Tag Archives: Life

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” — Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s the first of March.

The dawn of spring has already begun to break winter’s dark night.  The sky in the east grows lighter; a pale glow giving shape and depth and life to the quiet and dark world.

Beneath the snow, the colours of the day ahead still sleep, quiet and cold, waiting for their moment to rise and shine.

And I miss writing.

My life is full, of course – perhaps even too full.  It’s always full, because I love to feel productive even more than I hate to feel idle.  But I love to write, and I miss it, and life is too short and too dreary to sacrifice creative expression at the  expense of ‘productivity’ (whatever that means).

So,  as the small tree stretches and yawns with the forthcoming of spring and the time to bud, to bloom, and to grow, I see the time as ripe for rebirth, renewal, and growth.

I recently learned that a tree grows from the inside out, effectively replacing its core each year, and pushing the past year(s) away.  I love the idea of growth from the inside out.  Certainly the past influences the path into the future, as old experiences limit the tree’s capacity to grow as it otherwise might.  But the present is not built upon the past.  It is instead built from the seed of life, and creates the reality in which the past comes to be defined. It seems a shame that we are socialized to see ourselves as products of our past, rather than definers of it.

Spring is almost here: a season for new beginnings.  I’m excited to write again.

Peace and love.

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“The highest form of wisdom is kindness” — The Talmud

“Our soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius

I like reading the words of the wise.  I think most of us can agree that life can be a bit confusing at times. At other times, ‘confusing’ doesn’t begin to describe it.

It is almost certainly true that life doesn’t come with a training manual or a guide book.  We are simply born one day, and somewhere along the way we become self-aware and then we just sort of go about living, and trying not to die.  Days and weeks and years drift along, and we do what we can to occupy, distract or amuse ourselves, only vaguely aware for the most part, that sooner or later the ride must come to an end.

If at some point on our journey down the river of life, we are to feel a bit tired or lost, stopping and asking for directions is not really an option.  The river never stops, and even if it did, there is no map.  Different people find ‘maps,’ of a sort, in different places, whether science, philosophy or religion, but the near-universal disagreement on which map is ‘true’ really doesn’t lend any specific map a great deal of of credibility.

Still we are fortunate.  I imagine the experience of life must not be very different for a fish, or for a deer, or perhaps even for a bacteria.  They are born, have hungers and fears, and do what they can to occupy, distract and amuse themselves while trying to avoid death for as long as is feasible.  It would seem, though, that we have one up on them, in that the written languages of human beings provide us with something resembling context.  We may be unable to get off the river, or to look at a map, but we can share our insights, and can share in the insights of those who have come and gone before us.

While only the revelations (or lack thereof) that come with death can really define for us the meaning of a “good” or “full” life, there certainly seem to be many human beings who have, on the surface at least, approached such ideals.

Perhaps they excelled in their fields, exploring the limits of their potential.  Perhaps they broadened our understanding of life or the universe.  Perhaps they left a world behind that was better off than they world they were born into.  Perhaps they simply lived happily and at peace.  Many of them wrote, in their youth, their prime and their age, and I believe that their words – their thoughts, ideas, insights and imaginings, are among the greatest of human treasures.   It may amount to nothing more than the blind leading the blind, but many blind men and women have lived lives of misery and toil, while many have found achievement, happiness and serenity.  Though it’s impossible to know what the point of all this living is, it certainly seems likely that experiencing joy, love and completion for as many  of these few short hours of life is preferable to squandering them away in suffering and self-loathing.

Not unexpectedly, many of these so-called wise tend to agree on a lot of things, including an approach to living, and an attitude on life.  To be continued …

Well, each beautiful thing I come across tells me to stop moving and shake this riddle off.  Oh well.

And there was a time when all I wanted was my ice cream colder and a little cream soda.  Oh well, oh well.

And a wooden box and an alley full of rocks was all I had to care about.  Oh well, oh well, oh well.

Now my mind is filled with rubber tires and forest fires and whether I’m a liar and lots of other situations where I don’t know what to do at which time God screams to me “There’s nothing left for Me to tell you!”

“Nothing left for Me to tell you!”

“Nothing left!”

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.

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“Coffee black and egg white/Pull me out from inside/I am ready/I am ready/I am ready/I am fine.” — Counting Crows

On Monday, I received an e-mail from a dear, old friend.  I smiled when I saw her name in my inbox.

Once upon a time, she held my heart in her hands.  Such passion!

hi bb,
i had a horrible nightmare… just woke up…
i have a question.. a bit…
are u hiv positive?
i had the test just before meeting you… and by then i didn’t have it…
did you?
talk soon bb!

uhhhhhh … Come again?

Very strange days.  Everything suddenly is different.  Today is another of those days.  Today I was tested.

Somebody I held deep affection for seemed to be hiv positive.  Such despair.  It’s not a death sentence anymore, but it certainly doesn’t simplify things. She is beautiful, still.  Still deep inside too.

And me, then.  Is it possible?  It can’t be possible.

I responded to her message, and walked away to brush my teeth.

Wait.  Turn around.  Walk back.  What?  Hiv?  No.  What?  Awwww fuck.

I didn’t think I was positive.  I’m not positive.  But there it was, all of a sudden, like a piano being lifted into a third story window.  Just … hanging there.

I was never really worried.   I guess I was a bit worried.  It just didn’t seem possible.

What it does is it forces a decision: a) take intense, expensive, miserable-side-effecty drugs for the rest of my life or b) die a horrible, wasting death from AIDS.  Easy decision right?  Maybe for you.

Now the sun is shining.  A beautiful person with tattoos all over <…>’s arms stabbed me in the pinky finger and stole my blood, as we chatted casually about anal fluids and broken condoms.  Negative is a beautiful word.

Everything is suddenly different.  Little Tommy is playing his first chords on the piano, which is now resting peacefully between an old, oaken bookshelf and a wide window, where the summer sun is shining on young tree-tops, kissing them a vibrant green.

The flowers are in bloom.  Negative is a beautiful word.

[it wasn’t her word, though.  my beautiful girl.  life can be so cruel.]

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“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” — Mother Teresa

I found this as you see it, on Christmas morning, 2009, at Mikadi Beach Camp in Kigamboni, Tanzania.

Just over the rise, beyond the trees and hammock, lie 20 feet of white sand, littered with the detritus of the blue Indian waters, stretching  further into eternity.

For hours that day, I sat in the hammock, and stared out at ships and boats and people floating on their way from the past to the future.

“If impermanence is truth, and the universe is big, what meaning can there possibly be in a life?  What is real?”

Be the best grain of sand that you can be? Even the perpetually changing waves on the ocean can be nothing but as they are in the moment they find themselves. Eternally, they crash into the shore.

This one reaches high, looming ominously on approach.  Alas, it crashes early, and is quickly swept around and consumed by its more cautious neighbors.  That one is loud, threatening, but threatening too soon, and the outflow of a crashed wave, now receding, sweeps beneath it, and sucks away its power far from shore.  Most waves crash unnoticed, unremarkable, here and then gone in the non-existent annals of earthstory.

Still, standing in any one place for a time reveals surprises.  A strong wave, appearing out of nowhere, and propelled by a surge around it, shoots high, rapidly consuming my feet to the ankles.  The front line of green and brown detritus high on the beach is shifted slightly.  Some is left behind.  Some is taken back.  Still there is little change, but for the sand now eroding beneath my heels, as the ocean begins the long process of taking me back into it as well.

As hours drift along, the sea rises and falls.  On retreat, one can see the impact of a single day’s waves left on the beach, as everywhere, life has taken root.  Even man, in wave upon wave, scours the beach and it’s borders for life, to feed its life.

Each day, in any given spot, one wave has risen higher than all the rest.  The outer edge of life and waste that rings the line of high tide, in one small stretch of an endless beach, is set by this ambitious wave.  Each day, each week, each month, each year, each … and so on.  What of a human life then, if the sum total of the potential attained is nothing more than the high wave of the week or the month, in a single spot on an eternal beach?

But what is the ocean, without any one of its waves?

Put another way, is any one wave just a wave, or is not a indistinguishable part of each of those around it, and as such, an indistinguishable part of the whole?  Do I stand on millions of grains of sand, or on the beach?

So what really matters in a human life?  Where is the real meaning?

I have some thoughts, but this is getting a little long, and 9:54pm is pancake time.  I’m pretty sure it has to do with living in the present, though.

Peace and love.

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“Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane society.” — Thomas Szas

I have a pretty powerful aversion to cell-phones.

I have one, of course, but the whole ‘leash’ phenomenon is not lost on me, as coordinating the simplest meeting becomes next to impossible without my magical little walkie-talkie.  Sometimes I just want to spend a little quality time thoroughly sniffing random spots around the bases of trees and lamp-posts, but can’t, constantly being cut-short by an abrupt nagging musical-yank on my cellu-leash.

There is one incredible little ancillary benefit though, made possible by the invention of ‘blue-tooth’-like ear-pieces, and hands-free mic’d headphones.  That is, to walk around and compulsively mumble to oneself is no longer automatically considered the trademark sign of a crazy person.  Indeed, more often than not, that lunatic talking to the squirrel is not talking to the squirrel at all, but into a magical little Robo-cop device hooked to the side of his face.  Is it crazier to talk to a squirrel who is physically present, or a person who is not?

Anyway, I don’t really care much about Robo-cop and the squirrel.  I do, however, enjoy my new-found freedom to wander around the city talking to myself.  I guess I always could (and often did), but it’s nice to not make it  immediately apparent to everyone within ear-shot as to just how crazy I really am.

I do still smile at random strangers, though, so I experience no shortage in looks of uncertainty (and occasionally fear) directed my way. I’m confident that, before too long, technology will solve this problem too, and then we won’t have to bother with such silly inconveniences as smiles or face-to-face conversations at all.

Then, I suppose, we will finally all be happy … all the time.

Peace and Love.

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“We are golden.” — Joni Mitchell

Right.  I woke up at 5:00pm this morning.  True story.  It’s 8:30pm now, and I’m excited to still have half the morning ahead of me.  I have a meeting tomorrow at 2:00pm, though, and a little extrapolation suggests I will be fast asleep just then.  The world is so inconvenient.

Listening to an old favorite of mine:

We really are star-dust, eh?  Wait, how can an atom just stay the same for eternity?  That doesn’t seem reasonable, but if they do reproduce, or in some way re-fresh themselves every so often, where does the energy come from, and where does it go?  There is so much, even about ourselves, that is beyond our understanding.

“I feel like I’m a cog in something turning.  Maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man – I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.”

Peace and love.

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“Oh you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time for talk”

Today I was standing in line at a Hallmark, waiting to buy 72 little star-shaped stickers.  I was trying to figure out what to do with 18 little red stars, 18 little blue stars, and 18 little silver stars, as I really only wanted the gold ones, when Captain Collar-pop behind the counter started putting on a little show.

From the back (and backs can be deceiving), the customer in front of me appeared to be a very attractive woman; each piece set just-so to make each feature look a little better than nature had intended.  I suppose it was only natural, then, that Captain Collar-pop gesticulate wildly – so goes the age-old attempt by man to convince woman that he is the ideal mate.  In his case, this took the form of the classic ‘no-look-cash-drawer-close,’ a move he executed with an air of faux-uninterested flourish that would have driven an adolescent female peacock into a fit of hysterics.

Alas, foolhardy in his youth, our fair Captain failed to account for one crucial detail.  With so many pieces of his flailing body to keep in check, so many intricate steps of flailation to carry out in precise sequence, he can hardly be blamed for not noticing something so mundane.

You see, held eternally in wait on top of that cash register is a single pencil.  It is an old pencil, surviving through many hours of idle tapping by minimum-wage clerks staring out at an empty store.  So much comfort it has brought, and so many solutions, always there at hand’s reach in a pinch.  What irony that such a stalwart support should betray our charming hero at this most delicate of moments.

You see, engaged as he was in his pre-drawer-close-wind-up, he didn’t realize that a subtle vibration had set the pencil to roll, and rolling it was now, down into the path of the closing drawer.  I wanted to warn him.  I tried, but the words caught in my throat.  The image is burned, now, into my mind.

There was Captain Collar-pop, gazing intently into the distance, an aura of mystery and danger dripping from his every feature.  He didn’t see it coming.  He couldn’t see it coming.  “What’s that in the distance?” his countenance asked.  “Is it a bird maybe?  Such beautiful plumage?”  Thu-dunk.

The unwatched drawer slid silently towards a conclusion that was now all but inevitable.  The pencil, rolling and tumbling, bounced like a roulette ball.  Oh if only it would bounce astray, then, just maybe, our hero might carry the day.  Captain Collar-pop will have his day, I am sure of it.  Such flourish can only come to good in time.  Today, though, the pencil didn’t bounce free.  No, with the trademark stubbornness of a pencil, it buried its half-chewed eraser deep among the accumulated nickles.  Sliding now, with the closing drawer, its dull point wrote a single final line upon the air itself, a farewell note to foolish hope.  Impact, now, as errant pencil prevents the closing of the drawer.  Impact, now, as rocking cash-register bumps ‘point-of-sale-kinck-knack-display-boxes’ filled with assorted humorous magnets, inspirational bookmarks and books made for people with very small hands.  Impact, now, as boxes fall to the floor.

I never saw the face of the woman ahead of me in line.  I saw only his as he tried to play it cool.  Tried to laugh it off.  “What’s that in the distance?,”  his body asked.   I watched his face as he watched her walk away.  Oh the things that could have been.  So many shattered dreams.  So many little red, blue and silver star-stickers with nothing to stick them on.

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