useful.

To unfuck your life you have to keep answering the call.

Willful deafness is not an option.

* * *

Each life contains the seed of its own fruition, but it is not so easy or direct as simply flowering and bearing fruit. We have it harder than plants. We test. We stumble. We get hurt and harden ourselves against it. We doubt. We cavil. We bitch. We fail to act because each thing seems wrong, or if there is some sweet and good thing in our lives we risk nothing that might disturb it, having no faith in our ability to love and act and remain loved and loving while we answer our own unique calling. The fruits of such a life are meager. It never really feels too good. Our clothes never quite fit. That's if you're lucky. Most will simply accept what comes their way without a second thought as to the life they might have lived had they chosen differently.

You have to choose and choose again. You have to keep to your essential self, the gyroscope of your possibility. It will make you prioritize. It will eliminate some possibilities in order to give room to others. But if you take control of the process, if you are walking your path - and not simply following in the wide, smooth paths of others - then you become the answer to what summons you, you are the unbidden universe, the mystery of your days written out in the acts and doings of your life.

There is this as well, my friends: you are always on your path. It doesn't matter if you can't see it. It doesn't matter if you are simply following others orders. You are still on your way. Each step moves you along. You are a pilgrim to your own shrine: your essential self. Whether it be moral, or spiritual, or diamond hard, the destination is to live from the call of your own experience, your own name, your own chance to know what it is like to live and experience what can be experienced by you and your bones.

* * *

The closed doors, the blocked passages, the cul de sacs of our intention are the by-products of not knowing what is asked of us. Just so you know, here is what is asked of you: to live and act with compassion - for your own mistakes and omissions as well as those around you - and to walk it all the way to the end of the line. Such is the task to be unbidden, yet present.

Buen camino.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where You Stumble

Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

- Joseph Campbell

* * *

There is no one alive who has not stumbled, fallen, been tripped up and tumbled down. It is what we do. We fail. We fall. We skin our hands and knees, break bones and bruise our soul. And it is gift beyond all telling.

No lie.

* * *

Listen, if you are here unfaithfully, you are doing terrible damage - to yourself, those closest to you, to your time and the world around you. You want peace, or love, or acceptance, or healing, or work that suits you, or money, or status, or anything that anyone might want, yet it hasn't arrived and your efforts turn to ash in your mouth. You pray. You read about the secret. You wish to manifest miracles and all of it, all of it is faithlessness and it is doing terrible damage.

You cannot escape the singular requirement of life: namely, to experience it - all of it. Not just the good parts.

The faith required of you is not to any god or religion, but to the life in your hands. Where you fall is where you learn - if you are willing, if you have the faith to see it. We are born as we are into a set of circumstances we have no choice in: gender, race, location, affluence or want, surrounded by love or surrounded by fear. We are set in motion and those first steps are dominated by others, but in time we find our feet and if we are awake we go adventuring. We test. We find out. We theorize. We stumble. We fall. Over time it seems we stumble on the same rock, the same root coming out of the ground: love, money, acceptance, peace, God. We cycle back over and over, fearing the damn rock, our minds cluttered with portents and blocks and closed doors. And we fall and fall again. We seek out cures and healing wells, talismans against the prospect of our fall. We affirm. We develop a spiritual OCD chanting someone else's prayers in the hopes they'll work for us.

And it never takes, does it?

Here's why, my loves: what you have been trying to avoid is the key to your soul. The longer you dance around it, look for shortcuts or pretend you can wish it away, the longer you are stuck and fucked and going nowhere. Life requires that you have faith in it, in the life in your veins. Where you stumble is the dam in the river.

What repeats in you life? Relationships? Money? Jobs? Religion?

Baby, this is where your treasure lies. This is where your work is. This where you life takes hold. Quit skipping past it. This is where your life comes to life.

Really.

* * *

It is a lack of imagination that says we are born to suffer. Brothers, sisters, we are born to overcome, to match suffering with faith, match loss with love, and where you suffer is where your faith is born. This isn't a trick, a self-soothing lie, but the fierceness of life doing what it does: transformation - taking what was and turning it into what is. You want to be free of falling, then dig where you fall. You want your life to matter, to have meaning, then use what is at hand to carve that meaning into the time you have.

But here's the thing. Life is in the business of change. If you meet life head on, if you dive into the work of finding the treasure where you stumble and you emerge from that moment - the boon in your hand - do not think your work is done. There will be another fall, in another place and you will have to have the faith to see it for what it is: life calling you into your name. Only this time, you will have the sure knowledge born of experience that what seems to be a wall is actually a door you pass through to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing...

Don't miss your life because it hurts to fall.  Falling is what we do in order to learn to stand and then throw ourselves forward, our feet to fly, our life to be lived.

Now go. Don't you have something to do?

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, October 20, 2013

By Each Crime

“By each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” 

- David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

* * *

The life you are living is the immediate iteration of the decisions, omissions, crimes and kindness you have served up to the world. As shitty or frail or narcissistic or cruel or banal or unthinking as all of that may have been you are not fucked until you come to believe that you are trapped, stuck, the present moment permanent, final. No feeling is final. Your life, any life, is ceaselessly emergent. If you're fucked, you're the one throwing the brake.

Now knock it off.

* * *

We get lost, don't we? We choose and it doesn't work out, or we lose our faith in our decisions, or we let fear make us desperate because the problems have become too big, festered, implacable and we grind to a halt. We stop. The rest of creation does not. We become lost not from wrong turns, but in our stasis the world ceaselessly changes and the landscape is not the same as when we stopped. It changes by degrees until it is foreign, unrelated to us and there is no common understanding to decipher the road signs. All we know is our hurt, our pain, our fear and the sense, the gnawing sense, it didn't have to be this way. But where is the road out? The crimes committed - faithlessness to another, to ourselves, the giving up before seeing it through, the misery of knowing and not doing - are too weighty, too much like tar to ever be cleaned and we choose to remain as we are: immovable, lost, fucked.

By each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.

Is your unhappiness so fine a thing you won't shake its dust off your feet and be quit of it?

Listen, I know it hurts. I know these losses we are heir to are painful. Love affairs sputter, finances run dry, time slips by and the thing you meant to do, meant to be recedes in the rearview mirror and it all fucking hurts. Feel it. Release it. Things change. When you do yourself the kindness of letting the hurt and the fear pass through you, when you let it do its work of waking you up and then let it go you'll find you can move again. You'll find that the loss suffered no longer wounds and freezes you in the moment, but is simply part of what you have experienced on your way.

Time won't run backward. It is always emerging. It is always now. What you think, say and do is the only freedom available to you. When you abdicate those faculties to the pain and sense of loss that fills your vision you fuck yourself. When you take those precious things back under your authority those losses and sufferings are transformed. Where once there was a wall, there is now a doorway, a threshold, a way out. Don't worry about which direction those first steps go in. Like stepping off from the North Pole, all directions are initially South. You can figure the rest out along the way.

* * *

You're on an earth walk, my dear fucked friend. Whether you walk the Camino de Santiago, the Appalachian Trail, the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or just to the end of the block, you are a pilgrim here. You walk the earth to know, while it is available to you, what it is like to walk the earth, to go, to see, to be joined in body and spirit by the road you walk. Each step reveals a new horizon, a new vista that just a moment ago was hidden, half-seen, unimagined. By each crime and every kindness, you birth your future. I am sorry for your losses. Now let them go. Their utility is only found in the next moment, in the next step you take and how that step transforms and creates the world your following step will visit.

Baby, we're all just passing through. While we're here on solid land we get to choose and so build the world we live in. If yours is fucked, brother, you can unfuck it. But you have to move. We're made for love and loss, for being lost and then found, for the next step and the next step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. Anything less is fucked.

Got it, pilgrim?

* * *

Boom, baby. Boom.

__________



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Endless Suffering All

Endless suffering – all from not allowing the mind to do its job. Enough.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 9:26

* * *

We suffer because we give room to the idea of suffering. We take what is difficult, or painful, or unjust and let it fester in our minds until it is the whole of our thought, our existence. There is an easy mantra that says, "Change your thoughts, change your life." And it is sweet and simple and only partially true. The magic of affirmations - tricking your mind to believe what you find impossible to believe - is a type of self-hypnosis. It is benign if all that is affirmed is the will to carry on, to continue, to hold out against despair. It is cancerous if it becomes a denial of the life in front of you. Suffering is real. It is the loss of agency, the ability to act, to stem the tide of a loss. Do not deny this feeling, but remember no feeling is final. You suffer endlessly from your losses when you give them the air of permanence. There is no affirmation that will move that stone.

Let your mind do its job instead.

* * *

I pray. I pray every goddamned day. I pray to the life inside me. I pray to what Aurelius called the logos, the mind behind creation. I call it The River. Are my prayers self-soothing lies? Affirmations by a different name? All I pray for is to be in the swim, to give back to life the life inside me. I pray to be as I am and nothing else. I fail at this task often. I lose track of it. I give up on it as the tasks at hand mount and grow overwhelming. I stumble back to my meditations bruised, a bit embarrassed, uncertain of what I am doing, or why I am doing it. All I know is I must do it. My mind craves the silence I find there. I grow calmer, more certain of my name, of my ability to do what is asked of me. This is allowing my mind to do its job: keeping me present, ready to give what I have to give. Without it my life is chaos.

If this is so, why do I ever leave it?

Because suffering is sweet and simple and only partially true and we wedge our hope against hope into the partial truth and convince ourselves that by staying attached to that suffering we can undo it, make our losses come right. All we do is fuck ourselves because we have made permanent that which is transitory.

Enough.

We were made for something other than this. We are made for something more than this. We have our minds to help us know the world, to connect our soul, our spirit, our logos to world around us. It is here, in the world - with its injustice and ugliness and strife and fear - that we will come to know ourselves and come to know love and kindness and forgiveness. It is here, amongst ruins of incomplete and adolescent thought and feeling that we will grow into our names. It is here, in the brief span of our lives, that we will touch what is eternal, outside of time.

The endless suffering is our attempt to stop up time, to stifle what is changing anyway and we suffer because that river is always flowing. It brooks no dam. It does not eddy. It moves.

Allow your mind to do the same.

* * *

Oh Lord, heap mysteries upon us, but entwine our work with laughter low.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sometimes When You

Sometimes when you have to 
Take the hardest way
That don't mean that your star
Is leading you astray
Forget fashion symposium
You'll get panoramic
All I got to say my friend
Stay aerodynamic!
All I got to say my friend
Stay aerodynamic!

- Gogol Bordello, "In The Meantime In Pernambuco "

* * *

Faithlessness is our sin. We trade the difficulty of believing in our lives for the ease of giving up on them. When challenged by our mistakes to set things aright we see only the waste, the horrific piles of getting it wrong and just when we need to be able to think and see clearly, our sense of direction evaporates in the face of the task before us. We are faithless to ourselves, to the life in our veins, to those we say we love, to the one moment we have to live. We shame ourselves because we have come to accept the shame of others: consumerism, corporatism, the endless comparisons between what you have and what you want and never a minute for what you need.

Here is what you need: food, shelter, love and work that suits your hands. That's it.

Pornography isn't simply naked bodies exploited for cash, but it is also glossy magazines and TV shows filled with perfect homes, and exotic foods and clothes you are told you must wear - anything that makes you feel less that who and what you are, that stirs dis-satisfaction with being alive and being who you are, that tells you unless you buy this, own this, act like this (all for someone else's profit) then you really aren't worth much are you?

Stupid fucks that we are, we ingest this shit and ask for seconds.

Forget fashion symposium. You'll get panoramic. All I got to say, my friend, stay aerodynamic.

* * *

The soul of all wisdom is this: things change.

But we hate it. Change is neither good nor bad. Simply endless. I grieved my father's death for seven hard years because I would not let go of the pain - not of his death, but the fact I knew so little of him while he lived. Things end. Other things begin. What we want to hold still, hold steady skitters away like beads of mercury and what we don't want seemingly refuses to leave, to transform itself, to end.  Love holds us back and fear tries to hold off the future.

Fuck.

But it changes anyway. You may see it as better or worse, but it changes. Now is not forever. It is just now. Give it a minute. It will change.

When you come to see your life as unchangeable, or if it wasn't for bad luck you'd have no luck at all, then you have stopped yourself from living. Change hurtles on, but you're stuck in the mire of your woe, the muck of your fears. It hurts, baby, it hurts to move sometimes. It hurts to leave something behind. It hurts to take another step because something you loved is gone, or some fear you don't need has arrived. But in the meantime in Pernambuco they dance this wild dance called "russo frevo" and it is said the music will make your feet boil and all you can do is dance it out. It is Carnival. It is a rum-boogie. It is a stomping of the earth to let it know you are here.

All I got to say, my friend, stay aerodynamic!

Life expands in direct proportion to you willingness to engage it - all of it: the good and pleasant and loving and the dark and difficult and fearborn. When you accept that you are all of it, that all of it moves through you then you can move again. When you hold tight to the pain, the loss, the fear, the sense that you can never clean the mess you've made, then it seems as if it was all a hoax, a hustle for the rubes, a Three Card Monty that always has you picking the wrong card.

It simply isn't so.

What is difficult is simply life asking you to get on with it. What is ugly asks that you clean it. What is beautiful and loving asks that you not crush it in your grip. It's going to change. Maybe your love will sweeten, grow in ways you cannot imagine as time passes. Maybe it will be an empty husk. But it will change and how you respond to that will determine what is sweet or bitter for you. Do not let the necessity of change stop you. Get panoramic. Grow large enough to bear your losses and your loves. Become a partner with change. Move. Become aerodynamic and do not fear, do not fear, do not fear. Do not be here faithlessly. You are here to experience what it is like to be here.

Don't give up. Don't give in. You are beautiful as you are.

Now go. You have shit to do.

* * *

Boom.

* * *

For MJP. May your God bless you, brother.

__________


Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Water Run

Sweet water run where there was dust
I need to lift the weight I must

- Daniel Lanois, "Moondog"

* * *

There is this: each day the glory waits to emerge from its debasement; each day opens with an open field and your feet to fly; each day it is possible for sweet water to run where there was dust if only you would lift the weight you must.

It is not enough to feel terror at the barren places, to know its fucked. You have to be willing to live by the fact it is only by your hand that rains fall, by your hand rivers run, by your hand that what is empty in you becomes filled. Intention and meaning well are not enough. You have to act, complete the task that is in front of you for the rains to come. It can be difficult at first. You're not practiced, the spirit is weak, uncertain. The hardest part of unfucking your life is right at the start. You've no strength to lift the weight you must. Yet, lift it you will or become one of those who die and 25 and aren't buried until you're 75.

* * *

Practice. Mastering a task, a skill. Expertise. It is all a version of wood sheddin' - going out to the wood shed in back and practicing your scales. There's no master of anything who doesn't work with the basics of his craft day in and day out, who doesn't build from his foundation. If you're fucked you have no foundation. Everything is in doubt. Each attempt to pull yourself from the mire is provisional. You never accept the steps you must take in order to make the sweet water run. All you want is the water.

That's what fucks you. What unfucks you is the willingness to begin with your weakness and make it strong.

If you accept the fact that you cannot do all you must do at one time, you then accept the practice of working on it each day - sacrificing other things in order to feed this one desire. If you can get past these obstacles in your mind something remarkable happens: you enter the stream and what seemed solid, immovable, stuck now flows. This is when the fear of trying is dissolved and you willingly take on the tasks set before you. You learn to live in this flow, never despairing over circumstance, but meeting it with an openness that allows you to act, to move, to lift the weight you must.

The easy analogy is going to the gym to strengthen your body, but there is a crucial difference. Here, where it is your spirit, your soul, your logos that is strengthened, renewed, made whole you have the ability to engage in that workout moment to moment with each decision made. Right action, knowing what to do in the moment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of more right actions. When you choose from fear you get fearborn results. When you choose from the strength inside you get those results as well.

If your life has run dry you are the only one who can make it rain.

Act from your essential self and then do so again and again and soon you will know no other way to be in the world. You'll look around and see sweet water everywhere.

* * *

And I know how much it can hurt to begin again. Maybe you have come to the starting line thousands of times, but can't really get out of the blocks. I know that pain, that sense of ineptitude, that nothing you put your hand to really comes to form. I ask you to try again. These seeming failures are not failures at all, but simply Life, the River, the Logos giving you another chance to make the sweet water run. You get as many chances as you need until it either takes hold of you or you perish. It isn't the mark of Cain, but rather a sign of grace that you can see that open field. Everyone is unsteady at first. Pay it no mind. When you begin you are open to learning what you didn't know before and though it seems an obstacle right now, later, when you are stronger the key to your happiness, to lifting the weight you must lies in always being a beginner. Masters never stop taking the first steps.  They practice. They grow strong. They learn by going where they have to go. They make it rain.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Out Beyond Ideas

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world's too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

- Rumi

* * *

There is a risk to all this, you know - all this seeking and writing and trying and searching and stumbling and fucking it up and unfucking it and reading and working and believing and listening and trying all over again to find that spit of solid ground to build your life on. You can get trapped here as well. Fucked is stuck and going nowhere. It can also mean going round in well defined circles of being a good man, a good woman, and never knowing there is something more to do than be good or kind or loving or seek some knowledge that plugs you into the pulse of the life you live.

All that is great stuff and I won't argue its worth.

But there is something else, too. It requires a field of grass, leaves of grass, a grassy knoll, grass stained jeans and your soul, your tired soul, your yearning soul, your forgotten and bruised soul, your perfect soul. It is letting go of all your goodness and pride, all your wrongdoing and guilt and finding there is no separation between you and your beloved, no wall of fear, no veil of doubt and even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense.

* * *

To talk about the fucked life is to talk about the ancient desire in our bones to know and be known. Everywhere the individual is either celebrated as the highest expression of human endeavor, or is subsumed into larger societal needs of renunciation and conformity. But in either case it is lived out by the solitary soul who has to walk either path. The worth of a single life comes cheap in history, but is a treasure for the one who possesses it and has the chance to live it. These two forces are always in tension - pushing and pulling more one way than the other and back round again.

Better to be a beggar in the streets
Than ruler of this.

And we do the same internally - fighting between waking and sleeping, loving and nursing wounds, holding on versus letting go. Poetry and music and art are built in these tensions. They are comfort, balm and courage if you let them be. Yet we are the ones, individually, who must live out each moment of our days and a song only goes so far and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. We get lost. We get hurt. We get hard. We make terrible choices and so lose ourselves all the more.  if we are lucky we find solace in another, in the faith of our fathers or the faith of our choosing, in a cause larger than ourselves and bit by bit we unfuck our lives.

And there is more to do.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing is a field. I'll meet you there.

* * *

Don't let the success you've felt or the sorrow you've been heir to be where you stop. The world is too full to talk about. So let go of giving names to all the animals, let go of cataloging your sins or bolstering your pride, let go of your search and lay down in that field and know you are part of it all, that what is outside is now inside, as above, so below, heaven and hell married and living well inside you. You don't have to talk about it. You are it and even the phrase each other doesn't make sense.

All is one. You are all.

* * *

Did you call me fat?

* * *

Boom.

_____________

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sorrow Is An

Frank, the poi dog
Sorrow is an angel
That comes to you in blue light
And shows you what is wrong
Just to see if you'll set it right
And I've fucked up
So many times in my life
That I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time
I want to get it right this time

- Poi Dog Pondering, "Complicated"

* * *

There is a specific mechanism to unfucking your life. It goes by different names: disgust, enough, waking up, sorrow as an angel. They all point to the same place. They all bring you to the threshold of unfucking what you have fucked just to see if you'll set it right. None of it will work until you've had enough of the half-life, until you've reached the point of disgust with the ways things are for you, until you've woken up and know the difference between shit and shinola, until all you want is to get it right this time. And all of that means next to nothing unless you are willing to see it for what it is - a chance to get it right. Moreover, you have to take that chance or nothing changes for you. Nothing.

* * *

You've done it a thousand times, maybe more. I know I have. You have found yourself pinched and fucked and screwed and bottomed out. You have fucked up so many times that you've lost count or don't even want to consider it. I get that. And each time, as the consequences of your fuckitude unfurl like a dirty flag on a barren battlefield, you have said, "Enough of all this shit." Admit it. You have promised yourself that this time, this time it would be different. This time you finally got the message. This time you weren't ever going back no more.  You had your last drink. Your last cigarette. Your last hit. Your last excuse. Your last whatever the holy fuck has been eating at you. Done. Good to go. Fuck and you, baby. This is a new life starting right here.

How many times have you done that?

It never held, did it? Don't worry, man. We all go through it and we all go through it because we confuse acknowledging how fucked things are with actually taking the steps to unfuck it. Why? Because it takes all our will just to say its all fucked up. It takes everything we have to let that angel in. And it seems heroic. It seems like it should be enough. But the results don't lie. So, now what?

Here's what: you let go of what's right or wrong, of everything that comes to you in blue light. Let it all go, man. You have to figure this shit out for yourself. Can't get there with preconceived notions of how it get s done. Each of us has to craft an answer that works for ourselves. Baby, what worked for me cannot work for you. It can be similar. It can be in the same direction, but you are blessedly unique and the solutions must be as well. Broad balms of religiosity, creative endeavor, material wealth are the equivalent of using a broad-axe for brain surgery: yes, it will split you open, but kill you at the same time. Only you have the answers for how your life gets unfucked, and you have cycled back through this moment how ever many times because you lost the ability to trust yourself.

After all, you're the dude who's fucked up so many times. Right?

Bullshit. You're the dude who has kept trying to set it right. You're a fucking rockstar. Now get the job done. MOVE.

* * *

Knowledge without action is like a tit on a bull: useless.

Much is made of the idea of "flow," I have made much of it myself. But here's the deal, flow, the sense of right action, of being in the moment, of creating your life as it happens only happens when you take action, when you consistently choose to act (and not simply act for the sake of doing something) from the deepest well of your soul, your self, your purpose. This powerful sense of authority for your life cannot happen if you will not take the chance to change your response to the circumstances of your life. Brother, sister, you have no control over external elements in your life. None. But you do control how you engage with the stuff of your life. When you find you have cycled back to a point of disgust, of being sick and tired of being sick and tired of the way things are, you have a chance and a choice to choose differently. That angel in blue light can't get you there. She's but a sign that this is your chance, your time to get it right.

Now go. Nothing bad will happen.

Promise.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Friday, September 20, 2013

Let Everything Happen

Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and terror.
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.

- RM Rilke, "God Speaks"

* * *

I first read Rilke when I was in my mid-twenties. I'd found a copy of Stephen Mitchell's translation of Letter's to a Young Poet and knew I'd found a voice I needed to listen to. The intensity of his desire to form into words the things he'd come to know were a bulwark against my lethargy and his words drove me on: Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, The Astonishment of Origins. 

The trajectory of my life changes direction after seeing Wings of Desire - a retelling of the Duino Elegies and I work to find a way into the movie business. Once there more changes arrive: a wife, children, divorce, the wilderness and the words I leave behind here. It is safe to say that without Rilke there is no me.

* * *

The fucked life is a stuck life, a fearful life, a life of dread and worry and anger - all the emotions of a captive. We chafe at our chains believing we have been shackled by others, by circumstance and all there is for us to do is draw attention to the weight of our burdens, the sorrow of our plight.  We wear our fuckedness like a sack-cloth badge of honor. And time slips by and by and by the change we have so long resisted, believed we'd made to heel, overtakes us: dust to dust, over and out.

What the fuck are we thinking?

Here's a possibility: we have come to believe all feeling is final.

At any moment your life could be running in a greased groove, could be motoring along without a thought or care in your head, or could be diresome with loss, riddled with despair and when it falls off the tracks, when the terror comes along we freeze in the moment and so fuck ourselves just that much deeper. We fall in love with our pain, believe it to be complete, perfect in its own way and so we don't disturb it or challenge it or fight with it. Our various forms of failure become more desperate and so fail more desperately and there we find proof that nothing will change. This suffering is a permanent stain.  Sure, once in a while we rally, read a few holy words and set out ready for God to save us and when nothing changes we slip back into our hole and curse the God we never really believed in anyway.

Now go back a minute. All this unfolds because we have come to believe the moment we are living in - filled with all the worry, fear, anger and despair we feel - is the final statement on our lives. What arrogance! What unbridled self-serving, self-important bullshit!

No feeling is final. Knock it off.

Think for a minute, who and or what is served by staying fucked? No one, right? Wrong. Your ego and pride are stoked. Bearing false suffering is like all those 19th century generals with a chest full of medals they've given themselves for making other men die on their behalf. There is genuine suffering in this world, soul-searing suffering that can hardly be described except by those who survive it. Don't confuse your pain with another's. Don't draw equivalences. There are none. Each has to walk his own road. So walk yours.

Things change.

* * *

The few lines pulled from Rilke are enough to get started on, to play with, to consider. It may help draw you out of the place you're in. I hope so. Usually, when this bit of poetry is quoted the quote ends where I have ended it: No feeling is final. And if those four words soak into you, you will be changed and your life will start moving again. But there is another line that follows. It reads:

Don't let yourself lose me.

Rilke has imagined the poem in the voice of God, as the last bits of advice God has for us before sending us out into the world. The line - Don't let yourself lose me - can be read as God pleading that we remember our connection for his sake. But that belies Rilke's spirit. Rilke, in his imagined God's voice, is telling us who we are, to not lose ourselves as we undergo the seriousness of life.

Don't let yourself lose yourself - no matter your circumstance. Now is not forever. It will change. So will you. When you cling to any moment you fuck yourself. You have to let go in order to hold it, to be part of it. You are part of it. So go play for a while. Be home before it's dark. Supper will be waiting.

Promise.

* * *

Boom.

__________



Friday, September 13, 2013

The Second Element

The second element of true love is 
compassion, karuna. This is not only 
the desire to ease the pain of another 
person, but the ability to do so.

- Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

* * *

It is an easy thing to love another. I once dated a woman who complained of my love for her this way, "You have been in love too many times." It is an easy thing to love, to feel it in the marrow of your soul, to daydream about your beloved, to feel that love as a sign of your inherent goodness, your worthiness to be here. Love of your child, your spouse, your partner, the one you are with - all are signs of your humanity. Right on. Have at. But don't kid yourself - there 's more to it than that.

Love's not a noun, but a verb.

* * *

The basic requirement of love is to place another before you, to put their well-being, their needs ahead of your own. Viktor Frankl spoke of it as "a cause larger than yourself." But most of us fail this elemental test. What we profess as love is self-referential, about how we feel about ourselves as some one who says, "I love you." And it fucks you. It fails you. It sends you into the arms of another and another and another and another. It stupefies you in front of your children because you can't trade them in and that first rush of pride in their arrival is replaced by frustration as your children grow into who they are, formed in part by your half-love.

The problem is one of misunderstanding what love is and is not. The simplest way to think of it is this: love is active, never passive and it always moves from the inside out. Anything else is pleasure, not love, useless suffering, not love, ego and pride, not love. It is not enough to desire love, or wish to be good and loving. You have to have the chops to actually do it.

* * *

When my children arrived I thought myself a good man, a good father. I was, too. I read to them, held them, got on the ground and crawled with them. I cooked for them, bathed them, cleaned them and considered myself a good man, a man who did all those things. It was what I knew of love and it was mostly about me. This is not to damn my actions, but to point out we don't know what we don't know until the day comes and we learn something new. But once you come to know something you can never unknow it. Fatherhood and love became known to me at the nadir of both: divorce. An unhappy and toxic marriage found its bottom and the process of unraveling it all was moving down the well-worn paths of the courts. Fathers become ghosts seeing their kids 4 days a month and the kids forget who their fathers are. So it was for me. Clueless, I was pushed along on the dis-assembly line, accepting whatever was said because I didn't think I had a voice. And then the line stopped. I said, no.

What would have taken a few months and little money, became a long fight to keep my place with my children. At this point it was still about me, about how others perceived me, about how I perceived myself: I am the man who fought. Again, you don't know what you don't know. Each step along the way here was colored with fear and hubris until the day it wasn't.

My youngest has been storm-tossed her entire life. The divorce heightened that. The damage done to all my children was crystalized in her and it shattered her. Her hurt spread out in all directions adding pain to pain for my other children. It was her need that woke me. It was seeing how her hurt affected and magnified the losses for my other children that woke me to the basic truth of love: it is not enough to desire it, to say you feel it, to promise it - you must act on it. Love is not a noun but a verb. It is active, vital. It moves. It moves from the well of your soul through the things you say and do and travels into the world. This is the world you create, the one you live in.

* * *

What world have you created for yourself? If you have been unknowing, if you have been self-focused, you're probably fucked.  We fear letting go of our primacy because we don't know how our needs will be met and so we act to protect them. But here is another truth to awaken to: when you love another, a cause larger than yourself, when that love is active and you master the ability to give, to offer compassion, joy, kindness and freedom to another, all of your needs are met in the same moment. It sounds like a ridiculous koan - by giving you receive, but it isn't simply that you get yours, but your needs have changed, you have changed. No longer a noun, but a verb, you move and are sustained by the motion.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

* * *

Boom

__________