Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Things Take The

Things take the time they take. Don't
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
   before he became St. Augustine?

- Mary Oliver, "Don't Worry"

* * *

Let's be clear: life is a ceaseless event horizon, an ever cresting wave of opportunities to know what it was like to be alive. Our job is not to corral it, dice it up and make it manageable - to say I'll have only the pleasant and easy, the downhill glide, but to engage it as it comes, to take it all in. There is a great danger in doing so: you learn to fall, to fail, to try again as ceaselessly as the wave coming to you but that that is more exhilarating, more worthy of being called life than the settled mind and being content with half a loaf.

If it takes the whole of your life to know who you are then so be it. There is no promise of ease or peace, only the struggle to find your feet, to know your name, to use the days you have to become what you might yet be.

It is by our works, our doings that we arrive.

Augustine traveled long before he became Augustine. It strikes me that Mary Oliver found her road sooner, but no matter: they both had to walk them.

* * *

There is an ugly strain of privilege that runs through a lot of the writing on "following your bliss," "finding your passion," and the like. It is an exceedingly first-world perspective and one I consciously try to undo here. So much of that conversation is about money, the economics of being happy in a capitalist society that it really is only about finding a way to climb on top of others to get a bit of air. It says: take your passion and monetize it. That somehow is equated with freedom or individuation.

Nothing is further from the truth.

It keeps you in line, in place, supporting institutions and societal propositions that exist to keep you in place.

If you have to go looking for your passion you're more fucked than you know.
If you think bliss can be found in a bank you're as fucked as they come.

The roads we are to walk are unique to the time, place and circumstances we are born into. We are innocent of those circumstances until we begin to support them by subjugating our sense of the possible and then do as we're told. You may not be able to leave the difficult job you have, you may not be able to find work, you're physical freedom may be hemmed in on all sides, you may have suffered violence and tragedy, you may be gagging on a silver spoon: no matter. None of that relieves you of the obligation, the one true privilege each of us born with: the chance to know and experience the life in our hands.

To do that, you will have to hit the metaphoric road over and over again. You will have to learn and then shed your learning and then learn again - for yourself - what it means to be alive. It is, ultimately, a journey to find your voice and to then use it regardless of outcomes.

Maybe we've all got our missions 
And they're doled out like seeds unto the ground
You gotta job, you've got a duty to make your sound 
The same if they're waiting for you,
The same if there's no one around

There's no mention of money here, no promise of ease, no qualities of having made it. Just the call to make your sound, that being reward enough, reward complete, the whole reason for hitting the road.

* * *

And don't worry. St. Augustine didn't start where he wound up. Neither did Mary Oliver. Neither will you. The only question that remains is will you stay the road until you find out who you are, what your voice sounds like and will you then use it. 

Anything less is just getting in line.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Went On

I went on first dates with no thought of a second. Anyone was up for consideration: an architect, a reporter just back from Iraq, a temp worker who collected furniture to sell on eBay. The temp and I got along pretty well: we both liked jazz and expensive whiskey and thinking about ourselves. While I sat on one of four soon-to-be-sold couches in his living room, he looked at me over his drink and said, "I don't usually live this way." I burst out laughing. He couldn't have explained my life any better.

- Felicia Schneiderhan, Newlyweds Afloat

* * *

The way we live becomes the life we live, becomes the thing we are. This happens in spite of our best intentions and our worst fears.  It happens through the slow accrual of the decisions we make day in and out about the smallest of things and the often unconsidered arc of our lives. To answer the question, "Where am I going?" you need only look at the steps you've taken. The very thingness of living, its tactile presence, the demands of our bodies to be fed, to rest, to be touched, to be hydrated and back 'round again keeps us tethered to the rhythms of 24 hours. The very otherness of living, its felt presence, the desires of our consciousness to know and be known, to be loved, to dream, to find communion and meaning is the long arc, the pattern revealed only after we're here no more. 

Our otherness is achieved through our actions. You can wear a hole in a prayer rug, philosophize with the grey beards, intend for kindness and greatness, but it is what you do that reveals the faith and philosophy you are actually living by.

I don't usually live this way is the disconnect that fucks us.

* * *

Take a minute and look around you right now. Look at the table you've set. Look at the things you have populated your life with. Look at how you are living - as it is right now. I look in front of me and I see a a dark blue multi-media painting my son made using a ceiling panel. Next to it is a gift from my daughter - a framed poster of a few lines from Friday Night Lights: "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose." There are three journals, unopened mail, a metal box in green and red that was my father's Boy Scouts' First Aid Kit from the 1930's. I have a cigar box from a beloved family friend that was sent to me by his family after he died so I might keep him a bit closer in my memory. Also on this desk is some metal work my son has been working on. There is a now empty coffee cup, an empty bottle of blood orange soda and a bowl of bones from the ribs I ate at midnight after I got home from my second job two days ago - shit, two days. There are also six legal pads and dozens of torn out yellow sheets of paper littering the desk like fallen leaves: the detritus of my day job. This computer sits on the only clear space on this desk.

Is this the way I want to be living? I would gladly take the judgment on the art and journals and first aid kit and the cigar box. Hell, I'm down with the bones on my desk, but the legal pads and the unopened mail and the empty coffee cup trouble me.

I work at work that does not suit me, that does not come close to aligning with my temperament, my values. But it allows me to provide a place where my children make art and watch Friday Night Lights among other things that do make sense to me. 

I don't usually live this way is not true. This is exactly how I live and if that is the case, then the bones and mail and the shitty job and the kids and the journals and memories of two of the best men I have ever known are my responsibility.

Look around you, friend. What are you responsible for?

You own all of it. If there's something you don't like, that is evidence you have wandered far from your intentions and desires, then who is there to change it except you?

* * *

To read Newlyweds Afloat is to bear witness to the changes that an honest love can bring. The arc of their story is the arc of all lives: from stumbling to know love, to being held in the maw of it and to the shedding of old skins so that something new could arrive is an ancient story and one we participate in each day.  Doubt, misfortune, near tragedy, humor, resilience - it's the whole ball of wax, you see. It is a description of how two people once lived and then how they changed so they could live closer to the bone. 

Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace both believed that books helped us feel less alone in the world, that their primary function was one of companionship. It is easy, too easy, to slide away from the adventure we'd hoped to have on this go-round. Dreams and intentions shift, fall short or don't quite make it to fruition, or a tragedy befalls us and the dream we had can be no more. We can find ourselves adrift believing we were docked. It is tough. But books can change you - not by any overt message they may bring - but by the very fact of their existence. Some human being sat down and wrote out their story, took the time to sweat the story and conjured out of mere thought a reality that did not exist before. And when you finish the job by reading what they wrote you are joined to them, to that cause of making sense and being changed.

You being fucked is an illusion, a lie you are telling yourself because you always have the option to change, to change your response to the circumstances you find yourself in. Always.

Look around you again: what can you do without, what feeds you? 

Those choices are how you live.

* * * 

PS: The boat the newlyweds live on is called the Mazurka: a fast-paced dance. Let that be analogy enough.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Needs A

It needs a more refined perception to recognize throughout this stupendous wealth of varying shapes and forms the principle of stability. Yet this principle dominates. It dominates by means of an ever-recurring cycle . . . repeating itself silently and ceaselessly . . . This cycle is constituted of the successive and repeated processes of birth, growth, maturity, death and decay.
   An eastern religion calls this cycle the Wheel of Life and no better name can be given to it. The revolutions of the Wheel never falter and are perfect. Death supersedes life and life rises again from what is dead and decayed.

- Sir Albert Howard, The Soil and Health (1945)

* * *

We need a more refined perception, too.

* * *

Wendell Berry is 80 years old. In the not distant future he will die: the body only lasts so long. I have, unknowingly, used his presence in the world as a sort of ballast to keep myself steady. Here was a poet of soil, a mad farmer, a man who wrote "in defense of precious things and in giving thanks for those precious things." If you've read him you know those precious things are the dead gone before him, his wife, his children and his friends and what ties them together is the land he farms.

His book, The Wheel, opens with the quote from Sir Albert Howard - the first Westerner to give voice to the need for conservancy of the land through organic agriculture. I have been steadied by this slim volume of poetry for over 30 years.


My gentle hill, I rest
beside you in the dark
in a place warmed by my body,
where by ardor, grace, work,
and loss, I belong.

That fucking slays me everytime.

But this isn't about my taste in poetry. It is about something Berry and Howard write about that at first glance has very little to do with unfucking a fucked life, but bear with me a minute.

* * *

Perhaps, at this late hour, it is already passe to recognize the stability Howard speaks of as it relates to the environment. We know, ad nauseum,  all about rotting leaves and the great big wheel of life that spins and takes us all into its maw and shits out what comes next. We get that. We don't like it when it comes to the particular event of our turn to get plowed under, but we know it and either accept it or try to resist it for as long as possible. But know it we do.

What may be missing from our perception, the refinement required, is to see the same processes not only in the organics of having a body that will one day come to a full stop, but also in the spirit of having a soul, a consciousness, the fire in your belly, the ache in your heart: the very youness of you.

We easily attribute the cyclical processes of birth, growth, death and decay to the world around us, but hardly consider the possibility that as above, so below: we are, in ourselves, ever becoming, ever maturing and dying to what no longer sustains us. Think, are you the same today as you were ten years ago? Ten days ago? Have all of your current beliefs been there from the start or have they changed and evolved over time, dropping off entire hunks of understanding you once could not imagine doing without? 


Here's the critical difference between you becoming you, between you unfucking your life and the organics of soil: your journey is not just one cycle, but an ever recurring, repeating cycle of opportunities to become what you are within the span of your one organic life. The natural world lives and dies and a new form rises up out of the physicalness of life. Your soul, your name, your spirit is not organic, is not made of clay and so can pass through these processes as many times as you need, as you can bear, as you dare. 

Certain Christian sects speak of being born again in Christ. They are redeemed of their transgressions in the discovery of their ardent faith. Right on. But it generally stops there. The answer is in hand so no need to look further. But what if that is not you? What if the answers you find are somehow incomplete, that the faith you see in others somehow eludes you? What if certainty isn't part of you? I'd argue that comparing your life to any other is why you feel fucked and stuck and going nowhere. You look around you and you see others who proclaim their certainty in the god of their faith, the money in their pocket, the congressman they own and it baffles you, leaves you cold, hungry, lost. You try and it doesn't stick and the progress you've made reshaping your life slows to a crawl.

To borrow another term from farming, these periods of having nothing to hold onto, of faithlessness, of being fucked, are the fallow seasons of your soul. Nothing seems to be working, yet if you can still manage to put one foot in front of the other you do reach the end of it and your life takes hold again. The great error is believing that what is fallow is permanent. You will cycle through faith and fallow and emerge changed and you will change again. Your body will age and slow down. You will die: the body only lasts so long, but the spirit of your struggle will always be refreshed while you draw breath and if your spirit is large enough, brave enough to not be certain, to not compare itself to any other but to be glad of its own processes then the work of your days will be illuminated by it and that light will be left for others to find their way.

I promise.

* * *

The opening out and out,
body yielding body:
the breaking
through which the new
comes, perching
above its shadow
on the piling up
darkened broken old
husks of itself:
bud opening to flower
opening to fruit opening
to the sweet marrow
of the seed -
from what was, from
what could have been,
What is left 
is what is.

- Wendell Berry, "The Broken Ground"


Sunday, October 18, 2015

What Is It

What is it inside our heads
That makes us do the opposite
Makes us do the opposite 
Of what's right for us
'Cause everything'd be great
And everything'd be good
If everybody gave like everybody could

- My Morning Jacket , "Librarian"

* * *

The beginning of all wisdom is the realization that you could have been kinder, could have extended yourself further than you did, that you could have helped another to feel less alone instead of isolating yourself from that possibility because you were afraid to be rejected or came to the fearborn conclusion  that what you had to give was too small, not enough, flawed. 

I know. 
I know.

It is a pernicious lie we tell ourselves because it protects us from ever letting the world in, the strange, savage and beautiful world of which we are part, of which we create by the things we say and do or don't say and do. If it scares you, my love, can you imagine how it is for your children, your friends, your co-workers, the people you'll never know but hear about from time to time on the evening news? If you are scared you have to consider the possibility that others are too, and knowing this, how can you not set aside a portion of your fear to help them? Bodhisattvas are simply those who extend themselves past their fears to ease the fears of those they encounter. Kindness is their only tool.

But you are no bodhisattva, right? That's a high bar.

Not really. The bar is level set to your willingness to give as you can. By doing what you can as you can,  by setting aside the fear that limits you you become more generous, gentle and strong.

Such is the beginning of wisdom.

* * *

But wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none can come to buy and you are but one in the midst of many and coral reefs are dying and Hungary has closed its borders and the ghost of George Wallace hangs over Alabama and everywhere you look there is injustice, a plague of stupidity and craven cynicism. You are just one in the many and it seems better to withdraw, protect, lay low, be quiet, try not to be noticed. And that, right there, is the best definition of a fucked life I've ever stumbled upon.

Fear tells you your agency is puny, insignificant. It counsels silence, getting in line and letting each care for themselves. In this regard fear is Republican. It demonizes the other and says not, "There but for the grace of God go I," but rather, that fucker put me here.

You've got to get strange in order to find the beautiful.
You've got to give as you can in order to get to strange.

There is nothing stranger in this world than a life come alive to the sadness of how we live, to the sadness we heap upon our lives and reaching out a hand anyway to ease the burden of someone else's sadness. It is the beginning of kindness to know sadness and not be stopped by it, to recognize it in another and so recognize it in yourself.

* * *

And I said let grief be a falling leaf.

* * *

We come and go, like the women speaking of Michaelangelo, and to waste a moment being afraid is to put a keeper on what you might have become, what you might still be. The fact that you once hesitated to be generous, that you didn't know how to be kind, does not preclude you from doing so now. Fear is what's inside our head. Fear is what makes us do the opposite of what is right for us. And we are afraid because we misunderstand the basic premise of our lives, and we misunderstand it because it is what was taught to our parents, accepted by society, institutionalized to organize our doings: heaven awaits elsewhere.

That's a self-soothing lie, and it makes us small. 
Heaven's here, love. Act accordingly.

Simple little beauty, heaven in your breath
Simplest of pleasures, the world at its best


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It Is Hard

It is hard to live in the world
And hard to live out of it
It is hard to be one among many

- Dhammapada, "Out of the Forest"

* * *

It is always hard to know, to really know what to do. Those who squawk with certitude are the first to be ignored because they ignore this maddening truth: it is hard to be one among many. We move through the world as we find it, as it finds us, with a longing to belong, to know our way, to be at home in this wildly strange, savage and beautiful place. We long for certitude because of its strangeness and its savagery and our smallness in the face of tides and seasons and animal migrations and death, always death, as seen in rotting leaves and felled trees and these images from the natural world are echoed and replicated in our bodies and, fuck, we just want to know everything will just work out. We want to know that our oneness among many has not been for nought. We want it to matter.

But it is hard to live in the world
And hard to live out of it.

So, what's a soul to do?

I don't really know, but I think it has something to do with letting the strange and the savage and the beautiful in, to find what is strange and savage and beautiful in yourself so you can see it in the world around you.

Savage is a difficult word here. It smacks of violence and racism because, well, if it wasn't European it was savage (just as all non-Greeks were barbarians). But that is not how I am using that word here. A closer definition would be: vital, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, unbridled, physically present, intuitive, pulsed not only to the rhythms of its blood, but to tides and seasons and animal migrations, and, yes, to its death.

* * *

Fear makes us small, makes us cruel, ungenerous, warring. We fear because it is hard to live in the world and hard to live out of it. And so we scramble after promises and encamp ourselves in opposition to all the other promises, because the unavoidable truth is that there will always be a cacophony of voices proclaiming their flavor of the truth and each will draw its adherents out of the promise to end fear.

This is the civilizing of the strange and savage and beautiful and the Arch of Triumph at Palmyra survived 2000 years of bloodshed and indifference only to be toppled by certainty.

It is hard to be one among many, but not impossible. In fact, it is the very threshold to what is strange and savage and beautiful in your life.

Each must answer for himself how to undergo, how to experience the days they have to live. Each is born into a worldview that is handed to them, shoved down their throats, or abandoned to indifference: each begins somewhere and must use it as their starting place regardless of the circumstance for you are wholly innocent of where you began. Your responsibility lies in where you go.

You may opt for the promises made by institutions.
You may opt for your own.
You may opt for none.

That's what's so hard about living in the world: how do you make sense of it, organize it in order to make sense of it?

What if we're not to make sense of it? What if, instead, we are to experience it: directly, without a filter, taking in as much as our senses can bear, as much as our spirit is capable of?

Make no mistake, my brothers and sisters, it is our spirit that makes us strange and savage and beautiful; it is our spirit that is echoed in the forests of the night and found in the strength of our limbs, the clarity of our sight, our willingness to enter the forest where there is no path. 

Your breath is your home. Knowing this, how can you not know that you are the many and the one? The forest knows nothing of trees.

With each step you have arrived. 
With each step you are home.
With each step you are strange, savage and beautiful.

Keep it up.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

If You Can

"If you can think of times in your life that you've treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think that it's probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we're here for is to learn how to do it. I know that sounds a little pious."

- David Foster Wallace as told to David Lipsky in Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

* * *

DFW is a sort of Rorschach test for those encounter him: saint, fool, genius, over-hyped, etc. It all misses the point. He was none of that. He was David, and for a while he worked and he left behind proof of his passing this way. If you read him, do not do so with any thought but this: I hold another's life in my hands.

* * *

The road seeks its traveler the same way a wanderer seeks his home: hungrily, despairing, hopeful to know its place, its missing half, the promise of communion. If the road is merely empty and we populate it only with our doings, our imaginings, then this is a barren life. Then only our misplaced self-importance exists and is the sole engine of our existence. The pride of the righteous, the religious zealot, the affluent leech - all dance on this point: I am complete unto myself for I know. But what happens if the road you are to travel is actively seeking you out, trying to make itself known to you while you piddle along? What happens if you don't know and you set out to find out what there is for you to know and to do? You would have a very different sort of life, a very different approach to life and the proofs of your passing this way would turn out to be very different, radically different, indeed.

It is easy to step into others' proofs and take them as your own.  They have done the work and their answers seem to fit an emptiness inside you and so you come to believe as they believed without doing any of the work that allowed them to believe in whatever it was they came up with. Books and music and art and stories told across the kitchen table are repositories of these proofs and you, if you are lucky, learn to love these gifts and you turn to them for solace and guidance and simply the good company of the ones you've found. The challenge here is not that you must go out and write a book, or tell any sort of story in whatever medium in order to claim a bit of purchase for yourself. No. The challenge is to use those proofs as jumping off places, not end points. 

In other words, to let go of what you thought or expected your life to be, and be at home in it as it is.

Even when its dark.

* * *

It is easier for most of us to care for others than it is to care for ourselves. It is somehow unseemly to place the oxygen mask on ourselves first. Maybe it has something to do with pride in our suffering, a sort of showy display of how much we hurt, or how much we give, or how misunderstood we are so that someone else will validate our parking ticket and say we're all right. And it is certainly possible that we can learn to care for ourselves as we would a dear and precious friend through the relationships we build into our lives. Absolutely. But if we never manage to love the fact that we exist at all - regardless of our circumstances - if we fail to find our road because we spend so much time on others' paths, if we can't get to extraordinary decency and love as it comes to how we view ourselves, then the job is half done.

It is possible to achieve this without leaning on any orthodoxy, on any authority other than being fully awake to this moment. 

You have felt it many times, but you couldn't hold onto it and so either didn't believe it or dismissed it as a bit of undigested beef: the sky shot through with color as light bends around the curve of the earth illuminating the underbellies of clouds, the day your child said your name for the first time, your dog's sad eyes telling you about love, the grief of burying your father, your mother, your child, your spouse, your lover's hips in candlelight, riding a bike with no hands, laughter, the smell of pipe tobacco, the impossible redness of blood, the Fibonacci Sequence, and so on and so on. Each day, each moment is waiting for you to recognize in it the possibility of becoming yourself and no other: the revelation of the numinous in a cup of coffee at 5 AM.

I say the road is looking for you. It needs you. It isn't that roads are sentient, only that the unlikely combustion of atomic possibility that is the physical version of you is not isolated only to being human. It is what we swim in at each moment and those who can achieve this decency and love for their failings, their desires, their ignorance find that the world around them changes as they change. There is no promise of ease, or the absence of pain, only that you will course through it and again be changed by it. And the road will carry you on.

Love and decency in times of darkness is the whole point.

* * *

There are times when I suddenly grieve DFW's death. It is an out of the blue wash of "Fuck. No, no, no." It isn't that a great author could not tame the howling darkness of depression. Only that anyone suffered it so.

It is impossible to know the backstory of all but those few closest to us and even then, we are filling in the blanks to suit a narrative that has built up over time. The reverse is also true: no one will know what it was like to be us, the accumulation of days and losses and gifts that bring us to this one moment. We can tell what we can of our story to those closest to us. We can write it out so others might find it and be comforted or challenged by it, but only we will know it.  As such, there is no one better placed to show us some mercy, to be kind and decent to and to forgive ourselves for ever not knowing this.

* * *

I know that sounds a little pious.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

There's No Race

There's no race, there's only a runner.

- Lucius, "Two of Us On the Run"

* * *

You never know where this shit comes from - out of the blue, out of step, out of order - but arrive it surely does: the serendipity of a chance encounter, a dropped bit of conversation, an overheard promise, what Whitman called letters dropped in the street waiting for the person they were meant for to find them. Part of this is passing by the scores and volumes of messages you could pick up, but somehow don't. Instead you are left with the messages you do receive: the shit that finds you. It can come from any corner - even a hipster band from Brooklyn.

* * * 

The work of our days are the days themselves.  There is nothing to do other than experience those days to fullest extent we are capable of. This has nothing to do with any extreme actions, but with extreme awareness: the fullest you are capable of. There is no objective standard for this, no benchmark that indicates achievement. Each of us will experience our days with the capacities, limits and desire baked into our DNA, baked into our will, baked into our willingness to hit the road. No one expression is better than another. No one expression is more complete than another. You have your work, your road and I have mine. We can encourage each other, but cannot trade places. And what works for me does not and cannot ever mean it is to be yours as well. You have to cobble it together on your own. Take from me, borrow, steal, bend, but re-imagine it for your own purposes.

There's no race, there's only a runner: you, my love. You.

The falling leaves, the skins we shed as we move through, the artifacts of our run fall from us as we discover we need less and less to keep us on the road, but those letters dropped in the street by others are the very sinew of serendipity, the timely arrival of a message you needed to hear to keep you on the road, another bit you can use to fashion what you need to make it through the experience of being you.

And there will come a time, I promise you, when that too, will fall from you, altered by you and will be left for another to find to keep them going until they, in their turn, leave it behind.

* * *

Forgive me here, but it must be said: life is the process of letting go. What you hold onto, what you cling to is always the engine of your fuckedness. Do not confuse love with holding on. If your love has degraded to the point of grasping, friend, it is already gone. The only way to hold onto this love is with an open hand, so sings Glen Hansard: and he's right. What you can pocket is the least useful thing to you.

But we don't believe this. We reject this idea because of beauty and memory and longing and the sense that what is evanescent really doesn't work for us. We want things to stay. As they are. For good.

It doesn't work, does it? 

This need is the locus of our pain, the source of our lostness where we birth fear and feral longing.

Aurelius: The universe is transformation: life is opinion.

* * *

Allow yourself to be changed and then change again. Leave behind what is now part of you - no need to cling. It is there. Grow mighty in spirit from your experience. Let go of those things you've found and leave it for another to find that it may do them some good. 

And turn off the lights when you leave.
You have everything you're going to need.

* * *



Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's A Habit

It's a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now, you're equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

- Jelaluddin Balkhi (Rumi), "Bismillah"

* * *

There are storms over Saturn. That red spot is an eternal storm that has never receded. Somewhere in the unimaginable distance there are clouds of gas called "The Pillars of Creation" and new stars are birthed there. A hurricane spins over the Bahamas. In Roseburg Oregon parents are burying their children. 552,000 refuges have fled Syria and Iraq for Europe and have been met with hate and loaves of bread. Before that Europe slaughtered over six million Jews and Romani. Rumi died in 1273. A two degree celsius increase in the earth's temperature will wipe us out as a species. There is water on Mars. Oligarchs are now considered patriots. The Larsen B Ice Shelf will be gone in two years. 

And you and I? Equal portions clay and water: thick mud.


* * *

The risk inherent in being alive is not that we will die (that is no risk at all, but a foregone conclusion), but that we will fail to live as we might have been able to except for our fears. We become mired in the immediate, in the false idea of our self-importance, of our worries, our insecurities and fears. We fear for money and love and success and power and comfort and ease and the faith that tells us God watches out for us. 

I will argue that the whole of our evolution as a cultural species has been based on the idea of shelter: shelter from the storms of the natural world, the storms of tribal/temporal power, the storms of belief to house the fear we are alone and make it come out right.  We are poorly suited to survival except for our very large brains and out of those brains we have built story and purpose out of the hardships of matriculating to this late hour: The Pillars of Creation be damned - I am the maker and destroyer of worlds.

And then there is the two of us: fucked, stuck and going nowhere. Our own shelters leak and the storms blow through. The comfort and security others feel in the profanity of their politics and religion and economics leaves us shattered and out of step. We are thick mud.

And the storm never ceases over Saturn. 
And we'll never give up our guns.
And refugees will always suffer.
And the ice caps melt.

And the best we can muster is mud?

Rumi's poem continues: 

Abraham learned how the sun and moons and stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You're trying to live your life in open scaffolding.
Say Bismillah, In the name of God,
as the priest does with a knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.

* * *

Our puniness is well known. It is bred in the bone, part of our DNA, the collective unconscious. It is why we place so much importance on the immediate and the ephemera of time: we can control this. But it makes us narrow. It makes us mean. It fucks us and it silences our truer selves. Bullies, assholes, fearmongers and screamers make it so we lose our voice. We give in to our puniness and seethe and cry and give other drivers the finger under our dashboard so they can't see it, but we can feel self-righteous in our snap judgment that they are the asshole and not us.

Bismillah your old self, my friend. It doesn't help you or anyone else.

You want to unfuck your life? Then be kind. 

The ice caps are melting. Refugees are drowning in the Aegean. New stars are being born. It is all too vast for us to take in. Our spit of time to live is painfully brief, so fucking be kind instead of being afraid. We are self-important fuckers and we fail to see that we are not the ultimate expression of life, but simply one part of it, a corner of it made from the effluent of dead stars and we've soiled our nest and turned on one another because of our fears and still a storm rages on Saturn. 

So be kind. It is our only hope, our only true shelter.

Just fucking be kind.

* * *

Be kind.