It is rarely as good as you think it must be, or as bad as you fear it will be.
Black crows are silhouettes against a cotton sky.
There is light. And there is dark.
The dark cannot subsume the light. Shine a light, and the dark must give way.
Shadows are wholly dependent.
But light shines of its own accord.
Black crows are silhouettes against a cotton sky.
It took some time, but they finally arrived, the thoughts leading me to hope again.
Here in the cold on a damp bench, water flows and ducks preen, and people walk past hand in hand.
I would gladly share this space, and yet I am gladly alone, I just am and they just are, and somewhere someone exists to sit beside me.
But now the flocks circle. And the traffic flows. Layers of sound like soft bandages wrapping my ears.
The birds. The cars. The voices. The laughter of children. Of men and women. Distant music. The rhythmic scraping of meandering soles on gravel paths.
I am trusting more and more in an ascending simplicity, spiralling out, perhaps, to a basic spiritual singularity.
Shall I name it? I do not dare.
For it exists between the soft wrappings of sound, in the spaces between things we can name.
Cold day. Damp bench. Alone.
It sits here, next to me.
If we insist on outdueling the other, we will eventually find there is nobody left to whom we relate.
A healthy relationship is not a duel of wit or will waged behind defensive walls; but a patient organic blooming of giving, understanding, and compassion.
Through giving we may receive; through understanding we may question; through compassion we may be saved.
Healthy relationships give us comfort for we are vulnerable, strength for we are weak.
The invulnerable and invincible among us are lost and lonely indeed. Not only do they not exist (for who among us are gods?), they are trapped in the illusion they do.
Step out from your defensive walls, and others will follow.
To change and develop in a positive direction one needs honest information. This is a reason why lies and deception are so injurious to well-being: they prevent the development of one’s full potential. Honesty to oneself and others is often painful, but so is birth, for mother and baby alike.
I cannot go back in time. But I can do the next best thing: start making positive improvements in my life right now.
A new world opened before me. One overflowing with light and love. I am neither reluctant nor expectant to enter, for reluctance implies doubt, expectancy implies dependency; I neither fear what lies within, nor seek salvation.
I know this world is meant for me. I will take my time to explore and learn. I will live.
Who am I
To say what any of this means?
I have been sleepwalking
Since I was fourteen.
Now as I write my song
I retrace my steps
Honestly, it’s easier
To let myself forget.
Still, I check my vital signs
Choked up, I realize
I’ve been less than half myself
For more than half my life.
Fall in love again
Wage war on gravity
There’s so much
Worth fighting for
Another domino falls
It looks like empathy
To understand all sides
But I’m just trying to find myself
Through someone else’s eyes.
So show me what to do
To restart this heart of mine
How do I forgive myself
For losing so much time?
Roll up your sleeves
There’s a chain reaction
In your heart
Remembering who you are.
And fall in love again and again and again
Wage war on gravity
There’s so much
Worth fighting for
Another domino falls
And another domino falls.
A little at a time
I feel more alive
I let the scale tip and feel all of it
It’s uncomfortable but right.
We were born to try
To see each other through
To know and love ourselves and others well
Is the most difficult and meaningful
Work we’ll ever do.
The hours, the days, they come, and they go. But the moment – it lasts forever.
If there is no light, then there is no dark.
I have fallen into the dark; I have become despair, doubt, infinite dread.
The dark says, ‘Turn your back on the light, there is no hope there; the closer you are permitted to come to the light, the further you will inevitably fall. Stay here, on the bottom, for in the end, all is doubt, fear, death, nothingness.’
The dark says the light is but an ideal, one that you can never reach, and thus one that will always fail you.
And I answer: ‘If light is an ideal, then you must be as well. To turn my back on one demands I turn my back on the other. You say it is folly to choose the light for it is an ideal, but then surely it is also folly to choose you.’
And the dark shudders, and spits me from its maw.
In the distance a tiny light flickers.
Caught between two ideals; I walk towards the dancing light.
Trust is the silent energy fuelling any healthy relationship; you truly appreciate it once it is broken, for the silence is replaced with the screeching deafening noise of its fragmented and metastatic parts, circulating like screaming cancerous tumours through the withering and dying relationship, illustrating with crystal moral clarity the following truth: trust is the relationship and the relationship is trust. You risk it all if you take trust for granted; nurture and cultivate it as dearly and attentively as you would a developing child, for in effect, you will be nurturing and cultivating not only your relationship, guiding its development from birth to maturity, but, as any dedicated and caring parent knows, developing yourself as well.
There’s a pain that only I may know.
If it is common why do I feel so alone?
‘There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.’
Has this wisdom failed me, or have I chosen not to see?
The love of two bound souls…the curves of hips and naked backs…mouths agape in mirrored arches of ecstasy.
We are apes, dammit! So how can we seem so divine?
We long desperately for what we cannot have-
and what we have we fail to see.
The divine is all around and deep within-
A fluttering butterfly tracing sinuous curves across the naked sky,
pulls a string in the poet’s heart making melodious melodies of the mundane.
The sun rises as it sets:
Pain and joy; loneliness and companionship; light and dark; ecstasy and agony.
An ape so divine.
Good out of weakness. Strict normative principles so as to control the world. A moral absolutist so as not to get hurt. Actions not adhering to, not possible to adhere to, such strict moral principles. Hurt inevitably following.
Afraid to live. Ashamed to love. Each breath self-reflective. Critical. Analytical. Simply not comfortable in my own skin.
Each cell of the body awash in nervous energy. Anxious vibrations. Always, always on guard. Even asleep. Especially, in my sleep.
For I do constant battle with my demons.
Guilty. That I am a sinner.
Dirty. That I am impure.
Unworthy. That I will be abandoned.
Envious. That I am lacking.
Anxious. That catastrophe strikes the unwary.
And yet, compassion. For myself. For others. Compassion for my demons. Thirty-six years and I have yet to win a battle. I am done battling.
In compassion there is hope.
In hope, salvation.
Life is organic; an unfolding web of cause and effect. Free will and the sense of self are illusory, and we all come laden with evolutionary, cultural, and familial baggage. Our neural networks are infinitely nuanced, such that no two people in a population of billions are exactly the same.
Life is staggeringly complex, seemingly irreducible, yet completely free of magic. We are simply blind to most causes. I am who I am, and where I am, right this instant due to an unfolding, organic dance of causal relationships, the majority of which I am ignorant. My ability to learn, to adapt (or not), are threads in the nuanced web of my life. Threads tugged upon, supporting, connecting the baggage of my birth, my personal inheritance and unique development.
I did not create these threads: they created me.
The same goes for you.
Tell me: where in this picture could we, should we, insert blame?
Laurels are the sled at the mountain’s top. Rest too long your weary legs, and unawares you will find yourself at the bottom looking up.
In response to a recent query. I thought it worth sharing, as it highlights the motivation behind the seemingly tortuous mission to ‘know thyself’.
‘For me, I not only glimpse into the ether, I spend days, months, years, living within and breathing the ether. If by ether you mean the unknown, the fear and anxiety of your life, the world you dare not enter for it might be too terrifying, the truth too exacting. If by ether you mean the abyss. Why do I do this?
The uncovering and understanding of the deepest truths and realities about the cosmos and your place in it, is, I would argue, the source of everything worth holding on to, worth striving for. It is no mistake that one of the strongest and longest-lasting pearls of wisdom is ‘know thyself’. Knowing yourself requires you understand your relationship to reality, as part of who you are (indeed, perhaps all you are) is as a relational entity: you not only draw nourishment from water and molecules in food, warmth from the sun, oxygen from the air, but as an emotional and social creature you are defined by, and in relation to, others. In a very literal way you are the product of a web of causation stretching backwards through time and covering immense space and nodes of influence.
You can be ignorant. You may truly believe falsehoods and build them into your narratives. The universe doesn’t literally demand you know the truth. However, knowledge and wisdom is the source of everything and anything worth tapping into. Why? Because the universe might not literally care, but if you live your life blind to a deeper understanding you will run into problem after problem after problem. Or so my experience has taught me. Problems with relationships. Problems with self-confidence. Problems at work or in society. You will thrash and point the finger everywhere, absolutely everywhere, other than at yourself. But once you wipe that slate clean, be willing to start afresh, be dedicated to writing a new narrative for yourself, one whose plot better reflects the true nature of reality and your place in it, many of your problems will disappear, your confidence will grow, your relationships will strengthen, you will know when to stay or when to move on, you will stop blaming others (and yourself) and accept not only the cards that have been dealt you (I, for example, have serious anxiety issues, ones for which I routinely blamed the universe), but you will also find ways to work on the things that are in your power to change. Nobody can ask anything more of you, and you will find you are actually beginning to live a meaningful life.
And why not simply ignore and bury terrible truths? I say: there is no wisdom in wilful ignorance. In fact, I find the notion a paradox. Once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, there is no putting it back in. People try! Alcohol, drugs, running away, escape escape escape! But once the cat is out it will always find you. In bed late at night. In those moments of clarity when you look at yourself in the mirror. When you reflect on your life and realize it is dripping away and you have wasted most of it and the blame and pointing finger no longer saves you. When the universe no longer holds you up. And, for many people I imagine, the cat comes back on their deathbeds, stalking like a phantom the recesses of consciousness until the dark shadow fully envelops the mind. Don’t let that happen! Don’t die without ever knowing yourself and truly living!
Once you glimpse into the ether it is already too late! As in the Wizard of Oz, a peek behind the curtain is all that’s needed to shatter the fantasy. But as you peer ever deeper into the ether, you, like Dorothy’s companions, will find your courage, your strength, your wisdom, and, like Dorothy, your life.’
The greatest gift you can give another is a piece of your deepest self.
Not your time. Not your money; but something more precious still.
Is it understanding, or compassion, or attention that you offer? Is there a word bringing these together?
That piece you offer freely, that is the gift. You offer without reservation. You say ‘Do with it as you will’, though, of course, you hope and trust the other treads lightly.
And that’s the risk you take…
…and the pain you can inflict.
Here’s an experiment. Tomorrow, before entering the world, wear your hair a different way. Don socks that don’t match. When asked ‘how are you?’, don’t lie. Frown.
When the queen walks in, remain seated.
Be honest. Be yourself tomorrow.
Unless you are infinitely agreeable, unless your hair looks equally good parted, unless you are God, prepare yourself.
Prepare for the onslaught of thinly veiled snideness, disapproval, disdain; prepare for unsolicited opinions, for rolled eyes, for mockery; prepare for all the tools at society’s disposal to keep you in line. To hammer you to conformity.
You’re a glass half empty kind of person? You best have them walkin’ papers signed and stamped!
DO NOT ROCK THE BOAT!
You got that?
And always, always remember: FOLLOW THE CROWD.
I dare you: wear your hair differently tomorrow.
Woe the moment a material purchase becomes the highlight of your year.
What did you want to be as a kid? I ask you – myself – what did you want to be as a kid?
Did you want to be a slave to your obsessions? To your insecurities? Did you want to feel trapped inside your own mind? Did you pine to be, just simply long to be, an outsider, misunderstood by others, misunderstanding them in turn? Did you wish to lose yourself?
If not these noble dreams, then what?
Maybe you didn’t formulate it. Maybe you failed to think it through. Think of it at all.
Youth was great. We were the lucky ones. I was a lucky one.
Strength of spirit and endless optimism and boundless hope. Enjoying life as it came, sharing experiences with friends and family.
Hikes and canoe trips and watching TV on Mom’s bed.
Oh, the antics and joyful shit devised with friends!
Shooting hoops outside and swimming in freezing pools. We didn’t need vacation. I didn’t need vacation. It was all – all – right there.
No. Not all.
I remember like yesterday walking my street alone, or with a buddy, in the early morn, on the way home. Sometimes drunk, yet always completely sober. And dreaming of nothing, and of everything. This, this whole world was mine, and I loved it, and it loved me.
The stars were so bright on these nights. And when not, then only for the light of the full moon, lighting the gray road and loose stones of the shoulder.
Yellow dashed and solid lines. Black threads of tar filling cracks. Can you feel it? The roughness of the asphalt and the gummy tar and the smooth paint of the dividing line as you slowly jog barefoot down the middle of the road?
This was my road, illuminated by my stars, and the moon, the moon was my deepest friend, my….confidant. And I was so aware, so very aware, of myself, and my feet on the solid ground.
The houses housed guests asleep in my world. I was content they were there. Live and let live. And they let me live.
As did my mother. She let me live. And my father. He let me live. Hell, they encouraged it…life…and me, in whom they had faith. And my sister too. Perhaps she came to see I was a viciously free spirit, stubborn, passionate. Arrogant. Oh so arrogant! Not with aggression, nor malice, nor sickening self-pride.
But arrogance in my optimism and self-confidence. And why not? For me, I was the king of my world, this sleeping, trodden street.
On my road. On my road. Arrogant happiness and naivety. Walking on my road. Ask me anything. ‘What would I like to be?’ HAHA. What a silly question. Can’t you see, I am content right here?
What did you want to be as a kid?
In all honesty: nothing precise. Nothing defined. The wind perhaps. Yes, that’ll do.
I wanted but to remain in that blissful state, forever.
It was all right there.
And now the roads are all foreign. The stars, well they don’t shine as bright. And my feet don’t trust the shifting ground.
I say live and let live, but I don’t understand the rules of life.
And I have a family, kids, a wife. I have a job, a car, responsibilities.
Football games and bush-craft.
And I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
Well, maybe one thing: to have it all as I have it now, but to have me included. Yes. Me included.
But who am I? I am here, in this form, behind these walls, writing these words. But a part of me is back there. On that road. Where it all made sense.
A part of me walks that road every single night.
A part of me has never left.
Optimism. Unbridled hope.
What do I want to be?
My answer: nothing. But to have that peace again, in whole. To see those stars again, as bright. To be guided by that moon again, back home. To find me again, barefoot, on solid ground.