Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Protect Us From

Protect us from a foggy view! 
Medicine wheel remind us how we'll go through
While we're here on solid land, 
Let's grab a thread from every side from every side
Cause it takes each color we each hold 
To make that wheel that we'll design that we'll design
To make that wheel that we'll design that we'll design

- Lia Ices, "Medicine Wheel"

* * *

My eyes are weary. They burn in the mornings as I write. I have worn glasses for almost 30 years to correct for astigmatism, far-sightedness and a lazy-eyed crossing. My eyes play tricks on me - seeing mirages, missing the obvious, watching heat shimmer, blinded by snow - completely gullible and prone to misreading the signs. My eyes suck.

Yet, I still see and that is something.
That is something.

In a mystery too profound to describe, light enters my body, waves and particles crashing into the rods and cones studding the back of my eyes, flooding them, overwhelming them with that part of the spectrum we can manage, and so I see.

Oh, protect us from a foggy view!

* * *

What do we know? This, too, is simply that part of the spectrum we can manage. There are depths and furthest edges we cannot conceive of, let alone know. Yet, we still try, no? There are 12 steps and courses in miracles and yogis and gurus and hustlers and con men all selling a stripe of snake oil promising access to the secret and all you've done is given them access to your wallet, your fears, your fervent hope. Monks and mystics go their solitary way trying, by force of will and submission, to touch their god and it is all fogged up.

The problem is this: by presuming there is a separation between yourself and life, between yourself and your Self, between your body and your soul, between the universe and you, between the God you pray to and the prayers you send then there is a separation and that presumption sets you off on a road that brings you the results you are living. The first step is wrong and so every step is wrong thereafter. The toils and snares of the journey are simply reminders we're looking at it through the fog of our pride, hubris, false humility, fear and anger.

Oh, protect us from a foggy view!

Each time you hit a wall, each time you fall, each time you get stuck and fucked and going nowhere, this this this this this is the pulse of the life inside you (which is the correlate of the life surrounding you) calling you out of the miasma of your dolor and giving you a chance to see it and say it so someone else can see it.

We're here on solid land for just a while, just a little while. It is not a punishment, but an adventure, a gift, a chance to have the experience of having experiences, the chance to see and having seen know there is no out there out there, but it is you, held in you, released by you, part and whole the same. It sounds like a load of crap, mumbo-jumbo, an endless circling of the airport, but listen, does water have a form? None. Not a bit except for the bank of the river, the edge of a shore, the glass in your hand. You are the shore. You define the course of your life by the things you think, say and do, by the things you believe. If you believe God is other than you, outside of you, beyond you, then you spend your days yearning, unrequited, always in the gap. If you believe God pulses in your veins then you experience quite a different life.

The fucked life is the life in the gap.

Do you see it?

* * *

We know forever never ends. It never ends because it is always happening right now. This is it. This is your moment, your endless, eternal moment to live the life in your veins, in your brain, in your belly, in your gut. You get to color it as you will. The life you live is yours to design as you will. Never listen to or believe any hustler with a holy book, or a holy grail or a holy guacamole. You got this. You know it already. It is in you, the gift of stars and atoms, of the light that enters your body. If you can get here, if you can get past all the various versions of "Thou Shalt" and instead live from the essential fact that you belong here, now, and have something to give, to do, to experience other than feel disconnected, then its like a thousand person chorus singing right behind you.

Get here and you are no longer the shore, but the stream itself.

* * *

Oh, protect us from a foggy view!

* * *

Boom, my best beloveds. Boom.

__________


Friday, August 23, 2013

Oh Happy Soul

Oh, happy soul. Oh, happy meat. Oh, happy Rabo Karabekian.

- Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

* * *

Kurt Vonnegut was the first writer I read who clued me in on how writing was a subversive act. He was the first author I had to read everything of. Under the noses of my parents, on birthdays and holidays, when they asked what gifts I wanted the answer was always the same: books, Kurt Vonnegut's books. He was giddy and morose at the same time. Anger rippled in the words, too. But it was his decency, his gentleness in the face of the horror we'd created in our society (war, prejudice, economic cruelty) that gave me hope. He knew from horror. He laughed anyway. He made me want to write so I could be angry and decent and giddy and gentle and morose. Just like he was.

* * *

The fucked believed their fuckedness is like a wine stain birthmark: indelible, permanent, visible to strangers on the street. It is a measure of how fucked we can get to think this is so. We think this because we conflate the moment to eternity; we assume now is forever and so cannot see the road ahead. It is the height of our arrogance to think in this manner, to live in this manner, to presume that we can stand outside of time, outside of relentless change and hold our lives still because we hurt or don't know what to do or are afraid to do it or because we like the way we look as a martyr or whatever the holy fucking lie we tell ourselves.

But change comes regardless of your assent. Your body breaks down just a fraction more each day. You may not notice it and then you suddenly will and then you'll be even more fucked because you thought now was forever.

The sins of the fucked are self-inflicted because it is all self-referential. You, oh high in the art of suffering one, you are stunned to silence and inaction because you thought life, your life would be different than the one you are living, that it would somehow work out better than it has. You are here, dear fucked brother, dear fucked sister, because somewhere along the line you severed the line between your thoughts and your actions. What you dreamed of you did not do. Fear, circumstance, the unique inequities and pieties of your life stopped you, split you in two.

In Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount, a young viscount is split in two by a cannon ball, both halves surviving and leading very different lives. One is good, the other bad. Neither are loved by those they encounter. The bad one for obvious reasons, but the endless goodness of the other makes people uncomfortable as well. A duel between the two leaves both mortally wounded until they are sewn back together and the man is made whole. It doesn't take a cannon ball to break one down. When your fear and unhappiness with your life is all that you've got you are torn asunder: denying your goodness and seeing only your faults.

Snap out of it.

* * *

Riddle me this: where is your soul? Does your body contain it, or is it thought only? If it is thought only, where are your thoughts born? Your brain? What is consciousness? Is there a part of our brains that lie to us to give us the soothing thought of a God, or did God manage our biology so we could have a chance at knowing something bigger than ourselves?

I don't fucking know. What I do know is this - when you act as if you don't have a soul, then you don't. When you believe now is forever, then it is. When you deny the gifts of your anger and seek only to be good or kind, you are less than you are. When you lose the connection between your thought and your deeds, between your soul and the body you get to use for now, you are dead where you stand. What animates life is not goodness, or righteousness, or ethereal wisps of soul, but the marriage of heaven and hell, of the blood flowing into and out of your heart - both physical and metaphorical. It is exchange. Your body needs your soul. Your soul needs your body. Your life needs you to live it. Take the fucking tools at hand and build something. Do not worry about the tools you don't have, or the body you wished you had, or the thoughts you think you should have. You have everything you need RIGHT NOW.

* * *

In Bluebeard, Rabo Karabekian finally does something, finally says something, finally sews himself together. The last lines of the book are: "Oh, happy soul. Oh, happy meat. Oh, happy Rabo Karabekian."

Isn't it time to make like Rabo?

* * *

It's not too late. Promise.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Dog Scatters

The dog scatters her body in sleep,
paws, finding no ground, whip at air, 
the unseen eyeballs reel deep, within.
And waking––crouches,
tacked to humility all day,
children ride her, stretch,
display the black purple lips,
pull hind legs to dance;
unaware that she
tore bulls apart, loosed 
heads of partridges,
dreamt blood.

- Michael Ondaatje, Biography

* * *

Where truth and fact merge there lies poetry.

* * *

I found myself telling a rather lame story of myself to my beloved nephew. It was the story of the distance been my words and my deeds, of the ratio of the time I spend being myself and the time spent at labor for others, of the ideas unrealized versus those who made it to shore. It is this synapse, this gap, this empty space where we can either toss in fear and doubt, or something made of better stuff. There is no one who does not have to address or cross or somehow deal with this distance. You fuck yourself if you ignore it, or if you believe the distance cannot be closed. What gnaws is the realization that the distance grows larger with inaction, but the larger the gap the less likely you are to venture it and so on.

The answer is not found in the distance you have to cover, but the strength in your metaphoric legs to risk the jump.

* * *

Whither strength? What are its sources? Where the well?

Strength is where truth and fact merge.

There is a truth known only to you. A truth so deep, so pervasive it is cellular, atomic, sub-atomic for christssake. It is written in blood, but you have forgotten it, discarded it, denied it all for the sake of going along to get along, for the promise of love, the gift of a job, a home you could call your own. It gets so far gone that you have convinced yourself this shadow life is the one you always wanted. Like Ondaatje's dog, you are ridden, danced along, made to bear humiliations and taught to like them. You suffer it because there are rewards for doing so and those rewards are the sum of living the life you have.

But there's this truth that does not die, does not disappear because it is inconvenient for you to be reminded of it. It is tattooed in your DNA, your RNA, your PDQ, in the stars and in your dreams. It is the essential animating force of life inside your life. You can run from it. You can die never acknowledging it, but godddamn, it is there and it always will be.

Strength, the necessary strength to carry on, to take another step, to coil for that leap, arrives when this truth meets the facts of your life as they are, in this moment, right the fuck now. You see, that truth is always strong enough to meet the facts of your life. No lie. It mystifies others who have yet to let the two touch, but you, you get it.

You see, you can tear bulls apart, loose heads from partridges, dream blood, for that is who you are. The dog and pony show is just that, a show, and dude, you don't have to do it no more.

* * *

Listen, listen, listen, Ondaatje's dog knows itself when it dreams. Awake she is tacked to her circumstance. The difference between you and that dog is that you can change your circumstance, or at least change your response to it, which in turn changes it and so on. The distance between your self and your life is the distance between your truth and your facts, the distance between strength and poetry, between dreaming and doing.

Enough of being ridden by fear and doubt and circumstance.

Reel.
Whip.
Tear.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

'Cause I Don't


 

'Cause I don't understand these people
Sayin' the hill's too steep
Well, they talk and talk forever
But they'll just never climb

- The Frames, "Star Star"

* * *

I talk too much. It is the worst of me. I talk too much because I am good at it. I string words along like melodies and it can sound so good, and it can be good, but I talk too much and it is no good for me. There's a small signal fire in my brain that warns I've veered off the path of doing and fallen into the trap of talking. I think writers can be afflicted worse than others because we don't live with things, but with words, the sounds of words, plain, ordinary, dumb as dirt words and we test out ways to make them shine. We talk. I talk. And all too much.

* * *

Here's the answer to the riddle: do. In order to be, do. Unfuck yourself by doing rather than talking about doing and if your doing is talking, then have at it, but nothing in this world matters except for the experience of doing something with the time you have. When we are wounded - and make no mistake you will be wounded -  the obvious answer is to blame the one(s) who've hurt us for the paltriness of our lives. We freeze in the moment and can only see our hurt, our betrayal, our shitty start, the inequity of circumstance. But it is all wretch and no vomit. We remain stuck in the unique misery of that moment, never really moving past it, keeping the wound fresh because it is through that wounding we have an identity: victim. And to anyone within earshot we'll talk and talk about how steep the hill is.

You know you've done it. I know I have.

Now let go of it. It doesn't serve you well.

Of course, you and I, we can't help but talk of the trials we encounter. It is wildly healthy to do so. It can provide some perspective and a foot up the ass to get going. The real crisis occurs when we stay there - cenobitic in our devotion to our pain. If talk does not lead to action it is sound and fury signifying nothing, a tale told by an idiot and you know it in the heartroot deep of your core. You see, we all have these signal fires, annoying pricks of conscience, red flags and alarms that go off when we take ourselves away from the vital living of our lives. Call it what you like - soul, spirit, God, self - it doesn't matter. What matters is that you must answer its call. Our lives are but brief candles. Will you burn yours out waiting for a brighter light, a more handsome wick, less smoke, more heat? The circumstances of your life are as they are. It is your response to those circumstances that matters. It is what you do with the facts of your life that define you. It is in the doing that your life catches hold of its meaning.

Talking about the hill won't climb it, and the only reason the hill is there is for you to climb.

* * *

Keep this in mind: you are it. You are the answer. You always have been. You always will be.  If you act out of the deepest well of your soul you will climb this hill. You will learn and experience all you need to make the climb.  And then there will be another hill beyond that and you'll have to figure out how to climb that one. Each moment of your life is a different hill, a different chance to become who you are in the deep down heart of it all.  Don't look to be done with your climbing. Mastery is not the cessation of work, but the love of it.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Saturday, August 10, 2013

60 Revolutions Per


60 revolutions per minute
this is my regular speed
So how do you want me to live with it?
How do you want me to live with it?
Without ringing all alarms!
Without overthrowing czars!
Without emptying the bars!
Without screwing with your charts!


Gogol Bordello, "60 Revolutions"

* * *

Time is a motherfucker. Except when it's not. Except that it is, you know? We live like it's dog-days all the time: still, empty, too hot to sleep and time is running away. We are privileged with boredom and ennui - the tell-tale signs of a people disconnected from their source, their underground spring, their very selves. These are first world problems of "What's it all about, Alfie?"

Fuck that.

We, the fucked, are fucked because we try and tack on meaning to our lives while experiencing nothing but the attempt to tack on meaning to our lives while experiencing nothing but the attempt to tack on meaning to our lives while experiencing nothing. To be clear, you needn't become a member in a gypsy punk band to experience your life. But you do need to do something so you know what it is to be alive.

* * *

My youngest child has had a rough start in this world. She was born with drugs coursing through her fetal veins, abandoned, rescued, builded up and it still comes out wrong. Processing emotions and making decisions are brutal on her and the rest of us. It is a rough start - unfair, unjust, unnecessary - but it fucking IS and that is where we need to start, where she needs to start each day. What passes for easy understanding for you and I is a profound and frightening mystery for her. It sucks, but I tell her she is perfect nonetheless because this is her life, her chance and if it has been filled with traps and snares she is wholly innocent of, then that is simply her life. There can be no excuses for there is always another who has had it harder, faced more harrowing challenges. If you breathe, then you cannot make an excuse - regardless of your circumstance - because what matters is how you respond to the life you have. The one you didn't get is worthless.

Revolution is internal. Help yourself at any time.

There are lives of twisted misery, genetic mishaps, lives made miserable by tribal hatreds and prejudice, pig-fucked lives of ignorance, avarice and venality. The world is rich with waste and stupidity. And you, my beloved fartlet, are part and parcel of this world.  

So how do you want me to live with it?
How do you want me to live with it?
Without ringing all alarms!
Without overthrowing czars!
Without emptying the bars!
Without screwing with your charts!


There is more misery than you can fix. There is more injustice than can be named. There is more wrong than right in the makings of men, yet you must live out the fullness of your name or waste the chance you had to experience the life you got. If life is meat only - no soul, then have at it with a machete. There is no music. There is no love. There is no kindness.

But music does exist. Love and kindness attend our days if we simply open our eyes. Drain this glass. Empty the kegs. Dance at 60 revolutions per minute. Make this your regular speed. What are you saving your energy for? The life you didn't get is worthless.

* * *

My daughter is perfect as she stands. She is perfect not because she is without fault or trouble or trial. No, she's got that covered. But she is perfect because this is her life and her challenges are simply hers and she will come to know her life through those challenges, by avoiding or addressing those hurdles. Life will play out. Her purpose, like anyone else's, is to find out what she can find out about living the life she has. The only way to do that is to experience it now. Right the fuck now.

* * *

60 revolutions per minute. Boom.

__________

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We The Endlessly

We, the endlessly dared - how far we have come!
And only taciturn Death can know what we are
and how he must always profit when he lends us time.

- RM Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, XXIV

* * *

Do you believe it? Do you believe you are among the endlessly dared? It is a cold, sharp intake of air to consider -  painful to have not seen it sooner - but its truth is evident in that soul-gasp, the birth-cry of your waking.

Take a minute. Look, you'll see it is true. I dare you. I triple-dog dare you.

* * *

A hundred years ago I was told by a good and kind man, a monk, a Cistercian, that every moment of every day I was being called into my name, that I was being given opportunity after opportunity, a Fibonacci cascade of opportunities, dares to be who and what I was. Such was the nature of God's love. Moreover, I was not unique in this, but this was the way of all human life - to be called into the fullest expression of the life we had in our hands. It was always thus. It was always now.

I did not believe him. The disconnect between who I was in that moment and who I might yet be was too large a chasm to see across. No doubt my friend knew that, but he laid that marker down for me, passed along a portion of what he knew and for 100 years those words have rung in my head. Now they are yours.

Is this not the central challenge of our lives - to know our names, to be our name, to embrace the unique challenge of being in this time and this place with our one name, to love the fate of being named so?

* * *

This whole thing, this ball of wax, this life we squander is a dare to find out what is there for us. The externals are the easy part, the obvious and present circumstance that can dictate so much of our lives. But the dare that lies at the heart of your experience is this: will you determine your thoughts, words and deeds, or will another? Will you choose how you will live, or will others? Will you take hold of your fate and wring all you can out of it, or will you succumb to the lie that says no one gets out of here alive, what's the point?

Orpheus is torn to shreds. His head and lyre, floating on open waters, still singing of his love for Eurydice. You needn't be a Greek myth to understand the completeness of such a story and how a story like that can inform and gird the life you have in your hands. Look, just look around you. The world you occupy is littered with clues, with opportunities for you to unfuck your life. Fear has twisted you into half a human living an awful half-life. The primal fear is our death, but what if we could see it differently? Instead of fearing the end (and so never daring to live in case we could extend our days not being fully alive), what if Rilke is right? What if it is Death, taciturn Death who lends us our time, sends us out into our lives to see what we do with it?

We, the endlessly dared - how far we have come!

Look at what you have accomplished while you have walked in your sleep! Now imagine your life fully awake. I dare you. Do you think love is without pain, or loss without gifts? Go test your ideas about life against life and allow yourself to be changed by the experience of life. The meaning of life is to experience it, to trace your highest thought, your deepest love in the experience of being your name. Anything that is not your highest thought, not your deepest love is the abnegation of the chance you've been given to find out what you can find out.

What does death matter when you have the chance, right now, in your very hands, to live?

My friend, Father Damien, would tell you God is calling you into your name. I will tell you he is daring you to be your name. Six of one. Half dozen of another. Call it what you will. Clothe it any way you like. If Orpheus still sings then you can, too.

* * *

Boom.

__________


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Word That

The word that I feel,
Feel it all
Yes, I can feel
Feel it all

- KT Tunstall, "Feel It All"

* * *

There's this truth among the fucked, a truth so compelling, so present, that it is never in doubt. The lives of the fucked are builded, stone by stone, around this truth. It does not glimmer. It sheds no light, but it is magnetic and soothing and powerful.  This truth reconciles the fucked to their fucked lives. It says: there is a limit to what can be done by any one of you. Take the job. Pay your bills. Get in line. You won't be overly happy, but you won't be overly disappointed either. Play to not lose. In return, you'll get a new car every five years.

This is a powerful truth, especially when the rent is due.

It is also a lie.

* * *

Riddle me this, are you going to die? If so, what are you doing with your brief time? What is the point of living longer if the life you lead is reduced to a grey porridge of playing not to lose? Listen, bubbe, you are going to lose. Your dirt nap awaits. Do you think playing it safe will make you any less dead? You are a dead man walking. Why not see what can be done in the interim? What do you fear more, life or death? The question I have for you is this: why fear either?

* * *

If you have read any of these other posts you know I believe that we create meaning in our lives. There is no meaning built into it. We create it. The wheels come off when we let others decide what that meaning is - even well intentioned others will fuck you up. I have looked to words as the source of the meaning in my life. The tapping out of letters on this keyboard the rhythm of my days. And it has served me well to think it is so, to live in this manner. I have no riches except for the effort of showing up and putting my two cents in. But I have learned this: you don't know what you don't know until something changes. And something has changed, something has been added that wasn't there before. It is this: the experience of being alive is all we have. Out of the infinite multiplicities of possible lives, there is but this one life for you to live. How you experience it is solely up to you. Circumstances are not definitive. You fuck your life when you cede your experience to circumstance, to external forces. You unfuck your life when you decide how to live your experience.

This does not mean you must become a cliff-jumper or a physical daredevil of any sort in order to experience being alive. What it means is that you must be conscious of being alive this very instant and feel it all, the pulse of all that is, that has been, that may yet be. You can be rich or poor. You can explore the world, or just your apartment. It doesn't matter what form your experience takes, only that you are alive to it.

The great RL Stevenson wrote:

"You lean from your window, your last pipe reeking whitely into the darkness, your body full of delicious pains, your mind enthroned in the seventh circle of content; when suddenly the mood changes, the weather-cock goes about, and you ask yourself one question more: whether for the interval, you have been the wisest philosopher or the most egregious of donkeys? Human experience is not yet able to reply; but at least you have had a fine moment, and looked down upon the kingdoms of earth. And whether it was wise or foolish, to-morrow's travel will carry you, body and mind, into some different parish of the infinite."

Worry less about being right or wrong, foolish or upright. Live out loud, by whatever means you and your imagination have, and feel it all. Caretake this moment. It is all you will ever have.

* * *

Promise.

__________