Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Takes Two to Tango"

Eartha Kit had it right. Her name itself suggests so. One needs to be kitted-out on this earth best to coordinate with others. Then too, the 'It Takes Two to Tango' song itself suggests the duality inherent in life; energy overcoming inertia. But one is better off to have the steps learned, a basis by which to integrate the variables. Yet to many the dance of life comes naturally; any partner will do. To others, steps need first be learned. And many just don't want to dance at all. It's as though we do not hear the same music. The rhythm is off. The beat is unequal. Our chemistry does not jive. But some of us keep applying the lessons, and although we may not master the steps, we certainly get to enjoy the dance, however unnatural we initially may appear. Or awkward we may feel. Growth can be a vertical accretion, and we learn from others.

Natural accord is a marvelous thing. One speaks easily to another stranger on the phone, or over a counter, like making new friends. One can do that with people one knows too. Yet some stultifying of phrases can block up the flow with others. It's as if some sort of disconnect is at variance with possibility, with potential, with being commensurate as a way of life. One or the other has not given in to the music. And the music, as we both know, takes two to appreciate, (even though one of us may play the lead). But we certainly do not all like the same (i)tunes.

Broken promises are like that. A song that runs in the expectation plays, and then the band suddenly stops playing. Broken conversations are like that. A series of questions that run dry, because one or the other does not syncopate, does not advance the dialogue, does not reciprocate or resonate with an adjoining. We cannot and do not Tango. It takes a certain passion to do it well, beyond the conventional steps, beyond the traditional expectations of contrapuntal tensions. It takes degrees of resonance that involve similar interests, similar experiences, similar ages, (even), and very much it is about similar cares. Birds of a feather flock together, is Holland's Theory. (Now which part of that really needs further explication?)

Every 'thing' resonates with our subjective apprehension of it. Everything. We like the brick wall because.... We like the T.V. show because.... We do not like this or that or him or her, because. It is a universal imperative that we are selective, individual, apportioned, allotted, conscripted, and contained, curtailed, and confabulated by our own proclivities. It is at once isolating and invigorating. I am 'me'; not you; not he or she, but me! And the thing is, if it takes two to tango, then I at least expect the other to know the steps! (Who's the idiot who gave me this jarring tune, this awkward moment, this aberrant partner, this indelicacy to my sensibilities? Who? It's their fault I can't get it right; it's their fault I appear the fool. It's their fault the music is off, or at a discord, or hateful, hurtful, and fraught. If not for the anchor of others, where might one be?)

Thing is, it takes two to tango. We are dependent on the other to make us mutually of a 'perfect' accord, (as imperfect as the journey toward all but a momentary perfection can ever be). If another is 'perfectly' to interact with me, then somewhere in our chemistry there needs to be a deep recognition of our essential humanity, not the superficiality of dance steps learned, the artificial conventions of observing rhythm and meter and rhyme and pacing, but the real raw and visceral reality of the fact that we are of the same species, humankind, as differentiated as we may appear, and as differentiated as our acculturation may be. It takes but a catching of the eye, a seeing of the light in the soul, a reciprocity betwixt the essence of each other, and all else disappears. Unnecessary. Acceptance is all. Compassion is all. Awareness is all. And since it all is a part of everything, even not condoning can be 'all'. Integration is like that. It loves every tune, but does not 'like' some. It can even disapprove. And it certainly cares to pick its partners.

Now then, who will come dance with me?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Loving Lasts

There is a last for everything. Which words shall you last read? Who shall you last see? To whom will you last write? Which shall be your last Christmas? What will be your last gift, to receive, or to give? And in the long journey from birth to the precise second of this reading, how many lasts have you not known? We cannot but be ourselves, no matter the choices we make en route from there to here, and at the final period of a given phase, we must but move on.

After 25 years in the same little room, that's what a tenant just did, soon after Christmas. He'd been in the same house, climbed the steep stairs from the back entrance, slipped into his one room, one-window and a toilet and basin abode for 25 years. Some sort of war veteran. Hardly ever said anything. Do not know his past. Do not know his future. Because that house is selling, he was given a termination notice. And now, evidently, he has gone to a new place. Silently, I surveyed the room. The bed was left, made. The carpet was threadbare and stained. The desk was scarred. The chair looked infirm. The window was filthy. The small old portable TV and the digital clock were still plugged in. A jacket was left hanging in the closet, with some dozen hangers, dangling. Two fragile and skeletal old balsa-wood aeroplanes, their propellers missing, were appended to the wall. Like potential, going nowhere. A cardboard box of food-stuffs, boxed cereal, bagged buns, and tinned things lay aside. Not once, in 25 years, had the room been re-painted, refurbished, his life been (know-ably) renewed. Such a protracted stay, the longevity of focus within a small radius of influence, had come to a last moment. Gone. (At the airport, I'm told, there was not even a hug of farewell.) He disappeared into the air, to who knows where.

The last time I phoned my friend, or wrote a letter, or spoke with a him or her may well have been the last time, ever. We grow older. Life has a way of allowing us each comparatively little time on this planet. (There are trees that still stand, even as they did when Shakespeare was alive! There are parrots older than ourselves. Tortoises too!) And in each moment of the living years we breathe and breathe, albeit not always consciously. A purposeful and purpose-driven life is not the purview of all. Many of us are subject to time and circumstance and import directed by others. Yes, man in his time may have seven ages, and each has his entrances and exits, but many are victims to a script not of their own making, and are puppets directed by the displacement of an indelicate or uncaring overseer. Individuality, real individuality of choice and purport gives rise to resistance against the status quo. And in the great bulge of the bell curve we find ourselves concomitant in so very many layers with others, such that our tapestry is their tapestry, and the singular thread of oneself takes shape really in its consort with the passage of the story of humanity itself, our being hardly traceable in its great stitches in time. We blend in. (The last time I checked, my bills needed paying, my taxes are coming up, my days are pretty much the same as the days of persons of my age, and the regular dictum of the day unfolds, despite what individuality I may bring to it.) Yet to everything, there is, was, and will be, a last time.

So, to the point of the needle that threads one's significance into the weave of the whole: We are imbued with a sense of mattering, or not. We matter to others. We matter to ourselves. We matter to the community, directly or indirectly, and we matter to our nation, let alone our world or our universe. The degree of our consciousness about it all variably determines the degree of our awakening. If we are able to surmount the guilt over being a consumer, a user, a contributor toward this or that '-ism', and can integrate our flow with the flux of the whole, torpid and turgid and rigid and structured and survivalist as it proves, we can be at a piece of peace in much of the moments. Or we can be so phlegmatic as not to care much at all, and merely to keep pursuing the self-satisfactions of the daily dictum. Then too, we can wallow in existential crisis after crises, insecure and unsure and uncertain. But it all will only last so long. So, one may as well love the moments, last for last for last, as one is threaded along, consciously, or not.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Surfeit of Solipsisms

Enough of the self-referencing. Almost everything affects me. We tend to be like that. We tend to see everything as it impinges on, appeals to, or at least relates to the ‘self’. Such is the world since our birth. And for a while, like Schrodinger’s cat, we find ourselves boxed in by our own beliefs. The family eventually grows. An extended family eventually amplifies our sense of self. And all things, all people, all incidents, and all experience, as I see it, utterly attain significance in relation to ourselves. After all, a Boston Marathon is just that, until we directly know someone who was in it. And then we feel more. Then we tell others. Then we are yet more deeply affected. Even the shape of someone running by, as I type this, reminds me of so and so, and so I am given to the relation, to the relationship, and to the solipsism of my own import. (“We are, after all” as (Tuesdays with) Morrie says, “in the human race!”)

Solipsisms are about me. Is that why we do not easily take to the listing of inherent differences amongst us? We’ve heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy; Maslow's Hierarchy; Kohlberg’s Moral Levels; of the Dabrowski Theory of Disintegration (with its Five Stages); of Holland's Theory of Social Differences (birds of a feather flock together); of Gregorc’s Mind Styles; of Dillinger’s Psycho-Geometrics; and of the Johari Window. No? Well, what about Astrology? Well, in each (never mind all the very many other theories out there) I am searching for the identification of, an icon of, specifically, me! Where do I fit in? Not necessarily in a narcissistic way, but in a solipsistic way. (The difference is in that narcissism is about things that directly affect the self, whereas solipsism is about identification with that which we personally have encountered.) So... Any template suggesting that I am a number 3, for instance, as opposed to a 7, or a 1, will resonate more with my apperception of myself. (An enneagram!) Yet any suggestion that I am ‘less’ than this, or not ‘that’, may well set me back on my heels! I can feel marginalized. Hurt. Disbanded.

Predominance is a grounding concept. It suggests that while I am a bit of everything (since we all are comprised of only six essential elements: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Carbon, Calcium, and Phosphates), it is the predominance of the apportionment of chemistry, or of habit, or of conceptualization, or of instinct that impels me. And as generic as I am, I actually am the only living being exactly like me, specifically me, in the whole world. As for me, so too for you! But then, this essay is all about me, really. (Or do you find yourself in here too?)

We are instinctively put off when we are pigeonholed. The bell curve can very much annoy with its containing the vast majority of us within its bulge, despite the progress of all mankind, in generality, through the centuries. You mean I'm normal, average, the same as everybody else? Yet I see the bell curve not as a flat diagram on a page but rather as a multidimensional ball of wool through which each of us, like knitting needles, pokes in differing lengths. Yet what exactly is the object of this ‘wooly’ advancement, this journey? Well, surely we all can agree that there are concepts like depravity, decadence, violence, corruption and flatulence at stake? (After all, where will you be at your “moment of poof”?) Who surrounds you? What will the significance of your having passed through our world, through our space-time continuum, through our warp and woof have proven, other than that you got to do what you wanted to do, saw the world through your own filters? (Yes, this all is indeed about you. Or do we now think it still is about me?)

With yet another year soon to be turning over (since we can but persist with the clunky calendar however Gregorian we may aspire not to be) there will be a host of celebrations and compulsions attending a variety of traditions. Each is to each of significance. How can it be otherwise? (Well, raise a baby into an entirely different culture, with different belief system, and even on a different continent, and that is how it can be otherwise!) Thing is, the point of all this is that you or me cannot help but be who we are, relating to that which we do from the basis of our past, our present, and our wishes for the future. How we care for others, ultimately, makes all the difference. Thing is, as for me, so too for thee? Or is this now, in-deed(s), still all about me?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Revolution's Rub

Art by Milo Manera (on Pinterest)

Revolution gnaws at the fetters. It itches. It festers. And it can galvanize. Unless we activate in us the seeds of revolution up until our individual "moment of poof", that ineluctable moment at which one ceases to live, we may else but be trapped within centuries of inescapable immutability. That's what happened to the Egyptians. Three thousand years or more of little change. Imagine! They experienced no revolution. (Yet which individuals still lie, stifled?) And then came the Romans.

"Et tu Brute?" Yes, we are essentially esoteric. We hanker with trivia towards the objective of mental and material acquisition, or not. And when at last we shuffle off this mortal coil we've hardly conceived of the plagiarisms we've garnered en route.  (Isn't phraseology generative?)

Yet the mercurial combination of the six elements that comprise each one of us; Hydrogen; Oxygen; Nitrogen; Carbon; Calcium; and Phosphorous, are like the six Figures of Speech, or the six Themes of Conflict. Six, six, six, a number of its own significance. As for ourselves, so too for all of them! Six elements in magic apportionments; a unique recipe for each individual. Yet despite that uniqueness, we continue to cluster in clans and under customs and in cliques. And we yield to the status quo. We await some other leader. We await some savior. We await. And time slips by. Self-reliance, self-actualization, individuation, and independence are not our birthright, it seems; we learn these aspects of ourselves through hard-won experience. Or not.

Attribution is our nemesis. What makes a thing of value is directly proportional to the value I give it. (A plastic horse is a plastic horse.) Hence sentimentality. Hence souvenirs. Hence collectibles of things and the emotional 'necessity' to complete sets, or volumes, (especially if you're like me.) Like pursuing that book, or a cd that someone referenced. Or what about binge-watching a tv series? Someone else's life can indeed be so much more interesting than every-day reality.

In the grand universal scheme, we make knowledge of the particulars, like naming the universe:
"My very exotic mother jerked suddenly under Neptune's pillow." 
"If Mercury begins the sequence and Pluto ends it, it makes sense."
 ("Ah..., Mercury, Venus, Err, ... Oh! A mnemonic!")

Esoterica can be disarming. In the six Elements of Classic Composition (see my sea-star Blog essay below*), or in the six Themes of Conflict; or when considering the Seven Deadly Sins; or the... Well, the list goes on; in all their fragmenting there is not necessarily the intuition of Unity. Or is there? Surely history itself, with its wars and revolutions and horrors and pretexts and pretensions (and achievements too) has been perpetuated by mans' fairly constant fragmenting of the health of the whole? We tend to particularize. We see isolated instances and may presume them to epitomize the whole; we see the bulk of the bell curve and forget the many outliers. As for me, so for you, but not necessarily as for you, so for me. It's easy to judge. It's easy to hate. It's easy to subjugate or control (if one is more powerful). It is not easy to lead, to inspire, to elevate, and to integrate.

Thing is, bottles of wine with the labels 'Revolution', and 'The Rebel', (recently shared along with a visit to Canada's parliament building,) as well as memorable phrases like "my moment of poof," enliven this discourse. We yoke together everything that brought us, each of us, to our birth, or not. Known, or not, it's called 'Family Constellations'. Apparently, the genetic imprinting is so deeply imbued in us that we scarcely can escape habits programmed by DNA. And then we go on to learn more. We add on. But just how much, actually, do we consciously choose? To what degree are we given to thinking about our thinking? Always? Continually? Therein lies the rub.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Small-Talk Subtleties

My Dear Friend,

How delighted I always am to hear from you! The news of your life swirls in my head from time to time, and although I do mix up some details, I can always refer back to our last conversation, communication, or missive. Yes, I miss you. I think of the light in your eyes. I hear the tones of your voice. I recall your laugh. These are the individual things that drew us to each other, and they are the knots in the weave of time, keeping us from fraying apart. But unlike my tapestry metaphor, in which the representation of one's life eventually becomes a series of static images, our story has an ongoing vitality; in fact, even the memories become coloured, layered, govern alternate truths as I forget the particulars and the precision of the past. And yes, unless we keep up the chit-chat, we may indeed lose contact altogether. Especially if we change addresses.

How do I address the warp and weave of the past? How do I fill you in when the movements of my own patchwork have been so varied? And for that matter, yours too! You've met friends, lost things, lost people, lost some of your hopes and dreams. Who has not? As Browning wrote, "Ah but one's reach should exceed one's grasp, or what's a heaven for?" And just how much have we not each indeed achieved in the grasping for life itself? The things we've acquired. The friends we've made: 'reason, season, lifetime'. The new family members who've joined the proverbial tree. The old family members who've had to leave this life. Pets too. A dog. A cat. A bird. All configure in the emotional attachments we've taken on. No not all is catabolism. Not all is entropy. Much of our lives has been enlivened by the rejuvenating spirit of yet more and more experience; new words; more adventure; more things to do; to go see. There are new people to meet. There are new problems to solve. There is this or that place yet to go to, too.

Did I tell you that we were last in Kalimandura? No? Impossible to find! Yes, spent a glorious ten days there. The walks. The shopping. The beaches. The bargain hunting. It was so interesting. Got the t shirt. A good place to go! And next is Ortangmyrig. Yes, it's a place we've been to before, but we’ve some dear friends there, and they're a lovely couple. You'd really like them! 

Abraxis and Braywurst have been friends since way back. They love music. But he's snobbish about country. She cooks. And always asks about allergies. And then there's Carmine and Dagnab. You'd like them! He mows the lawn. But never before 9:00am. Did I tell you about Erbet's new car? (His sixth.) Or what about Fringlback's new puppy? He barks back at it, angrily! (Reminds me of when I had a dog and a cat. Miss them. Always had to clean up after them, though. Quite a bother!) Makes me think of Grautmug and Hannibal. They differ loudly about the sports they watch. And what of Inezza and Jasper? Heard they left for elsewhere. Never could settle. Then there's Kapok and Linguirra. She loves to ride horses; he's into motorbikes. (I recall slipping the clutch and turfing a friend of mine off my Honda 70, once upon a time.) Oh, and Marvelluex and Nunsence are a fine couple. (One worries, though, that they never argue.) And as for Oseoid and Penelope, why, I heard last they were still wrangling over which meme to wrest; far too intellectual for me! Yet Ribald and Solipsism are the truest of friends, maybe; they do tend to follow me everywhere. Then again, Tiempo and Urval take their turns at betrayal; the persistent drama indeed can be tempestuous. Of course, you'll recall Volmorant and Whatsis; they have taken new residence; in with the new and out with the old!! Such is the lot of Xaveru and Yente and Zola too. Alone. We each dance to our own drummer.

Spiral dynamics, psycho-geometrics, and the seven sins attend this discourse, (though we've hardly mentioned the Memes.) Still, in the small-talk subtleties, it all is a lesson in the listening, indeed. And you? What’ve you been up to?

With love, Me

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Considering Compassion

Compassion is a learn-ned commodity. The taste is off. Honey comes in varieties. A memory makes of something better than it was, or worse. We love to be spoiled. But having walked, it is hard to have to crawl. Having flown, it is hard to be caged. Having had a clear head, it can be awful to suffer a hangover. Life is full of comparisons. And being always fully present is too much to expect; much of life is an escape from the difficult. Yet true compassion arises when we ourselves have "been there", when we can empathize, (which is more than just to sympathize).

The new drug, after the first night, might take "getting used" to. Clogged, cluttered, and chaotic, I tried with equanimity to continue. But the next five days of cold sweats and sleeplessness, fuzzy thinking and my subsequent inability to practice minimizing the chronic pain very much disadvantaged me. Habit made of my moments but brief success. Be polite. Be respectful. Get up. Get ready. Eat. Walk, steadily. Stay the course. Write. Edit. Think carefully. (Dammit.)

So very dependent on our chemistry, even the smallest of tasks can be daunting when we're under the influence of the unusual. Was it so for the wasp that recently sank its mandibles into my marmalade? Keeping still, I watched, fascinated. Oblivious to me, me the provider, the treasure giver, the person who easily might swat it, the creature gorged. And when at last it'd had its fill, like an over-drunk patron at a bar, it bashed into my forefinger as it took flight. "Bzzt!" it reacted, angrily, but did not sting. (Yet surely no flower, ever after, will yield such sweetness.)

Sometimes we can make conscious choices. Sometimes things sink into us without our knowledge, insidiously. So many chemicals. So many poly-this-or-that’s. And since we have to eat and drink and survive, we are continually affected by the molecules entering our blood streams. Just so for the pills I recently substituted: gabbapenton, instead of pregabalin. They represent a $300 saving over my three-monthly regular supply. For three years now my body has responded well, after more than ten years in the power-chair. Back in 2104, only able to walk a few steps, followed by an emergency episode of multiple embolisms in both lungs, it became necessary to move more, to walk again, and to do drugs. A superb Doctor manages me. And between heart, blood, eyes, and nerve pain pills, my daily cocktail has kept me improving. And then I tried (with the doctor's permission) the cheaper drug. And, boy, did I pay!

But five weeks later, my older drug regimen re-established, I walked with my cane more than a kilometer through the nearby forested Devonian Gardens. Soft underfoot, tall treed, shadowed, with shallow streams, some wood bridges, and occasional stairs. Taxiing. Challenging. Once, my cane aloft, my hyperactive mind making it my South African army rifle, I pointed it in fear at the sound of an unseen something rushing at me. Heightened pain sensitivity and age-old memories pricked my sensibilities. But the noise became a big dog who galloped past, followed eventually by its owner. Reality dominates. Yet each step jarred its course through my spine. 

The lonely regimen of self-discipline is a heroic thing, for anybody. One has to break through the synaptic barrier of addiction to the body's expectations. One has to train to run a marathon. A new guitar chord can take weeks of practice to make natural. And self-discipline, that measure of attaining yet more and more over pain, is very much a matter of mind over matter. So too for the addiction to drugs, to booze, to extraneous 'needs', to food, or things. (That wasp might've come back for more, but with the marmalade disappeared it'd have no choice but to visit the regular.) Humans too can have a pot of gold in mind. (Even self-discipline can prove detrimental). But for some, the innate chemical composition of their being needs help. I cannot yet dispense with my drugs, even though I've slowly cut back from nine pills a day to just two. I depend on chemistry. You?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On Opposing Opposition

Statues tumble. What once stood for something is torn down. Someone decides that the edifice, the words, the implication, the import, the history itself ought best be erased. And so we lose the visual reminder of not only what once was, but what 'ought not to have been'. Yet censorship or circumlocution can condemn us all. Best at times to call a spade a spade. Surely it's better to educate as to what an Alt-Right is, than to bury it? (Children and innocents may be lured by the clandestine and furtive, rather than by the open-faced.) Are we not better off to see exposed what racism really is; horrendous as is the TV reels of the chanting Charlottesville 'parade'?

Opposing opposition is a lifelong activity. In the six fundamental themes of conflict with which our lives are invested (or infested) there is: Person vs Nature; Person vs Supernatural; a Person vs Technology; a Person vs another Person; a Person vs Society; and a Person vs Himself. (In actuality we are indeed our own worst enemy.) And within these themes of conflict we find ourselves ineluctably and perpetually encumbered. How to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is the main problem; much of what makes a Person is managing his life.

Integration would have it that we are compassionate, inclusive, forgiving, understanding, accepting, and absorbing. But it does not mean that we are condoning. And in order not to condone one simply has to draw a line around an unacceptable action (for any thought given life beyond thinking becomes an action). Problem is, quite evidently, we have entire groups given to hugely variant sets of what is 'acceptable'. How else to explain to a child that there are terrorists and criminals and thugs and rapists and bad people; (in fact, "biggly-bad" people, to quote our latest “most powerful man of the free world”). Yes, opposing the forces of evil (those who perpetrate intentional harm), and opposing that which is unacceptable may well seem all within the status quo, but it is not so. Were the definition of 'unacceptable' be absolute we'd perhaps all be behaving more or less exactly alike, listening to the same tunes, dressing alike, and certainly be contained in an harmonious unity. No individualism. Yes, some dictators would like that.

As I write Barcelona reels from the attack on its tourist filled street. Despite the commentators, there runs in a black band with white type beneath the TV images the news of the Sierra Leone mud slides, with 300 plus dead, and thousands as yet unaccounted for. Those themes of conflict spring to mind: Person vs Nature; Person vs Society. We can hardly escape the horror of it all. But yes, the most impactful, it appears evident, is that which we see as purposeful, intentional, designed, deliberate, and unfair. Women and children are among the hundreds dead in the mud slide. Innocent tourists are hit and hurt and bleeding and shot, with one dead by the restaurant-invading Barcelona brigands. Awful. And what do you think is given TV precedence?

The phone rings. It's a man telling me there's a problem with my computer, and if I provide my details they can fix it. Imagine! How horrid! That the unknowing, the aged, the innocent, the insecure should so be under attack by the insensitive of our world. Imagine. That someone across the seas and in another world can reach with an invasive phone call and so disrupt and so easily destroy trust and sensibility and civility. How very uncivil. How very evil. Imagine!

Opposition to oneself (and also to others) needs opposing. One at some time or other has to stand up for what is right, what is decent, what is fair. If the measure of all three of those last phrases, "right, decent, fair," is seen as the measure of the least amount of harm to humanity as a whole, then we have something civil, indeed. Such is 'civilization'. All else is the tearing down and dismantling of care and consideration. So, allow statues of the Greek and Roman Gods to remain. So, allow edifices of the tyrants and usurpers to teach us. Evolution through education becomes an imperative. Let the past remain our teacher, ever monumentally, lest we repeat it.