On the way stooped a little woman

On the way stooped a little woman. The path now paved with symmetric stone. There she stood with grey hair flowing, watching dancing shadows on her hand. On the way grew blades of grass. A symbol of life between the cracks.

For ever, for none, the shadows danced; of swaying leaves, and wisps of hair; of branches and blades of grass.

The shadows danced.

Of ancient walks, and cracking hands, and death. Death of a lovely girl, who once walked this path. Alone. When the grass was always green, and young, and free. When the skin of the earth was fresh, and vibrated with harmonious chords through her body.

Now – death. And cold. And smiling lips of sagging flesh.

Slowly, carefully, she kneels down and plucks a blade. Stabs it deeply into her cracked chest. Upon her bloodless palm shadows change: the green knife catching the gentle breeze.

Life

Life. Beautiful and tragic and absurd. We are unlikely fleeting nodes of structured matter, atoms arranged through increasing universal entropy, taking the form of great apes encoded in DNA; living, loving, suffering, pondering, overcoming, dying, waltzing ever-long in a cosmic embrace between order and chaos.

Positive pride: a remedy for hate

Hate, anger, jealousy need to be expressed. They do not, however, command such respect. They definitely do not need to be heeded. They want justification to exist. Well they have it! What more could they possibly want, why are they so insatiable? What could satisfy them? I imagine, not much.

I wonder: What if the whole world felt my pain, your pain? Felt sorry? Would that placate hate and anger? What if half the world felt it? A quarter? A single country? Your community? My street? A neighbour? Simply just you? Just me? Where does it begin, where does it end?

What do hate and anger want? To hurt? To hurt others? Me? You? To dine at the table of vengeance? And then what? Reduce the target of their existence to a heap of guilt, of ridicule and tears. Vengeance smells sweet, looks pleasing, but how does it taste? Bitter? Take the pain and inflict it a hundred fold. Would that act, that behaviour, lead to anything good, respectable, positive, forward thinking, upward looking?

Oh, I believe the act itself could feel good, cathartic, for a fraction of a moment. The consequences, not as much. I do not want to be enslaved by these emotions. Quite frankly, they do not become me, and they are tedious companions, exhausting. The desires whispered in my ear by hate and anger, the goals they think they would achieve, would never come to pass. They appear only to want to salvage pride, the ego.

Egoistic pride isn’t worth the effort. Egoistic pride can be hurt. But there is a type of pride to nurture, a positive, illuminating, motivating pride. Beneficial pride is progressive, not regressive, a spring of confidence and optimism, not a blanket for insecurity and doubt.

Beneficial pride cannot be hurt, does not bend to the whims of negativity. Deep abiding pride heeds not insults, nor affronts. Positive pride belongs to a confident soul; it is the engine of the motivation to do well, to do good for oneself and one’s community.

Positive pride is a monument to just deeds and deserved recognition, a stopping point on one’s life path, a sign-post, forever accessible on one’s journey, pointing forward, ever forward.

Positive pride says ‘saddle up, there is the way, you’ve made it this far, there is your way…onward! Onward, life traveler.’

Is it not said that ‘pride commeth before the fall’? This is the pride protecting the ego, leading to hubris, to overconfidence. This is the pride that can be vengeful, because it can be hurt, can become resentful and hateful. The good pride of which I speak is related to the feeling one has of good deeds attempted and desirable outcomes achieved, of the fleeting yet reinforcing admiration of others, by doing and achieving deeds and outcomes deemed worthy by yourself and the community. It is not pride that inflates the ego, that feeds off selfishness, that feeds selfishness in turn; it is the pride that indicates, that signals, that one is on the right path, a good direction. It is a road-mark, a checkpoint, a milestone. Beneficial pride is but a shadow cast by good deeds, an after-glow, an impression of great things on one’s emotional fabric.

To have a sense of pride is not a bad thing. Positive pride cannot possibly be dirtied or defiled or hurt in any way. It is but a corollary of good actions attempted and good outcomes achieved. It does not hang around, seeking undue admiration. It is not a garb to be worn defensively by one’s ego. It is not even a thing, in and of itself, for it cannot exist without the actions and results in whose presence it is cast. Beneficial pride is utterly dependent. It has to be earned, continually, through deeds confidently taken, outcomes deliciously obtained.

Positive pride is a shadow, and a shadow cannot be harmed.

Hatred and anger need a foil for their existence, they need a target for their justification. They are vengeful, spiteful emotions that want to inflict pain. Hatred does not point anywhere positive. Anger is all consuming, fueled by the positive essence of one’s being. Anger will burn until that essence is all used up. The only benefit of these emotions is to draw attention to potential and actual threats to oneself and one’s community. Many things are not okay. There is much vice and immorality in the world- Hatred and anger can draw attention to morally suspect realities, can motivate the identification, combating, and remediation of bad things. If bad things go unchallenged, the world is worse off. Hatred and anger are two emotions that motivate the challenge of bad things.

But hatred, anger, jealousy, can so easily lead to ruin, for oneself and others. The outcomes they effect may very well be out of all proportion to their cause. And what kind of outcome should one wish to effect, if not a positive one? What kind of outcome, that cannot possibly be positive, is desirable at all? We are no longer members of wandering bands of proto-humans. Anger and hatred have little reason to exist today, as our survival no longer depends on them. But our egos do! Our egos, if weak, dine on hatred, drink of pain.

Am I hurting? Are you? Yes. We all are, or will be, or have been. Would reducing the source of your pain, the target of our hatred, to an emotional mess, disgracing it in the eyes of the community, serve any positive end? No.

It is extremely selfish to think my pain, the motivation behind any form of vengeance, is more valuable, more worthy, than the pain and suffering my vengeance would create. What actually would I be avenging? My sense of egoistic pride? But that is not worth fighting for.

A strong sense of ego cannot be dismantled nor destroyed by anything external. A strong ego is forward thinking, upward looking, impervious to wrongs committed, yet not naive. A strong ego knows life brings many challenges, but that striving for good for oneself and one’s community is the highest, the most noble path. Take pride in leaving sign-posts and monuments along your path, provided they teach valuable lessons, distill wisdom, and point forward, ever forward.

Justifying anger

Is it possible that if I can find a moral reason supporting my pain and anger I can feel justified in feeling my pain and anger are more real…more valuable…than another’s? Does my pain always take priority? Do I treat those closest to me as my pain receptacles? Do I inflict upon them all my aggression and resentment, treat them as scapegoats? When they all leave, does the whole world become my scapegoat?

Think of the time I get angry, think of the times when you do. Analyze it. Does the anger have a justifiable basis? Or is it simply a result of not getting your way? Not getting what you thought you deserved? Is a show of aggression, both passive and outright, not merely a consequence of friends, lovers, partners, the world, not giving in? Not submitting to your childish demands? For me, what ensues? During and after the anger? A search for justification. A lengthy debate, often, where I try to prove on principle that what angered me was morally wrong. This justifies my anger.

Find a principle, justify anger.

 

Happiness lost is always found within

January 13th, 2005

It is a new year and the streets of Bamberg are still free of snow. My son was born Wednesday, December 8th, 2004, at 3:39 in the afternoon. Enan Franz smiled on his first day of life, and poured forth his innocence and purity, bringing clean tears to this dirty face.

Your birth was the finale of a development well over nine months; the development is as old as I, and perhaps as old as time itself. For you see, Enan, I am the product not only of my own life and experiences, but my mother’s and father’s also, and their parents, and their parents’ parents, ad infinitum; my actions, my behaviour, guided by more than my lack of wisdom.

For every action there is an equal, but opposite reaction. Remember this Enan. The path of your life is not all of your making, nor of your will, because you are tied to me, to your mother, and to all who have impacted our lives, either directly or indirectly; you respond with action to an infinite set of reactions vibrating the web that keeps you alive, keeps you human, and you in turn pluck the threads of that web to send reverberations to those around, in an ever-widening circle of influence. However, you will always be unique. Like a star in a sky of a million, a trillion, other stars, of the same stuff you are made, but you shine with a different light.

There are two inside you, Enan, the world and you. They are tied together in inexorable knots, where one ends and the other begins is impossible to know. So remember, you are never alone; you have the whole world within.

Use your own voice to guide the world within, and learn from your experiences, from history. Try not to make the same mistakes as many before. But if you do, don’t despair, for those who stumble, yet pick themselves up, construct bridges for those to come. One day, Enan, one of those bridges might eventually span the gap between ignorance and understanding, and make the world a better place.

And if you fall, if you become lost, get back up and recover your bearings. Build more bridges ahead, forge fresh paths. You may find the last chasm you cross separates the world from your dreams, and the green grass upon which you land is no less than the rich pastures of your freedom and happiness. And that is a worthy struggle.

Raise your voice to the sky and shout loud over land and ocean. Tell the world that you are here. Be not afraid. Sing loud and for as long as you want. Sing in the sun and sing in the rain. You have a limited number of days to sing, and all eternity to be silent. Flex your voice in pure happiness, fearing not the stillness of death, for death will surely come, regardless of how you live your life. So live your life well.

Wail when you cry, whether you shed tears of pain or tears of joy. Let the animals in the forest feel your emotions and let the echoes of your weeping carry to all the lands. You and the world share the same wild nature, the same primal emotions. There is no pain worth concealing, and no joy too small to share. You may shake the very hearts of humankind, and this is not such a bad thing.

If you feel down and are lost, remember, those who pursue their dreams also live their dreams, so continue your drive, only then are you alive. And those times when all hope is lost, listen to your heart, for your dreams and your heart are one. And when your heart is silent or you fail to listen closely enough, sit under a tree or watch the moon, and let Nature’s devices instil you with peace and harmony. As you return to yourself, let your wildest fantasies and dreams bloom like lilies in the pools of your mind, the coves of your soul. Be not afraid to admire them, to pick them, to inhale their fragrance. Let their beauty diffuse through your mind and heart, easing your troubles and bringing calm.

Never forget who you are or where you came from. Look in the mirror and stare hard into your eyes. Look past the costume of daily life, peel away the layers of insecurity and doubt, wade through the muddy waters of your fading youth, your incompetence, your troubles, your lack of wisdom, your mistakes, and find the very muscle and sinew, the essence, of your being; you will find you have folded wings of white. With great optimism you will navigate toward sparkling horizons of colour.

Listen not to those who say angels are not real, that rainbows are not magical. Listen not to those who cannot appreciate the infinite wonder of reaching out, of nearly grasping the stars on a cloudless, moonless night. For, Enan, I have stood on a mountaintop, have seen a rainbow touch the ceiling of heaven, and upon its arch I walked, hand in your mother’s graceful hand, until she took flight, and left me standing there, filled with the deepest love.

Do not be too harsh on metaphor. The story of your life, the one you tell yourself, is but a metaphor.

Remove the mask of most men, and you will find a deep well of fantasy, of joy. What you feel and what you think when you experience a shooting star or gaze into the unbroken surface of a mirror lake, is what you will feel and experience when you peer into the hearts of others, including your own. Awe. Desire. Wonder. Curiosity. Happiness. The very best of humanity.

We are all children, Enan. Each and every one of us. The majority of our lives is a process of covering ourselves with layer upon layer of worldliness, and then spending time and tears trying to recover what we have hidden.

Happiness lost is always found within.

And do not let the apparent sterility of science diminish your awe, and do not feel disheartened when reason explains away the wonder of rainbows. Reason and science explain how the world is, but cannot give it meaning. That is your job.

Enan. Make your own why. Imbue your life with your own meaning. Feel free to climb to the moon. Jump around in amazement and bewilderment. You have nothing to lose. You have everything to gain.

The narrating consciousness

Narration. Storytelling. Meaning. All combined in consciousness. The ego, too, a product of the conscious mind. A powerful, at times all consuming, illusion. Children, at the earliest possible age, should be taught these truths. All manner of trauma, of fear, of anxiety, could be learned to be placed in their proper context. As I recently read: life, living, straddles the fine line between order and chaos. Order is a narrative, a sense of security, a sense of knowing the world and your place in it. Chaos is an assault on that narrative; chaos is unleashed when the death of a loved one, when the betrayal of a lover, when the loss of a job, when the paralysis-causing head-on collision suddenly and without warning severs one or more of the intricate threads holding your narrative together. And we will do nearly anything to salvage, to repair, to retie those threads. Getting up in the morning and facing the day is greatly aided with a secure narrative. Believing one’s health is good, is order. Believing one’s family is safe, is order. Believing one’s job is secure, is order. Believing one’s loved one is faithful, is order. As the events of life pass through our senses and are viewed with the light of consciousness, they are immediately and without notice fitted into one’s narrative. Cold objective reality is given meaning. The sense of one’s autonomy, of one’s ego, is continually fed the illusory nutrition of the free will. All control; all keeping chaos at bay.

But because the universe is not a reflection of our (often self-serving, at times delusional) narratives, chaos can and will emerge at any place, at any time, in any form. Chaos severs and hurts and maims our sense of security, our foundations. Some are more susceptible to assault than others. Some have a narrative thread so large, so thick, so structural for the whole of one’s story, that its severing can cause serious instability and anxiety.
One of those threads of my narrative has been cut. Imagine a great river flowing, nourishing the otherwise infertile plains around. Imagine a great tree reaching to the sky, the trunk of which supports countless branches and leaves collecting the sun. Now dam that river, over night. Cut down that tree, leaving nothing but a stump. What happens to the fields that depend on the water, to the leaves that need the support? Chaos ensues.
The narrative torn-up, consciousness is at a loss. It desperately tries to fit events into their rightful place, assign meaning, but there is no more structure. The ego is floating, pieces of it breaking apart, being lost to the ether.
But there are threads remaining, rivers still flowing; there is a forest yet. As I spin and float and do somersaults in the air, my hands are grasping, my eyes searching for the ends, for the lines that can save me. But alas, whatever I may salvage, the illusion has been shattered, for good, for all time.
A healthier, more stable, more compatible narrative must be written.
I was not responsible for my first narrative: my ego built itself. Now I am an author, I am aware. It is now my destiny to walk the thin line between order and chaos, keeping a foot firmly rooted in each, as I weave a new narrative, imbue my life with new meaning, mould an ego that (it can only be hoped) is less illusory, less naive, less susceptible to the chaos all around and within everything.

In search of meaning – Notes #1

I can’t take it anymore, the monotonous monumental indecision suffocating my person. It is a boring companion and I am tired.

Do I truly believe there’s a magic bullet, a perfect decision to be had, that would bring all my qualities and desires together into one package, to confront the business of living dressed in the garb of superior wisdom? Am I sincere when I state, ‘I need to find the thread of truth to give it my all’? Oh, what monumental rationalizations that have justified my uncomfortable drifting. Petty, petty rationalizations!

Here’s a thought: I’m weak, afraid to latch onto my desires, frightened of failure, insecure in my beliefs.

Nourished by weakness I found a type of nihilism – my ultimate rationalization, perennial spring of soothing justification. Nothing matters. NOTHING! Including my life, including any decision I do or do not take. Nihilism allowed me to submit to my weakness, to drift with the knowledge that nothing is absolute, nothing is certain.

Drifting became as right as action. And in a sense, I still believe this to be true. Given certain axioms, this conclusion is logically unavoidable: any decision we do take has meaning insofar as we impart meaning to it. The whole of the universe is a law abiding amalgam of matter and energy bumping about, associating and disassociating with no purpose whatsoever. It’s what the universe does, it’s what the universe is.

There is something strangely soothing about this nihilism. I suspect, however, its soothing property is based on my weakness, my inability to conduct myself and my life. It soothes because it rationalizes my indecision, relieving my anxiety at feeling meaningless. I am meaningless, and so is everybody and everything. And this thought makes me feel better. And yet, it’s but a temporary fix. A thought I must inject into my awareness anytime my indecision, my anxiety surfaces. It’s my fix, my addiction. It is no cure.

But why not? Why cannot I be content with this nihilism and just be? Enter the emotions; or rather, enter the complexity of the human being, of which I am one, of course. Is it not true that humans naturally search for, invent and attach themselves to meaning? For whatever reason, to whatever advantage it holds, it appears a person secure in her purpose is also emotionally and spiritually sound, fulfilled. The purpose need not be ambitious, need not be profound. It only needs to be hers. The complete person is embodied meaning.

This sounds good. Sounds fine. A complete person is one who embodies meaning.

I assure you, there is nothing so uncomfortable, spiritually, than to feel useless, drifting in a void, drowning in a sea of indecision, all the while wishing it was otherwise. If your deepest wish is to feel complete, and if you know completeness depends on finding a purpose, and if you understand that purpose is entirely subjective, and if you are not prefigured with a purpose, nor able to adopt one wholeheartedly, then how can you fulfil your deepest wish? It seems paradoxical.

If these are the conditions that mark me – need for a completeness tied to a purpose which, unfortunately, I do not innately possess, and which I cannot discover because I know there isn’t one to discover – then am I forever to remain incomplete? Anxious and insecure? Drifting? Or is the solution itself a paradox? Could it be my search for purpose is in fact my purpose? Something to be found only when I search for it? To hold explicitly when I don’t hold it? Let me clarify: I attach great meaning to finding a meaning. Therefore, have I actually found it?

It is possible my great anxiety stems from my struggle against the flood of indecision that pulls and drowns me. I am anxious because I sense, at a deep emotional and spiritual level (one and the same place, to me), something amiss. A part of me, probably seated in the primeval reptilian part of my brain, washes my cells with molecules which elicit negative emotions, because it thinks (not really) that I need some absolute meaning to latch onto, to guide my life, to make me whole. Is this the original seed of religions and all other doctrinaire arrogances? Am I like an infant, afraid to be on my own in this uncaring universe?

Is our species likewise in its infancy, requiring the equivalent of an emotional assurance that our parent, God, has not abandoned us, still loves and cares for us, guiding us, providing us meaning? The completeness we feel by being a part of a grand design, by having a purpose in the work of cosmic significance, surely adds to a happy, fulfilling life. Imagine the anxiety an infant experiences who can no longer depend upon, who has lost, his parents.

It’s possible, if not probable, that the more enlightened of our species understand that Dad fucked off long ago and Mom never loved us to begin with.

We were not, are not, ready to leave the crib, to emotionally fend for ourselves, to find completeness without the aid of an authority figure, a doctrine of absolutes, guidance, a loving mother’s breast, the comfort of a father’s protection. We need stories to believe, guides to follow: parenting, parenting, parenting. Without it, we are naked in the dark.

Loving gods we fear. The warmth of cosmic meaning. Primeval pacifiers of our collective conscious awakening, to rock us gently, gently back to sleep. But now that my consciousness can no longer slumber, I feel cold and afraid in this room without walls. This house is quiet, and dark, and my light is broken. I yell for help but none comes. I’m hungry, but there is no milk to be had.

Fatherhood – a poem

Silence reason and there, within

A fruit of consciousness and reflection,

Pushes like a force against the walls of the mind,

Like the beauty of a cloudless morn,

Something indescribable.


On another plane,

When you were young, paddling

A warcraft canoe with your dad – captain,

On Frog Lake in the failing light,

Toward your amphibious haven.


And oh the sound! Of fiberglass on sandy shore.

Of kindling crackling and flame warming.

And oh the smell! Of steak and onion and pine-needle carpets.

Of supping and talking and laughing and thinking.

And the sight…the sight,

Of two people on a log, and a dog

In the bush on a bed of moss.


Tired. Cold. Afraid.

Lying there you listen

To his breath, its rhythm.

As an anchor in the storm of your mind,

You sleep.


Sitting still in the afternoon sun,

This fruit of consciousness and reflection,

Pushes like a force into my mind,

And I relive the feeling in perfect detail, of a time

Indescribable.


I have this image as in a dream:

A wrinkled man with parchment skin, my father

Weeping he forms pools, floats away.

“Captain!” I cry…”Come back!”

As our eyes meet across the infinite sea of tears, joy

Like music composed with the deepest meaning, I awake

To the sound of distant voices singing – and little feet running –

“Papa”.

Threads – a poem

My anxiety, a thread hooked to a splinter on the broad side of a forgotten barn, where I was once too afraid to approach, in a forest clearing, down a wooded path overgrown with grass and lined with ancient broken farm equipment rusting in the dampness of the moss-carpeted undergrowth.

I am there near sundown. The path and twisted steel at my back. A memory of a childhood not long past, never long past; of a fear of not knowing what’s behind those broken doors, behind those splintered walls. Always a fear: never curious, never brave, never sure, always afraid. Silently, I creep towards the barn in the stillness. Nothing moves, and yet, there, on the wall, hooked to a splinter, a thread hanging, quivering slightly in the heat. A moment passes, a mere memory. In the silent stifling still air the thread takes flight, gliding upon unseen, unfelt and unfeeling currents, until it vanishes, out of sight.

Existential malaise

Dissatisfaction with the prescribed ways of living found in every religion, most philosophies, implied by culture, the mores and goals of society, the feeling, often acute, of not fitting into the role you think you are playing, or supposed to play – this is a cause of (or a result of, I am unsure) what I term existential malaise. This malady is akin to depression, general anxiety, but it has a discernible root that one can readily discover upon reflection. As opposed to the often general vagaries of general anxiety and depression, existential malaise, as I understand it, is often felt in those instances where you sense an unbridgeable disconnect between yourself, your views of reality and your ethical bearing, and what you witness around you. I could be wrong. What do you think? Am I just an anxious person finding excuses? Or is there something deeper to these feelings? Is my body really telling me something?