Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Friend's Haircut

My Friend's Haircut

"Problem is, I have to get my haircut" my friend says over the phone. I think a moment. "Then I'll come with you," I say, "I can wait in the car or perhaps even have mine done too." There is a pause. "We'd have to make an appointment for that, I'm afraid," he says, "but if you'd like to come along I'll pick you up and we can go swimming afterwards, that is, after we've also been to my dealership. I've got to get the car quickly checked before we leave for Phoenix tomorrow. But I do want to go to the gym, okay? See you at three."

He arrives on the dot, as we say. He parks as near as possible to the entrance of my building since I have to use my cane to get to his car. And then we set off. We talk with the easy familiarity of two people who've known each for nearly thirty years. Phoenix rises up in our conversation within the gamut of what we did yesterday and slides into whatever happened to This person and then That person, along with which we analyze the paths least or most trodden, depending on the circumstances. After all, that one became an alcoholic and this other one became a womanizer, and then there's yet This Other fellow who is a closet introvert, given that his impeccable manners would not have the public suspect as much. And next my friend nudges his car into a spare parking spot. But the block he has to walk, albeit with his own limp and the ever-present boot-brace he needs is too far for me, and I let him know I'll happily wait. He hands me the car keys so that I may listen to the radio, or adjust the windows for air.

Some forty-five minutes later he is back. I'd used the time to tap at my iPad, to watch the passersby on an autumnal October Wednesday, and to enjoy the moments to myself. "What have you been working on?" he asks, easing himself into the driver's seat and then starting off. I close up my machine. "Been working on this essay called Room for a View," I offer. He picks up on the phraseology. "Ah, not with a view but for a view, eh?" And next we 're into reminisces about the four panes of the Johari Window (the which he'd first let me see into, back in the 80's) and our continuing inability to see ourselves completely. Our chatter meanders along and then he turns into the dealership where, once we've left the car, we continue talking in the waiting room about the pitfalls of myopia, of closed-mindedness, of absolutes, of certainties, and of unbridled egotism.

The car ready for us, we drive back toward the indoor pool complex, and we pay our entrance fee and he goes to the gymnasium and I go to the change rooms and prepare for the pool-water, do my weightless exercises, my workout, my challenge of increasing my endurance, my attempts at overcoming the perpetual nerve pinching pain, and then at last come out of the changing room again. I am exhausted. He is sweating but uses a towel to dry his face and is ready to go. I tell him of my having to do my math classes immediately after swim class back in school days, and how the slightly nauseous feeling now puts me back in that time. Yes. We are our past and our present and our future too, we know. Yet that which we now do prepares us for that very future. In that case, for both of us, we're getting fitter for it, ha! Finally, he drops me off at my place. Good-bye!

And now, three days later, I realize: I never even thought to look at or say anything about my friend's haircut!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Room for a View?

"Declare your point of view, please," my friend challenges, "absolutely! Completely!"

Absolutely, I respond. It's the sort of word one sometimes uses, even though it's about a specific view-point held, an apportionment of the whole, a segment of the truth as one knows it, an avowed verification personally understood. Totally! Even by such a word we mean within the context. For some such partiality of view is just not good enough. Yet, how possibly to be conscious of Everything, The Totality? Even our Gods have many names, differing adherents, diverse religions, faiths, beliefs, and many disclaimers too.

Perhaps, given that we innately and essentially have the potential to be entirely, totally integrative in our intuitions, interests, feelings, understandings and intentions, some of us are not readily drawn or given to being a This or a That. Such seeming fence-sitters are neither blue nor red nor an eagle nor a bull to frustrated political, religious, or sports-team builders. Yet to the eclectic, being a This or a That is to be curtailed amidst the galaxies of our entire universe to a given planet, moon, or star. Within universality the conscription of the self to any one co-ordinate indeed circumscribes. By contrast to this ease of accommodating variables, by contrast to having an esemplastic sensibility in its growing willingness to encounter myriad generalities, there are some who practice strict adherence to specificities. Some even proclaim a particularized reservation at the proverbial pearly gate. Some expect a room with a view. Others believe that they'll be served by willing vestal virgins. Pedigrees especially. Such are some of mans' beliefs.

Mongrels, mayhap, are more integrative. They are not too choosey, nor too selective; a simple preference guides them as opposed to inbred habits of selection. Integration’s essence is an accretion of acceptances. Whomever, whatever, whichever, whenever is all par for the course, an anathema to those attached to tradition. Integration has it that one has predilections, choices, practices preferred principles, yet becomes comfortable that all practices and principles exist. Even the worst. By such inclusion even of evil integration absorbs, contains, and minimizes the apparent ubiquity of the negative. To push against it is to encourage its pushing against you. So one works with dark and light, and the balance is in the very art of living. Mongrels tend not to be specialists.

Integrative preference leads naturally to Godliness over Hellishness, Light over Dark, Positive over Negative. Enlightenment is a journey, not a product. Choice is paramount. Degree and predominance of choice habituates us. We are works in progress. Which part of Everything is not? We all are in the classroom of life, communing together, evolving as conscripted, or as we will, or choose, or think, or even as we prey or pray.

Prayer, OMG, is like a natural connection to malleable potential. Belief in God, for an integrationist, is a belief in Totality, in Everything, in One, in Plurals, and even in All the Fragments too. Humans basically bind under the spell of love, community, with intention to be kind, honourable, caring. But? And the divisiveness commences. Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and Zoroaster among others were men who inspired millions; yet we but peep mostly through the holes in the solidness of fences around ourselves to take in a bit more of the view at a time, and so too investigate yet more light. Would a room with a window not otherwise have its vistas, absolutely, completely obscured? Hmm?

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's in Your Jeans?

Contributing to The Whole, hmm?

"You can't do that!" they say. And yet someone swam the channel, flew the plane, broke the previous record, went to the moon. Indeed, where would some of us be without the surgeons who experimented with cornea or titanium implants? We evolve! In an essay entitled "Intelligence and Energy Fields", hereby truncated, scientist Jim Francis talks about changes to our group-genetics, our evolution. A friend of mine responded: "I find it to affirm that which I feel to be true. Though not necessary, it feels good that one's assumptions are corroborated by science." Indeed, yet its contentions are controversial:

"Over the past 5-10 years, hard evidence has been produced which is having its effect on the scientific skeptics. Dr. Karl Pribram, a prominent American brain surgeon, sees the brains neurones 'out-picturing' the physical universe, similar to the holographic process. He suggests that our brains are exposed to the entire concept of the universe in the same way that any minute part of a hologram contains basically the same information as the whole. British scientist, David Bohm came up with the same Holographic Theory... But probably most amazing of all is the theory that British physicist Rupert Sheldrake has proffered. Basically he has proven repeatedly through laboratory controlled experiments that different species of animals appear to be "plugged" into a dedicated intelligence field which is universal to that particular species. For example, when enough mice in a group have learned a maze, they ALL suddenly know the maze - whether they have run it or not! It now appears, after a BBC television experiment, that if enough humans have learned something, then it becomes easier for all humans to learn it. Sheldrake calls this shared intelligence the Morphogenetic field.There is an interesting parable about this called the '100th monkey'. A very bright female monkey on a small Japanese island was taught to wash potatoes in the seawater. She then taught other members of the tribe to do this. When approximately 100 monkeys had learned this procedure, many other remote monkey tribes started washing potatoes in the same manner. But the interesting thing is that they were situated on other remote islands! That is, they had no possible way of acquiring this knowledge other than by some form of intuitive universal "sharing". The BBC in London tried out Sheldrake's Theory on 8 million viewers. They showed on prime time TV a difficult puzzle that only a very small percentage of their viewers were able to solve. Then the correct answer was also given. Shortly after, the same experiment was repeated in another country. A far higher percentage of these foreign viewers were able to get the puzzle right the first time. In the form of a universal pictorial concept, language and customs were not considered to be a factor. The BBC and Sheldrake concluded that as the correct answer was now existing within the human morphogenetic field the human race now "knows" the answer. Basically Sheldrake's Theory explains how we develop intuition and 'intuitive' functioning to a degree. What Sheldrake is saying is that there is a 'larger' mind for each life-form and each individual life-form 'programs' that larger mind. But probably the most startling experiments came from Cleve Backster, a polygraph (lie detector) expert. Operating from his San Diego, Californian laboratory he found that plants react - at a distance - to human thought. He initially connected his polygraph equipment to a Dragon Plant to test for possible "plant stress". He decided to generate stress by burning the plants leaves and sure enough the polygraph machine registered a strong reaction. But he hadn't actually burnt the leaves - he had only intended to do so, with emotion and intent! Skeptics who tried the same experiment without genuine intent couldn't get it to work. Backster scraped human cells from a volunteer's mouth and connected these to medical EEG equipment. He found that these cells reacted instantaneously to the donor's emotions, even when they were geographically separated! White blood cells were found to be particularly susceptible to emotion. (This may explain for the first time why people with strong positive emotions have better health). This intelligence field could explain how Subjective Communication (the ability to connect with other people's minds) works to create win/win situations, as well as remote viewing works (the ability to see people, objects and places in the past, present and future) as well as remote influencing (the ability to transfer emotions and heal people from a distance)". End of Jim's essay.

Well now, reductio ad absurdum yields that no given group of gifted students would relieve the rest of us from being in school! Yet I am galvanized by the concept of our collective intelligence residing within each holographic unit of individual genetic makeup. Although we may not know the caring ways that most of life's gardeners tend to any given maze, our collective intelligence is quite evident in the historical meme structures of our evolutionary stages, from primitive man through familial bondage to warlord ego to societal divisionism to inclusionary didacticism to egalitarian expectations and so on.

Now then, how many people will it take to regrow an amputated limb before we believe we too can do it? How many strangers have to prove themselves before we freely can be trusting? How many Dulcinea's have to rise up in our consciousness before we comprehend life to be greater than what we see? What, indeed, is our sense of life?

A "collective consciousness" said Jung. "I just want to know God's thoughts, the rest are details," said Einstein. And "Thinking about our thinking?" say I, the better to understand our collective quest, our individual purpose, our reason for being. Knowing a bit about gene changing we may indeed more purposefully increase our conscious intentions to contribute to the health of the whole. Yes, our Gods gave us reasons for our being here (we've been taught) but we tend to diversify and to quantify and to separate and to en-culture and to fragment until, paradoxically, the individual takes on a paramount importance without necessarily noticing its need to nurture itself with responsibility to a whole. Seldom do we truly conceive of that whole as Everything. We tend rather to see the whole in terms of Humanity, with everything serving us. We claim our Intelligence and our Energy Field as our own. And we lose sight and touch and the feeling of living in grace and flow with the universal prayerfulness that is our psyche exercising its psychic powers, albeit subconsciously or not. Challenged by the vicissitudes of our evidently unfair lives, we move from our preferences to choices to entrenchments to a need to isolate our self-progress, spiritually, mentally, and psychically as we seek to fulfill our own cellular and molecular psycho-epistemic sensibilities, knowingly or not. We are rather sperm-like in our atavistic selfishness, are we not? After all, we beat out a billion others to be born!  So then, let us think carefully what it is we carry in our genes.

Now then, come, let us pray. Hmm?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dulcinea and Quixote

Dulcinea and Don Quixote

My seventy-one year old friend cuts a quixotic figure atop the adult-tricycle. Lean and tall and oversized for the trike, he wobbles ahead of me like a proverbial Quixote aboard a small donkey. Aware that he might look silly, he does not care. He is fixated on trying to get the rhythm right, given his last hip surgery, but more especially, given the oversized prosthesis-looking boot on his right foot. Since his stroke my friend has had great difficulty putting any weight on that ankle. He's gone through various programs and seen various experts, but with no relief. The knee high plastic boot slides into an oversized shoe, but the dimensions of his foot won't allow now for the front wheel safely to steer. His life now very truncated from being an active sportsman, hiker, and cyclist, my friend soldiers on. His immediate concern, however, is to get the contraption under him to obey his will. But after several tries we give up. The trike is too small. And then she appears on the corner, a woman of his age, the sunlight in her silver hair. Dulcinea.

Somewhat behind him, and being a faithful sort of smaller Sancho these past twenty-plus years of our friendship to my friend's height and age I note the interchange between the two. Living in the same neighbourhood complex they know each other and each other's spouses from several years past; I am the new face, but I am not here introduced. The distance between Dulcinea and Quixote is too great, and as they pass pleasantries across the road of the familiar I busy myself with adjustments to my own trike. She is perhaps eighty, tall, stately, silver-haired, carrying a shopping basket, and neatly attired in a dark below-the-knee skirt and a white collared blouse that flutters in the breeze from under a petite jacket. She radiates an interest and energy in the new contraptions, smiles across the distance at me, then excuses herself and glides away. She needs to get back to her husband, I learn. He has Parkinson's disease. She is his main care giver.

The next morning my friend phones. Dulcinea is in the hospital. Last night she had a stroke. Her husband is alone. My friend and his wife will visit the hospital again in the afternoon; my friend's wife was there last night. Our poor golden-lit lady of yesterday afternoon's sunlight is now paralyzed on one side. Life is not fair.

My friend can still drive. He picks me up in his car in front of my apartment and we go to our mid-day rendezvous at the swimming pool. We've discovered this joint get-together that gives us exercise, immerses us now in the amniotic-like fluids of getting our old limbs re-co-ordinated, that rejuvenates our being. We get lung-fulls of air. Life is not fair.

Dulcinea perhaps never knew the impression she had on me. She perhaps did not give that quixotic moment of our meeting a second thought. Nor did I. But now, from where I sat upon my creaking steed she represented an essential vitality that still resonates with me: an older person, beautiful in her energy, interested in others, interested in things, in life, and caring to reciprocate a smile across the distance when she didn't need to. That she should so be struck down seems so very unfair. But then again we needs accept that which is. Still, I wonder, did Quixote himself not find his very passion riding upon the view of seeing things not as they are, but as they might or at least ought to be? Hmm?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Lizard Tale

The Lizard Tale (A rather Personal Tail): October 15th, 2011

The horridly squirming thing in my seven year-old hand was very real, visceral. I let it go but the lizard was already skittering away from me. The wretchedly broken off part kept wriggling and writhing like a living little snake on the bare concrete. Fascinated, I looked at the lone tail's wild gyrations, but caught a glimpse of the damaged creature's bleeding stump just before it disappeared. I felt a resonating remorse. All I'd wanted was a pet.

At twelve years old I had my own tail removed. The coccyx (embarrassing word) was rubbing against my pelvis and causing me great jolts of pain; in fact, the stenosis and disc degeneration of my life had begun. But I was determined to overcome this congenital condition; my bedridden mother and her plethora of pills as well as the care she needed bothered me. So despite pain I played rugby, cricket, tennis, and rather stupidly, showed off in weight-lifting. I bicycled, tried gymnastics, and even ballet. Then the South African army conscripted me; the real torture to my spine was to have little surcease. Five years later I was a stowaway aboard the S.A. Oranje, biked my way up Britain and worked cattle and hay and potatoes and cemented in a massive bollard on a dock in the Orkney Islands. Then I found refuge in Canada, but at twenty-five I needed a spinal-fusion with chips from my hips. Regrowing that old tail was not going to be easy. Initially with a contraption under my chin (to keep it up, ha!) and plaster-casts and braces I again hiked and biked and canoed and kayaked and cross- country skied and then even played squash, but the chronic and inescapable pain increased quite dramatically. After eight years of seeing various gurus who all told me I'd have to live with it the rest of my life I decided no more meds, no more docs, no more babying myself. So even at fifty-two I danced in shows, then pushed a car, and crushed my discs. They put two rods and ten screws in me, and as Titanium Man I tried to walk again, but it was short lived. These past six years I've been in a power-chair, since I cannot push myself. I've lectured and theatre-directed from it, and gave up my bike, my kayak, my skis, my squash and tennis racquets, my hiking and my dance shoes, and I've gone through successive jerks and jolts and stabs and burnings and unending pain in the name of what? Karma? Ha! Would that I had never done that lizard wrong!

That they regrow their tails now invigorates me! More than half a century later I recall that bereft lizard and get excited by the possibility of our regaining that which we've lost, not just metaphorically or psychologically, but physically! Imagine if we were to know of enough people who regrew their amputated limbs? Imagine if we, like the lizard, were simply to believe we could grow it back? Imagine if I were to stand and walk again, go longer, dispense with my chair, my cane, my lean on things, and my need of some help.

Well, a long languid curve of pier, like a giant lizard's tail stretches out into the sea and on past the ships' berths here in my new hometown. Broad and flat, it beckoned. It took me half an hour or more to walk its concrete length to the lighthouse and back, albeit with my cane and many rests along the way. I pay, yes, but from hardly able to stand I've been increasing my walk, step for step, over the past three months. And now I'm trying not at all to rely on my old crutch-stick. The quest for yet more endurance grows. Imagine, one day the x-rays may even show that I've regained my old tail! Ha! Now wouldn't that be a positive tale to tell!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Sense of Life!

My friend struggles to articulate it. He sips at his 'Habit Cafe' coffee in our hometown of Victoria, B.C. His brother in England is really living! He has a life! That's what my friend envies, that's what so few of us have, he says. And it's not about what he does or who he is, but what his life is about, and when you see it you know it, my friend concludes. (I want to ask him if he sees it in me, but my ego is not ready for him to say no.)

I keep giving thought to my friend's meaning. A week or so later I see him at Habit again and still the answer remains the same. It's complicated. It's a quality of engaging life that you seldom see, that is missing in most, that one ought to lead. And again I cannot ask if he sees it in me. I wonder, why should I be so bothered by another's approbation? Surely what I think of myself is more important than that which another thinks of me?

My own brother still in South Africa, Peter, younger than me, often used the phrase: A sense of life. He determined an other's worth by it. He predicated the phrase on a person's passion for life, their interest in things, in others, in knowledge, in gaining, acquiring, collecting, doing, contributing, and being aware of the potential within. Were he to see this paragraph he may well add more precisely to what he means by his use of 'a sense of life,' but my understanding of his meaning is what I've gone by.

So too for each of us. We go by our own understanding of what it means to have a sense of life. We seldom necessarily need care what another's is, until their own sense intrudes on our own sense, and then the conflict begins. Problem is, we don't really know our own, don't really articulate it, own it, appreciate it, perhaps, until threatened.

So the challenge arises in me. How do I own my own sense of life? How do I take each moment and accept or invigorate it, invest it with intent, mindfulness, meaning, grace, dignity, value, worthiness? Is there any one thing we do, any moment that we are, that we exist, that does not deserve such a sense of being in communion with a greater whole, a greater sense of conspiring with the universe? (If conspiring be understood as 'breathing along with,' the which I learned from the song: " the fire, we'll conspire.") Well? The depth of that which we are is seldom tapped. Perhaps my friend intimates as much subliminally; I have to own up to my own sense of life. At what levels am I simply cruising with that which I am, undeveloped, unfulfilled, unquestioned, unleavened?

There arises in me a greater compassion for those similarly stricken; we are the afflicted. Lest we are self-aware we are ineluctable victims of our self-centric base needs, our familial upbringing, our ego-centric self-fulfillment, our societal structures, our ego-ic need for control of others, our pretence at egalitarianism, and at last our wrangling through the disproportionate unfairness within the whole of realizing our own enlightenment at being an essentially Integrative Being in the first instance. A sense of life? I would submit that it arises in the very sense of being responsible for each breath we take, rather than letting breathing itself simply stay automatic. In this living metaphor, thanks to suffocating a little, and then getting some air, there is indeed gratitude for a sense of life! Thank air! Thank breathing! Thank God! Ha!

Guest Response: Brother Peter's Sense of Life!

On 2011-10-16, at 3:53 PM, Peter Pentelbury wrote:

My Dear Brother
Much as a drunk stumbles through life inebriated - he is still making an explicit statement: that life is not worth coping with; not worth the effort of facing a daily grind and being aware that, no matter what the circumstance - life is still worth fighting for. Worth living.
A quality that even the most flea bitten street dog will hang on to tenaciously without conscious cognition.
So, too, sadly, do most people live their lives. Hopeless heroes clinging on to whatever vestiges of what was perhaps once their expectations...when I grow up I'm going to be a fire-fighter... an astronaut... a famous of the above - so that the world will recognise and adore me as the next Clark Gable...Tom Cruise......Einstein....Picasso...all of the above....anything but the true me.
We seek endless approbation when we are uncertain of our own worth - an acknowledgement no matter the value from the source given. Like mindless lemmings the world seeks to emulate the "Hollywood Stars" and ignores the day to day true heroes.
Theirs is an explicit sense of life that threatens to drown those few heroes who do not manage to recognise their own implicit self worth.
I walk into a room or a house and immediately I can tell the IMPLICIT philosophy - the psycho-epistemology - of the person inhabiting that room by the things he EXPLICITLY surrounds himself with - whether he is consciously aware of it or not, his surroundings are a reflection of his innate implicit philosophy- his personal "Sense Of Life"
Show me what you read, paint, write, collect, find of interest, hobbies, friends, love..... consciously chose to do - and I'll show you the epistemological motivation that drives you implicitly - and thereby unwittingly- explicitly, making a statement of what and who you are... the drunk on the street corner - or the man who takes each chapter of life and, whatever it delivers to him, makes the most of it; learns and grows from it; and moves on stronger and wiser - or cowers more and more into a corner seeking escape from the bottle... blaming the inevitability of the hopelessness of it all...
I think it was Descartes who wrote: All men live their lives in quite desperation...victims of circumstance - I may be mixing my metaphors and philosophers - but such is my explicit nature of what I hold implicitly within:
On my tombstone I want the following words to be en-scribed: "He refused to live life either quietly or desperately - but on its own terms.."
We all seek some form of approbation in the we not? Whether it be from a "God" or from the loved ones left behind.. or from our artistic works and expressions - we need to leave a stamp of proof of our existence that says: I am somebody of worth...was somebody of worth..... explicit statements of what we are implicitly within.
Which brings me back to unconscious - unwitting day to day heroes.
So few of us have a conscious inner defined philosophy of life. We pretend to have: by the craven idols and the worship of whichever deity is fashionable for the decade or the millennium - no matter the contradiction in logic. But that is so seldom a conscious cognitive choice - more often an inherited social or parental one. It takes a brave intellectual being to stand up and explicitly question all the so-called value systems that he has been force-fed his whole life - and that implicitly, within, he is unable to put an exact finger on, but says: Wait, stop ... I disagree, because...I can think for myself.. these are my carefully considered and rationalised thoughts... given as objectively as I can... based on the following concrete cognitive observations... (explicitly stating what he implicitly has learnt and thought about and given due consideration to and therefore objectively and rationally deduced - not just: "inexplicably feels...")
And few are articulate enough or certain enough to be able to outline their own Sense Of Life for themselves - or to be able to rationally and articulately object to the enforced subjugation of the Sense Of Life imposed on us by others ...(Church, family, teachers, institutions, governments...) In other words - we are either victims sucking at a bottle - or we are helmsmen taking the oar, no matter how severe the storm, determined to make a conscious statement and choice for ourselves...
I remember a previous missive written to you whom would you like the top hat doffed by - the mindless masses - or the single individual who can recognise the value of the action and the full cognitive value, respect and worth it implies...? i.e an explicit action prompted by an implicit cognitive rational value system...
So, yes, when we "see it" in others - we instinctively "know it" - but thereby lies the conundrum - from whom would you like the hat doffed by... explicitly...implicitly.. thoughtfull consideration... or mindless approbation...?
And the answer to that is also a reflection of each of our own personal, implicit, "Sense of Life."
So yes, we do need to articulate and "Own" our own Sense of Life - and explicitly " live" what we implicitly feel, think, rationalise within... with or without the approval of others... It is our own consequential lives for which we must take our own consequential actions. Whether we do so rationally - or mindlessly sucking on a bottle - again depends on the worth of the individual.
And no, we do not have to articulate our own brand of philosophy and Sense of Life - like a preacher from a pulpit with hellfire and damnation - but by our own quite actions, works, deeds ... One painting, book, musical composition - can motivate and move one other person to achieve their own goals and life path determinations ... and leave a thousand other people indifferent - it is your own implicit philosophy that made the explicit statement in that art form that reaches somebody...and perhaps reached nobody. And if it reached nobody - it is not a reflection of our own self worth - and that is the most difficult criteria of all to face up to... what if nobody likes it..? Nobody appreciates the intellectual and artistic and epistemological value of what I am trying to say.. express....? Well, why care? The work stands as its own monument. Its own statement. As do our lives... We need to accept value from within .. and perhaps, yes.. one moment of "recognition" from an individual of cognitive worth...after all, we are creatures forever looking in mirrors, are we not?.
And so we conspire...
Colin Wilson in The Outsiders outlined succintly the endless dillemma of all men of great artistic and intellectual abilities - how to maintain and sustain that level of "intensity" that drove them to create their great works of literature and art and music and science - for somewhere in-between there had to be a "down time' - and that I think, is what we all struggle with - the down-time of self doubt and uncertainty and ... what if...
And yes, the depth of what we are, and are capable of - is seldom tapped...
Indeed we are the afflicted ones ..
But, as said ... I refuse to live my life either quietly or desperately - I own my own "Sense of Life" because I know what it is, and I have defined it for myself, and I am comfortable thereby...
I do not need to conspire with the universe - the universe needs to conspire with me (post script to the tombstone).
And no, unfortunately, God is busy blinking, so, thanks to Ayn Rand for some cognitive rationality in the universe...
My hat is off...
Much love, Peter

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fear or Favor?

The loneliness of the far-away runner was very evident. He runs through my thoughts still. As my vehicle swept around a steep curve of the rocky-mountain road in the heart of British Columbia, the golden sunlight glittering off the autumnal yellow of the larch and aspens, I have on the long slope of the valley road ahead of me this sudden image of the backside of running jeans, a red plaid shirt, a brown leathern vest worn by a twenty-six year-old with longish dark hair bouncing from under the ubiquitous dark blue, or was it a black Canadian cap? He had the hurried lope as of someone not out for exercise, but rather as of one anxious to be somewhere else. Entirely alone in a landscape that had no towns in either direction for very many miles, he heard our onrush and turned and stopped and stuck his thumb out, but as we whizzed by he momentarily dropped his head in a dejected way and stooped over with his hands to his knees for breath (I saw in the rearview mirror,) and then continued running after us.

The instant of indecision was upon me. A fellow traveler in distress? A fellow human needing help, assistance, a lift? A hitchhiker as I too frequently had been at his age? His face appeared unkempt, unshaven; mine oft does so too. His eyes appeared searching, rather than friendly, as can mine, but perhaps because he focused on my wife in the passenger seat and then glanced into the car, rather than catching my eye, I did not feel the connection between he and me, brief as the encounter be. Some delicacy of my sensibility was awry, and in that slight fear the moment took over, and I did not stop, but left him to deal with some other fate. Does he run still? Did someone else stop for him? Was a murder reported on the unforgettable autumnal day of that far-away highway?

What fear has not been inculcated in us all by the movies we see, the news reports, the stories told, the warnings given? We are no longer easily able to offer a stranger at the door a non protective stance. We are afraid of the unknown. We wear helmets and belts and even carry mace and have identity cards and cell-phones and money belts in the name of protection. We are F.O.I.P. obsessed in meetings over the privacy rights of individuals without even knowing precisely what the acronym stands for. We wear tags and bracelets identifying our belonging, our permission to be, our declaration or proof to others that we are safe. And distrust is a state of dis-ease as we encounter the other, the stranger, the lost or the anxious or the... god forbid, the shifty-eyed. We clutch up our closest, clutch our hands into fists, firm our jaws, and get ready to fight or take flight. Fear of otherness, unusualness, alien-ness, and even difference drives us away.

Approximately ten kilometers along we passed a faded red civic doing only about 90 in the 110 km/h zone. The lone older man looked like an upset father, his large face staring grimly ahead from behind thick black-framed glasses, and as I zoomed by I imagined him looking in his rear view mirror to see if his errant son had been taught sufficient of a lesson. But that last bit is very much my construct, my story, my imagining of how that distinctly out-of-place young man came to be. Still, how many other vehicles passed the runner by? Why was he out there? And when, for me, will he no longer be my singular moment of fear pounding over and over at an everlasting pavement? Or is prudence, at any time, the better part of a pretence at being virtuous? Was he, is he... okay? Hmm?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lazy Lying: Culpability's Children

"Two hours wait? We hoped to reach Calgary," I blurt up at the ferry terminal attendant. Even as I speak it I know I'm lying; right from the start we'd planned only to drive half way. Why do we say such things? What provokes the exaggeration other than to bolster the ego, elicit sympathy, gain favor to be put in the fast lane, to put another in their place? The attendant looks slightly hurt, as though she's tired of passengers laying the blame directly on her. But I receive the docket, go to lane seven, and switch off the engine. Two-hours wait-time instead of driving is a long way.

Those little lies we tell have their origins in deep wells. As children we learn to cover up our mistakes once the consequence is perceived as too harsh. I submit that we have a natural wont for consequence, an awareness that we've done wrong or should own up to something, particularly once we've gained the use of language, independent mobility, awareness of thought. Dogs can act guiltily. A cat I had knew it should not be in flower pots. But once the punishment, the result, the consequence for my actions taught me that prevarication eases things, it became a ready escape. Without a mentor to take me in hand in terms of the honour and integrity to be had in a greater wisdom, the little lies sometimes evolved into big ones, and the spirit gets sullied by the pathway of deceits.

Integrity as a concept is more difficult to come by than we may at practice imagine. A myriad choices lie before us at every opportunity to satisfy our investigation into our personal power. Almost always we are con-scribed to action due to being social beings within a social context of expectations inculcated by our conditioning. But all by oneself becomes the real test. As a lone castaway we may indeed make of a basket-ball head a social consort, but we will devolve into less and less good manners in front of it as we perceive its immutable stare to eventually become harmless. We react based on expectations. So we learn that truth has great value, or we learn that truth can be harmful to ourselves, to others. Truth as truth is most tested in situational-ethics. After all, ethics has as its first tenant that the least amount of harm be done.

Subtly of lying is the art of the survivor. Not wanting to face the music (though what music except the death march should be so harsh as to deter one from truth?) we create a background reality of relief from guilt. "Did you take your pills?" the nurse asks. "Yes," I answer, thinking of the last time I took them long ago but she didn't precisely specify. After all, she so berated the fellow next to me for not taking his that I do not choose to have more of her wrath. And therein lies the crux of the issue: were she to have been sweet and gentle, reminded him how crucial to his integrity the contract with the condition he is in be taken (along with the pills) then I more readily would've faced the music. But who wants a bassoon-full in the ear?

As for the ferry-lady, she did not deserve my lie. I think to have my crippled self wheeled by my partner back to apologize, but the chair is tied to the rooftop, the distance too far. Yet I remain guilty; in so leaving off, or not even thinking again about the lie, who and what else may become crippled? When is a truth best not told? What harm may not be done by untruth? Mia culpa per diem per se. (Such are my daily faults.) Truly! Ha!

Now That I Am Alive Again, Amen! (May to October 5th, 2011)

Heaviness weighs on my chest, literally. Angina makes it difficult to take deep breaths, leaves me without a sense of much air at the slightest exertion. My brain at times feels leaden, befuddled. And so the pink beta-blocker and the little blue aspirin and Lipitor, that tiny white rugby-ball, become a daily ritual. And next week the angiogram will reveal this or that, and the cardiologist will do this or that, and soon enough i shall be yet more alive again. In the meantime, there is a definite limitation to my energy.
Alarmist sensibilities will provoke sentiments. We live in the now, no matter what the current state of our journey, and we wish each other health and happy birthday, or merry Christmas, or even good day as if it were some special and distinct delineation deserving apportionment to be set apart from every other day.  But to those of us with an actual struggle to breathe and thereby living with a somewhat foreboding sense of immanent foreclosure, one resorts to treasuring the moment by moment existence of air and light and movement itself. There is a checking in of memories, of regrets, of things left undone. But why, were i to be more alive again, should it be any different? Does one not take the baggage along with oneself, the love-letters unsent, the stitches dropped, the unsigned canvases, the photos in the mind, the scars of our past, the joys and loves that sustained us?

Death is not to be feared; Living is, particularly if "feared" is understood in terms of apprehension, dealing with uncertainties. Death completely releases; Living constantly requires. Death leaves all of the self, of a thee or me, for others to deal with; Living requires the self to participate. Now that i am alive it takes something of an effort to be, to breathe, to take my medications, to watch my diet, to watch what i say, to be responsible for my actions, to consider my impact on others, to focus clearly. Regret to say, Death leaves others with the sorrow and the ache of grief and the loneliness of moments insufficient by themselves, but for the self death is mayhap a release into the ethereal, free from pain. At least one hopes so! The cartoon of the fellow in hell whistling at his wheelbarrow of work while the devil prods at him, saying “we just can’t seem to get  through to you”, resonates. Does one still have to put up with pain after death? Is that where we get our concept of hell? Ha!

Thing is, as I now lie here in this hospital bed awaiting the invasive procedures into my heart, I am quite aware that the day shall end with yet some further recommendations to live more better. More exercise, more water, more cardboard-tasting foodstuffs, more rest, more care of the self. Amen. Should there be more meds or more surgery, well, all that is designed to make one well too. But between last week (with the first paragraph of this current missive and the typing of this current sentence) there lay the long hours of the journey of days from there to here, literally and figuratively. So too for each of us. We journey from now to now, day to day, and being alive, we do but give unto the moment. Let such moments then be special. Once we are gone what would we have of those remaining but that they should appreciate and enjoy and love and be more better too, day by day. Amen.

And now, as I type but eight hours later, I'm pleased to say the angiogram revealed an essentially good heart, ha!, and provided that the prescribed medical path of pill-taking is followed, it's been given a clean bill to go on ticking! Amen! What a fuss!