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.
* * *
Monday, October 28, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
- 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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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?
* * *
Sunday, October 20, 2013
- 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
- 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.
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.
* * *
Saturday, October 12, 2013
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
All I got to say my friend
- 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.
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.
* * *
* * *
For MJP. May your God bless you, brother.
Monday, October 7, 2013
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.
* * *
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
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.
* * *
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?
* * *