Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Selfies And Such


Each keystroke matters. We too easily make mistakes. It is too bad. When in too much of a hurry to write, between the two of us, we can get too sloppy. It’s its own reward. And a lot depends on our knowing the allotted homonym differences, sure, but somehow, nosing in among the typos, a sense that our standards are slipping, builds. We grow careless. We grow carefree. We grow inordinately causal.

The Buddhist monks, somewhere, make these beautifully wrought mandalas, pebble for pebble. Each piece is carefully handpicked, methodically, and patiently, added to the whole. It’s a meticulous exercise of being aware of the now. And when all over, in historical times, they forbade a capture of the result by camera, and swept the thing over, giving the product but a momentary and brief conclusion. Life is in the moments. It is not a product as much as it is a journey. Thought for thought. Choice for choice. Word for word. Action by action. But nowadays, for whatever reason, the monks not only allow pictures taken of their final product, but some even pose for ‘selfies.’ Indeed, one needs not take oneself too seriously.

‘Selfies’. Is it not interesting how language grows? Even a word like ‘interface’ was not known when I was a boy, let alone ‘internet’. And so too shall communication be affected, such that the effect will be that new coinage and new nomenclature and new syntax and grammar and spelling all meld into what might eventually become the new Esperanto. Back in the 1960’s there was an actual Esperanto school syllabus, and at the time it was no silly-bus for a boy to take a ride on. (Or does my attempt at humour but elicit a hmm from you?) Thing is, like taking selfies, we are nowadays so very self-referenced, and unless we’ve had a direct relationship with something, like having been there, or seen it, we easily are distracted away from the unfamiliar, yet do seek the sensationally new. Old things; old stories; old ideas; historical lessons; these are like old language: stiff and formal and demanding and rigorous and up-tight.

Editing others’ work brings with it a host of compositional and structural rules, yes, but the individual idiosyncrasies of matters of choice are best to prevail. After all, the ancient Egyptians likely imposed a very strictly controlled depiction of human representation in their art. (The song, “Walk Like an Egyptian,” resonates.) But it is difficult to conceive of not one Egyptian, not once, in over three thousand years, being able to render a person as anything other than one dimensional. Nowadays one fortunately has very much leeway. We have sped up individual evolution to absorb, assimilate, include, accept, and have understanding for the very many differences among us, let alone the variegations of speech, spelling, and our inept tapping away at a keyboard. (Predictive spelling can prove quite embarrassing!)

But it is of a larger picture that I write. It is of the differentiation between the fluidity of a generalized acceptance, and the awareness of a preference for precision. Might one be better off to take one’s time to dot one’s I’s and cross one’s T’s? Might one be better off to pause and re-read, before sending, before posting, before implying, before negating, before arguing, before contending, before averring, before bruiting abroad one’s private and heartfelt sentiments, (or even, hereby, proffering one’s pretentious intellectualisms?) In other words, is there a better selfie to be taken, before showing the world one’s mental picture?

Vanity would have us overly aware of what someone else is seeing. We wish to impress. And we do need to feel pride in ourselves. Security allows us, by contrast, not to worry overmuch about a bad-hair day. In the casualness of every-day living, it matters not really what we look like when going out. Nor does it matter, overmuch, what we type like, in messages, and in email, and communication with others, particularly if they are firm friends, or family, or people we instinctually know will not judge us.

But when we leave a picture for posterity, it might be best to have shown off our best, in the first place.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Musings Over Marbles


We each are not free. Not entirely. All around us there are the laws of gravity, of nature, of others, and then too, even of our own individual making. We can find ourselves cauterized, curtailed, and cut off from further perceptions by the very fences we refuse to, or simply cannot, overcome. As Tevye, in ‘Fiddler On The Roof,’ put it: “If I bend that far, I will break!”

Paradigm shifts can be both individual, and collective. A group of us, like the One Hundred Monkey Syndrome, may feel some instinctual and collective sympatico, somewhat simultaneously, and begin a cultural shift of adherence to a new habituation, often by disavowal of a previously held perception. Such is the very course of history. We are creatures of habit. We acquire acculturations from our parents, our immediate others, and then from the group at large. We generally can easily identify Nationalities by such idiosyncrasies. Accents alone are not the only give-away. As such, “A Scots, an Italian, and a Russian…” quite easily conjures up a joke.

But being burdened and beleaguered by others, or worse, by the self, is not funny. One needs to feel ‘worthy’, no matter one’s age. We can spend much time in pain while shuffling off the mortal coil of shame and insecurity. As the sages have urged, “Why hide your light?” Comparisons to others, always, will only show that there are differences. We each need allow for our own story, our own right of existence.

Graduating from the collective identity of High School, we all burst away, like dropped marbles, from the collection bag. Some of us stay close, but many scatter far afield. And decades later, ten, forty, and even fifty years on, gathering us together for a Reunion, or even a full collective of the participants in one’s past, is tantamount to recalling the memories and all the people you too have known in your own history.

But staying burdened and beleaguered becomes quite a bit a matter of choice. We are people, each of us, who journey. And a journey, by definition, denotes movement, and is not a product, except for point by point. So too for enlightenment. So too for Integration. Despite Tevye’s pronouncement, he capitulates, overcomes, grows larger, more inclusive, and changes his world paradigm. So too, may we.

Within the programming of our childhood, and especially our adulthood, we are free ‘to think’. And thinking about our thinking gives us, if not license to change, at least the inner reserves of endurance and fortitude and resilience to wait things out, until, like metamorphosis itself, we can change from the cocoon that enwraps us, or the cage of acculturation that is imposed by others, or the traditions of the elders, for which we have no present reality. To be ‘truly’ individual there is so much more to be attained than simply eschewing one’s past; one needs to include it, assimilate it, understand it, and absorb it into one’s being, and be larger than its entrapment, however sordid, disdainful, horrid, or enslaving it might have been. One needs to be able to breathe in the NOW. We each reflect on the past, in the natural way of being a human being, but the pains of it may become but steppingstones, chapters, in the very story that is making up one’s own biography. And the greater the personal freedom, the greater one’s responsibility to others.

Psychologists do much to unburden us. Digging out the inner child, and attending to its unfulfilled needs, can be a pathway to much enlightenment. So too for those of us who write a Memoir, or those of us called upon to reflect upon the past, and to give our story a meaning, a significance, and a relevance for others yet to come. Bitterness can accompany past brutality. Pain can prevent present recall. Insecurity, shame, and worthiness are watchwords, for each of us, that so easily trip one up in the progress of maturation.

And now to be called upon to participate in a collective endeavour, such as the gathering of the marbles for a 50th Reunion, or other, and to be asked to tell one’s story, can prove a tremendous challenge, indeed. How to make the passage of one’s life be an inspiration to others? Or is one, sadly, not yet, readily ‘free’?

Monday, July 19, 2021

Dangerous Disparities


The haves and the have-nots continue to suffer. The Memes need to exist side by side, and the privileged may wrestle with guilt, while the impoverished may wrestle with envy. Either way, the dividing line is more pronounced when in direct conflict for space, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, or nowadays, the health we try to secure. To vaccinate or not becomes a matter of deep division. The contentions on either side are formidable. Science and Fear and Practicality and Ethics and Sensibility and Expectations are societal conventions thrust around in the battlefield of reasons for and against. And one can lose friends, contacts, and even family members in more ways than one because of it all. Covid and its varieties has most of us enmeshed in Old World problems during New World Times. Those without the required vaccination may as well wear bells and declare themselves ‘unclean.’ Those who’ve had their double-shots may as well (and do) wear badges that give evidence of the owner’s responsibility to society.

Responsibility comes in many guises. Back when I was a schoolboy, the Housemaster one unforgettable Prep Time intoned to all of us: “The more freedom you have, the more responsibility you have toward others.” It was a lesson that struck at my core. Perhaps it is the foundation of ethical behaviour; to try to consider one’s impact on others. Even my old Odham’s Children’s Encyclopaedia, given to me in 1960, at the bottom of page 58, states: “And that is what ‘character’ really implies – behaving toward other people as we would like them to behave toward us.” And so, one wonders, does one simply hope that all people will protect themselves from the Virus, from Leprosy, from Tuberculosis, from Chickenpox, from the Common Cold, and therewith protect oneself too? Or does one gain a shield, a mask, an isolation cubicle, a lance, an old-world glaive, or halberd, or God forbid, even a gun! Arm-twisting with shame or guilt, hurts.

“Tryin’ Times,” sings Donny Hathaway. “The riots and ghettoes. A whole lotta things that’s going down.”   

We are linked; like it or not. Interdependent, we need each other for supply chains other than just food; we need each other for the vitality of connection. Many of us are quite content with long periods of being alone. Many have sufficient (inner) resources to survive without dependence on others. But most of us are more gregarious than that, and so, despite our disparities, we will step across the party lines, o’ereach the old barriers, dive into the sea, and take off our masks. Yet some still will never show their true selves.

“Have you been vaccinated?” becomes the intrusive question. At some venues one is turned away. At airports one may find oneself having to declare. It was so for malaria vaccinations. It was so for childhood smallpox vaccinations. And if wanting to travel, or to be safe, then taking such time-tested medications became the norm. Now, even a new ‘meet the neighbours’ block-party can prove itself exclusionary.

“But now,” as an astute friend poses it, “what long-term studies are there to prove the Moderna, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca vaccines are safe?” And in one’s ignorance, or under the wealth of so very much contradictory information, many of us may baulk. Doctors who gainsay the vaccinations are stripped of their posts; we learn. Health professionals who dissuade the public are given fewer and fewer platforms. Alternative drugs, like Ivermectin, are prohibited except by prescription, and: “Find me a doctor willing to go ahead and prescribe that!” declares my friend.

Being shamed into falling into, or being disliked for taking a stance for either Camp, gets progressively sad. History shows how entire societies have suffered from ostracization; the larger group (mostly) gets to predominate. And in the meantime, we can lose friends, family members, those we love, and those we know, in more ways than one. To be, or not to be? That, indeed, is the question!

Stay safe. Be well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Beyond Bubbles


I miss you. I think of you, often. It would be good to see you again. We could catch up with ‘this and that.’ You could tell me the ‘who, what, where, when, and even the why’ of your life. And you might also speak of the dead, the dying, the ill, the hurt, the malcontent, and the impoverished. Then again, you may speak of the fortunate, the enlightened, the survivors, those who endure, and those who succeed at making of our collective circumstances a smorgasbord of constant choice. Our communication may well do all that much, and even more. We could ‘conspire’ (as sung ‘by the fire,’ in the old-fashioned way). Yes, we could indeed breathe together, masked, or not. Or at least, write?

Shall I tell you of the many sad deaths, recent and old, imbuing me, haunting, plucking at my consciousness, giving grief its constant refrain? There be so very many that one loves, on and on, despite their having so sorely departed. So too for you? And condolences we can share, since the inevitability of losing others in our lives, especially the closely known, and dearly loved, is life’s conundrum, sans surcease. We are richer for loving. We are hurt and heartsore and bereft by their going, but love is rich.

Shall I tell you of the dragons of fire that attend sickness and pain and ill health and inability? We each have had the problems of surmounting the vicissitudes of fate. We can attain much of health over very many months, and then some slight mishap, some fall, some trip, some wrench and pull and tug and upending, can, with brutal immediacy, yank the proverbial rug. And often the instinct is to let others know, for then might come the well-wishes and prayers and support. But often, too, one is aware that the passage from downstairs to upstairs is a necessary foot by foot progress, alone; it essentially needs to be accomplished, alone, so that one may again indeed be well. Alone. One’s nurses, one’s partners, one’s friends can all help, but to do so they need be close at hand. And self-reliance is our chief aim, physically.

Covid precludes the presence of most. It cauterizes the flow of friendships. We cannot gather, visit, share afternoons of tea and scones, share evenings of supper and wine. We may phone, but then again, not all of us can easily chat over the ether. Then too, many, like me, do not favor virtual contact. It appears stiff. It feels at a disconnect. It suits me not. And the chit-chat can leave me unsettled, rather than connected. For me, it is the physical presence that exudes from the other that conspires to engender an ongoing sense of connection. And since few that I know make much of frequent phoning, or even writing, my own world shrinks to the island of my being. Contact with the remaining roster of my immediate company, the family connections, and the handful of constant correspondents, continues. But my ‘bubble’ shrinks.

Generic contact does something to say, ‘I’m thinking of you.’ It avoids (historical) particularities. In the old days (before the internet,) a letter between countries might take months to be answered. To ask after a cold last April, in July; or to congratulate for a February baby, by June’s end; or graver, to have the glory of last summer given credence, just before Christmas; is hardly to conspire. We used to be so very out of touch. And now? Even now, a dear one’s death is given but a few sentences. Our bubbles tear, and tear.

Beyond touch, (or even with it,) the bubbles of our existence remain, by inference, so very fragile. How easily we can lose one another. How fearful we are that our bubble may burst. How cloistered and clustered and caved we are, each in our world, no thanks to Covid.  

Faced with the trebuchets of outrageous fortune, we are bombarded with disparate realities. There is too much of fear. Out of the proverbial blue, death, and illness, and struggles with the pestilence, envelops us. There is universal loss and grief. We do clam up. We do withdraw. We do eschew physical contact, do not travel, and eventually, do stop up much of connection. Sharing becomes more and more difficult. Our introverted shells may well crack to let yet more light inside, but whose bubble might we not burst were we to compare? (To speak only of joy and wellness and wealth can hurt too.) Suffice it to say, I miss you?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The March of Memories


Your name is here! You are not (entirely) overlooked, forgotten, or uncared about.  We each process through so many people. And some of us move, relocate, and move again. We meet so very many persons; we can be forgiven for not remembering all. Affection aside, it still can be difficult to recall when, or where? After all, a face changes in the intervening years. Like impermeable mental membranes, walls among memories make much of a miasma of the past.

Robert Frost had it right: ‘Something there is that does not love a wall.’ Yet still, ‘good fences make good neighbours.’ We do not necessarily call across our familial boundaries. We do not easily write. We do not share personal information. We do not persist with contact. Yet still, feelings of ‘connection’ can be continual. Fondness, love, care, and interest can again be engendered. But often we then do needs move on; there are so very many others to meet.

Oh, yes, your name. It is A...; B...; C...; D…; E...; F...; G...; H...; I...; J...; K...; L...; M...; N...; O...; P...; Q...; R...; S...; T...; U...; V...; W...; X...; Y...; Z....

Found it? Yes, you are recalled. (For every letter, we may know others too.)

Sometimes, a letter about the past arrives, most unexpectedly, and it can revive an almost forgotten time, giving yet more wealth to the dimming memories.

But is it our sharing intimate details that makes for ongoing friendship? Is it only due to our past? Can a chemistry of accord once between us survive all the years? Do the present details of our lives make that much of a matter? Or can we delve into ideas? Wait, you are now married. You have children. You have a cat. Another has a dog. You are successful. At some time or other you were not fortunate. And so, the details about what, when, who, how, and even the why may enliven our reconnection. Certainly, they are interesting. We share. For a while. And then?

Perhaps hardest of all is receiving a letter that declares a difference of direction so strong that it disavows the friendship, terminates it with harsh phrases, cuts the cord. (Certainly, of all the people I have known in over six decades of living, such a letter has resonated in my sad feelings far longer than had that person simply gone away, and effectively merely lost contact.)

Family members can give one feelings of guilt. Particularly with very large families. Just how many nieces and nephews does one have? And just how is one to be expected to keep up with all the events in each child’s life? Especially if one is geographically remote. And especially if the years and years go by, without effort on either part, their parents, or oneself, or themselves, to foster a relationship. Still, guilt goes with being the adult. Connecting is up to the one with the most responsibility for showing an interest.

I stand guilty. My nieces and nephews, when you are adult, I shall entertain sharing time with you, should you care to. Ideas. Interests. Queries. Should you not reciprocate, well, there shall be no love lost, in any case. Yet I do surmise that we both are the poorer for it.

So too for the very many friends and acquaintances made along the pathways of life. We may no longer be in touch. We may be under too many constraints. But certainly, there are multiples of memories. And central to such memories are feelings of warmth, and blessings to you. Always.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Peace In The Present


Mayhap the old ways were better. Yet our history certainly does not show it to be so. The struggle to get here, now, for each of us, through the long lineage of our ancestry, is replete with hardship and strife. But there was also love. And there was happiness. All of it was felt, somehow, in however small a measure. Still, it is, however, the now, for now, that is at issue.

Sunlight. Rain. A bird. A deer. An insect. A dust bunny. A dry leaf. A blossom. Each little thing can be fascinating. If catharsis be a release from the self, as well as a connection with a greater whole, then our focus on each little thing, now for now, is a release from the very struggle of chronic pain, chronic worry, chronic unfairness, chronic grief. We might else but smudge every precious remaining moment of life into dearth and despair, were we not to practice this little delight of finding pleasure, release, gratitude, or joy in the daily diurnal of our very existence.

Existing everywhere, holons are micro and macro realizations of matter, concept, and recognition. Not seeing atoms, we yet are given to understand their existence. So too for molecules. So too for quarks and quirks. So too for fractals. (And yet, once fractals are noticed, like someone pointing out a particular beetle, they are everywhere). So too for the life-gleaned theories of others that delineate our existence, that hold fascination: A rubric; a pentacle of virtues; a theory of positive disintegration; a theory of spiral dynamics; a theory of four agreements; an eight-part template of moral choices; an enneagram of personality and character; and one has choice. In a comprehensive integral theory, we comprise parts of all and everything; at issue is what our differentiating degree of habituations are. What are our small meme choices, let alone our Large Meme cohesions? In this last measure, we do indeed curtail or advance our enlightenment. It can take much courage and conviction afore one can readily commit to a new paradigm. For some, a conversion can be virtually instantaneous; a rebirth, as it were. But given that we are purported to be parts of the whole, we might deny our own entirety at the risk of misunderstanding our own role of become progressively integrative, altogether.

Which part of Everything, is not? It is an age-old question. And the societies of yore (even the smallest of groups before the Sumerians,) had slowly but surely to incorporate a larger and larger world as the inevitable amalgamation of the inclusion of others spread and spread across the globe. Yes, war and strife and opposition and genocide and horrors and travesties and mans’ inhumanity to man grew and grew. We do not easily give in to the usurper. We do not easily give in to the heretic. We do not easily give in to the despoiler. We do not easily change. We do not easily give up our gods. We do not easily go beyond our beliefs.

Yet in each moment of all that went before, there too was sunlight, rain, birds, beetles, creatures, and insects. And there was love. We best trust that our own lineage was not necessarily just the product of rape and despoilment and despair and devolution. We can conceive that there was passion and love and care and delight and hope and a sense of progress and purpose. It all brought us to this moment, this very now in which these words reach you. Yes, you. And as you look up from the page, or focus your eyes away from listening to this missive, might you not see even a dust mite, wafting in air, to be as integral a part of our universe as is some distant star?

Peace is in moments. Machines snarling; dogs barking; traffic; people arguing; worldly atrocities; and perpetual problems interfere. Censure hurts. Yet discord and distraction are but integral parts of the whole; our greater and larger sense of acceptance and inclusion can become an integration that will enlighten our days; give peace to our nights. And so, chronic despair, unrelenting pain, or great grief finds not necessarily a surcease, as much as a relevant particularization within a larger whole. And paradoxically, the smallest of things, even a bug, can indeed put one in the larger picture. Peace with the now, and our changing, or not, becomes us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Opposing Forces


The screw would not budge. Four inches long, its counterpart had come out, twist by twist, grudgingly, giving up its deep grip on the wood. But this screw, now, despite all the force I could muster, came out only half an inch. Ironic; to pull something out one must push so forcefully. As well, it was necessary to have the correct tool, so that purchase in the grooves of the screw-head would not slip, or worse, would not strip the flanges of the thing, altogether. One pushes to pull. One turns to back out straight. One aches to gain. Had I not wished or needed to use the same screw hole over again, I might just have hack-sawed the thing. But one pays one’s price.

It is in opposition that we find our true metal. Cursing and acting out is not so much ‘out of character,’ as it can be in our character. Deep down. To get something, we can be like children, behaving with some atavistic variant of yelling with deep frustration to get what we want. One strives for significance. But not all efforts are equal. There is little equanimity of reward for struggle. We each must find our measure in all the doing, the undoing, as well as the re-doing that goes along with our progress, in life. The marriage of the right moment, the right tools, and the right energy needs all meet, serendipitously, for one to have easy success.

The 2021 USA inauguration, this January 20th, needed much counterforce to unscrew the incumbent from his cherished position. Unyielding, recalcitrant, the inevitability of circumstance and event, time, and date, had old POTUS meeting with forces beyond his control, and petulant as he was, a new order took place. At issue is the time it takes for things to change. Throughout history we have witnessed the great onslaught of revolutions and upsets and plagues and pestilences. We have endured. But in the collective ‘we’ of that endurance millions along the way have given their lives. At Capitol Hill, with its dire insurrection preceding the Presidential changeover, five people gave up theirs. Each was there for a reason.

Reason would have us working with something, rather than against it. Reason would have us negotiating, and influencing, and urging, and even manipulating the course of events to have the sensibility of our impetus recognized, and acted upon. But history proves that we do not easily or readily resort to reason. Brute force is the habitual recourse. The one with the biggest bark, the biggest following, the greatest amount of strength, tends to prevail, even if only for a while.

Peace. Ease. Such is the stuff dreams may give us. We can cry in our dream with the begging of forgiveness; we can meet with the circumstances of yore. And by facing into them, like facing into pain, or to fear, or to regret, we can gain purchase on the slippery grip of our contentions, and by dint of supreme effort, or care, or consideration, we might well find our surcease. But it takes pursuing our course of action with an intentionality borne not so much out of desperation, as of unswerving attention.

Opposing forces create pearls; the piston stroke of engines; sporting events; and dramatic action. Themes of conflict stretch most yarns to a climactic breaking point. Tension for too long, becomes humorous. In short bursts, tension becomes an irritant. But stretched just long enough, opposing forces can yield a product that demands our attentive measures of application to task. And our reward.

Eventually, the screw came out. Using the thinnest drill-bit down beside it gave it room. Yes, we do well with assistance. Words, love, care, smiles, hugs; these are the salve of our lives. Yet where the real work of life is done (if one is not always to be screwed up, ha!) is encountered alone; where having the right tools, the right templates, the right rubrics, and even the right stuff, becomes not so much a by-product of our experiences, as a way of pursuing life.

Facing into one’s reserves of resilience, fortitude, endurance, and going beyond one’s habits, that is the stuff of paradigm shifts. (Or is it just that one wants not, ineluctably, ‘to be screwed’?)