What makes a star a sun?
How we relate to it must.
Can there be more than one?
We’re all made of star dust.

What dulls our shine?
Is it our fear and hate?
We’re all of a kind.
Can we steer our fate?

Not like a cold, faint light,
That’s not your role.
That’s old, ain’t right,
I’ll treat you like our Sol.

Now we’re all the Sun,
A bright, resplendent hue,
And we shine upon
Each other pure and true.

This post is part of my Throwback Thursday series. It originally appeared on May 9th, 2016 as part of #MayBookPrompts, a series of daily posts inspired by book titles. The prompt was "A thousand Splendid Suns."

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To sit in a void, a hard vacuum, would burst my eyes and boil my blood, and yet be so desirable. I could struggle with the contradiction, but prefer to just accept it like the warm embrace of winter.

If you had no senses, what would be the character of your awareness, and then, suddenly, what would that first note, that first flash, feel like?

Would the void be better having had no experiences previous to it, would the contrast otherwise drive you mad, or would it be best enjoyed as a welcome respite after a full life?

Perhaps it would be ideal in the middle, the climax of the hero’s journey filed down into a flat nub of nothingness.

They say that only in absolute darkness do we truly see; our sight freed from the busy confines of shape and form. The most beautiful fireworks can only be shared secondhand in words imperfect to the experience. Like a dream, it quickly fades at the edges, articulable only in the broadest strokes of theme. Like a dream, the imagination sets itself free to wander in the dark.

And then there was light.

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Onomatopoeia (#tbt)

What constitutes pure silence? If a tree falls in the woods… If we build a sound detector with an auditory acuity far more sensitive than our own, and it tells us there is noise we cannot hear, is our silence broken? How much sound lies beyond the range of our relatively feeble ears?

Once, when camping in the boundary waters I came as close to true silence as I ever have.  As I pulled my canoe into a narrow inlet before a portage, I was struck by the quiet. It hit me abruptly and caught me off guard. A moment passed before I could define the experience. There was no movement. I stood still in the void, and it slowly filled. The sounds of my own body grew louder in the contrasting silence: the hollow drone of my own ears, the wispy rasp of my breathing, the wet gurgle of my throat and guts. Nothing had changed, but as my awareness widened I found myself again surrounded by noise. I shouldered my canoe and continued up the hill.

How much of our experience do we filter out and how much is lost to the noise of our lives? The first time I did a body scan meditation was at a weekend long introduction to meditation workshop. I had started meditating some months before that, but had never placed my focus on the minutiae of my physical experience. It quickly became one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’d had. I became aware of more and more sensations, more and more discomforts, until I felt my entire body awash; practically every inch, inside and out, aching, throbbing, or itching in some way. The instructor asked how the scan was for us. I told him it was horrible.

Imagine if we were always aware of those micro-feelings and sounds. We couldn’t function. Perhaps this is why my infant son likes white noise so much. It must be difficult adjusting to the hullabaloo of life.

Does silence exist? Likely only in the vacuum of space as even the colliding of subatomic particles must make some noise. Within our range of hearing is it possible to find silence?

As I reflect on this, I am lying down on the matted floor of the martial arts studio I teach at, my feet propped up on the wall 90 degrees from the rest of me. Aside from the passing whir of the occasional car, (and the disquieting cacophony of my body, of which I am mercifully unaware) it was quiet. I am taking the opportunity, as I stretch out and wait for students, to ponder this topic when YEEAH! I am suddenly torn from my quiet reverie by the arrival of the first two students, a young brother and sister, who proceed to tear about the dojang and emit a high pitched screech combined with the rapid pitter patter of bare feet running on pads.

I chuckle as other students enter and look at me bewildered by the sound these two are managing to produce. It was a study in the sound and the fury. I saw the grimaces on the faces of some of the newly arriving students as the young sister’s yowl pierced the air. It reminded me of that waterfall of discomfort during my first body scan. What is silence then? I wondered.

If we are always surrounded by noise, and we have the capacity to tune it out, perhaps silence is just a frequency of our own awareness. A place we must tune ourselves to. Mindlessness can feel like a kind of silence, but the barrage of the sounds we ignore continues to exert a not so subtle influence on us; like a grating irritation that causes us to snap and lash out without understanding why. True silence requires we come to peace with the fury that engulfs us, that we stand in it embracing and equanimous. After all, even if we were to find shelter in the soundless vacuum of space, the stimuli wouldn’t cease. The sensations of our body and the litany of our thoughts would keep talking to us.

This post is part of my Throwback Thursday series. It originally appeared on 5/7/16 as part of a #MayBookPrompts series of posts inspired by book titles. The prompt was “The Sound and the Fury.”

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Winding Road

The crooked line covers more ground.
I’ve always preferred the scenic route,
but I’m constantly more lost than found
and a straight line has no time for doubt.

I meander, sally, wander and wend,
always walking to another place
on this switchback path with no known end;
without destination you don’t have to race.

When there’s no objective you aren’t subject
to the beguiling finality of ambition,
and while it might seem a bit circumspect,
the world still turns when you’re in position.

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Eye of the Storm (#tbt)

How many hurricanes are your fault? Remember when you were on vacation in Jamaica in October of 2012? On the 22nd you were at the beach. You let a silent-but-deadly fart slip out, much to the dismay of the British couple sun bathing to your left, remember? Probably not. Well, turns out that little, farty atmospheric disturbance became Super Storm Sandy.

How many catastrophes resulted from your seemingly innocuous behavior? If everything is unpredictably conditioned on everything else, then why do we place such emphasis on right action? Hell, the worst thing I’ve ever done might save the world a thousand years from now.

If chaos is king, why aren’t we paralyzed by the tremendous risk of our every movement? My errant fingernail clipping might start a chain of events that results in the dismemberment of everyone I love.

Yet somehow we aren’t crippled by fear or consumed by relativistic self interest. There’s truth to the butterfly effect, but my lived experience demonstrates that it isn’t totally random. Our actions seem to ripple out and come back to us in ways that make sense. We reap what we sow.

Our own perspective makes this true, after all we filter and interpret everything we perceive. What’s interesting is that this doesn’t make it any less objectively true. Maybe it’s because we are social creatures, but our emotions and the actions they create are infectious. I have an eight month old son, and it’s dramatically apparent that we react to each other’s states. This causation also holds beyond social interactions. My behavior seems reflected back at me by my environment, like the new word that once learned you suddenly hear everywhere.

Maybe it is precisely because we live in an infinitely interdependent and chaotic universe that the results of our actions and their emotional underpinnings come to make sense. When the possibilities are endless, when the amount of information is unlimited, consciousness necessarily means creation because we must shape our world out of the endless existence which surrounds us. So next time you see a butterfly, decide what you’ve created.

This post is part of my Throwback Thursday series and originally appeared on May 6th, 2016 as part of a #MayBookPrompts series of posts prompts by book titles. The prompt was “Butterfly Effect.”

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The Worst Day of My Life

I love my home and I love my life.
I also love my struggles and my strife
because only friction can sharpen knives.

I love the dark and I love the light.
I love the day and I love the night,
but best of all I love twilight.

I love the rain and thunderstorms.
I love when the sun makes me warm,
and with both together rainbows form.

The sun comes up and then goes down,
but really we’re the ones spinning round.
Differences disappear when we slow down.

There is sunrise and there is sunset,
but you can catch them both in a turbojet.
Differences disappear when you’re fastest.

I love small deaths and I love big life.
I love vastness and the finite.
They hold each other like man and wife
dancing together on the edge of a knife.

Like many of my posts, this piece plays with the paradox of duality. It starts by expressing the common idea that we need the bad to appreciate the good, or, truer still, that a change in perspective can change what was perceived as bad into good; that even the worst day of your life carries benefit. 

The poem pushes this further as it moves from a simple good/bad dichotomy to an analysis including all things. It concludes that difference is largely a choice of scope, and that a broad enough perspective will reveal all things to be integral parts of the same whole. This realization changes what appeared to be conflict into a beautiful dance between life and death on the stage of the infinite absolute. 

Some were confused by the two stanzas about sunrise and sunset, and particularly the line saying that speed dissolves difference. Each stanza in itself says that a change in perspective (slowing down or speeding up) can reveal that seeming opposites (sunrise and sunset) are actually illusions. Taken together the two stanzas also reveal this same truth by showing that fast/slow is another illusion of perspective. 

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Fully Empty (#tbt)

Something wicked this way comes.
Thick, wretched air chokes up my lungs.
A grey-green smog blocks out the sun.

Terror sets in, I start to run.
I fear my time here may be done.
I stumble, fall, now hope there’s none.

Now, staring up at darkened skies,
A thought dawns on me, I realize
that above the smog the sun still shines.

And so, I think, is my life too.
What I thought was one is part of two.
And two is one too, so what is true?

This fear, it’s clear, is the same way
A fleeting feeling that does betray
A greater awareness that underlays

Once you know that, your fear allays
And suddenly all things seem just halfway
Doomsday becomes a grand gateway
to the empty awareness that is always.

This post is part of my throwback thursday series and originally appeared on 5/5/16 as part of #MayBookPrompts day 5 prompt “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

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