Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Stars Watch Down

I sat on the porch to look at the stars late last night.  But the moon was so bright that it obscured all but the brightest from view.   The moon is the now and the thousands and thousands of invisible stars are the myriad of faces that pass in and out of my consciousness.   Faces from people with bit parts, a line or two… or even extras without a line getting a day’s wage for their work.   They have faded from memory.  Faded from view on all but the darkest of nights.

But a few stars peak through the blazing light of the now and can be seen irrespective.  Their parts haven’t faded over time.  They burn bright in my rear-view and hover over my conscious self as gentle reminders on the impact that those faces and their words have had in my life.  

Yesterday was your birthday.  Somewhere you might be looking at the same stars peaking through the blinding light shed by the now.  Or perhaps the light is different there now, and my star has faded.   Either way… it is as should have been.  

But your star still hovers over me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


It is inevitable.  Progress.  Decay.   They are two sides of the same coin and you are still too young to understand this.  You know only the possible and you make your own realities on a daily basis, regardless of the laws of gravity, or the laws of special relativity, or even the laws of common sense.  Your dreams are new and palpable, and who am I to tell you that dreams can’t come true.  Because they can.  Somedays you even make an old skeptic like me believe. 

I try to thread the line between warning you off from reaching too high… afraid the sun might melt your wings off and you will fall to earth… and letting your balloon rise and rise out of sight and out of my reach.   That day of you being out of my sight will come all too soon.  And regardless of whether it results in an eventually fall, there can be no doubt now that your star is in ascending like a rocket.

You have always been ahead of the curve.  You rolled over early.  You walked early.  You talked early.  You read early.  You outpaced your peers in every way.  Until you were forced to pick peers that were years ahead of you.  And still they call you for help and tutoring.  And yet you are only beginning to grasp how remarkable you are.  Your humbleness is a more put on than it used to be… before it was because you knew no better.  But now you do know better, and know that you are better.  So humble is sometime more of challenge than it once was.

I’ve noticed other changes that are inevitable.  You are longer.  And the skinny arms are becoming muscled.  Not fast enough for you.  But too fast for me.  And as always when you reach a milestone, I quietly search your pictures and remember you as you were in the blink of eye.  Your eyes are still as big, and still as startling blue.  But now you are beginning to grasp the power of your eyes to disarm, whereas before they were wide eyed and truly innocent.  Not all of that has burned away.  But enough.  

Like all numbers, today is a simply that… an arbitrary marker along your path of days.  An anniversary that I remember like it was yesterday.  Yes… you were even born quickly… anxious to get into this world and start your work here.  But arbitrary as it might seem, it is a moment of cultural magnitude for you.   A moment when childhood decays, and manhood ascends.  

You will climb that ladder as you do all things… quickly, and without reservation… anxious to be on to the next phase.  And it is left to the rest of us to think about the trail you have blazed.   

Happy 13th birthday…

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tilting at Windmills

I have always been drawn to the melancholy. The stark scenes from the westerns where the hero rides slowly against the empty and barren landscape. The warrior poets who understand that their lot in life is not one for enjoyment, but to withstand through sheer force of character. But deep down they know what they are missing and have consciously chosen the harder road simply because they are built that way. And someone must bear the burden.

I wonder at times what happens when they realize that they have borne these struggles wrongly. That their raison d'etre was misguided or just plain wrong. In the movies there is good and there is evil and they rarely mix. Perhaps once in a great while will the good guy turn out to be bad, or more often the bad guy will turn out to be good. These are themes that we are all familiar with. But rarely do we understand the good AND bad in a single character.

For it is within us all. The gray mixture of lust and honor. Or anger and pity. Of self indulgence and empathy. Beyond the walls of fiction is the constant moral wave that ebbs and flows inside of us. These are the what-ifs... what would I do IF. Would you kill to protect your children? Would you give up your morals for a million dollars? Ten million? Would you risk alienating friends and family for an bacchanalian evening?

But the what if moments are rare. More often the lines are not hard and fast but blurry patches when empathy gets lost, and our own needs or frustrations get in the way.

I was born with a hard wired empathy gene. My default is to attempt to understand the needs of others, sometimes to the detriment of my own. When I was young this seemed an honorable way to live and I felt that I made a difference in the lives of those around me. As I have aged, the chronic skepticism has grown like moss on me and made me doubt that anything makes too profound of a difference. And that I kid myself with my own abilities to influence. It is ego speaking, I tell myself. Perhaps this is a thing learned as we age. That we can't fix the world.

And so we stop trying.

And then what is life for if we have stopped trying. And when does the fixer get fixed?

Perhaps the archetypes or imagery that draw me in is simply a reflection... the mirror of a life spent tilting at windmills. And that feeling I have is just the sudden and daunting realization that these structures are not evil knights for us to vanquish, but simply harmless wooden buildings.

Or perhaps, like Don Quixote, I'm just near sighted.

Friday, April 15, 2011


My friend Buddha Mama has been preaching the gospel of “right speak” recently in her blog. I have been thinking about right speak’s cousin “acceptance” a great deal of late. This is mostly because I find myself trapped in a world of whiners who battle to come up with the best whine of the day.

“I’m so busy.” And then they proceed to prove to you how busy they are and stew about it.

“The kids are slobs.” And then they proceed to stew over cleaning up after them.

“I never get any time for myself” And then they proceed to stew over the lack of me time.

We are a culture that emphasizes stewing. Of being unhappy with where we are because everyone else is someplace better.

“I hate my job.” “I hate my house.” “I hate my neighbors”. We all have something that we don’t like. “I hate my weight.” “I hate my school.”

We throw the word “hate” around like nobody’s business. Which is where the right speak thing comes into play. And even if you aren’t feeling it, there is the theory that right speaking will help you pretend until it becomes habit. The old, fake it, ‘til you make it theory.

But the thing that I face every time I read something along the right speaking path is that I off-load. I deflect. I think to myself… my god… if only so and so would read this and start thinking that way. Now, I believe that I am fairly self aware and I am certainly aware of my flaws. But it is a natural tendency to deflect. To see the specks in the eyes around you while missing the log in your own eye.

But the disease that lies beneath our way of speaking or stewing is bred from a world where we deserve more. We are angry with our lot in life because we were meant for great things. Not this absurd life of fighting for promotions, or fighting to raise our kids the right way, or fighting to keep the house from falling down around us. It is all so banal. So common. And we were meant for greater things. And thus the root of all mid-life crises.

I have… of late… been trying to combat this in my own life by doing everything that I need to do, but with a more positive attitude. An internal version of “right-speak” if you will. I try not to hate my kids as I drive them from place to place. I try not to judge my neighbor when they do their best to annoy me. I try not to hate my job because I travel constantly. I try not to think of the what-ifs and stay focused on the what is.

The danger of acceptance is always in settling for something without striving for more. This can lead to awful problems. The difference in what I am advocating is striving to do more and be better every day, but not stewing over how things are now. For there will always be things to strive for. More things than there are days. And happiness can only be found if we make peace with a road that does not end, and enjoy the view on the walk without worry about the destination.

Monday, March 28, 2011


There is a beauty in silence. A profound tranquility that comes upon us as we sit out among nature, or hide away in our secret cloister. This silence is one that must be sought after. Striven for. Found. It does not come to us unbidden any longer. There is too much noise. Too much clutter. Too many competing points of view bidding for our time.

News. Music. Emails. Texts. Calls. I can see the Grinch in my head with drum sticks beating on each side, and “Noise, noise, noise, noise…” ringing in my own eardrums. But the reality is that we can’t stand the silence and we augment our world to fill in the gaps in sound, perhaps afraid of that awkward pause in conversation.

The profound truth is that no matter how much noise I can take in… none of it helps me connect. Connection can only happen in the quiet moments. Connecting with one’s self or connecting with a loved one. All attempts to use the tools of “connection” are merely hollow copies of the real thing, much the way watching a travel log of the Alps can not replace actually traveling to the Alps.

More and more we subjugate our relations to electronic go-betweens. And more and more those relationships lose their color and fade. I am complicit in this subjugation, however. Do not get me wrong. I do not seek to pass the blame. I find it easy to relate via email. My own discomfort with my own skin makes the electronic barrier an easier means with which to relate.

It avoids all that bloody and messy reality of looking someone in the eye and knowing, with absolute fact, that you are wrong. Or right. Or just profoundly different in the way that you think. Because this difference is what causes us to feel like we are the only people on Earth that think the way we do. And that thought is a lonely one.

But this way of living also avoids that deep and knowing connection that is only possible in person, whether it be a secret moment of divine bliss with a lover, or a moment of existential connectivity on a deep thought.

But too often we give up the beauty of reality for a misguided attempt to water down the pain of being separate. And we fill our lives with noise so we can avoid that utter sense of loneliness which is often found in the silence.

And the joke is thus complete, because only in the silence can we find ourselves… and in so finding ourselves can we find the connection to others.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Building or destroying is a matter of choice.
Patience or anger is a matter of choice.
Understanding or intolerance is a matter of choice.
Being loved or being despised is a matter of choice.

Selfishness and selflessness is a matter of choice.
Noise or quiet is a matter of choice.
Violence or peace is a matter of choice.
Holding a grudge or offering grace is a matter of choice.

Now... Choose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Oh whisper me words in the shape of a bay… Shelter my love from the wind and the waves…

My daughter’s Facebook status quietly switched from “single” to “in a relationship” one day. That is the way of things now. The way that these things are announced. It is puppy love, filled with youth and dreams.

“He listens to me… and he doesn’t try to fix me…” she said one day. And I smile. Remembering.

I walked in earlier and she was talking to him. I could tell just by watching her body language. There was an electricity that is alive there… it is almost visible. And it reminded me of those times so long past.

She is metal ore… valuable but unformed. She and her beau could take any shape that her imagination drives her toward.

But my relationship was beaten into shape long ago. Tempered through heat and quenched in cooling waters. It has been hammered and curved, and then hammered again until it formed a definitive and beautiful shape of our making. It has been polished, bright… and then, as is often the case, it grew tarnished through neglect. Not purposefully… but because there are so many other things that needed tending. It gets an occasional buffing, brightening it for a moment or two. But it is an artifact now.

Hanging in the galleries of the world are thousands of similar works of art, admired for their technique and their skill. But lost in all of these works is that moment when the artist sat in front of the canvas, blank and white. Before the brush made its first stroke. When all was potential. That moment when the electricity was palpable. All that remains is the artifact which attempted to capture the immense beauty in their inner vision.

The artifact that is mine is beautiful… there can be no doubt. It means the world to me. It created a world that I inhabit and breathed life into three souls that have changed forever my place in the world. And time and oxygen might conspire to makes its surfaces less shiny, but the beauty is still visible, even if faded.

But I can’t help but feel that bite of nostalgia when I see the crease of a smile and excitement cross her lips as she talks to him. She is an artist in front of her blank canvas… and I wonder if the vision she will paint will truly match what is in her mind’s eye now. Or if that is even possible.