Happy 13th birthday…
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Happy 13th birthday…
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
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
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.
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.
Friday, October 29, 2010
It was raining the other night. Not the normal sprinkle, but a good, hard downpour. I was traveling on the yon side of hither and yon... heading home in the dark. I hit the puddle on the side of the road going about 60. And suddenly I wasn't attached to gravity any longer. I was airborne... riding a wave a fraction of an inch thick, no longer in control... but subject, instead, to the whims of momentum. I have hit puddles many times before. A few feet of water that tugs the wheel hard for a moment. I have driven on highways where a car beside me has sprayed me with a coating of water so deep that I was blinded for moments. But nothing quite like this. The puddle must have been 50 feet or more.
They say war is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I think this is true of many things in life. We grow comfortable and complacent in the sameness and only when things upset our carefully organized world does that panic rise, like bile, and overtake us. With age comes the knowledge that an instant can change everything. With age the knowledge of consequence. And a knowledge that we are only mortal.
But with age comes patience. The understanding that ups are followed by downs... and downs are followed by ups. And that if you fight your body's natural panic reflex and stay relaxed... sanity will be restored.
In this case it probably only took a few seconds... a few seconds where I was driving a missile and fighting to edge it in the right direction despite its desire to pull me off the embankment into the dark. Sometimes it takes much longer for sanity to be restored. But panic only makes us pull the wheel harder and lose control before sanity can regain that control.
Chaos is always a few feet to the right... down an embankment. It is easier to just ignore it and follow the lights down the road... between the white lines where all makes sense. But we can only maintain the road if we override the panic with calm.