Thursday, July 21, 2016

Elemental Enlightenment

My house is filled with light. You can see every dust speck. From early morning light, especially on sunny days, the light streams across the dark wooden floors, glistens off the countertops, and pierces into the crevasses. It all shows the detritus of human living; strands of hair; bits of lint; fingerprints; footprints; and every tiny crumb. Good thing I have no wall to wall carpet; the cleaning would never be as frequent! A good thing my home does not face in the opposite direction, for with the sun at my back I should be living in my own shadows most of the time, where the dirt easily lurks. But no, with so much light in my face, and beaming down upon and into my domicile, I am impelled almost constantly to be cleaning. Or should I just relax?

Our houses are actually a frequent mess. Disenfranchised bits lurk everywhere. We fragment at the seams. We drop and discard and disuse. We purchase anew and abuse. We take things for granted. We waste. We store and stack and supplant. And we arrange our knick-knacks in a sensibility of placement and preference unique to ourselves. And yet we all are much the same. We all have a-this and a-that. Even in our histories. (At least, the most generally privileged among us do: Our richness of materialism can hardly be compared to the disenfranchised, can hardly be compared to the critical mass of those without means, without substance, without the necessary articulation in one's own language, or similarity of skin tones sufficient for our own comparative compassion.) Huh?

Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Gay lives matter. All lives matter! Yet we are hardly hurt when the wave hits "over there," when it is not our own daughter, son, relative or Race made a victim of circumstance. If I tell you a friend died, or my parent, or my colleague or my dog died, you yourself may sympathize with me, because you know me. If you know the person who died you would empathize even more. And what if the person was someone on your side of the family? What if it was your pet? What matters most is that with which we, "I", most identify.

Dirt and mess and spots are the fertilizer of our pasts. We have learned from our mistakes. And we cannot but help continue to make a mess, to produce dirt, and to create spots. Our inner and outer houses are more than the individual domicile of our spirits; they are the vehicles of our corporeal and collective passage. The deepest of the divisions occurs in the collective; we cluster in racial and religious and cultural and political communes, and we point out and discuss the dirt in each other's houses with an egregious contempt. Dirt's in the idiosyncratic idiolect of the idolatrous and iconoclastic. It's in our intensity of interpretation, indirect in its very directness; it is in the living paradox of presumptions and preference built into walls around us that become the places we live in. Our physical face and our habitual muscles and our interior plumbing and our emotional attachments and our mind-bending concepts and our spiritual-spirals take on not only our persona, but become our character. And in our houses (especially since the more carefully we look, the more the light reveals,) we become more and more aware of the ongoing amount of cleaning up we can do, we have yet to do, and will be doing tomorrow too.

"A life unexamined is hardly worth living," Socrates purports. Elemental enlightenment would reveal the unclear, the turgid, the scabs and scars and bad spots. Enlightenment going beyond the elementary begs yet more anxiety. The more light, the more we see yet to do. Yet there also is, with the unrelenting clarity of day by day, a growing consciousness that one can clean, but not be attached to cleaning. That's elemental. One can love without being needy. That's elemental. One can care without wanting reward. One can give without the recipient knowing. One can clear away the detritus and the debris without anyone noticing. All that is elemental too. (It is in our allowing for a consistent flow of "letting go" that living is not quite so elementary.) Yet in the light of our day, as well as in the dark of our sleep, we can continue to scrub away at our past, individually and even more significantly, collectively, now, and in all our tomorrows to do. So... Now to relax, yet still to do!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Personal Powers

I can walk again. Babies do not struggle; walking evolves naturally. The infirm, the crippled, the diseased, the handicapped, we know differently. To overcome the inherent problems of inability, disability, and chronic pain is actually insurmountable sometimes, despite all cures proffered, despite the pronouncements of miracles that enliven our way. Yet after 10 plus years of being dependent on a power-chair (since my degenerative spine does not allow for me to self-propel,) I'd had enough. So, like anyone training for a marathon, I added a pace or two more a day, and eventually my three paces reached ten, and twenty, and I could make the elevator from my apartment door, and then I could walk from the car to the home, and then I walked with my cane perhaps 50 feet, and now I can do 20 minutes or even more, unsupported. Yes, carefully, but I can walk again!

Yes, there's a price to pay. Yet no matter who we are or what we do, we pay in some way or other for our achievements. We watch our diets. We are abstemious. We practice. We practice yet more. We budget time. We self-discipline. We read and learn and get 'personal trainers' and buy better instruments and get new shoes and expensive equipment and we do things to get more-better in a kazillion ways. And barring injury, we get fitter and fitter and keep healthy, despite our aging (quite naturally). Despite our slowing down, quite naturally. Despite the inability quite often of oneself (or of others) to keep up with a natural pace. Yes, most things are natural, until we are unusually taxed. We walk, we talk, we play. And then comes the Marathon, the Big Event speech, the Tournament, and we needs get fitter and healthy for it. Yes, there's a price to pay. Most of that price is very personal, quite different for each of us. There is little equity in life. We each pay our own price.

Ten years in a power chair takes its toll. It stops the lungs from exercising fully. Stops the muscles from working well. Stops the inner organs from functioning well. Stops the brain from being fed by exercise. Add to that the necessary blood thinners and the heart regulators and the pain tablets and one is a recipe for disaster. Like the event, just over a year and half ago, when my wife and I spent the night in the Emergency where I was diagnosed with multiple embolisms. It became a fulcrum for me. I decided that 'movement', despite pain, was worth more than the stasis by which I was protecting myself. Yes, someone shaking my hand as opposed to giving it a gentle squeeze hurts, to this day, but my vertebrae just had to absorb some of the impact of walking or I was beyond a recipe for disaster; I was an empty platter ready for the dishwasher!

So I began with steps. And three led to four. And four to ten. Last January I weaned myself off of the pain drugs, from three per meal to two, to one per meal, to just one a day now (to help me sleep.) Then too, I've some thirty or so books on neuro-plasticity and brain power and will power and self-power and the power of prayer and the power of friends and family and support and self-care and good nutrition and prayer by itself (see below). All culminate with the single directive: Up to You! One more step! One more crunch, one more curl, one more mile. Decide! Will power is commitment. Do it! Will power, within reason, is mind-over-matter! Yes? Yes!

We each have our own marathons. Some are emotional. Some are psychological. Some are physical. All are demanding. We sweat and groan and ache and feel as though we will break. We can cry with the unfairness of it all. Others actually say it’s our karma! Some have little clue of the endurance it takes to be in the race, this human race. They walk or even run, most fortunately. But most of us are dragging behind us or carrying our very own ball and chain; we bring along our history, our genetic makeup, our family constellations, and beyond all things else, ourselves. Individually! Yes, that I can walk a bit is one thing, my thing. It is not yours.

You too have your own journey, difficult as it is. This essay serves as encouragement; period.

On my bookshelves: