Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Perpetual Pain

Soul-Spring by r.f. M~Pentelbury, 1976

* This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown out on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 
                                                           (Shaw, 1903, Man and Superman, Penguin Plays, p.32)

So, you wanted to know how one deals with continuous pain? Well, we take on our karma with effective self-discipline and grace, or we may wither, whimper, and can wish all too loudly otherwise. And personally, I've known near continuous pain now for 50 years. 
"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional," the Buddha said. Well, this journey for some of constant pain is debilitating, frustrating, enervating, and simply seems unfair. And like most things in life, one is left having to make sense of it all by ourselves, for another person's sense is not necessarily ours. It is the isolation of being in pain when there is no-one around to sympathize, empathize, or even bear witness to our endurance that pain really tests us, for in those long lonely hours, of what USE is our endurance and the suffering and the immobility and the harshness of our distinctive and seemingly unique reality?

It is precisely in those moments that the trick of minimizing the present reality becomes a personal practice, for I know that my own little clod of reality (as Shaw (as above) would have it) is very much diminished in comparative perception of the universe, and of what I can do for it by honouring a larger totality than myself, by contemplating its vastness of potential, and of focusing on the creative, the generative, the mystical, the pragmatic, the absorptive, assimilative, inclusive and integrative potentiality that is the gift we all have, to whatever degree we realize it. And so, like the choice of opening or closing the icons on a computer desktop, I minimize the pain window, open up and explore the other icons of my cognizance, and rather than pushing against pain, or being annoyed by its perseverance, I dial up some other icon and overwhelm the pain with some other aspect of my unlimited potentiality, given that I grant the same unlimited-ness to each and all in the essence of our being yoked to everything. And the more adept I become at minimizing my response to one set of provocations, particularly pain, and maximize the choice of my chosen direction, whatever creative or focused endeavour I turn my mind to, the more I become accepting of the moment by moment by moment. Move but slightly and the stab indeed brings me back to the painful reality of physical nerves rubbed raw and sudden jabs of agony, but then the journey resumes; it is a constant journey of voyaging with my senses focused on the next destination, rather than on the rattle and squeak of the bone-based vessel in which my being travels.

Wisdom would have us realize our journeys are at once for ourselves and others; we are cells connected to every other cell in a continuous process of covalent bonding, osmosis, and essential evolution. We are learning, voyaging, taking on a sea of troubles. Impatience with the process is among our many difficulties. Diamonds take time. How do we slough off the entirety of the old as we progress through to the new? How many times shall we pass the travail? How do we make the transition permanent by choosing to let go of the past habituations, by truly metamorphosing to become the butterfly from our own caterpillar-like crawling toward our larger destiny?

We move with grace and gratitude, or we cry. And crying too, has its place. Choice is our privilege. What part of everything is not?
September 21st: Following several requests for an explication of the painting, this is taken from my website:

Paintings - "Soul Spring"

“Soul Spring" by Richard Michelle-Pentelbury

Ever felt transparent? Ever reached beyond your grasp? Ever felt pain as a source of connection to the energy inherent in everything? Ever felt shackled by the constraints of country, civilization, collections of others? Soul Spring as a painting arises out of a person’s desire to reach beyond one’s immediate confines. The central figure, rendered semi-transparent by the energy radiation of his pain and circumstances is stretched out in a universe of molecular manifestations. Around him the semi-golden gyre of *aspiraling souls [*hereby coined] ascends toward greater enlightenment. He is shackled back to the materiality of the earth, Australia, Africa, and the American-Canadian continent. The mystical Rood, that giant staff of vertical assurance, is a mark of his ethereal insightfulness, and the mystical albatross, depicted against the gold of the moon, a symbol of his willingness to journey beyond the self. Then too, to the right of the painting is Christ on the cross, a symbol of one’s sacrifice of the self. And all around him are the seeds of virility, of the generative powers of the future, sponged up in the inevitability of the entirety of the universe. It is a painting of the visceral potential in each of us to escape beyond the concrete bonds of our existence. Painted in 1977, when the artist was recovering from a spinal surgery, it was an image that repeated itself so incessantly that he had a friend rig a canvas up above his bed, and he brought the canvas to life. The original is done in Renaissance oil glazes and is 48 x 48 inches (four feet by four feet). Only afterwards, when in university in the 80’s, did the artist come across the poetry and imagery of Blake and Donne, wherein such metaphysical conceit was not only endemic to the mysticism of poetry, but explicitly as apparent. May the piece have ever growing meaning for you too!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"I Don't Know"

It can be difficult to accept oneself saying "I don't know". At any age. Especially for me when I was a young man. I'd pretend to have some knowledge of the artist mentioned, the singer's name overheard, the place name on the global map. "Ah, Oman!" I might've wisely acquiesced, knowingly, as if the speaker and I were in an esoteric accord. For I did not then think much of the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. I was not yet in a matured certainty between fact and intuition. And I certainly was then determined to find my wealth in Knowledge, the gleaning thereof, the accretion thereof, the banking and trading and commerce thereof. After all, knowledge was power. And to risk not to be au fait with the pop culture, the literati, the opera goers and the politicians and the intellectual purveyors was to be, well, 'less than'. After all, many a soul has been withered by others in the know.Ha! Even so, just this year I bought a book, ‘Know it All’.

My long-time friend sits on the bench beside me in the autumn sun. Ian wears my old friend Vic Peter's borrowed blue cap. They knew each other way back, in another lifetime, before I met either of them. Vic gave that blue cap to me as he and I set off in our power-chairs for our last vista over Calgary's Glenmore Reservoir, a few months before he died. But now, many years later, it is Ian who sits beside me on a bench overlooking the sun-baked Willow Beach. And much of our conversation is about death and dying, our comfort with its inevitability, and I introduce good old reincarnation too: "Ever been here in lifetimes before?"

"I don't know," Ian responds. "And at my age I'm comfortable with that."

"Yes, neither of us identify with reincarnation; we have no direct and intuitive recall to some other lifetime; we have no certainty of its existence for ourselves; we have no authentic and inviolable connection. Perhaps, like many books by Dolores Cannon suggests, we are survivors of The First Wave! Ha! If true, then alien souls have been sent in three waves to integrate earth-beings with compassion and a caring sense of a need for integration, for those earthlings in the cycles of reincarnation have missed the mark, and without compunction are destined to blow up earth and seriously affect the universe. In fact, as Steven Hawkins has of late said, given our Higgs Bosun experiments with the God Particle we are inevitably about "to destroy the universe!"

Ian smiles, "And how can one say for sure that Dolores Cannon is right? Or for that matter, Hawkins too?"

"I don't know. Ha! And..." I beam at him, "I'm comfortable with that."

Before us here and there on the beach are bikini-bathers, dog-walkers, children building sand-castles. My latest painting, Intercellular Connection, comes to mind. The beach is pock-marked in either direction with a hundred hours of footsteps, cellular and molecular, and the sea glitters away and toward us in a billion little bowls filled with light. Even the distant mountains on the horizon are enmeshed in a fog that re-assimilates their solidity into the landscape. It all is one.

I was waylaid today as I made my way downtown to my Friday reflections perch above the compass in The Bay. Just outside at the entrance lay a near-naked lady in the sunlight on the pavement, as if on a giant's plate with its huge cutlery to either side, related vegetables and sauce strewn about and on her, and a sign saying "Relate to the Plate!"

To be vegetarian or not? To be a tobacco user, or not? To be a democrat or a republican? A conservative or a liberal? A believer or a non? To know or not to know?... But to be comfortable? 

We live with a certain passion that combines knowledge and wisdom. For the rest? I don't know, OK?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Decoding DNA

Subject: Grandma's Experiences Leave Epigenetic Mark on Your Genes |

We cannot escape our heritage. Or can we? Research (see link above) proves that we are inherently possessed by all that went before, unless we effectively countenance our impulses and habits and thereby change the very DNA sequencing that we in turn may pass on to our offspring. It is not just our parents who affect us, but indeed, our greatest great grandparents too. (Thing is, one hopes they were indeed great!) As such, these Epigenetic factors can be off-putting, or not. Like big words, the complexity chews hard. Broken down, the result is that we are the products not only of our own makeup, but that of our forefathers too. (Or might that be 'built up', not 'broken down'? No wonder psychologists delve into our family constellations, ha!)

Perhaps one ought to coin a new phrase for 'forefathers'; and yes, 'forbearers' will do; for our fore-bearers were both great grandparents and all our progenitors. That their genes influenced our own genes can be good, or not. (Any well-off Levi's in the family? ha!)

In the case of Beth and Lisa, it is good indeed. Grandmother and granddaughter, they both imbue a feminine grace, a lady-like comportment, a sharpness of wit, diction, and insight. They have an accord. They care deeply for others, are generous and thoughtful and considerate. They listen well. They both are long-suffering. They both clutch up their pains and share only to the trusted, and they do not smudge their lives with the private and inordinate trials of their passage, but rather sail with spiritual spinnakers unfolded in company, gloriously giving colour and vitality to the very air around them. And they both are indeed very beautiful. Strikingly so.

Yet when i was commissioned to do the painting from a 20+ year photograph her loving husband wrote:

"I just spoke with Lisa for the second time regarding Beth and how she may have influenced Lisa in her life. Lisa insists that Beth was of no immediate influence. Beth was a stay at home mother is what Lisa said. In no way does this remove from the deep love Lisa feels for her she insisted. So she is just her own person. She is self made."

Both women are highly artistic. Beth specializes in the most beautiful watercolours. Lisa spent a weekend doing oil-painting with me (and took to it like the proverbial petal unfolding to bloom.) And both women are gracious and self-effacing and humble and disaffecting. They glow with an inner light, Beth now in her early 90's, Lisa in her early 30's. And their love and care and respect for each other shines through. As does their interest in and warmth toward others.

Interesting how we do not see the mirrors around us. The friends we choose (or are chosen by); the things we like; the pastimes we pursue; the vocations into which we sink ourselves (or are buoyed by); these are the stuff that affects not only our own make-up but that get passed on in our genes to our children's children, and so on. We choose our mates and go on a lifetimes’ journey with them (or not) and are added to, detracted from, and shaped by the union. We are moulded by the choices we make, and that get made for us. Potential, like a seed in the garden, is somewhat dependent on the ministrations of time and circumstance and proximity to all the nurturing and generative propensities in ourselves, or not. Luck and accidents too play their part. And in the summation it is up to us to be the victim, or to be the o'erleaper, to be the survivor and the thriver and the achiever; we grow toward the light despite the shade of others, or we enfold and wither and sniffle and complain. Yet yes, we are indeed “self-made; our own person”.

But for Beth and Lisa, none of these debilitating factors held them back. They both can hold their heads high. They both can look back on a life well lived, and they both can be fulfilled in their love, and care, and inner coordination of their genes. Influence? Similarities? Quite a few!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Intercellular Implications

[Intercellular Connections. By r.f.Michelle-Pentelbury. Oil, 16x20. To Sidney Art Show, 7th Sept. 2014]

I suppose some will relate. The fingerprints of those we love and may not see again give us pause before we wipe them away from our crockery, the bottles they drank from, the bedding in which they slept. Grief does that. It is a sweet emotion that will have one lifting the absent loved one's sweater to the face, as though the garment itself will reach out with ghostly arms akimbo and embrace you. And it is the friendly ghosts of those we love that accompany us, in the car, in the elevator, in the hallway and in and about the rooms we both have occupied. But the real-real persons are not there. Not anymore. Perhaps not ever again. And grief squeezes at the chest.

I've two pebbles given by a friend. I've a glass bubble. I've a small seed-pod resembling a bird's brain that I picked up in the Kruger Game Reserve. I've things that had I had my own children I may have given to them; but being childless, the horse-statue, the train-engine, the teddy-bear are connections to more than an unfulfilled boyhood; they are touchstones to the pleasantries of a distorted past. (For what else can one actually deem one's history to be called unless it be picture perfect, entirely commensurate with those who recall 'back then' and relate to the same impacts?) Corroboration is a most treasured thing. When the item at hand still resonates with the presence of the giver then is sentiment silly? But even more, when the stories of the past have been experienced by one's brother in much the same way as oneself then the reassurance of impressions, especially after a long three or four decades of reiteration, is an affirmation indeed. Sentiment is both mental and actual. Things have great meaning; memory has great power. And we are impelled by the importance we give to each. We keep stock of our treasures, material and mental, and we spend a lot of energy maintaining them. Or not.

Some of us are pretty forgetful. (It was interesting to have my brother, after a 40 year absence, remind me of some events that no longer resonated; yet entirely rewarding to have him confirm my long-held impressions and old-aged conceptualizations. But he was not at all affected by items that used to hang on our beloved Grandmother's wall; they did not register. Many of the photos I still have were of no meaning to him, and neither 'should' they be.) Thing is, this essay is not about the specifics of brother Andy and me; it is about the generality that we as humans experience with the detritus of our lives, and what any one of us makes of the flotsam.

As I type I'm sitting with a magnificent view across the Georgia Strait of Mount Baker, snowiest of the USA mountains. Andy and Elsabe did not see this. The weather was too turmoiled. Yes, mist and cloud quite often separates us altogether from the distant and makes the immediate that more significant. In life itself, many of us walk with our heads down in animated chatter with a neighbour, careful perhaps not to trip on the proverbial tree roots, but so engrossed as to be hardly aware of a life going on beyond ourselves. So too right now for so many of the Island View beach-going-passers-by in my shade spot under this tree. They do not know that Harville Hendrix and I once paused here, right here, in a lengthy conversation. That he is famous made and makes no difference to those noticing me. And so too from me to those going a-chat-chatting past me now; each is just an 'anybody'. (A 'somebody', most of us think, would be more recognizable.) Yet the intercellular-air circulates everywhere, connecting. The sea; intemperate air; all things; plants; creatures; people; we are each but molecules of a greater whole.

That's why I resonate with certain things. It's as though they retain the essence of the person I love who last touched them. Yes, the thing needs my knowledge thereof; and so I am inclined to sense for the loving fingers that wrapped the package of home-made marmalade, that stretched the elastic band. And yes, I can recycle such things. Let sentiment go. But not so easily the keepsakes given by people who mean a great deal to me, or that represent a story that can be begun by a glance. But yes, lose them, break them, have them stolen, and they were just things after all. Sentiment and silliness are the vestiges of the child in us still not sure of un-conditionality. Yet must it have to take lifetimes to feel oneself entirely worthy with nothing before oneself but a view?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

One Wonders?

The thing that impressed me mostly about them was their curiosity. Not just my brother and my sister in law, but also my friends: Ardella and Jerry, Ian and Linda, Barry and Carolyn, Clive, and even by message-mail, Jessie, Sharon, Nancy Sinclair, and Justin (whom Andy recalls from 1966!) Yes, an initial family and friends group met us all in Calgary: Keith, Peter-son and Laura and children Sean and baby Jack, and Peter-elder and Karen, and Karen Weir and Lisa and husband Sean, and Rob, and our dear sister Carol, and our kismet middle brother Peter, and ... Is there someone I forgot?

Questions prove interest. Listening proves it even more. "How do you come to know Richard and Linda? Where did you two meet? What do you do for living? When was it you were back there?" And my favourite: "Why? Why did you choose that; do you like that; did you go there; why ask me that?" Questions stimulated conversation. Listeners proved interested. Questions created a sense of care amongst us. Not just from and to Andy and Elsabe, but amongst us all.

We are inclined to want things to be interesting. Whatever is outside of ourselves needs hold our attention for us to sustain focus, generally. The scenery, the conversations, others, the TV, the shapes and sizes and colours and tastes and textures and sound, it all needs be interesting afore we become interested, generally. Being ‘interested’ takes something else; it takes energy and a letting go of wanting something else to entertain oneself. (How to generate an interest in even a hairline crack in the wall? Imagination will allow the mind to create a novel from that little crack.) And those five 'W' questions, who, what, where, when, and why will make for one's life being a tapestry of riches of one's own gleaning, rather than waiting for the right channel, the right persons, the right view, the right whatever. 'Boring' happens because one allows boredom; we make things interesting because we are interested! And cultural 'niceties' need not contain!

"May I ask you another question?" Elsabe would often begin. It was charming. And so too for my brother. All my friends, despite their evident interest in this accomplished brother of mine, with his explications of Oman, and stories of helicopter rescues with the SA Airforce, and of the ordeal of their relocation from Bredarsdorp to Muscat (especially for Elsabe,) were also asked by Andy and Elsabe about their lives, their interests, and their connections to life, liberty, and the pursuit of peace. We all understood that happiness is but temporary, dependent on the serenity of the moment; it is being at peace that we seek; a comprehension and understanding and inclusion and integration of all the variables. And because of being interested (using one’s innate entelchy) we make life interesting!

Sentiment tends to rest on those five 'W' questions too. Its strength lies in one’s emotion and the reasons for keeping a thing. "I got this compass-sundial from Andy when he visited me after a 40 year separation. I am so proud of him! He is such an authentic and caring human being. He found it in an antique store in Muscat. It was used by British explorers in the 1800's. He knew it would suit me well. Yes, I shall treasure it. The time? No, I'm still working out how to use it, ha!"

Only when we no longer value an object, find no connection, are we more easily able to discard it. Then again, I've friends who keep very little indeed. One reads a card and immediately puts it into the waste bin. Is it because his sentiment is immediate, in the moment; his appreciation fully present? Another friend does not take nor keep photos. (His memory must be sharp indeed.) A name, a place, an event is recalled in precise articulation with a myriad of details. But I for one am not like that. I would retain the fingerprints of my dad's last whiskey bottle. (I am drinking as I type, with all the thought-laden heart-sore sadness of missing them, the last of sweet Elsabe's Grolsch non-alcoholic beers.) And as I take this picture of Andy's thoughtful gift, and submit it to my posting in my Blog of this essay, I wonder who shall in the future find the thing, and who shall be there to answer the many questions it poses. What hands along the way have held this treasure? What's its story? How does it work? Where has it travelled?" Ha! To what reaches may we not soar by asking more?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Past Pleasantries

Which of us is not in pain?  We walk around with the past in our bones. We move with the constraints of the chains of indoctrination, the time-keepers of our own bodies, and the cages of our language. Hampered by our upbringing, held back by the limits of our schooling, and controlled by our countries we apply for visas and passports to get but two or three weeks away to go see someone and/or something else. And we work work work to serve the taxman, to serve our need to be commensurate with our status quo, to get more-better stuff to represent our achievement or to fill the endless hole of our dissatisfaction. How to guard against poverty in the inevitability of the self one day counted amongst the old aged? And it all can be so negative.

Or can we overcome? Can we find our foundations but springboards to our blossoming? Can we make of our country a garden for the thoughts of care and compassion and insight that it has afforded us? Can we, like a Mandela, make of our imprisonments a tapestry that brings insight and a lightness of being? Can we do it in the self, in our homes, be worthy simply by 'being'?

Time waits for none.

Four of us saw a life-raft of time carved out in the swirl of life around us and we clung to it as though time and circumstance were our only essence. And now, knowing that this day is our last (since aeroplane tickets and a September date was so long ago established) there is a wanting to extend the seconds and minutes and hours, as though consciousness might make longer the perception of time, if not the reality of it all. We do not know if death will take us sooner than we think, or might expect. But parting from those we love is death-like, for it takes away 'the other' in the unspoken recognition that one may not see each other again. And what should have been said? What might one have shared? What should have been given? What was it that one wanted to know? And we four, Two Brothers and Two Sisters in Law, on our 14 day raft in the great passage of time, took up each day as though it were a gift. Why should any meeting between people be any less?

Things, People, Ideas; these are the three legs of conversation and sharing. There is a poster that challenges the predominance of interest in the one subject over the other as inferior, mediocre, and superior. But one knows that we are all three. And every one of us thinks more deeply than we can ever articulate. We have thoughts of enlightenment that drift through us like breathing fairy dust, and we hardly can contain the essence, let alone capture the recipe. We ingest and imbibe and we discard; and who is to calculate the efficacy and worthiness of one thing from the other such that perfection of choice and deployment and comprehension is clear? Abstraction is caught up in frames of man-made time. Seconds become minutes, making hours, making days, making a week, two weeks, but in this case, there'll be no three. And away from our things, and away from the people we've shared, and even away from the ready interlocution of ideas, we have but the imperfection of memories to recall.

We identify, or not. Ian and Linda, Carolyn and Barry, Clive. Should you know them you'll enjoy seeing their names; know the connections and the bonds. If not, words like Tofino and Ucluelet, Middle Beach Lodge, Coomb's Goats, Spinnakers, Darcy's, The Beach House, and The Bard and Banker become just a series of names, or specific and precise and pleasant memories. To write or speak of these things to others (even with photographs at times) is still not to convey the actuality of so very many treasured moments. In the summation, it's the essence of vulnerability and integrity and reality and our willingness to share, particularly when one's counter-partners are empathetic and sensitive and compassionate. The details are in the living; feeling remains, even when those details disappear into the folder of the generalized memory: We shared time, and it was good!