Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gift Givings


“I put some tunes on here for you,” he said, casually handing over the equivalent of a silver USB thumb drive, shorter than my pinky-finger, thinner than a pencil. “You listen to it through these mini-earphones.” So, although I was not used to earphones nor accustomed to playing music for myself anywhere other than in my home, I sometimes listened to it. And yes, I was grateful. After all, it came from him. And he’s very special to me. And the thing itself is lovely with its apple logo embedded in it. But I did not know the names of the musicians, did not recognize the songs, and could not ever access the stick to get a list or see the record album covers. So…

Nearly four years later another friend, conversant with the Apple brand products, at last took those tunes off that stick and integrated them on iTunes with my Personal Computer. Oh my! The album covers! The images. The names of the singers! The lists of songs. Apart from the raunchy Koos Kombuis, I knew none. And now, especially with the artwork of the album covers to guide me, I have a real treasure indeed. Now, what I'm about to type may not resonate with you at all, unless you've heard or know of or even like these artists: Animals. Jimmy Barnes. Ian Moss. Cold Chisel. Mango Groove. Koos Kombuis. Devo. Die Grafsteensangers. Zz Top. Angels. First Aid Kit. Hunters and Collectors. The Black Sorrows. Hocus Pocus. AC/DC. Australian Crawl. Page and Plant, and FOCUS.

Thing is, the treasure for the receiver is in the appreciation. The treasure is in the growth one may have by listening to phrases and learning snippets of songs, the ongoing guessing of fragments left by poets and troubadours, the inherited wisdom laid down in grooves and in tapes and in digitized bites of sense and sound. And my old friend has never received a word of just how much I value that collection, until now. He gave it to me. And he got little back. Surely though, I said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” was all that I recall receiving when I once gave a teenager her 16th birthday car. I'd put a new windscreen in the vehicle, and ensured that the four year old silver Toyota was gleaming and new-ish and that there was even a bow attached atop it. “Thanks,” she said. It taught me the lesson of gift-giving. We give a gift to the other for them to do whatever they want with it. It is theirs to re-gift. It is theirs. And if one has an ulterior motive for giving (such as I did at that time, since the car would free the teenager’s mother to spend more time with me) then be certain that you wanted to give the gift in the first place. “Thank you,” is all that one might expect.

That exact phrase was delivered most succinctly by another very good old friend, my age, at a magnificent dinner prepared for a group of us. We sat around the spread and each was invited to say something to our hosts, and while some of us gave a sentence or two (or more) in response (what, me?) this friend looked directly at them, raised his glass, and said, “Thank you”. Heartfelt, sincere, authentic, it was all that was necessary. And yes, it would have sufficed even without the rest of our jabbering.

We give gifts out of our wish to give pleasure to the other.

Still, I hope my friend who gave me the silver-stick might get to read this, and thereby see how very much I do appreciate those tunes, now, especially that I know something about all those new artists. (Ian Moss and his Six Strings album! Wow.) So very much to appreciate. Thanks!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Selfish Semantics and Daring Deeds

December 16th, 2015


“Why waste your time with these people?” my friend asked. Though nearly ten years ago, I can still hear his frustration. ‘These people’ was an alcoholic who wanted something from us, who was putting us to a considerable amount of trouble. In the vein of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, I said, “I'm hoping somehow, somewhere, a seed is sown toward more enlightenment.” But it did not satisfy. Alcoholics take more than they give. One can but humour, or visit, or spend time remonstrating and pleading and hoping and even praying. Mostly, in my experience (and evidently in my friend’s too,) to no lasting avail.

I sit in the dark of my car and type this. I'm deeply affected by the moment. I recall as a child the fears of fragmentations of the senses. Drunk adults could never be trusted. Their promises were broke. Their tears were crocodilian. In the morning, or later that day, or at least all too soon, they'd eschew their vows and along with it my hopes. The obligations to stay beside them, to attend them, to nurse them, or even to humour them grew in me like so many prison sentences. Disgusted, I wanted so much to be out and free and beyond their reach. For always.

I sit in the dark of my car on the street outside a house and type this. Inside the house some poor sick soul is hurting and succumbing; and with his own inability to surpass the disease, he takes up an other’s time. I understand it to be more than psychological. I understand it to be more than physiological. I understand it to be a congenital condition handed down by the proverbial sins of our forefathers. And I understand addiction. We each have our own little demons to bear. Mine is to be productive; it seems harmless enough. But it swallows up time from others who would have more of me. So, in the darkness of your own being, what's yours?

I sit in the dark in my car on a cold December night outside a person’s house; I am not the one prepared to go in there and talk to the drunkard. Words do not register. And the ill-one cannot but help to tell a story, over and over. No, from my car I can see into the living-room window where that demised head bobs while in consort with his interlocutor. And should there develop a problem, why, I'll move from my car, and male-like, go to the rescue. There’s enough fire in my bones to do that. Yet I feel guiltily impatient with the afflicted. They've a wound that won't heal because they won't, cannot, and don't let heal. Worse, they draw on the attention of others to have themselves attended. Then, alone, they rip off the bandage! Booze does that.

Others are very much better at this than I: Doctors; Nurses; Psychologists. I confess to an ugly impatience. Say it, do it, and move on. Even if it's your dad or your mom or your wife or your husband or your uncle or your friend. “Why waste your time with these people?” It resonates.

I am a lot like my friend. Not like the one in the house helping the drunkard. Certainly not like the drunkard himself. No, I'm like the one who challenged me, “Why waste your time?” (After a hand-up, help yourself!) But alcoholics, once given a shoulder, keep up a never-ending need out of the very despair of their own illness. How sad. How suffocating. Surely it's different if one’s loved one is stricken with a physiological disease. They need nursing. But drugs? Alcohol? Surely after attending the most expensive programs the result is the same: “Look after yourself!”


I sit outside a house in the dark in my lamp-lit car, and type. Ineffectually? What would you do? 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Good Grief (In honour of little Erin Moore)


A mountainside grievously rumbled, and killed a little girl. Young Erin Moore’s death since then has made yet more noise. It is a noise in our hearts. It is a noise in our minds. It is the noise of grief and disbelief and the ache of missing her and the sense of being astounded. And that this gifted and beautiful seven-year old, just before last Christmas, 2014, should so be taken is cause for the ongoing debate about the meaning of life, the will of God, the forces of nature, and the victims of circumstance, coincidence, and accident. We ache. How then, can grief be good?

“O welche Lust,” the prisoners sing, in German. (It is a sound in opera to evoke tears.) Fidelio, the disguised young girl, searches among them as they for the first time in years tentatively emerge from the dark, aching with sound, “Oh wondrous joy, oh what a joy!” It is a song that shivers the spine. To free the aggrieved out of darkness into the paths of enlightenment is tantamount to Plato’s famous analogy of the cave; we are but beings watching shadows on the inner wall, giving their artificial dance meanings, giving their play a power to suspend our disbelief. Until dumbfounded by the ploys we are not prepared to turn away. We fear the light. Yet being free, we are yet more appreciative for having had the contrast. However, in another opera, Puccini’s La Boheme, the protagonist, Mimi, comes onto the stage coughing, and she is doomed right from the beginning. Neither love nor hope nor even medicine can cure her. Without the music, how is watching such a sure demise ‘good grief’?

Our senses can soothe. If like me, you may grieve in very many stages, over very many years, decades even. No, it is not for lack of having had a ‘good grieve’ at the time of loss that I am so stricken. It is out of experiencing a never-ending love. Taking the loved-one from me does not take my love away; rather, I still feel in little smiles and heart-tugs and teardrops. Forty years or more separates me from some I have loved, and still I feel sad and sore, sometimes. None of it is debilitating. Rather, I choose to see it as loving, which to me does not end. Sometimes grief sneaks up on me by dint of a smell, or a sight, or a phrase, or a piece of music. And it is not just for the dead that I am in grief, but for those I love and do miss too. Surely this is a ‘good grief.’

Life is not fair. There is no equilibrium. Opportunity is different for most of us. Chance and accident and coincidence are not necessarily colluding; rather, they collide with us in the many pathways of their own momentum. We do not necessarily deserve their consequences. It is not our fault that we were in that plane, in that building, in that car, or on that mountain when other energies moved to hit, hurt, beat, and destroy us. Stuff happens. Illness and disease are not necessarily karmic, surely?  And in the wake of it we grieve the loss and the hurt and the betrayal. We grieve the love we cannot express to the one we've lost. And in that sense, our grief is good. It indeed shows us that we love. Imagine if we were cold, distant, disaffected.


Life is not a cartoon. Life does not end like the resolution of a novel, or a sit-com, or a movie. It goes, as you know, on and on. Until for you, personally, it ends. Until then one may indeed love the ones we miss. We may grieve at their image, at the sound of their favoured song. We might even go on the same mountain walk that so egregiously and untimely plucked the life from our loved one. And there we again may grieve. And our grieving, surely, is good. Or else so very much of life would indeed be dark and drear, deep as any cave, incarcerating as any prison. In grieving what we could have, might have had, we keep bringing love to light. And that, indeed, can be good.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Maintaining Momentum


I wrestle with these words. My meaning’s awry. Each opening paragraph is too much about me. Yet how else do you or I see the world but through our own experience? Then too, how else is our time spent but by dragging along our past, or by envisioning our future, while the actual-factual interpretation of that which is our very Present slides by, moment for moment? Which of us is so scientifically precise as to make our words indubitably impeccable, our efforts one-hundred percent focused, our assumptions held in abeyance, our ability entirely to be objective always in the forefront? Esoteric-ism inveigles both precepts and percepts; either one recalls a reference, or not. Indeed, how much else does one in innocence wrestle with in the hours that make for months and millenniums? And just how very individual and unique is the moment by moment challenge to each, despite the simple honesty of any one of us being the same species.

Maintaining momentum occurs for me in the space between. Between inception and Product is one’s swing of the pendulum; an Idea to concrete Reality. Between flight or fight is not so much ‘freeze’, but waiting to Act. (And, “knowing when to wait, is like silent action,” Goethe(?) says.) Gestation, incubation, cogitation; these are the moments in which we wrangle with what to do.

For me, early mornings are worst. Pain immobilizes. First movements are agony. My psyche stretches in the dark beyond my burning cage of bare bones, and over the next two or three hours I drift into the dawn, determining to be positive, to be affirmative, to be contributive; just to be! In lulls between consciousness and being insensate I'm aware that I'm not really sleeping, and the pillow against my ear creaks with my breathing as my skeleton reassembles with the muscle-contractions I must exercise to get myself yet again aright. To not give in. Is that not what the marathon runner who rises early in the morning to train must say? To not give in. Is that not what the person who hates their job says? To not give in. Is that not what the long-suffering and the winded and the beleaguered and the harried must perforce practice? These are the moments that lead one into the other. They are neither fight nor flight. They are action, the verb, the very moments of waiting itself, one by one, since twixt each tiny tick of time that separates a person from giving in, and from persisting, lies maintaining the momentum. For me.

No one sees your pain when you're alone. It serves no other than you. Few can relate to it, even though they too may have had a broken nose, or a broken leg, or have been called a fool, or named even much worse. To each of us is there is an incremental curriculum in life's lessons of adaptability and experience. (Yet let me hasten here not to be too ontological; the meanings we give events matter more to us than that events were not really made to give us meanings; surely? Or why else be so easily presumptive that an entire weather system rearranges itself, “just `cause I am here,”?) Do accidents and coincidences and collisions coincide with our beings specifically for our very own ‘benefit’? Like, “meant to be”? Is chronic pain itself, as some have suggested to me, karmic. Very many would say yes. Some would say no. Some would say, “I don't know.”


That was the phrase my good friend, Jim, wrote in his journal of our conversation today, ‘I don't know’. That, and the words Ontology and Entelechy. (For even at our age, Jim brings a note book to our talks over tea.) And now, as I bring this page to its end, we must leave off satisfied or not with what exactly I was getting at through all of this: In the dictum of life, it's surely ok to say ‘I don't know’; and moment by moment to keep on going in the grace of one’s maintenance of momentum. You see, these words are not just about me, but about you too.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Patients of Patience


We break open our shells and breathe new air, or we huddle inside our skin and make it thicker. Seems there is always something tapping on our shell. To be more-better takes many guises. In the development of the chicken it too must wait for ‘the right’ moment to come out of its shell, so too for the tadpole, and for the silk-worm, and for all that transforms from what was to what is yet to be. Metamorphosis and enlightenment occurs in stages, and the gradations at each moment are as essential to the whole as is the journey to the product. How else do the little turtles make their way to the sea? How else does the ugly duckling become a swan?

“Patience is its own reward.” What a statement! It takes having to be patient to appreciate its reward, if one is patient long enough. And if the implication is that waiting long enough to see the sunset, or to see the otter come up again from under the sea, or to see the calving of a mighty glacier fall thunderously into the ocean, then yes, being patient for that expected moment brings about a reward. But what if you're mired in the mud and feeling impatient to get on with the journey? What if you do not know what the test results are? What if you cannot wait for the holiday? What if you want something so badly you can taste it and so break your resistance and eat or drink the thing anyway? Remorse, afterward, clearly is insufficient in a lot of cases not to do, or to want, or to yield again. Addiction, selfishness, greed, and narcissism are the victims of impatience. How then to be rewarded while practicing, or while being patient?

Stillness takes time. The chatter of the mind (particularly our creative minds) intervenes in the moment by moment by day, night, week, month or year of having necessarily to be patient, and side-roads and sliding-metaphors and likely-similes intrude. Patience is the practice of apparent impoverishment. Apparently. We only needs be patient when what we want is not available.

One’s dear friend gets the results of the cancer tests. All concerned have been ‘patient’ for too long! And that ailing person has been ‘a patient’ for how long? Out of ‘consideration for others’ many victims ensconce themselves in a cocoon of ill health and un-reach-ability; constant coughing and bleakness of aspect and inability to speak make for quite natural self-imposed quarantines. One leaves cards and soup and cookies at the loved one’s door. And one feels otherwise helpless and ineffectual. Words can only say so much. And the patience with which all concerned have to wait for what nature itself has taught us is an inevitability; that patience appears to bring us no reward. Yet the love felt and the sympathy felt and the care given and the concerns expressed are indeed the reward. Within the patience needed to allow for time to work its ways there is a richness of the explorations of belief and hope and acceptance and projection and certainty. Between now and then there is something one can do: love! And even in patience there is breathing to do. Love. And at the very least, most of us can breathe freely.

Metamorphosis will have us be one thing in order to become yet another. The observable and concrete concept of it is so pervasive that we hardly can accept that an end to an actual life does not continue to contribute toward the whole afterward, albeit “in thousands of little atomies,” as Shakespeare would have it. Life's about me! So too for reincarnations and the mansions in heaven.

And in the meantime, patience is what we practice; moment by moment; so full of interesting observations and natural breathing such that one may hardly notice one is being a patient at all.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

A. I. and Ancestry, we Aver?


We bring the past with us. All our experiences make for the adjustments we each make as we grow up, whether we ‘learn the lessons’ or not. And our ancestors (most Psychologists and Psychiatrists and very much all African Sangomas do aver) haunt our very existence. Ancestral influences hover around us and take an interest and direct our course, or not. Dismiss them and they’ll dismiss you. Or worse, they’ll pull the rug from under you. At least, that’s what much of the acculturation of our psyches will avow. “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons,” they say¹. And we feel victimized by our past. “Because my daddy did this, thought this, believed this, that’s why I can’t be more-better.” Indeed, though the past may smudge itself into our existence, each day is a surmounting of all of history². (Yet it remains difficult for me, personally, to discount my most recent dismissal of my ancestral influence right before my direct fall in fortunes. “As if my dead Granny cares about her namesake, Selleck Way,” I scoffed, and instantly felt sacrilegious. That same night the email negating my financial prospects for that ‘Way’, ‘proved’ it.)

Artificial Intelligence too will add on to the past³. Intentionally, it will build on synapses and experience and alter to suit its needs, especially once it gains degrees of consciousness. (‘Degrees’ is an important word here, since which of us is not enlightened by degrees? Which of us does not gain knowledge by degrees? Which does not evolve by degrees?) Evolution itself is an-advancement by degrees. At issue is the relevance of ‘more-better’. After all, the dinosaurs are purported to have lived for millions of years, living in a paradise of eating, self-protecting, hunting, and mating, until that meteorite decimated their existence and eventually gave way to the rise of man. And we too have evolved. Are evolving². Yet, we aver, the ‘sins of the fathers’ perpetuate down the line. We drag the genetic (and psychic) past with us.

Carol writes: “At the lower end of my spine the 4th and 5th vertebra has no cushions... the rest all have thin cushions between the vertebrae. And then he (Dr.) said there are growths/lumps on my spine.” Andy writes: “Yes, we all suffer from sciatica, just at various levels and so we grit our teeth and move on!” Peter writes:  “...seems we all have our turn ... So, really do empathize with you and Richard and Andy... non-stop pain no matter what you do... I've just worked through it...gritting teeth. No sleep.” Eight years of age separates my sister, my two brothers, and me; we carry our father’s genes. (We carry our mother’s ills too, despite the Biblical Phrase.) Yet although mother was the one most afflicted by spinal-stenosis, Carol came not through her, yet from my father. Genetically we each bear the traits of our forefathers and mothers. Psychologists have it that, plaguing our psyches, we even carry the Family Constellations. (Dogs still will turn three or four times around on bare carpets afore a-bedding to sleep.) 

Ken Wilber, Wayne Dyer, Deeprak Chopra, it is clear, challenge us to become ‘conscious’. We are asked to let go, to flow, to grow. Artificial Intelligence will learn from its mistakes, adapt to challenges, and accrete exponentially³. Our consciousness, downloaded, uploaded, diversified, adopted, and extrapolated, will rise out of our subconscious in ways we cannot yet quite imagine. Cave men would have laughed at a time-traveler explaining television, or holograms². But we are no longer stone-age people, and we see the writing on the wall to herald the future, possibility, potential, and most of all, the existential reality of technological advancement. It is the melding of consciousness and electrical mechanization, in a Kurzweilian world, that individuals cannot readily admit to encouraging. We fear losing our past, and with it, our identity¹. “Release the ego,” the Guru’s always aver. But as Tevye, of ‘Fiddler’ fame says: “If I bend too far, I will break.” At issue is to accept, integrate, assimilate, absorb, and include. After every safety check possible, the question remains, “To integrate, or....?”

1. Religion:
"Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
"And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, ..."
"The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation."
"Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities. Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand."






Monday, November 2, 2015

Inzone-Dynamics

(Cricket at Pretoria Boys High. Note the Silly Mid-On position, legs spread, opposing the batter!)

This leaf will get harder as you read. Yes, ‘harder’, here, is connotative. And yes, ‘harder’ is a relative term. We derive here from its use a sense of progressive difficulty; a ball can be ‘hard,’ yet hardly this page of paper? (No wonder the dictionary has several bullets of meaning for many single words.) Then too, this page is one side of a leaf, and overleaf is the next page. Or, (since I mostly write one-page essays) do I next leave you blank?

‘Inzone-Dynamics©’ is hereby introduced. (And it has taken me over 60 years to arrive at articulating it.)

Marriages of intuition and actuality, of abstraction and concreteness, of inference and comprehension, of ignorance and knowledge, provide for more-better keeping one’s eye on the ball. While ‘marriage’ is not dependent on the melding of such dichotomies, nor is one’s apprehension of the varying marriages necessary for us to experience all the little ‘inzone-dynamics©’ of our life, our ongoing involvement of life in action with itself can remain un-articulated. We lose focus. As such we erratically evolve. Our accretion is un-directed. Homonyms abound. Silly mistakes mount, yes? It is about often missing the ball.

When the cricket ball clonked me above my right eyebrow my face dribbled with blood. I was about seven years old. We were in Mazabuka, Southern Rhodesia, Africa. It is now Zimbabwe. I was there at school. We played barefoot. And I missed the ball. It came at me off the bat, fast and hard, and my timing was off. And when the blood flowed there was consternation. And when I sported stitches they were tender to my touch. Yet when in High School, in Pretoria, South Africa, my favored position on the field was at Silly Mid-On. It positioned me approximately twelve feet away from the batter’s direct path of strike, and required me to be hyper-alert to the possibility of snagging the ball almost as soon as it came off the bat. Given that a cricket ball (about the size of a baseball,) is made of very hard cork bound in polished red leather, it seems silly to stand directly in front of a batter’s angle of strike; (yes, I could swap field if the batter was a ‘lefty’.) Yes, I did not want to be struck again. So I snagged the ball whenever I could.

Often, I missed. 
  
‘Inzone-Dynamics©’ is about that facing directly into the moment. It is about being as conscious as possible of ‘the now’. It is about being as open to the variables as one can be, and at the same time being ready for the precise actuality of the event that intersects with your life. Such an event can be as simple as putting one’s phone in a given spot, (or one’s wallet or keys). It can be about taking in a strange word and waiting for the sentence or paragraph to unravel its meaning. Denotation and Connotation marry! It can be about being comfortable with the obtuse and comfortably in awe of flying. One does not need to know everything (let alone how to fly a plane,) yet the more one knows the more readily one is able to accommodate and adjust to the variables, the inferences, the gist of things, the grist for the mill, and the challenge of the immediate. It is about keeping one’s eye on the ball.

Children are not necessarily trained to focus. They may be left alone or coddled. They may be instructed, dominated, manipulated, fooled, shamed, and abused. Children may be loved and unconditionally given rein. Some may have every advantage. Some may have wise parents, mentors, or teachers. But to be ‘in the zone’ takes a honing of intention with the self, and that dynamic, at large, remains a vagary. We are slow to evolve while at play in the fields of The Experiential. Yes? How best to keep one’s eye on the ball? Or do we just go undifferentiated, inconclusive, fodder-fed, acculturated, and perhaps even blank?


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Twixt Thee And Me

Steve and Donovan

 “The water joined!” my wife beams. “I wish you could’ve seen it.” And in her story of going past the isolated causeway of rock and sand between the Songhees Walkway and the little almost bare island off the point, where the sea struggles to close the gap, I feel a decided sense of pleasure; I always look for that connection in the waters whenever I pass there, yet to date have not seen it myself. My infirmity will not allow for easy access there. My condition seldom allows spontaneity. Yet the sea swirls almost infinitely in its patterns of tide and momentum, and I can securely imagine the closing of the gap. After all, true islands do not have bridges.

Connection can seem so fragile. We tear apart at the seams. We think we are islands as the gap widens between our ‘selves’ and an ‘other’, forgetting the foundations that yoke us to one another, no matter how deep the valleys beneath the sea. And it is difficult, me on a little atoll, you on peak, he in a distant grove, she on the other side of the ocean, to see the continual connection. One's turf is one's turf. So when the scientists speak of The Singularity, or when the spiritualists speak of The One, or the various priests of God, we easily do see ‘That Entity’ too, as separate from ourselves. We imagine it ‘out there’. Distinct. Apart. Something yet to be reached. After all, even the porous skin of my molecular containment provides for me a barrier twixt thee and me, as osmotic as I may deem myself to be.

Or am I too obtuse?

Connection can be fragile. M’Lady Nancy Sinclair, at 94, sitting at her computer, sneezed. A finger must’ve touched a key and inadvertently her machine switched off. Some disconnect got her entire letter to me ‘lost’. The steps to retrieve the missive, to switch the contraption back on, to restart the program, to check the draft, the delete, the storage boxes, these steps are challenging. We do not easily tread across the causeways of the unfamiliar. We fear slipping on the rocks. We fear being taken in by the sea. And yes, the sharks of dire contamination can swirl around us. Difficult to accept that they too are but part of the Great Connection.

Thespians, Donovan Deschner and Steve Nagy, remain among my connections. Vibrant young men, they’ve shared an apartment these past five years. With Donovan's leaving now to live with his girlfriend the ‘disconnect’ of immediacy in the friendship is taken for what it is. Yet the poignancy of their separation, of unavailability, is to watch the gap between them appear to grow larger. Like the correspondence between us. Like the lack of ready reciprocation or the lack of spontaneous opportunities to connect. And though beneath the surface of the waters we may reach out with our sensitive souls trembling for resonance with the other, the fact is that speculation is often all that one can imagine for a response. Where then is Michelangelo’s?


Yet connection can be so vital. Ephemeral and mystical, it is the thing that coincides as if by magic with thoughts of someone else. It brings about your news just as I was thinking of you. It reveals a photo on the web just as I was wondering how you are. Connection, like relays along the synapses of being bound by tide and circumstance, continues to charge the memory and the senses, allowing even those we once knew to live on long past their lifetimes. Indeed, “no man is an island.” Yet twixt thee and me? How far we may indeed seem to drift, out to sea.Twixt Thee and Meas kill a flea!ll a flea!e long ob just as iears. May ribbed not easily tread across thencasueways


Friday, October 23, 2015

'Gainst Guns



I'd done enough killing. It was time to sell my guns. Sure, there was the possibility of target shooting, but even that was always dangerous. (A .303 bullet can travel unhindered for over two miles; unless absolutely sure of where the bullet will stop, why fire it?) Besides, guns, no matter how beautiful or rare or privileged to own, were made for the express purpose of killing something. Yes, much is made of the need for self protection. Even target shooting was designed to hone one's kill-skills. Robin Hood knew that much. So did the Sheriff of Nottingham. And I'd done enough killing.

My first rifle in Canada was a pellet gun, 1976. Asked to get rid of the pesky starlings I'd eventually returned with a bushel of them in hand. The farmer's wife looked at me, astounded. "My husband just used to scare them off," she said. But it was not a lust for killing that led me to collect other rifles; it was by dint of circumstance. As an African I'd been taught to shoot before I was yet ten years old. And so, over the next five years, I'd actually collected seven rifles, each a piece of art or history in its own right. But it is the stories that went with them that now matters. Especially at the end.

Soon after the pellet gun I acquired a Russian made .22. It was for the purpose of getting rid of gophers (another temporary farm-related job). It was deceptively dangerous. The bullet is small and thin, but the range is sufficient to kill a running man at a 100 yards. Along with those two came a .410, which is a single barrelled shot gun, good for grouse. (That gun was really owned by my wife at the time; I used the .22.) We were privileged to know Russel Fex, the caretaker of the multi-acres of the defunct Anaconda Iron and Ore Mine, near Nakina, Northern Ontario, and for awhile hunting and fishing were part of our concept of 'paradise'. Moose; deer; beaver; elk; and especially the partridges; all were fair game. In those days we'd park the powerboat in a special spot and literally pluck the pickerel out of the water, like shooting fish in a... Well, you get the idea. Thing is, by the time I had to shoot the bear on the shore of Cordingly Lake (since it three times threatened to break into our little cabin for food) I'd acquired a WW2 Lee Enfield, which was a beautifully balanced and deadly accurate point 303, somewhat similar in power and range to the R1 automatic I'd used as a trained sniper in the SA Army, 1971 to '75. (Conscription had given me few options.) Yes, I knew that guns were made to kill. Isn't that why I'd escaped Africa? (And yes, this story is leading to an unhappy ending.)

By the time I'd finished my studies and become a teacher, based in Calgary, I had a gun rack with the twelve gauge double barrelled shotgun, the old Lee Enfield, the Russian .22, the old pellet gun, my wife's .410, and a German Mauser rifle from WW1. Yet I'd killed with the .22 the most. Back in Thunder Bay there'd been a catastrophe of feral cats at our cottage on the outskirts of the city. In one summer some thirty or more appeared to haunt my black cat, Temba, moaning and caterwauling for him to come out and play. At night their chorus and internecine fighting kept all within earshot awake. So yes, from my second story window I put each one down, thinking I was doing the local cottage community a service. But then, when I lifted one of the dead things up from the long grass I noticed the collar, and the glistening silver tag. The tag bore a name. It bore a name! Just like I did in the army, just like... And the sobbing escaped me. I cried and cried, determining never to kill again.

But the guns still came with me to Calgary, 1981. And a fellow teacher, learning of my collection, and fed up with her husband who'd deserted her, gave me two more. They were 'his' ugly things, deadly things. I found them really beautiful. One had a scope. One sees more clearly through scopes.

And then I met Pierre Tardif. Another fellow teacher. He bought them all from me, rack and all. We each had our gun-carrying licences; it was a legal transaction. And he took them off in his big brown jeep, and he stored them in his basement suite, against the wall, perhaps for a year or so. And then they were stolen. Someone broke into his house. Someone took the lot. And to this day I feel quite sick about the idea of them. From beginning to end. But especially the end. Who uses them now? Are guns not made to kill?


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Indelicacy of Dreams


Symbolism and ontology go hand in hand. Both can be obscure. Yet symbolism is usually that which is known, that which is accepted. Like Bulls. Or Lions. Or Doves. (In one of my illustrated booklets I deploy animals: an Owl; a Sloth; a Giraffe; a Lion; a Fox; a Raven; a Pig; and a Ram. Any guesses why?) Yes, some symbols are so atavistic, so ancient and readily recognizable that one hardly needs guess. Still, ignorance is forgivable. Should one not be raised in a given culture, or have had opportunity to be apprised of certain symbols as one grows up, they can mean nothing but the thing itself. Seven virtues or seven sins can have many idols.

But things by themselves, having no other significance, is very much the Existentialist's view of things. As such God and all Constructs, all meanings that we give things, are taken as interesting at best, and foolish quite frequently. What do you mean you were given a sign? What do you mean you took an incident as a demarcation point in your fortunes, your point of view, your perceptions, your intuition, your spiritual alignment, your route to enlightenment? Things are what they are, period. That you dreamt of a bear, or of dead flowers, or of a friend who then called to say he needed you, or of the (um) intimacy of your life is pure coincidence. 

That's what the Existentialist says. Yet...?

Ontology is the big word we give meaning-making. And meaning-making is the very thing that has created through the centuries the religions and ideologies and beliefs and even the political systems that hold us in their sway. It is difficult for most to go against the streams of their upbringing. The family dynamics hold one accountable. And then there's the fact of one's race, one's country of origin, one's ethnicity, one's genes. Differences of dress, of custom, of facial expression and even of language are sufficient to differentiate, fragment, and divide us. We do have different dreams.

Yet, are dreams necessarily about what we want? Are dreams necessarily about the subconscious working itself through you? Are they indeed programmed by an Overseer who designs them, matrix-like, to worm through our sleep into realities of emotion, positive or negative? Or are they journeys on which we travel in a parallel universe? Parallel universe? Which part of the universe is not everything? Or are we here-again creating yet more constructs?

I'm waffling. My own dream last night was very visceral. It concerned vacuuming dead  flower leaves, receiving from a person insisting on anonymity a food donation to give another friend in health distress. It involved pre-teen-aged children gliding silently into my apartment, and one of them opening the door to my study, with me anxious and even angry as he reached to touch my model ship, and my getting him out with my strong remonstrations about how all the precious things in my life have been taken, used, abused, and neglected. Then I locked the door against him. And when I again tried to open the door for me I realized it would not unlock from the inside. I was trapped in my room; trapped within my womb. And surely... Whuh! I woke up. 

I felt ugly. Selfish. Mean-spirited.

Much meaning churns in me. The Indelicacy of revealing all that might be reasoned or gleaned or construed from my dream prevails. Yet at issue is not so much my own dream here, but that we dream. And for some, indeed, dreams do have their meaning.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Always Awaiting


We await things. Such things are wanted, or wished, or prayed for. Such things are eventualities or expectations. Such things are the very vitality with which we greet our day, even if it is the awaiting of the morning coffee, or the undeniably electric-alarm of the bedside tick-tock-clock. We await with patience, or we await anxiously. And finding peace, within the space of waiting, becomes the very art of living. All is a passage between here and there, and in the very moments of breathing en route there is life sufficient to be enjoyed while we wait. (Try holding your breath overlong; air quickly becomes a primary objective!)

So, the new house should let us breathe again. When sufficiently squished into a cage of one’s own makings one adjusts to the distances and the noises and even the awkwardness of always having to move several things first in order to get at the thing, for lack of space, packed away. So too in one’s soul. If enlightenment is freedom from a house of many rooms such that all of everything is view-able and accepted and integrated and accommodated, then being in a body does not easily allow for such completeness. One likes privacy. One likes separations and divisions and even closets. One likes to organize and to have at one's disposal. One likes to like where one is living. At least, I do.

But reliance on geography, on spatial co-ordinates, or even on others for one's happiness can be debilitating. We are best off to be self-actualized sufficient to make our own choices without dependence, without attachments so strong as to glue oneself to the sticking place without courage enough, or even interest enough to venture further afield. (That “rolling stone gathers no moss” analogy was for a time when someone else thought it important to put up with one's lot.) If paradigm shifts are to be made it is necessary to fragment the mold, step off the plinth, disintegrate from the rigidity of structures supporting our statues of perception such that one may indeed be free. (Or do I seek mere validation for my own wanderlust? Am I really excusing the abandoning of the ship, the friends, the expected course?  Does one really know oneself?)

The JoHari Window concept has it that the four quadrants of the Self are such that one knows things about the self that none other knows; that there are things about me obvious to thee and me; that there are things you see about me that I do not see; and that there are things in either of us that neither of us see. So … One moves geographically, physically, spiritually, even conceptually, yet takes one's four panes with oneself! After all, which of us is so clear about that which we await from day to day that there is no room for yet more exploration?

And yes, nothing comes without a cost. Nothing is totally ‘right’. Perfection is very much in the eye of the beholder. The brand new anything soon enough gets nicked. We find fault and dissatisfaction and un-comfortableness. And some of us move, replace, reorganize, adjust, accommodate, accept, include, go with the flow and otherwise keep on living! Others? Well, they do what they do. One ultimately, in whatever capacity, takes care of the self within the limitations of choice and affordability and eventuality and circumstance and volition. So then, as we await the finality of our time on this earth, some of us move about, a lot! Some, a few times. And others stay put. It all is a matter of choice and opportunity and circumstance and That Within, the which cannot quite wait, but creates chaos in order to bring about yet another order. The  ‘new’, it seems, whether out there or within here or over where you are, awaits. It always awaits.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Momentum ad Momentum

Meta-cognition (that delightful ingredient of an active mind) would have oneself re-thinking this placard. A metal sheet (herein scanned), it was given to me by a friend some 12 or more years ago and was pinned up in my classrooms. "OK, let's think about this one," I'd invite. Ha! Upon reflection, even the last of my three essays do not follow its precise dictum, do they? (Or am I too pedantic?) Your summation? (If you please.)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Multi-Level Thinking, Moment by Moment (#3 of 3)


Multi-level thinking stops where? How much is too much? What infinity has a boundary? Which universe ends? Once we sector space, give it map-like quadrants and demarcations, are the invisible lines (like latitudes and longitudes imposed on the ocean) observed by the asteroids now swimming fish-like and free? Or does my passage dip into Black Holes? Metaphor and Analogy and Simile and even Warhol keep one smiling. (Did you know he painted a Barbie?)

Ideals and ideas are marriageable. They create an ‘other-than-what-is’ quality that captures the music in one’s head. Ideas engender our sculpting from clay, help us make images (however idolatrous,) and let us materialize cathedrals and skyscrapers and fly-planes. We rose from watching shadows cross our Cave Wall to watching TV. And since time immemorial we've made certain our ideas are imposed upon others; or why do we have cultures, borders, rules, and an education system? Even these thoughts of mine, transcribed here, become but part of the loose-language meteorological swirl that may (or likely not) make itself concrete in your head. After all, my house is quite different from your house, as similar as both houses may “equally lay.”  (Recall the Montagues and the Capulets?)

Thing is, if Unilevel Thinking keeps one focused on Things, and if two-dimensional-thinking has one preoccupied with Others, then multi-dimensional thinking, if predominant, may have one being very ‘verstroid’; or straw-minded. Yes? Too many variables become intangible. And tangential thoughts seldom stay on track. So much so that ideas, unsubstantiated and without seeming purpose, may become a psycho-neurosis. But “psychoneurosis is not an illness,” Dabrowski wrote. What it all really takes is allowing for each Other to exist (which best translates into ‘accepting’ each other’s existence.) Now there's an idea! (Or does that become ‘a practice’?)

What am I getting at? For each of us there is a limitation to the want to understand the ideas of another. (We even hope to understand our own ideas!) We struggle with political and religious differentiation in philosophies. We struggle with a definition’s leaving things unclear. We imagine and envision and expostulate and perceive. And we prefer fact, progression, clarity, and tangibles. (At least, even in this essay one presumes my readers are hoping for us much.) Yes, abstraction and multi-level-ness can obfuscate, confuse, and be-devil. To the devil with it all!

But not just yet! If I just read one more sentence, hear one more explanation, explore one more Bay, surely I might understand the map to the thoughts, the ideas, the topography of what may at times have been a startling journey!

Thing is, multilevel-thinking, since it is not necessarily linear (with an ‘if-this-then-that-and-it- follows-therefore’ formula) involves a multi-dimensionality that can be simultaneous. It easily allows for metaphor and simile and abstraction and falsehood and indecision and impurity and the obtuse, the inordinate, and the unclear too.


So what am I saying with all of this? I'm saying that multilevel-thinking cannot 'rest' at simply naming others inferior or mediocre or stupid or fools or even idiots; the very nature of the impermanence of action and thought and being and potential is too replete with moving atoms. (And now to check up what ‘replete’ means; or is that too concrete a necessity too?) Hm?journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two by Two, Eh? (#2 of 3)


Two-dimensional thinking persists with dichotomies. He and She; us and they; we and them; this and that. Distinctions persist. It is as though one is in one’s own vehicle, attendant (despite varying degrees of distractions) to the rules of the road. We accept the traffic patterns of others, yet at times are easily able to call out another’s mistakes en-route. At worst, road rage; judging; vitriol; aggression; envy; and distrust can amplify our sense of ‘me’ and ‘another’. If only no one else bothered me! Idiots! Fools!

How does little Jack or Sean or Sally or Meisie not identify with an ‘I’ in the culture into which he or she is born? Lessons create an environment of ‘things’ distinct from the self; persons distinct from the self; people distinctly different the further afield one ventures. And like and dislike; ‘love’ and even ‘hate’ set naturally in. “I love it!” we’ll exclaim over a taste. We arm ourselves with lessons. And some of the tools we acquire along the way can become so habituated to us that we do not easily replace them with another. So the ‘I’ of ‘Me’ sees life from ‘my’ point of view, from my wants and preferences (which sometimes are not easily distinguished from my needs.)

Discussion about others leads to comparisons and slander. We and they. Our sense of some ‘one’ else, some ‘thing’ else becomes so pervasive that only some One-Person else satisfies; some One-Place else is deemed perfect. Naturally. We perpetuate the mythology of my one and only love, the very best car to have, the best place to vacation, the best product to buy. Somewhere nearby in the subconscious is an awareness of perpetual distinctions depending on where one is at; we easily allow for the best place to eat in Paris as opposed to London, or Calgary, or Pretoria. But the best place to live is.... And no one, no One could be better than...

Dichotomies are subtle; two red VW Beetles parked on the front lawn (when I was about five years old) were encircled by my Uncle David and his friend. “Mine has better.... whatever,” the one would declare. It clearly was a comparison, a contest, a pitting of one against the other. And so we grow up. Size-servings on plates of food are compared by almost everyone (if one watches for the ‘other’s’ glance). On TV in a make-up commercial (I think) two young women sit with their loaded shopping bags on a bench in a busy mall while another young woman, evidently gorgeous with her hair streaming in the wind and attired to blended perfection passes them by. They watch her, envy etched in their countenances, and the one turns to the other and out of the side of her mouth stage-whispers, “Thick ankles!” Ha! We have to compare!

Integration, by degrees, becomes more and more as one lets go of the ‘my’ in one’s ‘I’. We grow up with me and it; me and my parent; me and my family; me and my club, team, school, workplace, city; my preferred province, country, nation and even my world. Thinking about my responsibility to the universe (in terms of my own significance as a molecule within it) seems, well, paradoxically egotistic: Who do I think I am? Let me rather just be the best I can be wherever life may find me, wherever I may choose to be a participant in life. And it will do me well, and I shall do well by it. Life and I. ‘I’, and all the others.


So it goes. One hardly can give up being an ‘I’, a ‘Me’, and wanting, nay... even needing a ‘My’. So it goes. Martin Buber wrote ‘I and Thou’.  Erikson wrote ‘Identity and Crisis.’ I write of this and that. And ‘me’ must perforce be within each word, for who else will type my thoughts for me? But to be content with what just ‘is’? Nope! I have to be more-better or less-gooder by perpetual comparison, don’t I?

                                                           
                                                                 "I prefer a Texan, any day!"

Friday, September 25, 2015

Things, Hm? (#1 of 3)


Uni-level thinking focuses chiefly on things. Like my record-album collection. Like my souvenirs. Like my new-ish car, my possibly new house, my collectible dishes, my curios, my mementos, and my personal knick-knacks.  One becomes consumed by the stuff. Difficult to get away from the significance of it all; difficult to diminish the feeling of ownership, connection, or attachment. Difficult not to want to explain, to share, even to show off. Difficult at times even to acquire!

“I wore my new striped bell-bottoms and my Carnaby Street double breasted blazer,” I once wrote with pride to my father, back in 1968. Surely he would think more of me for now owning and wearing such fashionable items. I was in my 17th year! And although John van Niekerk, my best friend in those cataclysmic years of youth (full of broken rules and wild adventures,) ... although John had given me his second-hand items, I was full of pride at their ownership. Me, wearing a .... Surely the girls would take notice! Surely...

“You can play three or four chords over and over as we walk the beach,” I told Peter, my brother, when I gave him that first of his second-hand guitars, back in the beginning of 1970. We were scheduled for a holiday and I was hoping he’d learn to play; with him beside me we’d impress the girls! Boy, would we ever impress!

And then it was my first car. And then it was...  Well, my things have had significance to me because...

We give ourselves reasons for our attachments. Two pebbles given in hand to me by a very special friend from our stop beside a turbulent tributary stream to the Colorado River are beside me in their glass case as I type. So too is a little marble pyramid (got by my Dad in 1963) above me on the shelf. So too for two little ivory carved elephants, as small together as is my pinky. Then there’s my precious blue wren from Australia, and... But what do you really care about my things? We weep crocodile tears for the loss of another’s sentimental stuff; it can mean little to ourselves. What is my glass bubble to you? What of my poster of Romeo and Juliet? What of..? What’s it to you?

One collects for some deep well to fill in the self. For some of us there is never enough. Some collect those little crystal things one sees of unicorns and bears and lions and tigers, oh my! Some collect movie posters, or movies themselves. Some collect beer bottles, or stamps. One friend I know (with lots of money) collects and restores old cars! And me?  Well, apart from my books (I love books!) there is my record-album collection. Did I mention it before? Well, let me show you...

Who has time sufficient for another? Who really cares about your own stuff? Who will go through my library, book by book, and hear why it is I treasure this one, or that one? Who will open up my iTunes file and look at all 4,400 plus of my albums? (Especially the album covers!) “That many?” Yes, with my brother-Andy’s visit last year he added about 1,000 Afrikaans albums. Yes, with friend David’s extensive record collection he gives me lots of music whenever he visits. And there’s.... But who really ‘cares’?

We speak of ‘things’ ad nauseum. We choose things based on how we might appear, how we might feel, and then too, because of their usefulness to us. Well, if usefulness is about the feeling one gets from a thing, then a lot of things do indeed mean a lot to a lot of people. Thing is, do they mean anything to you? And then again, is it necessary to talk, to tell, to write, and to focus so much energy on any one of them? Aren’t they, well, for you? Hm?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

All About Me!


It's all about me. Or might it be about you? After all, Carly Simon sings, “You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you; don't you?” Carly’s indelible 1973 album, ‘Secrets’, still resonates: “Sometimes I wish, oft times I wish, I never knew… Some of those secrets of yours!” Indeed, we see ourselves but through the pane of that which we both see; the second pane is that which I see in myself that you don't; then there's the third pane that you see in me (that I clearly don't see sufficiently); and all the while there’s that fourth pane too, the one into which neither of us sees. At least, those are the four panes amalgamating personhood, according to The Johari Window. And yes, much of the necessary clearing up of things are painful, indeed.

“You want the attention,” I was told, however kindly, after we'd left our gathering of loving friends. “You don't realize how much you make the moment all about you, at the expense of the other. It can be shaming. It actually detracts from you. And it's worth examining why you need so much focus.” Yes, immediately I thought of the renowned concert pianist reputed at any coughing in an audience to stop his performance and demand the offender leave, or worse, refuse to continue to play. Yes, I had to admit, when performing, I wanted all the attention on me not to be disturbed, disrupted, or fragmented. (Or did you think this story was about you?)

“And here comes our waitress, just as I'm telling my story,” I blurt at her unsuspecting and innocent entrance through the French Doors into the private room we had for our gathering, annexed from the noise. (I’m feeling interrupted; my exposition is now disjointed!) Kim, with whom we'd earlier established camaraderie, apologizes. “Sorry, just checking if anybody wants anything?” In the polite Canadian idiom each of us responds with, “I’m good, thanks.” Keith, youngest among us, then lightens things up, “We're all good!” And everyone laughs. Yet at Kim's exit I must admit that my subconscious wanted her to stay and hear me too. After all, my story was just about to introduce the inciting force. And the classic question posed by one of us was: “What in your life was a moment of great fear for you?”

I do not recall all the others’ answers. I'd kept quiet, and listened. But while listening, I confess, I’d mentally prepared my own response. After all, I've lived a long and fairly adventurous life, at times. So I divined an old incident from my boyhood. And when Jessie, the most senior among us, had finished her tale of negotiating a treacherous mountain pass in the dead of winter, and then deferred to me with, “What about you, Richard?”, I was ready.

Even when I was finished, and it was another's turn, my creative bent continued to churn and instead of listening with full intention I felt regret at not having come up with the image of my being as though within the belly of a whale, sunlight streaming down into the mouth of our sea cave, the black rock of its orifice-like teeth waiting to clamp down, the menace of the giant torpedo-like shark a real threat directly below. Yes, I had to swim over the dragon and… But now I’ve to listen to another’s story. And then I realized my vanity: I’d revealed myself the hero!


Thing is, I am too often involved in the parameters of my own being. I seldom memorize the details of another’s dialogue. With a ‘him’ or a ‘her’, as the poet e.e. cummings says, “Feeling is all.” Yes, it’s an intuitive connection that contains the accord of my reciprocity; the details of lives are but fodder for repetition, re-examination. Then again, isn't life about me? Or is it ‘all’ about you?


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Key Concepts


From B.C. to Star Wars, that's where I was taken as I awaited the programming of my car's spare key. 'Ellen,' a vital "87 years old," sat down in the plastic chair beside me. "That thing a computer?" she demanded, pointing at my iPad. I acceded. She held out a newspaper and pointed at the crossword: "Who wrote the cartoon, B.C.?" I typed in the phrase, and J. Hart immediately showed. "Of course," she stated, "I knew that," and her story began.

Children are “doomed”. Society is doomed. "Glad I have no grandchildren!" Neither of her two sons had had children, and the one had been married 25 years! The "impending Cascade Plate earthquake"; the "xenophobic reactions" to “global take-overs (I have a big Oxford dictionary at my desk, as well a little upstart one" she averred); and the inability "anymore" to leave doors open; "to allow children to go play outside"; all of it, conspired to impel the future to doom.

The keys to longevity and health lie in vitality. One readily intuits that much. Thing is, in the intermittent periods between our years, between paradigm shifts, between leaving one room and entering another (where 'waiting is like silent action' as we may take on someone else's words, ideas, ideology, contentions), there can be days, weeks, years. It is in retrospect that one sees the chronology of another's life as seamless. ‘Ah, your husband fought in the Second World War while you were a WAC, in the women's army corps. And then this happened, and then that.’

Our own lives may seem too trivial on this petty path from day to day. The hurtle from home to work ("compared to the old days"); the sheer volume of media coursing through our senses (compared to a time when “a single newspaper was precious”); the incredible ease with which we divorce and remarry and blend families and "expect everything to be given to us, well, life is just not what it used to be! Nowadays we lock up everything!” Yes, we lock ourselves inside the cages we make for ourselves. We lock ourselves inside our heads. “Yes, we lock up our hearts! We are selfish and myopic and moribund! ... Now then, there's a word for you to look up!"

There are Facebook placards of 'Life Back When it was Simpler'. There are youngsters, even now, who agree that our world is doomed. The issue is one of "preponderance". (She twinkles at me: "See," she exclaims, "I love my dictionary!") Eight billion people "are suffocating our planet. All those cars! All those mouths to feed!" (She leans in closer, looks about to ensure no one is overhearing,) ... "All those toilets! Euw! ... And ne'er you mind the extraterrestrials!"

My wife and stepson have lunch with me (about a week after my typing these first five paragraphs) and we choose a spot by the window, where it's quiet. We've not been together for several months, and we look forward to a pleasant conversation. But the workmen arriving at a nearby drink-less fountain commence drilling and pounding and hammering and yammering, and the din is so great that we, and others at nearby tables, raise our voices too. Interestingly, Keith, at 31, says he hardly notices it. But it is enough for Linda and I to seek relocation.


Intrusion has many guises. The neighbour's knock. The car passing by. The telephone jangle. The new beeps from the computer. The stranger who engages. We lock ourselves away, or not. And the key to it all (if peace be 'it'), the key is certainly not necessarily ‘vitality’. Vitality can have one moving and being grumpy and being disturbed, even in our longevity. We each have hidden clauses; (and Jo and Hari see things in us neither of us sees). No, the key to peace is to accept, to change what one can, and to let the rest go. Life unlocks itself. (Now then, where’re my keys? Ha!)


Monday, July 20, 2015

Might a Mite make for Might?



When Jason threw the rock he knew not what ended, or began. The tranquility of our little bay abruptly burst into flight as the heron took wing, garrulous seagulls launched, sea-otters scurried down rocks and slipped under the liquid surface, and the raccoon scrambled deep into the undergrowth. These are creatures I regularly watch from my fourth floor window. But the rock that Jason threw went down deep, and I can only imagine the crab it killed as that big rock landed so weightily atop the smaller rock the crab hid under. Jason was very strong. He proved so to his friends when he lobbed that huge rock from the beach. His friends threw smaller rocks after it, as young men and children do when beside the water. And the effect upon nature is perhaps as dramatic for small things as would the sudden seismic shift of tectonic plates for human beings be. After all, so very many meetings and meals and homes and even breeding possibilities are interrupted by a singular event. Even for crabs. Yet how else can we be but do that which we do? That a single crab was killed is not within Jason's purview. He meant it not.

Two tiny little things clung to glass today. One was a mite, a beige little grass-fly so small I took it at first for an itty-spider. But within the naturally splashing waters of my shower (as I, nakedly God-like in my indecision whether consciously to kill it or to let it die of its own accord after venturing into so foreign an environment,) it disappeared. Still, it remains in my consciousness (and now may be a speck saved in yours.) Later, when with my friend Clive at 'Habit', our local coffee shop, a big black carpenter ant scurried fruitlessly up and down the great glass walls separating it from a natural reality. Large and full of menacing vitality, it still was quite comparatively small to me; me who easily might've reached out and flicked it to earth, or even squished it for its distractions and scurrying impudence, or out of my fear of it landing atop me.

The seismic proportions of the inevitability of the future, right here in Victoria, continues to be gambled against. Tectonic plates are awaiting subsidence. The resulting quake, designated at a 9.0 and probably "any minute now", has apparently very few alert. Like crabs going about our daily business we scuttle across our domain, unaware that nature itself is about to crush us under the weight of 100 foot waves that come hurling at us with their flotsam of transport trucks and other stuff asunder. We are overdue for it. Last time, in the year 1700, was more than 230 years ago. And the average over centuries, according to seismic depth analysis, is every 230 years. All of the Western seaboard may indeed become another Atlantis; except that 7 million of us will succumb, and that anyone left living, anywhere, will know where what once was, is now gone.

We venture in bubbles of excitability and restlessness. Some of us perhaps are more grounded, more readily anchored. But for those of us in search of yet more we accept the changes and allow for the instability that makes not only for our progress, but for those who may be left in our wake. That’s what happens to the kayakers who paddle too near the taxi-ferry paths. Initiates hold their paddles up and do not steer through the sudden tempest, seriously endangering their stability. That’s what happens to the bobbing ferries themselves when the big waves are whipped up by the wind. The normally smooth surface of their passage, like a stretched piece of string between point A and point B, is now given a ragged and jagged hurly-burly outline instead, and their passengers can quickly become green and sickly. Yet rough or smooth, the paying price is the same for the journey. It is the psychic price that is inestimable. We gather unto us memories.

Like any Argonaut, Jason’s acts are like a search for the Golden Fleece; attaining worth. The impermanency of his physical acts he is yet to learn to let go. He and the others ventured on down the beach, leaving trails larger than footsteps. Yet one can but feel compassion for that which oneself once was. To become silent, respectful, observant and patient takes the pain of living long past the point of realizing there is no actual Golden Fleece; actions create results.
 
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For the sobering reality, please see: