Thursday, March 17, 2016

Being Busy

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

I am no Knight in Shining Armour. I’m no KISA. Rather, I’m a little like Sir Pellinore who creaks onto the stage of Camelot, rough-made wooden dog in tow (as I once directed it), presenting a pleasant but befuddled countenance of all. Sir Pellinore is in search of the Holy Grail. So am I. And while Pellinore settles into Camelot and at last has his creature comforts supplied for him while being inner-free, I needs perpetuate my nesting, yet one more time. It seems that nesting requires repetition after repetition. Besides the hauling of the life-long items of my accoutrements, there is the replacing of things life had needed at each pit-stop; a mattress; a barbecue; a TV; a vacuum cleaner; paint for the damaged wall; yet again the building of bookcases; yet again the acquiring of materials and fabrics and a shower rod and fixing plumbing and the making of a new bed frame. Yes, moving is an ongoing process until, well, until one has entirely moved. And then, for how long does one stay? And even while staying there is always so much ‘stuff’ to do! Indeed, it is as the Buddha says, “Before enlightenment, hauling water, chopping wood; after enlightenment, chopping wood, hauling water.” Yes, I am no KISA. I’ve no time to shine my armour. The pieces of it lie in little rust heaps behind me, o’er-looked on the long-past battlefields of my passage. Or put on shelves.

Sir Barry is dying. It is no easy passage. Lung cancer has him reduced to a man in a cave, the curtains drawn, his life curtailed to waking moments in which he may be distracted from his demise by the news on TV. No friends may visit. No socializing is permitted. He does not want to be remembered as the fallen knight. He knows that our love for him is for our memory of what he was, a knight in shining armour doing battle for others. Instrumental at the Council Table, an advocate for the least advantaged, and a man who tackled the problems of life with alacrity, with expertise, with energy and zeal, Sir Barry exemplified the KISA that we men try to be, the Knight in Shining Armour. But now he lies dying. And we may not see him. And his demise is a long-slow dreadful thing indeed, especially for his Lady Carolyn, his most beloved, beleaguered, and perpetually attendant M’Lady. 

Of what use the news to you? We all have friends who face death. We all have stories of ourselves and of others who are enduring the great passages of life, the battlefields that last a day, an hour, but are nevertheless battlefields indeed. Narrow escapes are just that; time contracted into a crack in the roadway over which one may trip into the face of oncoming traffic, except that one ‘just in time’ managed to avoid, to skirt, to o’er-leap, or to skip over the problem. And of what use bruiting it all abroad? Who needs to know? Why should it matter that Sister Carol has palliative patients who may drain all the love and care she can give, over and over, so that she learns to be a conduit between her God and his courtiers, giving and giving, and in her very giving finding fulfillment of her being; her natural calling. Did Mother Joan not find her husband’s long-hidden daughter to be an angel, indeed?

Question marks can go astray. We forget the thread of our connections to others. We forget why we’re doing something, writing something, reading something. What is that we’re looking for? Does one's Innesfree really exist within the context of the distractions and the busy-ness of living life itself? And even then, when found, as the poet says, there is work to do!

Indeed, with twins on the way; with a stroke to overcome; with an unexpected lay-off; with cancer at the foreground of worry; with persistent financial hardship; with the ravages of addiction always just at bay; friends carry their battle-swords at the ready, their armour sometimes not as polished as one may expect. We all are too busy! But we each are searching for Innesfree. And even then, when found, there’s still a lot of 'stuff', indeed, to do! Anon!       

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An Annotated Anguish

Aden was a pleasant memory. And then things changed. Yesterday, March 04, 2016, I happened to note on the BBC news an article about the shootings, the brutality. So very different from my childhood memory of Aden, 1963. Yesterday, nineteen people in an old age home, many of them the caring nuns, were first handcuffed, and then shot in the head. Deliberately. And for me the horror of it, even so far away, continues to resonate. My souvenir of a beaded belt (on which Aden is spelt, kept all these 50 plus years,) hangs on the wall in my studio. It was a memoir of alien innocence. Now it is a memoir of alien sin. And sin, for me, is defined by intentional harm.

Lists of the brutal and bad people in our history are easily made. Hitler. Idi Amin. Pol Pot. Stalin. Among others. It is the intentional infamy behind their crimes that resonates. That, and the sheer amount of people they've affected. Will a Donald Trump be next? A surprising many are against Obama. Yes, history will show the record of a person’s progress. Boadicea. Eva Peron. Hillary Clinton. Alexander. Napoleon. Justin Trudeau. But what of the individual recruit or conscript into an Army that then threatens the family and welfare of all concerned with the inductee for disobedience? And what of individual actions by a single person forced to carry a bomb, a gun, carry out a horrific command? How does time treat that person, and why are so many intentionally harmful acts, evil acts, so readily committed and so easily forgotten? Who forces whom? What small acts do I not do?

Forgotten? Yes, it is now the 8th day of March, 2016. Aden, for me, fell on March 04. Who recalls that ‘bit of news’? Who is there among those I know that are affected by this tragedy of handcuffing and shooting nuns and elders? Who knows of or has ever been to Aden? Who else 'feels' this tragedy?

Forgotten? Yes: “Boudica's husband Prasutagus ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome and left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman emperor in his will. However, when he died his will was ignored, and the kingdom was annexed. Boudica was flogged, her daughters raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans.
In AD 60 or 61, when the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was campaigning on the island of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, the Trinovantes, and others in revolt.[2]” ~
Time smudges on. Other things take our interest. We grow not necessarily indifferent, not really insensitive, not actually ignorant, but we grow accepting and including and absorbing and come to integrate all that happened and happens as part of the deal of living. The deal? Yes, there is nothing perfect, nothing absolute (except taxes and death), and there is nothing guaranteed. You live; ‘you takes yer chances.’ Oversensitivity (particularly in Dabrowskian terms) will cripple you. The daily news is too full of horror and pain and insuperable accounts of grim and gore. We are making history. It won’t ever be a verdant tapestry of paradise. The lion and the lamb and the dragon and the bear will not be friends.

I see through my father’s glasses. He died in 2004. I have the pair of spectacles that were taken off his fallen body and placed on a shelf. And just today, this morning, I fished them out for the first time from my own history and through his view saw my 1963 Aden belt yet again. Clearly. Dad and I were once there, in Aden, then in Egypt, then in... but who really cares? We see through our own eyes. And history, in the end, is the collective visions of mankind. We make of life as we will, until our own end. It’s an individual that must make choices. Now there’s challenge that can appear alien, indeed.