Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Misbegotten Momentum

Unthinkingly, I killed them. My hands are weapons. So too are my intentions. And since these irritating things were so many, and so small, I lifted my hands and clapped them quickly, and caught at least two if not more of the little black devils. And then I washed my hands of them. And only then did what I’d just done strike me: I’d just killed! So easily. Was it because of their size? Me, who goes with a ready-at-hand glass and stiff-paper to the windows, and catches wasps, flies, spiders, moths, and even the occasional mosquito! (I almost always smile at the story the trapped little things’ll have to tell others, out there, in the big world, about the glass space-ship that swooped down on them while they were in an alien land, and how they were magically transported to the outside of its foreign boundaries and then swooshed out and set free!) But that did not happen to those two or three teensy little black midgets, ‘miggies’, mites, fruit-flies that beleaguered my kitchen. Clap! And they’d summarily been disposed with!

Like transitional prepositions, we find the smaller the significance to us, the less we care, the less we accord value. Outside my window two deer and a fawn nibble on the lawn as I type. There are frogs and birds and bugs galore outside my house. But I do not invite them in. In fact, I place a piece of juicily smelling fruit on my deck at the crack of my balcony door, and hope all the fruit flies (for a whole colony of them breeds at my kitchen waste-bin, where the fruit residues to them seem plentiful, and free,) ... I hope that the kitchen bugs, with the waste bin now disinfected, that the kitchen devils will leave their new territory and go back to where they came from! Go! If they don’t...? It’s my life! Mine. Or theirs?

The BBC video link (below*), if you watch it, will be indelibly horrid. Sorry. We cannot escape that awful feeling of being overwhelmed. We cannot escape! How to survive, let alone to thrive, among a culture that is intentionally bent on overtaking your life? All you know, believe, cherish, and value can be supplanted by the sheer volume of foreigners, aliens, and ‘others’ who come across our borders. Should you too move to smaller and smaller packages of land, where you can draw up your borders and, draw-bridge like, demand of any person attempting entry to your castle a full, complete, comprehensive disclosure?

We live in such fear! The incursion of ‘others’ is so very-very difficult to integrate. If I happen to live in, say, Gondwanaland, then the objective is that all those taking up residence will adapt to my language, to my education system, to my cultural and commercial values, and hopefully, even convert to my religion. But, alright, I’ll let them build their own church and practice their own beliefs; just don’t interfere and expect me to dismantle my own! Take over my schools. Even on my beaches, as a Gondwanalander, I wear a hat! You may go half-dressed. Don’t hate me for not worshiping the sun! And don’t tell me....

Expectations delivered by others can be so very hurtful. Beliefs can be so destructive. Values can be so disenfranchising. Other’s intentions can be so alarming! If able to start over we might, with immigration policies, expect that before entering our county ‘the other’ would learn our language, adopt our social and cultural ways, and agree fully to contribute toward our country by paying taxes and doing what he or she can to make a living of dignity and worth, instead of being a drain on the rest of us. (And ditch-digging, or dish-washing, or laying bricks are all services of dignity and worth; I’ve personally done all three!)  Most significantly, we’d expect that the new immigrant subscribe to our wish to sustain that which we have, not to overwhelm us with the encroachment of an entirely new way of being. But the missionaries didn’t do that, did they? And history did not allow for that, did it? And throughout all of the pathways of man, the times, they are a changing. We can but care however we can. However minutely; indeed.   


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Age Old Appreciation

What part of us does not fragment? There is a biblical dust to our sensibilities, to our bones, to our history. I stooped in my studio to the detritus flitting and fallen from a treasured book, and the random flecks I then off-handed into the garbage bin. After a more than 80 year old journey where might these pieces of old glue and cardboard and paper and even remnants of print end? What will eventually become of this beloved book inscribed by a father to a son? And just how many other fragmentations of bodies and beings and what was once so vital now lie in our cemeteries, where gravestones are no longer cleaned? (Even today I purchased a $6 book inscribed, "For Catherine from Auntie Ruth, 1950".) Yet what vitality is there other than in the memory, if not in the import one gives anything at all? Someone's cherished bric-a-brac is indeed another's junk. Take a look into a scrap yard. That headlight from a 1947 MG is priceless! Yet...., 'need' it? "That's the problem with this whole culture: More things is good. More money is good. More 'more' is good," says Morrie Swartz. (I know the lines well. I'm to reprise 'Tuesdays with Morrie' at the local Langham Court Theatre, this October. I have to hope my memory stays intact!)

Thing is, you'd have to be there to appreciate it. You'd have to know something of the story. You'd have to have some care, spurred on by your identification with whatever the event, the thing, the memory, the moment is for you. (Why else, when rummaging through a second hand box, would you take up or purchase my old book on Bolivia?) We want what we want because of an ascribed value. An unburnished diamond is but a pebble to the uneducated. Gold had no intrinsic value until made so by others. And so, much of the values we have in our houses, in our wardrobes, in our photo albums, and in the prints we have on our walls is ascribed to it by the souls to whom it has some 'real' meaning. How else to sell indulgences? How else to sell relics? How else to have a box of sea shells that bare significance? How else to smile at a scratch on the floor, knowing that it was made there by one's beloved pet, by one's absent child, or by some long ago advent with which is associated a 'happy' memory? Appreciation is all.

Thing is, the product is the epitome of the desire during the journey. It's 'all well and good' to be working in one's garden, to be struggling with the painting, to be practicing at the guitar, to be writing the yet unsent letter, to be cooking. It's the product that one is aiming at. It's the book at last held in hand after looking for it in multiple used book stores. It's the horse well-in-hand after having fallen off it a few times. It's the recipe turned out 'just right'. We are given to product. Even pregnancy immerses us in an expectation. So too does evolution. So too does renovation. So too does the going about our daily routines; we are fired if not 'productive'. Yet being at a place of peace with the self during all of it is what really is at stake; for what piece of peace is not fleeting and ephemeral at its best? The product is not really a resting place; one merely shifts gears, changes attention, goes on to do something else. We wish almost constantly for something else. One sip. One taste. One holiday. One weekend. None of them are enough. (Especially, if like me, you are an inveterate collector. Books. Music. I get more and more!)

"Are you at peace with yourself? Are you trying to be as 'human' as you can be?" Morrie asks of Mitch on the stage. And the implication is that no matter what one is doing or where one is at, at any age ("all this emphasis on youth, don't buy it!" Morrie urges) any age we are capable of being 'at peace with the self'. Quite the challenge! All around us is fragmentation, disintegration, and decay; as well, there is regeneration, renovation, and birth. We are changelings in a world full of changes. Even everything in the universe is changing too, "just a lot more slowly". Indeed, acceptance is all. All practice and product and aspirations and achievements and attainments can be sustained by that most elemental of connections to our universe: appreciation. Care, even for a speck of floating detritus given accord as it once more goes to be absorbed by the larger matter is made significant by relevance to the self; pets, friends, family. All was born. All will die too. And how we feel in our links to things, plants, animals, people, or places, that’s the vitality we feel. Or not. Appreciation; it’s an age old feeling, at any age, indeed!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Did You Deja Vu?

Metamorphosis is more than a big word. It's an actuality. Quite the series of events! It seems there was hardly an age when I was not mesmerized by its contentions. We are ourselves, perhaps, metamorphic. We are changelings. We grow from pupae to caterpillar to butterfly. And seeing the pupae again, do we remember our state of seeming stasis? How far back can we recall?

Ontology, defined, means meaning-making. Big words do that. They can be off-putting. So too for big events. They can be so laden with the yeast of time-past or time-future that we hardly can conceive of the product; we are too immersed in the particular. Yet, paradoxically, even en route we might be thinking of where we were, what we still want, or be recreating the feeling we felt when.... Apparently, whether sensate or sentient, we reincarnate*. At issue is whether we do so in dribs and drabs of soul-force, or as an integral entity. We'd much prefer to stay whole.

Grief will do that. Some of us leak with grief all our lives. Phrases arrest our attention 'like petals on a wet black bough'. (Ezra Pound can bludgeon us 'with a grievous crab-tree cudgel'.) Places and moments, memories and persons, rocks and shells, fragrances and tastes, these are the detritus of our past, and they cling to us, or us to them, sufficient to evoke tears or smiles. We are attached to the past. We are attached to the present. And we project ourselves into the future. All around us is impacted by our existence, and we too are impacted in turn. Naturally.

Reincarnation has as its first premise the possibility that it's all about ‘Me’. We love to project our lives past the still point of no longer really-truly knowing. We love to presume that I, me, and mine retain an identity even when the flesh and bones are incinerated to ash. (Some of us prefer to stay down there, among the worms, rather than risk the forcing of one's soul away from the corporeal by the fires of the furnace.) And hell or heaven await, depending on the directions we've taken on the pathways of our respective journeys. Some do not believe we even have a soul! Concepts! Meaning-making is given over to belief, and Belief in turn becomes so strong that we kill for it, incarcerate, or at least judge others so severely as to apportion ourselves from them in every conceivable club, clan, and custom. (One for one, despite overpopulation, hm?)

Love is a concept; it certainly is debated. Hate appears more easily universal. Fear is easily inculcated. Knowledge is provable or refuted. Facts are facts. Intuition is loaded. Inference is rampant. Speculation is rife. Angels and Demons hover around us. Not all witches are white.

Our grief brings us to the ineluctable disbelief that there is a never-no-more. We feel the presence of angels, see the ghosts, and are conscious of ephemeral presences. We sense our soul age. We harbour the déjà vu of our voyages but briefly; we are oft too intent on the present journey such that the sense of having been-here-done-that-before is temporary, indistinct. Yet it is there! There is a definite sense of before-ness to so very many events, feelings, sensations, that we more and more-easily are determined that we, as an individual, existed before now.

Refutation of reincarnation cannot be based on fact. There is too much in all of history that would support the angels among us. (Too many others evoke karma and consequence and voodoo and devils too.) There is too much in our own experience that would make it seem as though Existentialism, alone, by itself, apportioned from all else, is insuperably the Substantive Proposition. We people continue to meld and mix and make much of our yesterdays and tomorrows. So be it. Spiritualism can be a badge decorating our egos. It is the I, me, and my that gives rise herein to my rumination: At what risk is one of being mostly self-serving if all others around me and all other coincidences are because, as a tadpole, I stayed in the same pool as the rest of my ilk, and clung to their belief on the way to our each becoming a frog? Hm?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cycles of Convergence

We bump into each other. At least, that's the common phrase. "I bumped into him in the mall," we'll say. Or, "I was in Tofino, on the outer skirts of the West Coast, when I bumped into..." And the person would be named. And a story would follow.

Or what about the mysterious convergence occurring when you want to turn left into a side street, or driveway, or someone's yard? Up and down the road for several blocks or even miles there's been no traffic, or pedestrians! But at that critical point of your wanting to turn, there's interference. A person. A car. A cat. A dog. A cyclist. You have to watch out! You are the one having to wait. "Dang, just where I want to go! Fate put that there just for me!" Just for me!

Cycles of Convergence are akin to fractals. They occur in our lives with the regularity of the sand patterns left on the beach by the tides of time. For some they occur in sets of three, or in years of five, ten, or even twenty. We find coincidences come around and visit us, like lessons that are repeated in the psyches, subtly related, or self-evidently calling out to consciousness. Be careful. Be aware. Be considerate. Be mindful. Be evolutionary. Be progressive! That which one thought or did before was more-shallow, less-caring, more-subjective, less-considerate, more-self-serving. And watch, here comes the lesson again! Or does one-deceive-oneself?

The existential slippery-slope of this self-consciousness perpetuates a sense that I, me, and my existence is predicated on some sort of Master Plan designed all around Me. It implies that even the weather, "of course," is bad or good "because it's my holiday!" It implies that fate is a series of advents awaiting me, like pages in a book, or the paragraphs I am about to read, laid out in a pathway of black and white that leads me toward a conclusion. And therein are the lessons, even though I already know the words and the participles and even perhaps the very grammar by which I've been so led. Karma! After all, it's all meant for me, this life; or is it that I am meant for it? What? Even that last phrase denotes that there is a Master Plan of Convergence that puts me onto this globe at some precise coordinate of time and location in order that I become the next president of... Well, of my class, my company, my country, or even of myself!

Narcissism will have one gazing at the self with constant admiration. Introspection (even in guilt) might become an-absorption with the self too: "The world as I relate to it, as it relates to me." If the mission of one's life (as affirmed by a close friend) is "to become enlightened for the sake of others," then still, one has only oneself, ultimately, as a reference point. Every other idea stems from Someone Else. Existentially, that which one deems factual remains so until an 'other' picks up the jelly fish and shows that there is no harm. We indeed exist for each other. We follow the other on the beach sands into the big dark cave and marvel therein at the gloup through which the waves, in their fullness, crash and spray. We learn what a gloup is! And still, until sufficient time has elapsed in our familiarity with a concept, we fear the imminent tsunami, the eminence of the tide, and are immanently affected by the effect of the delegates at the party of our chosen conventions. Huh? Say what? At each step we learn to differentiate, to apportion, to choose.

In the cycles of convergence, we can concur, time and coincidence appear to collude. To bump. A letter to me born from incidences 20 years ago needles with old grudges. Within the month, from the time-stitches of that same tapestry a long-lost friend coincidentally bumps into me in far-flung Tofino. Interestingly, we might contend, this happenstance "was meant to be." Despite the choices we make that radically alter our seeming destinies, we reflect on our past as though it was our destiny, and more, as though the future is our destiny yet to be. We even quite easily can abrogate our responsibility, giving ourselves over to An Other. And with it, we can determine that the Law of Convergence, in the end, was truly meant 'just' for me! All about, me! ... Really?