Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This Is What

This is what we mean: man's being is always dynamic; man is never just "there". Man "is" insofar as he "becomes"–not only in his physical reality, in growing, maturing, and eventually diminishing towards the end. In his spiritual reality, too, man is constantly moving on–he cannot be in any other form; man is intrinsically a pilgrim, "not yet arrived", regardless of whether he is aware of this or not, whether he accepts it or not.

- Josef Pieper, "Thoughts About Music," Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation

* * *

We wake to horrors everyday. The unfathomable has become common to our eyes, our ears and we almost don't see it or hear it. The language fails us because the language has been abused and soiled by partisan hacks until the words, like the too common blood, cease to hold meaning. They become sounds as lives become bodies becomes statistics. We wake to horrors and nothing, absolutely nothing we have at our disposal seems enough, for it isn't enough and to hold off the despair from seeing too much, and we see less by flattening it out. Two dimensions are manageable, three is not.

For myself, these horrors take days to be felt, days to enter, weeks and years to learn how to live with. And that, too, has a distancing effect, a way of holding at arm's length an event I did not live through, but learned of: a sign, a signifier, a symbol, but of what? 

We are a broken nation. We are actively taking hammers to its unfulfilled promise because change has been foisted upon us unawares: banks eating jobs, homes, incomes, where gains become losses while a few, a very few own the field our work is played out on. Change, needed change, the long overdue respect for others not like one's self, has slowly emerged from the courts and for some it has become a new found freedom while others fear themselves losing control and power and status. Too much equality shows the heretofore systemic inequality and revanchists everywhere counterattack, hoping to, if not stem the tide of change, at least make others pay for it in blood.

We wake to horrors every day and the reason why strikes me as plain: man "is" insofar as he "becomes" and those who deny or reject the intrinsic reality of our ceaseless becoming–whether out of malice or ignorance–are the vectors of our horrors. They are, both figuratively and literally, inhuman. For to be human is to transform, to change, to grow, to move. Not simply in our physical selves, but in our intellect, our emotions and our spirit. To reject, resist, deny this inescapable reality is to deny one's own humanity. From such a position it is more than easy to deny the humanity of others: it is required.

This is the work of nihilism and cynicism. It is the work of irony, of distancing, of flattening experience and deluding one's self that the one's ego is complete unto itself. It shears off connections to others. It is the seed bed of violence. It is a cult of death, glorying only in the suffering it can impose on others. The anonymity of the internet is fecund with it. The idea of stasis, of reverting to a previous form, restoring lost glory always brings death with it and it is born out of a feral isolation that is so complete that, like a black hole, it emits no light.

* * *

Pieper, a Thomist philosopher, believed all men and women were moving towards the good.That the peregrination of each was inherently bound up with the good. He said, "Even when man pursues evil, he intends a perceived good." I respectfully disagree. It is too easy to allow those who pursue harm to be allowed a portion of the good by saying their goals were perceived, by them, to be good. I have always believed that within each person is the possibility, and possibility only, of transformation. In particular the transformation from unknowing to knowing, from fucked to unfucked, as it were. Yet, if I am honest, I no longer believe this. It is plain to me that there are some creatures so isolated, so lost in darkness that they cannot be called human. Is this too much? Is it despairing of me to despair over them? There are 59 bodies on morgue tables in Nevada that argue against that. And if they are so lost, what is my obligation to them? Am I not obligated by my belief in transformation to hold open the door for them?

No. I'm not. It will take a saint to do so. As much as I admire the writing of Josef Pieper and Viktor Frankl, two men seared by the atrocities of World War II, I cannot follow them to the conclusion that even if man pursues evil, he intended a perceived good. It is impossible for me to brand hatred as a perceived good. It is only evil and the people who pursue it, apologize for it, excuse it, defend it on abstract grounds, all help to sustain it. I won't. 

* * *

My first literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote that his work was written so that people might be kinder and gentler than they might otherwise be. That has always struck me as the single most useful definition of art I'd ever encountered. It has been part of me from the start. It remains the North Star of my days. I'll do my work. I'll push stories into the world and hope that someone who needs them will find them and it will help them feel less alone. That's as far as any art can go. There will always be those who reject such ideas out of hand, who won't allow for its possibilities. Right on, go fuck yourself. I don't care. You are the darkness I fight against. I will not make excuses for you. I will not call you human. That name is reserved for those in motion, who are moving through their lives, pilgrims on the road to find out what it means to be fully alive.

If you are here unfaithfully among us, you are causing great harm.

I will no longer call it by any other name.

* * *

59.

__________

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Someday Emerging At

Someday, emerging at last from the violent insight,
let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels.
Let not even one of the clearly-struck hammers of my heart
fail to sound because of a slack, a doubtful, 
or a broken string. Let my joyfully streaming face
make me more radiant, let my hidden weeping arise
and blossom. How dear you will be to me then, you nights
of anguish. Why didn't I kneel more deeply to accept you,
inconsolable sisters, and, surrendering, lose myself
in your loosened hair. How we squander our hours of pain.
How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration 
to see if they have an end. Though they are really
our wnter-enduring foliage, our dark evergreen,
one season in our inner year–, not only a season
in time–, but are place and settlement, foundation and soil and home.

- RM Rilke, "The Tenth Elegy," Duino Elegies

* * *



Much of what derails us, derails our spirit, derails the lives we are living is a refusal to welcome the difficult, the painful. We seek to avoid pain the way a germaphobe sanitizes his hands: ceaselessly, fearfully, trapped by the realization that life cannot be controlled, tamed or made to heel. This lack of control brings fear and a quashing of the spirit that wants to move, that wants to dare the experience of being alive to see what it might reveal. It is foundational to me that this spirit exists in all things. It is the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. It is imminent, ever-present, at hand. Without this spirit, without being awakened to it, quickened by it, our lives take on a dull luster, a flattened experience where we trade beauty for the pleasant and filter life through a heavy brocade of fear. In doing so we mitigate some surface threats, some obvious difficulties but at the cost of never knowing, never fully knowing what our lives can be, never being lost in the loosened hair of our time.

We fear what cannot be known. We move quietly, absently into the unknown each day, hoping to make it through with as little bruising as possible. We accomplish this by not taking notice of too much: the quality of light, the shape of clouds, the homeless, the suffering across town and on the other side of the world. We work our niche. We keep the company of those most like us and we get through. Until we are stopped. Until there is no passage. Until the suffering across town comes to our address. Until the toll of indifference becomes a horror to our minds. Until such time as we lift our heads. 

What then? Ill-equipped from long neglect, how are we to move into a world that has suddenly gotten very small and specific in its woundings, and at the same time impossibly large in its indifference to those wounds. Rilke writes that we not squander the hours of pain, for they are the foundation of what we will become. Instead of looking for its end, he says to kneel more deeply in front of it, for it is only a season where new life will one day emerge. He's not wrong. Just as Frankl wrote that meaning could come not only from love and work, but also from suffering, Rilke makes it difficult to pretend that there is not awe even into the most difficult and desolate places. No one wants to believe this, but somewhere in your experience, in your memory, in the collective memory of all who have lived and died is the sure knowledge this is so.

We seek ease when it is life we must pursue. Just as beauty is dangerous and pretty in not, so too awe, reverence is dangerous and unbelief is not. By unbelief I mean the refusal to see the ceaseless transformation  of all things. To hold that one cannot step into the same river twice is reverence, to see only water is unbelief.  Reverence is not secured in holy places, nor is it in the domain of churches, temples, stupas or mosques. It is possible to feel reverence in those places but only because it is possible to encounter it anywhere.

To stand in awe is to stand in front of a mystery larger than yourself. To revere that mystery is to acknowledge your place in it. And that makes you dangerous: in your own life and to others.

Reverence is simply a way of seeing, of not trying to control the world before you, but to be willing to be transformed by it without a promise of anything other than transformation. The full text from Heraclitus: "No man steps into the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." 

We think of our Self as static. That the thing we are is the thing we have always been. We are biased to confer continuity to ourselves, but not to others. This is the root of where reverence and awe is lost. If we are the same, then it is others, the world around us that is faithless. We take an antagonistic stance to our circumstances. But to break the shell of that bias, to find a way to see ourselves, our Selves, as fluid is to be restored to our lives, to the surrounding world with all its beauty and horror. Consciousness demands reverence. Again, not to any god, or faith, or politics, or economics, but the ceaseless transformations that fill every hour.

And if you are in the nights of anguish, even there, reverence for the night itself is the only way to be healed, transformed by it. It is the nature of all things to be transformed. Resisting it only sharpens the pain. And it is possible to spend the length of your life unchanging, living inside the bias of one's consistency, never touching the edge of awe. We all know people like this. Their lives empty husks of what might have been: talent wasted, love squandered - all to pretend they alone were gods unchanging.

Here's the news: the gods change with us.

* * *

May all that is unsaid in you find its voice.

__________

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Think That

I think that art and music's role in transcending bullshit is one of the greatest gifts we have as human animals.

- Langhorne Slim

* * *

So, after the shitshow of the manbaby in the White House promising to kill 25 million people at the UN yesterday, after the shitshow of the Cassidy-Graham proposal inching closer to law (wherein the rogering of tens of millions of Americans will finally fulfill the fever dream of Republicans everywhere to undo what a black president built), after the shitshow of witnessing the unbridled pusherman bullshit of a thousand dollar phone being met with the glee only addicts can muster, I have to say there is more than just a few lives to unfuck. And the scale of the task is something only for the gods, if there are any anymore. I have the firm feeling it is just us. I think the gods got sick of us a while ago.

It is foolish to be optimistic. It reads like a fairy tale. It is also foolish to despair. That reads like a folk tale. There is no middle way. Everyone has to choose their way forward and if you don't choose, it will be done for you by the amount of debt you accrue and the politicians who are beholden to the monied interests who purchased them, not to you. You are an ATM machine to them. Your life is simply labor to them, something to be extracted and the emptied husk kicked aside. The moment they can't make money off you is the moment you cease to exist. How else to explain the treatment of veterans, the disabled, the sick, the poor? Makers and takers as the neo-nazi Any Rand would say (and Paul Ryan mimic like a cheap bird in a pet store).

And don't forget the hurricanes: the product of man-made warming oceans.

Into this miasma, the godforsaken mess, comes foolishness, the hucksters of the gospel of prosperity, of affirmations, of learning to eat more shit instead of refusing the plate. Most people want to be left alone, to not be disrupted, for life to unfold if not easily, than with a minimum of pain and introspection. We want our lives to be good enough no matter the cost to others. And when the pinch comes, when the bill comes due for our willful slavery to corporate greed and our own complicity in the game, we want someone else to pay, especially if they don't look like us. And all this further tightens the screw.

Fuck.

Nothing will save us. Not politics, not religion and sure as hell not commerce.  We traded faith for money and allowed money to buy our government. We did that. We have earned this moment. We have the president we deserve: a bloviating toddler who wants his way or the bombs start falling.

The world cannot be saved. Our country cannot be saved. This is us.

If you think I will now pivot to some uplift, a silver lining, a hope for the days ahead, you'd be mistaken. There is no pivot. There is no uplift. We're fucked on a colossal scale. The options are to withdraw entirely, become a hermit living on rice and onions and waste time navel-gazing, or comply and go along to get along, to take the bribe and not worry too much about debt and hope the degradation of the planet happens after you're dead (though that would suck for your kids to have to suss out), or to try a third way, to walk away - not to a hermitage, but to cease adding your name to the scroll of desolation. Making some sort of art seems to be part of this. It won't heal the planet and it won't stop corporate monsters from destroying everything for the sake of a dollar, but it will put you on the other side of that line. It will suck and few will notice or care, but you must do it, you must take that step to separate yourself from the whirling madness, to judge that madness for what it is and refuse to participate in its systems as far as is possible.

Shouting banners of #resist keeps you tied to the wheel. The wheel must be rejected entirely by your choices. By all means call your congressman. Piss into the wind if it makes you feel superior. You are voiceless in this system. What matters is to find your voice and use it where it can be heard. That's why making some sort of art seems to be part of this. We are in this ugly place because we placed an unearned trust in two-faced politicians and corporate profits. We will not undo this harm using the same methods that brought us to our knees. The system is corrupt because we are corrupt. We've been bought off for a smartphone.

Unfuck your life? Quit playing by their rules. You have a voice. Use it - no matter the cost. Someone else will hear it and it will save them. This is what we have. This is what we can do: save one life and, if Judaic scholars are correct, so save the world.

* * *

It is Rosh Hashanah tonight at sunset: the start of the new year. It would be a good place to start.

Shanah Tovah.

__________


Thursday, September 14, 2017

You Did Not

You did not ask why I go down in the mine
Oh how I love you Mary
It was for the children, it was for better times
Oh how I love you Mary


- Diana Jones, "Henry Russell's Last Words"

* * *

Henry Russel died in a mine explosion in West Virginia in 1927. In the last hours of his life he wrote to his wife, Mary, on scraps from a torn cement bag as he faced his death. He'd been a miner in Scotland. He was a miner in America. He folded the scraps of paper and tucked them in his lunch pail and laid down and died.

* * *

Devotion seems archaic, part of a time and place closed off to us. We, so bright, so clever, so awash in our certitude that we are both bright and clever, cringe at the word devotion. It smacks of religiosity, narrowness, a shutting out of possibility. There is nothing expansive about devotion. It constricts, chokes off, turns a blind eye. It simplifies to the point of ignorance. Or so we have made it be. If devotion were called by another name, perhaps, fidelity, or authenticity it might sit easier. We tend to like the authentic and usually believe ourselves to be the real deal while others stumble through inauthentic lives.

I vote for something else: sacrifice. That, too, is out of step with our times, yet I cannot help but believe that the problems we find ourselves in - both individually and collectively - are sourced in the absence of devotion, the absence of sacrifice. It is easy to re-arrange events to fit a narrative that holds you together, that justifies your choices and we all do it. That's fine. For awhile. Maybe a long while. Maybe to your grave, but it would leave out the parts where your actions fell short of what you were capable of and so omit essential parts of your story. The places we gloss over, the memories we don't dig at, or retro-fit are those places where our devotion to a cause, our cause, the cause took a back seat to expediency and going along to get along. We stay married to jobs, to spouses, to places that do not support us, our interior life, our hopes, or finances and we call such self-abnegation sacrifice. It is nothing of the sort. It is hiding. It is a refusal to become who we are. 

The martyr gene is strong in my family. There is nothing more useless than a martyr: a showy display of great feeling and the gnawing sense it is the show not the feeling that matters. Telling everyone you will now fall on a grenade is not the same as smothering a blast to protect others. It mistakes the  arrogance of talk for the sacrifice of doing.

* * *

We, clever and bright as we are, are also empty in those places we hide from, the places where our actions failed our intentions. It is possible to reclaim that part of the story. Not as an exercise in self-flagellation, the martyr's mea culpa, but as an act of devotion, sacrificing some ego to re-balance our experience. This is less than easy to do, but that is what makes it devotional: I will have my name or die trying to know it.

Viktor Frankl wrote that happiness could not be pursued, but, in fact, could only ensue because one has devoted one's life to a cause other than the self. Happiness is the natural by-product of devotion and devotion can only take place when you choose to live for something other than the story you tell about yourself. It is when you live for the story held in others, in those you love, in those you'll never meet, but might somehow reach through the acts of your story that life takes on purpose. You have crafted meaning out of thin air. Your sacrifice isn't a penalty, something to mourn, but is, instead, a threshold you pass over to a new way of knowing your life and its capacities.

* * *

From Wendell Berry:

The best teachers teach more/than they know. By their deaths/they teach most.

I thought of this poetry when I heard Henry Russell's Last Words. It struck me that we live our lives unaware of what our deaths will teach those who still have their lives to live and how our deaths will effect the hour of their own. It is easy to believe that we live an equivalent life to Henry Russell, that we, too, go into mines (metaphoric and otherwise) with the hope of better days. We see such work as sacrifice and a grace note of nobility shines within us for doing so. But if all we are leaving behind are days worked, bills paid with none of Henry Russell's devotion to his Mary, then what has our unhappiness been for? 

Work can be inequitable, unsafe, unjust and seek to drain what is best in you for someone else's profit. It can also be righteous, kind and fortifying. That isn't what matters though, if, and if is doing a lot of work here, you know the how and why of your actions, if you know the cause greater than yourself that your actions are devoted to. If so, then you are free. If not, no matter how rich you become, you are lost.

Know what you are doing. To get there, know the entirety of your story. Then give it away for another.

* * *

May you always have a scrap of cement bag nearby.

* * *

Cheers.

__________

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Well The Rifleman's

Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in


- Bob Dylan, "Jokerman"

* * *

I'll stand here: the world that surrounds us, the world that feeds us sight and sound, the world we take for granted, the world in which we do all of our living and dying is more beautiful than we can allow. Our ability to account for and process the beautiful is limited. It is why we are silenced when we come upon it, or suddenly recognize it in a face, or shore, or the rattling curve of penmanship found on a box marked "Christmas Ornaments" written in a hurry 30 years ago by a mother or father now gone from us. Beauty is a type of danger we shun precisely because it stymies us, halts our thoughts and arrests our worried minds. To recognize the beautiful is to have your self fall away like a calved iceberg: whoosh - gone. And naked you stand before your god.

That is the true threat and danger of beauty - it exposes you, it reveals you as you are. Glamor cannot do that. That is surface only: airbrush and photoshop. No, only beauty can reveal you. To stand in the dark to watch the Morning Star, to stand on a shore and become tidal yourself, to look into the eyes of the aged, of those who have suffered, of those newly arrived on the planet is to be silenced by beauty.  Beauty is not what is pretty or fair or comely. It is more granite than sandstone. It endures and touches the eternal because it can switch off time and hold you suspended for as long as you can bear it. To encounter beauty is to be changed, humbled a bit, all hubris turned to dust. But this also: to encounter beauty is to be emboldened, drawn out of your protective shell in the hopes that you might again be pierced with the clean blade of silence.

This is true as far as I can describe it.

I say I'll stand here in defense of beauty because it is clear there is a relentless assault on beauty. First by the gibbering goons of commerce that flatten everything to a shiny surface, but more distressingly by those now in control of the government. How else to describe the unbridled cruelty of ending protections for over 800,000 human beings who trusted their government to come forward? What is more beautiful than the mind and soul that can perceive beauty? To throw 800,000 lives away because of racist, nativist, xenophobia is the purest definition of ugliness and the evil that holds its hands. Spare me the comments about the rule of law until Joe Arpaio is behind bars. Politics, as it has festered here over the past 40 years of Republican assault on civics in the service of the wealthy, has become a zero-sum game: the antithesis of beauty.

Beauty is without end. It is not in limited supply. What is in short supply are the eyes to see it and then live by it. The titular heads of the EPA and the Energy Department are climate change deniers. They see any alteration to the economy in favor of the environment as destructive to jobs. Beyond the unadulterated bullshit of giving a damn about workers and jobs (their fealty is bought and paid for by others), is the ferocious shortsightedness of working towards environmental collapse. On what land will the jobs stand? What water to drink? What food to eat? We're unlocking microbes from polar ice that haven't been seen in eons and the focus is on the rich getting richer? It lends itself easily to despair. Yet, despair will do nothing to stem this tide of gobsmacking stupidity.

And so I'll stand with beauty in defiance of the cretinism of a corpulent man-child destroying lives in order to be stroked by his racist cohorts who are too dim to know they are as disposable to him as those they hate. I'll stand with beauty in defiance of commerce, in the flattening and dulling of experience in the name of a dollar. I'll stand with beauty and try to add to its store in defiance of my own limitation because this is where our future will unfold. We'll either be moved to action by what is beautiful or we'll cease to care and so be eradicated sooner, rather than later.

It isn't much, I'll warrant, but it's what I've got.  If you took a minute and considered it, considered what your encounter with beauty has done to you, you will see how change is possible, how we are not fated to cynicism, xenophobia, racism or homophobia. These stains on human consciousness arise out of fear, out of a paucity of faith, an emptiness of spirit. They are made manifest by anger and anger cannot be talked out of its logic. The circle is closed. No, hatred and anger refuse all entreaties. Only the heart-stopping silence of beauty can break through. Once someone has encountered beauty, been held for just a second, the door is then cracked open for other possibilities. 

* * *

The President, surrounded by gold fixtures and glittering women, does not know beauty and will never know it. It is why cruelty comes easily to him. The defenders of The Lost Cause, wrapped in stars and bars, will not know it either, for they willingly trade the suffering of others as a pittance in order to justify the smallness of their lives. And the jag-offs waving their right arms in the air are so filled with bile they will never be clean again in this world. Why? Because they renounce beauty for gold, beauty for an imagined supremacy and all the while walk past what could have changed them if they had the courage to see.

Beauty is always nigh. You have but to reach out a hand, draw in a breath, whisper, "I am here" and when the revelation comes, as it will, as it does for all who allow it, then nothing is the same and you know the purpose of your life.

My cause is beauty for I have been the luckiest of men to have met my children and they have opened my eyes. Now, nothing is the same and the machinations of hatred are no match for the beauty I know.

* * *

Cheers.

__________

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

We Have Fallen

We have fallen out of belonging.

- John O'Donahue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

* * *

I was haunted by John O'Donahue last night, though I am certain he'd have never considered it such a thing. Until yesterday I knew nothing of him and today I am changed by him. He'd been a priest, a poet and philosopher. Mostly, from the bit I can gather, he was just a good man who worked at his work and loved the western wilds of Ireland where he was born. He died of a sudden at the age of 52. In his sleep. The parenthesis closed. And last night, as sleep refused my entreaties, John O'Donahue, a man who wrote blessings for the lostness of our world, haunted me: Get on with it, then.

* * *

We have fallen out of belonging to the world, to its wildness, its unconcern, its stillness and forms: glens and marshes, limestone valleys, ocean shore and windswept scree. Houston is underwater because developers were trusted with a flood plain. Everywhere commerce controls the view, controls our lives, tells us when to wake, where to work and how much we're worth. It is all second nature to us and we've traded our primary nature for it. We fallen out of belonging to one another as well. The competition for dwindling resources pits us against one another whether that resource is a decent job, or a plot of land or the pleasure of being left alone for a few days from the job or the house. We have fallen out of belonging to our time. Instead, time controls us, tethered as we are to our technological crutches. There is a filter, a scrim separating us from our world, our time and our place. It is a displacement disguised as a benefit: isolation.

Solitude is the soul seeking its respite. Isolation is to be bereft of a soul.

Man first stood upright on savannas. We came into being knowing the horizon. It is ancient in us to seek the line between the earth and sky. It is ancient in us to be at peace when we can see the horizon. It is our home. It is our escape route. It is safety and promise. By crowding out the line, by building canyons of commerce and absorbing the shoreline for only the wealthy we have starved ourselves of our belonging. Subway systems, traffic flow, rail lines are the arterials of commerce and everywhere they blind us to the world. 

Work, yes, but only at your work - whatever it may be. Not another man's work. Not on another man's terms, but on the terms and conditions you set. I know it seems impossible, and it likely is, but we must try to wrestle back from the overarching presumptions of our times the value and worth of the time we have to be here on the earth, to do whatever it is we are to do with the bit of time we have to do it in.

There is an ancient wildness in us still: the collective unconscious, what's bred in the bone, pre-knowledge. You can feel its presence when you stand alone in any broad landscape, where you can feel rooted in place, yet are dizzy with the spectacle before you. It is the old in us calling to us.

Chief Seattle:

"This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected  like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand on it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap  contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket Be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival."

* * *

We have not been living, but surviving for a long while. Look at your own days. How has that been going? Even if your bills are paid and your children well and kind, can you say whether you've been living or surviving? I have survived for a good long while. I am good at endurance, but less so at living. Yesterday, I met John O'Donahue, a priest who gave me his blessing and nothing will ever be the same.

* * *

Beannacht

_____


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Advice I Don't

"Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” 

- Alan Watts, Apocrypha

* * *

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. That's not the hard part. The hard part is putting those answers into motion the way a man runs to water with his hair on fire.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. You just don't trust yourself. That's what locks your wheels.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. But living by them is a higher cost than you want to pay, even though you continue to suffer, founder, stumble.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. You know it in your bones, in the depth of the night, but not in words, more of a pulse and impulse. And this leaves you vulnerable to the judgment of others.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. Yet, there is a keeper on what you'll allow for yourself: the accumulated weight and expectations of others.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. You know who you are, but you are busy being what others want you to be and you think that will be enough. It's not, and you know that, too.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. They exist as the body's knowledge of itself, its needs, aversions and desires. It is a language only you know and translating it into action is how you redeem what's been lost.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. You are the eyes, ears, voice, feet and hands of the universe perceiving and knowing itself through you. But that seems weird, so you pretend it's just you.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. Your story may be tragic or euphoric. Still, it is your story and you are telling it with every choice. So, double check, what story are you telling: the lie or the truth?

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. You can't help but have them. They are stitched into everything you do. Now what you do may be a rejection of that truth, or a denial of it, but that doesn't alter the fact of it.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. It may make for trouble for you, but there's worse trouble staying stuck.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. This isn't a mystery or some mystic crap. It is as real and ordinary as your autonomic nervous system. It keeps you alive.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. Fear is a baleful thing and it loves stasis. To start is to put a knife through fear.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. The first step implies and propels the second and so on. Thresholds are to be stepped through, not camped out on.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. There are people known and unknown to you who need what you have to offer, if only you'd get it into the world.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. No matter what you do, do it as if your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it, for it does and they do.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. Quit comparing yourself to anyone. It can't be done and is a waste of everybody's time–most of all, yours.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. All of life, the whole of the known universe is motion and flow and transformation. Undig your heels. You'll feel better instantly.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. People forget this.

Here's the thing: you have all the answers you need to get started. So, rid yourself of the lie that it's too late, or your gift too small. Time and size are meaningless constructs. There is only you and the life in you veins. Now go play before the sun goes down.

* * *

Cheers.

__________

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Found Out On

Found out on my own
That everything I thought I knew
Twas a lie twined and twisted true


- Valerie June, "Twined & Twisted"

* * *

Things take the time they take. Things take the time they take. Thinks take the time they take. Tattoo it on your forehead and let the rest go. Really, let it go.

* * *

We enter the world: light, sound, vibration, touch and coo. We enter the world helpless and glad of it for everything is new and help (if we are well-loved) comes on a breeze and soothes what frightens and disorients us. We enter the world a knot of unknowing and time unspools us to our knowledge, our knowing of the time and place we are from, born into and out of. We are blessed whether we know it or not, whether there is one there to do the blessing for we are of Life. We are ripe with it. It drips from us like a snotty nose: profuse, unawares, shimmering. What we don't know, what we don't have the experience to know yet is so amorphous, unshaped as to be invisible. We know light and sound and vibration, touch and coo. Time betrays us, draws us away from the cloud of our unknowing. We are taught, formed in the floods and waterspouts of the circumstances of our birth. Stories come to ears and we can't help but measure ourselves to those stories. Even the most benign and loving story is a scar. But we do not notice for all is of a piece and is ordered to the life we are experiencing: want, hunger, plenty, security, violence, adoration - no matter.

Then come the others, the cohort and their stories and the stories of the community: religion, politics, the preferred, the acceptable, the rewarded. And we can't help but measure ourselves against these stories and every story leaves a scar. Perhaps, lightly, perhaps thicker, but we are shaped nonetheless. Following the path of these stories we feel them to be powerful, irrefutable, or if refutable, at great cost and most stay silent to all bu their darkened rooms at night. Our ceiling hears the story we want to tell, but the incentive to silence is great.


So many lives are lived in quiet desperation, right?

Until such time, until such time that the silenced voice can be quiet no longer. Then what?

It is a long way from the world we entered as light and sound and vibration and touch and coo. Heavy now, heavy with experience we are now called to let grief be a falling leaf. How can this be? How can this be? Where has the time gone?

Things take the time they take, ease up on yourself. You are still and always have been new to the world. New to light. New to sound. The stories that guided you, that formed you at the start are, without hesitation, lies twined and twisted. That is true. But only because they were handed to you and not experienced in your bones. They sought to save you the difficulty of finding out on your own, but that would rob you, did rob you of the life you are to live. And here you are with your heels blistered from running in the dark. Now what?

Well, now that you're here in this place of uncertainty, of the impulse to regret and recrimination, of abandonment and teetering fear this you must do: use your voice. Test it out. See what it sounds like now that you're on your own. Listen to it. Keep at it. A new story will emerge. It will use bits and pieces of other stories. Like a magpie you'll steal from experience and you'll cobble together a story that is familiar in parts, thoroughly inscrutable in others. This is your story. It has never been told before. If you remain silent, it never will be told, or it will be told by others who couldn't possibly know what you know.

* * *

Things take the time they take. You learn what you have to learn in the time it takes you to learn it. There's no hurrying, there's no shortcut. Don't indulge the bitter fantasy that you could have done it sooner. If it was possible, it would have happened. Re-litigating the past only corrodes the time you have to get all your living done. 

We arrive here with the plates in our skull unsutured, a pulsing, soft hole covered by downy hair and skin yet to be closed. We are born incomplete. Into that hole is poured all light and sound. The knot of our unknowing unspools in lies twined and twisted that we took for truth. Experience scars us all. And if you can bear it, if you can keep your feet moving, there comes another unspooling, the one where the lies are forgiven and your story ready, twined and twisted from the roads you've traveled, emerges from your throat: ripe with life, filled with light, sound, vibration, touch and the cooing of one filled with joy and sorrow for what the rest are yet to go through.

Things take the time they take. 

* * *

May your well run deep.

_________


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Those Who Restrain

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or Reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling. And being restrain'd, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire.

- Wm. Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

* * *

It is the function and purpose of life, all life, to be as it is: complete, unconstrained in its expression, without apology or the notion that one might be required. 

William, again: The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

Things are as they are: eagles, crows, William. Nothing is absent for the eagle. Nothing absent for the crow. William was the rare, incendiary man for whom nothing was absent from his mind, spirit, work. All were twined and twisted into a mobius skein of ceaseless experimentation, work, audacity and courting the condemnation of the powers and wights cropped on top of the pile in early Nineteenth century London. He died penniless, it is true, but oh, how he lived.

You and I are not Blake and nor should we be. He did a fine job of it. No, for you and I the question remains: who are you? Are you the sum of culture, the sum of a family's yearning, the sum of your experience? Where are you in the midst of the life you are living? Can you tell? How? Where is the line where others' expectations end and yours begin? Or is that, too, twined and twisted with no beginning or end?

I'm asking for a friend.

The question inherent in William's statement is, what is desire? Where are its origins? If this seems a repeat of the questions surrounding who you are, well, that is as it should be. You are your desires, you are the forces inside you, you are wind and sail and that truth cannot be avoided, though it can be sullied.

Take a minute and think about why you swing your legs out of bed in the morning. Take a minute and do some back of the envelope math and estimate how many mornings you've seen. Now ask yourself how many mornings have you really seen, been awake to, been glad to see - no matter what lay ahead - and felt plugged into the power of your life, your desires, your sense of being in the world. Don't be too hard on yourself. Not all of us are incendiary all the time. That is why Blake is Blake and Whitman is Whitman. It is also why you are you. The work of your life is lit by the fire you keep burning (even when there's nothing left to burn). This fire is desire: animal, spirit, heart. Too often desire is defined down to mean base. Nothing could be further from the truth. Desire is being suffused with life and light and power and intuition where your mind and body move with surety, a surety bred in the bone, deeper than consciousness: the product of life honing itself over millennia.

You are it. Thou art that. Tat tvam asi. Act accordingly.

* * *

The half-life, the awful half-life of seeing your freedom from across the way but not knowing how to cross over is the plight of all us fucked fuckers. We are restrained, constrained by forces we cannot master though with all our being we don't want to be half men and women. As far as I can see, the problem lays in how we think about those constraints, how we restrain ourselves because we've estimated the costs of action and choice and found them too high to pay. It might end a marriage. It could cost you a job. It will likely disappoint family. You are convinced you can't move until there is certainty in the outcome. Risk becomes doubt. Doubt become inaction. Inaction becomes bitterness, and thus we become fucked - not by any outside actor, but by our own hand.

Why?

Consider this: we have a shitty understanding of desire. We assume mayhem. We assume desire is more of the groin and not the mind. We believe desire is an unleashing and we have been taught in a million large and small ways by our family, our culture, that danger lies in that direction. And that is true, though not how such admonitions are intended. They mean wildness. I mean freedom. Remember, you are wind AND sail. You are the force itself and you are the means to direct it, to shape it, to use it to find out what it means to swing your legs out of bed and feel the floor electric with possibilities. There is nothing more dangerous to others than a soul that has found its freedom and refused to relinquish it. This is a love to hold against all the gods.

* * *

None can restrain your desire except by your permission, your acquiescence. None can shape your desire or use it without your leave to do so. William tells it bluntly: Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.

Surely, the gift of your life is not so weak. Surely, it pulses with genius, the animating spirit of your days. If you have been laid low, if you have suffered, if you have stumbled, if tragedy has found you, if you have let beauty slip by unnoticed, unattended, you use all of that to find your freedom, to lift the chains of what might have been, of what was, for what might yet be. It is not too late. Your gifts are not too small. It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity, to sing high and clear, to glide through days. But a greater thing is to rejoice in the world as it is, to sing with a voice cracked by experience, to refuse to glide, but walk instead among those who need your encouragement, your example of overcoming your losses and griefs by unshackling your desire and using it to carry you on to the next and the next and the next.

This is the genius of the fucked: we overcome and in so doing become kinder for the trials we have known. The undaring, shadow life isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

* * *

May your well run deep.

__________


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It Is Not

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

- Seneca, Moral Epistles, 104.26

* * *

Aphorisms can be maddening. They tend to be turns of phrase, clever word play to reveal a supposed truth. They simplify what is otherwise convoluted, complicated and thorny with contradictions. But they endure and attach themselves because of this selfsame madness. We call them memes these days, but once they were the work of philosophers, not trolls, and they helped explain our human nature, however imperfectly.

* * *

I have been taken with this idea lately: creativity is motion. For anyone who is fucked and stuck and going nowhere, the idea of motion, of being able to move again is as a glass of cool water to a thirsty man: the promise of relief. But if you're stuck, if the gears are mucked with sand, the notion of movement is more mirage than relief. How to move again? How to overcome the inertia and gravity bearing down on you and stretch your legs? The weight of our troubles makes it difficult to imagine. Despair and fear compound the merely difficult and make it impossible.

As real as that is in its effects, it is, in truth, an illusion: a trick of the mind deployed to protect ourselves. That's not to say our circumstances can't be dire, or tragic, or filled with stupifying loss. What it does say is that our response to those losses (our defensive crouch, the fetal ball, the dolor of inaction) is based on the past - where we've been hurt, rather than what comes next - where who and what we are is yet to be determined. We look at the past and project the difficulties into the future as if there can be no change and so find we cannot move. We are mired, stuck, unmoving. In a word: fucked. We add to our difficulties when we do so and we do so because the pain is familiar and we know a response: defend the illusion that we are victims, or are helpless, or somehow incapable of meeting the moment.

It is wildly human of us to do so, even though it adds a further weight and pain to our circumstance.

The tonic, the get-out-of-hell-free-card is found in any act of creation, creativity or making.

But, but, but, didn't I just say we're stuck and unable to move? Yes. But that was a lie.

It is impossible to be stuck. It is impossible to be inert. Your thoughts can grind to a halt and you can convince yourself you can't move, but the truth is you are an on-going act of creation and re-creation that is without end. Here's the idea I've been playing with: everything in the universe is in motion, from the sub-atomic to the vastness of the visible universe, everything moves, hums, vibrates, changes, morphs, dies and is re-used in other forms. Now I know this not as a physicist would but as a poet. It is a metaphor that happens to be actual. When we cease to participate in the dongs of our lives, our times because we've lost the thread of our soul or had it yanked from us by chance or neglect, we do not cease to be. We remain verbs though our spirit is freighted with confusion and therein lies the escape route. We, despite ourselves, continue to feed ourselves, to bathe and clothe ourselves. There may be no joy in it, but we continue in these basic forms. Surely, you have felt the odd wonder of cleaning the dishes in your sink as a vast accomplishment. Why would that be so? Because we are of the universe, the carbon in our bodies the gift of dead stars, and the universe is in motion. When we move, we are met by further motion. It may seem reciprocal or not, but when you can recognize that despite your suffering you are in motion still then you have a template for extending that idea: create.

It doesn't have to be art, though that's cool. It can be the creation of a clean sink or flossed teeth. But there is an objection to define creation down to include such mundane things. Yes, if you only think of creation as works of fine art. That is utterly limiting and misses the point: you are creation itself because you live. You are here and regardless of what has held you in its grasp, you are still contributing to the further creation of your life despite feeling lost. It is impossible not to. It is however, possible to not believe it and to act on that non-belief in such a way that the world does pass you by like a rock in a stream: over, under and around.

What's gotten fucked is your sense of movement. Stagnation is easy. Daring to test the strength in your legs is hard. But Seneca was right: it is hard because there is no daring. Fear of failing, of embarrassment ride high in the mind. But there is also this: the fear of losing what is known, even if it is difficult, can be the most powerful force in play. Without your losses, who are you? What will you be responsible for? Inertia keeps those questions at bay.

* * *

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly wrote in Flow: "It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were."
 
We become more when we take action for no reason other than to be in motion. No other reward, no motive, no nothing other than the will to take action. If you are fucked and stuck any action will do (see "clean dishes" above). It is re-orients you to the basic truth of being alive: you are in motion as everything around you is in motion and the most flexible muscle is not found in your body, but in your mind and is your consciousness.  

Unfucking your life is unfucking your mind. It takes the habit of being open to what's next to get there. The way to instill that habit is to move.

* * 

I found this note among some older writings of mine:

Why do I seek God? 
Because you refuse to see that God is already here, immanent, in motion, part of you.

The mystery: you and it are one - though you don't trust that. That is why you PRETEND TO SEARCH.

* * *

You're not stuck, love. You are pretending to be because you fear what happens next. But happens next is unwritten. You get to create it and with every breath you already are.

* * 

I wish you well.

__________




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Power To The

Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on 


- John Lennon, Power To The People 

* * *

Sometimes, when you're trying to make some headway, when you are pushing at the door to open, the best you can manage is to open it a crack. Sometimes that is enough for it gives you hope that, yes, the door does move. Other times the door simply flies open without you doing a thing other than standing in front of it. Now, it may have taken you years to get there, to stand in that place, but the door knows none of that. All it knows is how to open.

* * *

A brilliant woman I know said this to me: "People choose all the wrong things trying to reclaim their power." We'd been talking about road rage, frat boys, the Klan, gun violence in Chicago, gun violence anywhere, MAGA voters, corporate greed, plain old greed, religious tests, the NRA, Fox News, white privilege,.. The conversation wasn't as dire as that appears to be on the page. It was a conversation filled with wonder at what we come to believe, as in wondering how is it we come to choose to believe and act on things that are plainly not in anyone's self interest. And then this brilliant and beautiful woman said, "People choose all the wrong things trying to reclaim their power."

And the door I'd been standing in front of for years flew open.

The premise behind writing this blog, this on-going inquiry into unfucking one's life is that we fuck ourselves when we cede authority for our lives to others, to cultural prerogatives, to pressure from our families, to the love we hope to get in exchange. To be fucked is to be without autonomy, is to be powerless in the way you respond to the circumstances of your life. Man's ultimate freedom, the one  that he can retain despite all outward circumstance is the freedom to choose how to respond to those circumstances. So says Viktor Frankl. So say I. But what happens when that too is ceded? What sort of life is lived without that singular authority, the last freedom? 

One that chooses all the wrong things trying to reclaim its power, its authority, its inherent freedom.

We take on ready-made identities. We become tribal. We wear badges identifying ourselves not simply to join with others who wear the same badges, but to stand in opposition to those who do not. The work of our days is reduced to a zero-sum battle: if I hold the gun, I hold the power; cut me off in traffic and I'll endanger everyone on the road to get back at you; take my job and I'll exclude your family from this country, even though they had nothing to do with it. We spend our days burying what was lost in the shallow comfort of power politics. 

We choose all the wrong things and wonder why everything is so fucking hard.

We grow addictions the way fallen trees grow moss and mushrooms: multitudinous, myriad, insistent. We excuse our behavior because "whatabouthim." We so relinquish authority for our lives that the ones whom we have identified as our tormentors dictate our actions instead of determining for ourselves what is the right thing to do. It is easier to be fucked than unfucked. It is easier to wear a uniform than to dress yourself. It is easier to believe you are righteous than to consider your self-righteousness. 

Why is this so?

Here's my answer: fear at being found out that one is afraid and shame that it could ever be so.

* * *

Fear is latent. It lies below the surface. It is born from the story of absence: you lack x therefore you are deficient. Perhaps this x factor is something familial, perhaps physical, mostly though it is an emotional gap, a disconnect between the life you know exists in your veins and the feedback you get from the world around you. You can succumb to it, resist it, bury it, deny it, but until you face it you cannot make peace with yourself.  You can feel its power over you, over your choices, yet it is hard to name the thing driving you. Many folks don't bother and simply assume the identity that is offered to them, that is born out of the time and place of their birth, of their family's expectations. By not questioning their faith, their assumptions and expectations they must, by needs be, stand in opposition to those who are not like them. It is the first step to dehumanizing others, to counting their lives as cheap, to discounting their lived experience.

To ever move away from the attempt to reclaim authority by demonizing others, the other in what ever shape most sets your teeth on edge, you must somehow know that you've traded what was best in you, what was possible in your days, for the cheap thrill of being an ass.

* * *

I don't want to buy the world a Coke and I don't sing kumbaya.

No, the aim is not universal love (that's just another come on), but universal respect. It begins inside you when you are able to respect the still, quiet voice of your conscience, your soul, calling out through the mire of your fear and building everything else around that voice. Act from the deepest well, not the shallowest ease, and nothing you do will harm another. Least of all yourself. 

The power, the authority for your life has never left you. It waits for you to embrace it.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Is Too

One is too many
Billions ain't never enough
Don't take the easy road
There's no shortcuts
Spirit kingdom do
What we can't do for ourselves
Don't put nothin' down
Without lovin' everybody else


- Dr. John, The Night Tripper, "My Children, My Angels"

* * *

There is within us a desire to know and understand. For some this is cosmic, a desire to get to original causes. For others, it is borne out in the how and why of day to day survival. But this impulse to know is innate in the creatures we are: no claws, no hard shell defenses, just our minds to guide and protect us. Except when it doesn't. Except when the gift of our consciousness is weaponized against ourselves as doubt, fear and shame take up more space than we could have imagined was possible. 

We get lost. There is simply too great of a distance between who we are and what we've become.

When this happens, when you recognize that you've gone off the rails from what was possible in your life, when you see there is work to do to set things aright, when you see the distance you might despair of ever closing it and just give up; or, you might start on a program of self improvement: lose weight, exercise, read self-help books, go back to church, go back to nature, walk 10,000 steps a day.  It's all good, man. Any one will do, all won't make a difference if self improvement is the goal. The language is telling. Improvement is defined as "a thing that makes something better or is better than something else." There is judgment in it. Better implies worse. If you are to be self-improved, you must start from the proposition you are somehow worse to begin with. I know the intention is good, but this is horrific bullshit and does great harm. Don't fall for it.
Being lost is not a failing. Not knowing something is not a failure. Struggling does not mean you are deficient. You need no improvement, love. You need to be complete.
The word "complete" comes to us from the Latin word complere, which means to fill up, finish, fulfill. You need to fill yourself up. There's nothing to improve, only fulfill.

Following the track of improvement, of studying the habits of highly successful people, of being indoctrinated into the mysteries of religion, of learning the optimal combination of amino acids and protein to build muscle, of getting that MBA are fine in and of themselves, but no wholeness will arrive through them. When you place your identity outside of yourself, when it is tied to outcomes you are forever at the mercy of those outcomes. There is a distancing here. No matter how hard you work it is a distraction from the primary work of your days: to be who you are, as you are without judgment or shame.

Now, if training for a marathon, or getting an advanced degree, or turning to faith are expressions of your filling up, then all is well. Things move from the inside out. No one ever believes this because we live in a time and place that emphasizes the external, the accoutrements, the trappings of what is alleged to be the good life. The good life is the life waiting to be lived inside you right now. It has nothing to do with money, faith, sex or accomplishment. It solely has to do with restoring yourself to yourself, as you are, without the doubt that has plagued and tripped you, without shame for being the creature you are, without fear of judgment.

How is this done?

One is too many
Billions ain't never enough
Don't take the easy road
There's no shortcuts
Spirit kingdom do
What we can't do for ourselves
Don't put nothin' down
Without lovin' everybody else

* * *
Tell me 'bout your desires right now. Quick, before you start censoring them, filtering them through everyone else's expectations. Can you do it? Listen, the spark is there. It is in you because it is you. Your work is to uncover it and go where it leads you. Remember, improvement is useless without it. To improve without the spirit of being complete is harm itself, it makes you a hungry ghost, always searching, always finding the flaw, always being judged, always being judgmental. That don't serve you. Not a bit, love. 

Dr. John wants you to know there's no shortcut, but there is help. Every step you take in the direction of being whole, of being filled up is met with hundreds of steps rushing towards you to meet you, to lift you, to assure you, to dare you to take another.

From Joseph Campbell:

"For when the heart insists upon its destiny, resisting the general blandishments, then the agony is great; so too the danger. Forces, however, will have been set in motion beyond the reckoning of the senses. Sequences of events from the corners of the world will draw gradually together and miracles of coincidence bring the inevitable to pass."

Do you believe that? Do you believe that is possible, or is wishful thinking? I hate wishful thinking. It destroys, makes weak what could have been strong. No, this isn't wishful thinking. It is a description of how things fall into place when you abandon improvement for being who you are, no part left out. It doesn't mean riches or peace or health. It means you can finally be as you are and you can move and act and do from the deepest well of being. And here, if this is where you have gotten to, it is impossible to put something down without lovin' everybody else.

Honest.

It is why I keep at this.

* * *

Cheers.

__________

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

You Better Take

You better take your time
You know there's no escape
The future sends a sign
Of things we will create
Baby it's alright
And so have faith
Oh yeah, you invent the future 

That you want to face

- Fleetwood Mac, "Future Games"

* * *

Everything you need is at hand, is within your reach right now. It may not be what you imagined and it may not take the shape you'd hoped for, but everything you need to begin is already here. You do not need to search for it. It is not hidden and it is as elusive as you want it to be. 

The Buddhist concept of "the supreme meal" touches on this. It says, with care, the ingredients you have on you - no matter how few or how common - can be transformed by your attention into a supreme meal, a meal shared with others. What transforms water, rice and onions into this supreme meal is the mind that touches those staples, the hand that crafts them, the spirit that offers it to others. There is no longing for what is not there. There is no guilt in its humble state. There is only its transformation in the heart and mind of the cook.

Everything you need is at hand. It's what you want that is killing you.

* * *

How often have you postponed doing something because you were waiting for some more perfect moment, a moment when you felt you had everything under control, all the questions answered? It is one thing to plan, it is another to act. I can tell you, from the bottom of my soul, that choosing to act is how you bring about change. If you are fucked and stuck you have failed to act, failed to act from the well of your being. 

Paralysis. Doubt. Fear. These are the bedfellows of postponement, delay, excuses. But know this as well, not all acts are equal, or viable, or to be desired. Only those acts that are drawn up from the well of your consciousness, only those acts that are awake and aware of themselves, only transformative acts like rice, water and onions bring relief. It is by using what is at hand, and not wishing for anything else, that you free yourself from the traps and snares that limit you.

No one ever believes this. No one ever believes this.

We are told from our earliest memories to want the sun and moon and stars, to look at what we have and only see what we lack. There are entire nations without clean water and we value a green lawn. I say this not to create a false equivalence, but to remind you that you have more than you know. When you wake up in the morning you have two types of water: hot and cold. This is a miracle easily taken for granted. If you are mired in the muck of doubt and fear remember you have a mind capable of transforming rice, water and onions into a supreme meal. This, too, is a miracle easily taken for granted.

It is this innate, untapped, latent power that we each possess that is the answer to the question of how do I unfuck my life? You begin by boiling some water, cooking the rice, chopping onions. When you're done clean your tools, care for them so they will be there, ready, tomorrow. Do nothing absently and all things are transformed. If you rush, if you cheat, if you cut corners and are satisfied with good enough, you will never move from the spot where you are glued.

* * *

1971. Worth, Illinois. Through the open garage of our neighbors, the Lahey's, I hear Led Zeppelin pounding out about levees breaking. I had no idea what a levee was, but my hand to God, I wanted them to break. Music poured out of that garage: Zeppelin, Edgar Winter, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, The Who, The Stones and Fleetwood Mac. Future Games was the odd man out in that lineup, but that was where I first heard it, first heard Bob Welch's high, nasal voice see-sawing thorough the lyrics. I fucking loved it. Time and tide and no one really remembers the Bob Welch era of Fleetwood Mac. Maybe the Peter Green moment, but with all that came later, Future Games disappeared. 

Except in my head, because my memory is like velcro holding onto bits and pieces for no good reason.

I've been playing this song over and over for a month or so and I still fucking love it. It teeters right on the edge of completely drippy and awesomely cool. And as I sat down to write this morning, it was at hand. Right there. Within reach. Present. I always need a push from something I've read or heard to get started on these things. Sometimes it is a direct link, sometime oblique. No matter. It gets me started and that is more valuable than any attempt at consistency.

The future is unwritten. It needs a hand to write it, to form it. Waiting on occasions will not fashion it. Only those who act, only those who work with what is at hand, available, within reach can transform what happens today into the reality that brings tomorrow into being. And those acts are transformative to the exact degree that they are mindful, shared, wanting nothing more than to be.

* * *

I wish you well.

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