Desperation (#tbt)

Desperation… it conjures up images of a salty body prone in the sand, baking under a scorching, desert sun, dry-mouthed, so hot yet too dehydrated even to sweat; after hours walking, hours crawling, hours struggling to continue in search of respite, now resigned to dry up like old cafeteria food under a heat lamp sun, a french fry, frite.

… from the Latin desperare meaning a lack of hope.

What is it about the desert scene we’ve imagined that makes it so desperate?

Instead of a french fry, imagine Francois is now Farah, a Bedouin born and raised under that same sun amid those same sands. He searches not for respite; for him this is home. Does he have hope? Perhaps, we don’t know. Absent a negative view of the situation, hope becomes irrelevant. We only bother to hope when we’re suffering. When we change our perception of the context in which we find the subject of our speculation, the sense of desperation changes.

The real problem for our deserted Francois, then, isn’t his lack of hope, it’s the fact that he ever had any at all. Hope creates a vicious cycle. It implies a negative world that we have to hope will improve. When it doesn’t, we languish in despair.

Is it better not to hope? Shall we instead abide in a knowing that everything is perfect as it is? Does hope diminish the majesty of existence? Does it force us to desperately cloy for more?

Hope has thrown me out of the present stream of the living moment and cast my world into the cold shade of my desires. At times, it is better to embrace the shadows, lest my endless obsession with the light leaves me burned up and charred in the desert I’ve created for myself.

Oh to truly be hopeless, that I might finally be content!


This post is part of my Throwback Thursday series and originally appeared on 5/2/16. #tbt

 

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Muddled things

In hasty desires live muddled things, seeming stunted and unformed.
Yet they move with deliberate ease, unfazed by passing storms.

I fear that on a closer look like icebergs they may be;
their bulky power invisible beneath a murky sea.

So rather than inspect, I’ve let them float along.
The results of this neglect have shown me that I was wrong.

Now I’m upside down, my head beneath the waves;
surrounded by my monsters, I fear that I am crazed.

But here too I find beauty, curious though it may be,
and what now has saved me is my curiosity.

What once were menacing masses with power uncontrolled,
now simply float by like blessings to behold.

No longer lost adrift, the sea has been transformed,
and icebergs now float free as cumulus cloud-forms.


This piece is about equanimity. It explores the power of being open and curious about ourselves and how doing so can help us overcome our bad habits and compulsions by allowing us to see them and accept them and their causes, thus allowing them to pass instead of falling victim to the trap of aversion and attachment.

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Crossings, #tbt

“What will you promise each other?” I was wrestling with these feelings, this question. I typed a text that I didn’t send, which read “I promise I won’t abandon you. I promise I need you.”

I was a woman standing on a sandy hill in the blazing sun. I’m looking down at the leather-strapped sandals on my brown feet. I lower my gaze further, tucking my chin towards my chest and examining my clothes. The bright cloth contrasts harshly with my dark skin. The fabric ripples in the breeze. I am wearing a white tunic with a belt and a strip of cloth hanging down the front.

I was staring at a massive pyramid about a mile off, shining brightly in the sun. I felt I had a duty to go to the pyramid, but I didn’t want to. I would have preferred to just stare at it. I noticed a ramp or stairs going up the pyramid, maybe both. I wasn’t sure if the pyramid was complete or not. Perhaps they were putting on the finishing touches. I saw people in white, dressed like I was, going up the stairs and into the pyramid. I felt like I was late, like I should get a move on, though I didn’t want to. My feet wouldn’t budge.

I was scared to go down this hill. It was steep and the sand would make it slippery. There was a river at the bottom. It was small, narrow, but rocky and fast moving. I did not want to cross it. It was the river that I was scared of. It was thin enough that it looked like it would be easy to jump over, like most people probably wouldn’t think twice about it, but I stood paralyzed. I lingered sometime before I finally managed to get over. Even after I crossed I was fixated on it. Eventually, I hurried along towards the pyramid.

As I approached, I passed through a shanty town at the base of the monument and I was filled with guilt. I felt that this diaspora of people living in hovels was somehow partly my responsibility. I felt that I should and would like to help, but I couldn’t without harming myself. It would be a sacrifice I couldn’t make. Regardless, at this point it seemed too late to really matter. I resigned myself to loathsome guilt at my complicity.

I climbed the stairs of the pyramid as my white-clad colleagues waved me to hurry. A strong wind blew and my hood rustled and whipped about my head. Someone at the top of the stairs took my hand and helped me up the last steps. I entered a chamber. It was shining red and pillared. There was an altar in the center with a body draped in white. Its feet were exposed and it wore a metal head covering that went down over its shoulders completely enclosing the face and head. This metal helmet had the shape of a bird.

There were lots of people in the room, all busily engaged, but moving with a reverent sense of purpose and ritual. One person washed the body’s feet. I went over to a cart of sorts that was full of jars and started mixing things together, powders, oils, and unctuous lotions. I either handed the mixture to someone, or I anointed the body myself; I can’t recall. Either way, I was completely absorbed in the ritual.

I felt a strong connection to the body. I wanted very much for it to come back to life. I wanted to hold its hand. I wanted to take off the mask, but I knew I could not. We were done.

The ritual concluded, but I wasn’t ready. Again I felt paralyzed, fixated. As the others left, they tried to pry me from the body, but I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t leave him. Despite the ruckus, my mind was completely silent. I heard nothing. Suddenly, everything became clear. As the others yanked and pulled at me, I abruptly let go and threw myself backwards. I tumbled down the stairs of the pyramid, preferring death to living without my love.

Instead of oblivion, my eyes blink open and I am standing in a forest of tall pines. I am looking down at my feet. I am wearing boots made of a thin leather stuffed with some sort of cloth for insulation. Nonetheless, my feet are numbed with cold.
I am hunting. I have a bow on my back which I take into my hands. It is very taut. I want to play with it. I pluck the string once and it makes a clear, resonant twang. I think that I probably shouldn’t do that if I’m going to try to hunt. I’ll scare off the animals. I feel foolish. I look up and see a beautiful buck with huge antlers. My chest fills with anxiety, and I feel as if I am being challenged. Not by the buck, whose serenity is almost infuriating in contrast to how I feel, but by the universe or myself. I hesitatingly pull out an arrow and shoot at it, but intentionally miss. It runs off into the woods. I worry about whether I should tell anyone I saw the buck. They will laugh at me again and call me lazy and a bad hunter.

I return to my encampment. It is full of tipis on the edge of the woods. I see meats drying on lines, and furs abound. Children scamper past me as I walk between the tents. It smells of bodies, sweat, meat, and smoke interspersed with the freshness of the outdoors. I see smoke curling out from behind the fur door of a tipi. I enter and there is a woman and a child inside. I have trouble figuring out how many people are in the tipi. I think maybe the woman is pregnant. There are either two or three people there. This is my family. The woman is beautiful and kind. I’ve never felt such a wonderful feeling as I feel in this tent. I tell her about the deer. She laughs kindly. She is glad I didn’t kill it. It is not her reaction that I was worried about before. She has piercing, greyish-blue eyes with a ring of flaming gold around her irises. They are Sarah’s eyes. She is Sarah.

Everything dissolves in this feeling of security and warmth.

I skip ahead in time. Suddenly I am running through the forest, breathing hard. My chest hurts as my breath condenses in front of me in bursts. I am terrified and feel awful. Every time I blink I see a hatchet behind my eyelids. The image is transposed onto everything, like a foreboding animation. I am running for my life. I hear screams, cries, and yips. I keep running, and a sick feeling grips my stomach. I arrive at a river. It is shallow and fast flowing, rocky. Are all rivers rocky? I wonder. I pause for a second before the urgency forces me to cross. My left foot slips and I stumble falling hard onto my right knee. I scramble out of the water. As I do, I hear Sarah scream. Out of the distant cacophony, her voice pierces my awareness and my heart like a dagger. My stomach tightens more and I wretch. I’ve abandoned my family and my village. They are under attack and I’ve fled. I’ve left them to die. I am horrible.

The attacker reaches the river. I am crying and soaking wet. He laughs at me. I think he calls me a coward, though maybe that was me talking to myself. He turns and trots back towards the encampment, leaving me pathetic and broken.

I keep running, slower now and stumbling to maintain my balance. All I can think about is how horrible I am. Not only can I not protect what I love most, I can’t even try to. I can’t even die right. I am worthless. I hate the other Indians for making me feel this way, for putting me in this situation, for killing my family, for leaving me alive. I hate myself even more than that.

I collapse to the ground and lean on a tree, bawling. I see the deer again. It walks calmly past me. I feel that maybe if I follow it that it will help me. I don’t deserve to be helped. I don’t deserve anything. I am worthless. I decide that I am not going anywhere. I am going to just sit. I can’t do anything right, so I might as well just sit. I can’t die right, so why not just die sitting.

Guilt eats away at me. I wonder why it is that I am alright killing myself with guilt, but that I can’t kill a deer or a savage attacker to save or provide for my family. I feel even worse. I feel like the reason is because I am selfish. If it is to resolve my own problem, guilt, I can kill (myself), but if it’s to help someone else, even if those other people are the ones that I love most, I can’t do anything. Worthless. How could I let my baby die? My love destroys me.

I see a bright light and I float above my body. I am looking at myself by the tree. I’ve died, I guess. I am with my family now. They don’t care about what I’ve done. They are better than that. They are happy and smiling. They are just happy to be together now. They say that everything is fine. I feel worse. How could they be so good? I am so unworthy. I hate myself. I don’t deserve their love. I can’t accept it. They must not truly know me if they love me like this, they must not realize how bad I am. I’ve been fooling them, because I am selfish and low. The only way I can protect them is by denying their love, by keeping them away from me. They deserve better. I deserve nothing.

A voice asks if I can forgive myself for what has happened, and if I can forgive the other Indian who killed my family. I imagine this burden as stones that I have been carrying. My family, the other Indian, and I are sitting in a circle around a fire. The voice asks me to place my stones in the fire. They glow and lift up, floating weightless in the flames.

I see the deer and understand. I am not selfish. I am filled with love. This is why I threw myself off the ziggurat, why I could not kill the deer, and why I could not kill the attackers. I loved even them too much to take their lives. My family’s death and my own were not a result of my badness. My pain came from my lack of perspective. Loving too much wasn’t the problem, the problem was attachment and the accompanying fear of loss.

It took many deaths to realize that life went on, and much loss to find myself. It took hate to see that all is love. I needed many battles to finally learn to surrender to the burning fire of existence and to allow my burdens to melt away in forgiveness.


This is part of my throwback thursday series and originally appeared in March, 2016.

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Belle

Why can’t I spell beautiful?

Try as I might, never sounds right;

when the belle tolls, sour notes roll.

Will it be e a you, teary eyes full,

Who teaches me to sound it out?

——————————-

A piece about our society’s problematic conception of beauty. Utilizing the difficulty in spelling the word as a metaphor for the difficulty of recognizing true beauty.  Inspired by recently trending article about google analytics showing most popular searches starting with “how do you spell” in each state. Many states had beautiful as the word they struggled to spell. 

Other literary devices include the use of “belle” instead of bell; the fourth line “spelling out” beautiful in words; and of course the internal rhyme scheme of each of the first three lines. 

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Little Light of Mine (#TBT)

The lies I tell myself are all that keep me going. They’re all that I have. Is there anything but self-deception?

Yes and no.

To say everything is a lie misses the mark. Is anything ever that simple?

Yes and no.

Truth is a whole and splitting it makes paradox, yet we are splitters. Our concepts are like the blade of an axe, chopping down entire forests one definition at a time.

If there is an objective truth, it is this: we make our own realities out of the infinite potential of our source material, out of the absolute, transcendent sum. Universe: turned into one. We are fireflies in the dark, able to proceed only by the glow of our own light.

Everything I think I know is filtered by everything I think I know. Graciously, I have a degree of choice in the matter. Exerting even the tiniest influence on my belief structure changes everything I perceive.

Accepting the existence of this choice allows us to blossom into our power as creators. From that starting point, all our beliefs are possible, true, defensible, irrefutable, safe. Taken as true, this axiom begs a question: Why not live in a better reality?

It’s your life. You just have to decide to start seeing it that way.


This piece is part of my Throwback Thursday series and originally appeared in April of 2016.

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Embers

The log swells; turgidity pushed to its limits. Wood cracks and splits as boiling water expands and forces steaming vapor up and out. Rather than dampen the fire, moisture is overcome by heat and the frenzy only increases with the struggle; heat and humidity achieve a perfect balance and drive the fire on. With each crackling pop of wood, glowing embers are kicked up and spread the flames further.

You rise from this molten fracas, a living angel of death, born from the exploding vitality of the flames, wood, and water. The life and death of each component part is too mixed up in the others’ to tell where one begins and the next ends. Each one’s death propels the life of the next in a seemingly endless chain, each a link in the chain of another.

The growing column of rising smoke and vapor jets you up and out like a fountain, and as you rise from the red roiling sea your horizon widens. Cast on the wind you and your siblings burn brilliant rain down upon the surrounding brush. Before winking out of being you see the cellular mosaic of fire spreading into its new fuel, and you wonder where is the line between life and death, the frontier of your being?

You laugh at how small you had been, tears of fire ooze from the charred flake that remains of you.  You cry at the beauty of experience.


An exploration of how we can rise above duality and perceive the absolute. 

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Striking Oil (#TBT)

Why write? To have a record, to avoid the pitfalls of memory? Yet I seldom ever look at what I write again. More than keeping track, the benefit of writing for me is in the process. Too often I become absorbed with the idea of a product, obsessed with the “completion” of something, and this obsession can overwhelm to the point that I don’t even begin writing for fear of being consumed in pursuit of its being perfectly finished. Instead, it is helpful to bear in mind the benefits of the process. Any product is bonus, the fruit of our labor.

Writing is a form of mental archaeology. Our minds are a lot like the earth. We can live our entire lives on the surface, unaware of how our experiences have shaped and continue to shape the geography of our world. We stumble, overturn a small rock, and to our surprise we find that a plethora of meaningful information can be uncovered with even the shallowest examination. There are many ways to excavate our minds, but writing is particularly effective at plumbing our depths. Like Jed Clampett, even a hillbilly’s errant shot can turn up that bubbling crude and give us access to an untold wealth of insight.

Ironically, the process of writing is such an effective method of self-examination precisely because of the product that results, the record of thoughts. Other tools of mental archaeology, like meditation, teach us to let go, to be in the moment, to accept the passing of thoughts without identifying with and grasping onto them. Each tool has its purpose. Paradoxically, writing too can help us let go of the attachment to memory, though in a completely different way. Knowing we will have a record allows us to surrender to the continuing stream of thought without grasping; as if once the thoughts are down on the page you can rest assured that you’ve got them.

I dance around my topic, perhaps, but writing is good for that too. Once you’ve struck oil, put pen to page, that black ink may geyser forth in unexpected trajectories.

By writing, I learn about myself. Not necessarily in the finer points of what I’ve written, but indeed in the broader strokes. Regardless of the content of my writing, personal insight boils up as the tectonic pressure of my mind crunches everything into connection.

What is this crude oil that writing uncovers in my mind, and by what means can it be refined into useful fuel? Black gold! Texas tea! Metaphor! By writing, I create mental images with personal meaning. As my mind uses metaphor to draw comparisons, the substance of my life becomes filled with significance. A dove becomes a symbol of peace; an oil derrick a symbol of the ecstatic revelation of hidden meaning; even the Beverly Hillbillies come to carry import.

As I continue to infuse meaning into the images of my life, my external and internal worlds blur into one whole reality; metaphor and experience come together in coincidence, each coincidence an explosion of connection and insight. I come to see myself reflected everywhere and everything as a reflection of myself. Things that absent further examination I would have cast aside or even disdained take on a mystical divinity, and I come to love and respect all of creation as part of one whole universe, a multitude turned into one.


This piece is part of my Throwback Thursday series, and originally appeared in April, 2016

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