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.


Monday, May 8, 2017

I've Been Blinded

I've been blinded but
You I can see
What in the world has happened to me
The prince of stories who walks right by me

- The Velvet Underground, "I'm Set Free"

* * *

Ages, epochs, eons, eras, they do but one thing: they end and are birthed again with a different set of eyes and hands.

* * *

The easiest thing for anyone to do is to glide along, to not notice time, to move the day in and day out to the year in and year out until it is life in and life out. Closed parenthesis. So it goes. So it goes. If you happen to stumble, if you fall, if you are stopped in the glide by forces larger than your intention you are given the opportunity to leave the glide path. Make no mistake: what has stunned you offers you a new way of being in the world. The question is will your attachment to your losses keep you silent, or will you find a voice in your throat?

This is bitterly unfair. But there is no time left to speak of fairness, only of what are you going to do about it?

* * *

If time has slipped a bit too fast, if the works you'd imagined for your self are drafts, or unstarted, if you have meant better than you have shown, I can only say you must begin now. You must bury every scrap of self-recrimination, every scrap of fear and make one brave push to complete the tasks set before you, the ones you create, the ones you finish, the ones that demand a new iteration, a new genesis, a new shot at coming to fruition. This is not because it is about you and your, as yet, unknown genius. No, love, it is about those who might see your work and so get started on their own. Hiding your light under a bushel leaves the path darkened for those who follow.

It is never about you, but what follows, what is coming into being: emergent.

You do your work because you must. You fail to do your work because you feared it. In either case, others will follow and you either hand off something useful or you fade into the shadows. And what is the most useful thing? Companionship, friendship, love, the sense of not being alone: confidence in your life.

* * *

The only way that I am aware of to do your work so that you can give voice to the forces that move you, that dreamed of you and brought you here is to do it with unabashed commitment. You must soak in it. It is the only way to learn what you are capable of. If it isn't all, then it is nothing. I know that sounds awful, for it is easier to give something, but if you want to sound your depths, then deep you must go. 

Many years ago, I was taught by, mentored by and worked for John Schultz. He was as maddening as he was generous: engaged all the time, fierce in his opinions, fierce in his loyalties. Not everyone dug it. He intimidated the foolish and supported those who tried. John lived a life of depth, of immersion, of always working with the materials at hand to fashion some new thing. Though he was a writer, his true work was as a teacher and the materials he fashioned were the lives of those who encountered him. 

He died a few days ago. I hadn't seen him in 16 years and never will again. Our relationship was complicated, but he was unfailingly supportive of me, of my attempts to find my voice and use it some.  This blog, this website, these words would not exist if not for his influence. When I learned of his death I could only breathe in and hold it there, suspend the news while I checked my pockets for all I owed him. And this is what I owe him: my best effort, a further completeness, a deeper immersion, a re-write based on what is at hand.

* * *

When I was a child, I loved going to church. It was so odd, so beautiful. The buildings seemed bigger inside that outside. My favorite part of the church was the large bank of votive candles off to one side of the altar: dark red glass and white candles. I always asked to light one and I always lit several, taking the light from someone else's prayer and using it in a new one, using it because I liked the light they gave. Though all candles gutter and die, every Sunday that bank of votives was always lit in a new pattern. The light never dying because it was tended to: new life at its term.

* * *

Thank you, John. Thank you.