Poem: to Silence I go

to Silence I go.
To silence I go again, carrying with me

my heart like

a wounded comrade in arms

His chest heaving in racking coughs of muddled light like a dying star

To silence we both, to meet there

in the shadows

and mend our broken wings

To rest in midnight hours and await the dawn.
Angels circle us gently in the dark

We know them by the breeze upon our skin in eddies

Rustling from wingtips

And the musky aroma of dew kissed roses, and honey wafting past our nostrils,

Their singing ephemeral and distant, 

A secret in the wind,

An echo of eternal springs, 

Almost nothing.

A dream, heard once, then gone, then heard again.
We will be sad, for a time, we will be sad.

And someday dawn will come.

And someday the silence

will birth the Song.

Finding Commitment

 

Lately I find myself drawn to meditating on this quote from a Robert Louis Stevenson book, “You cannot run away from a weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?”

I have always believed that both a person’s greatest strength and greatest weakness spring from his or her essential character, that which is the essence of who we are and what defines us.  If with our daily actions we commit to our weaknesses, we allow our weaknesses to define us.  So too, with our daily thoughts.  Or perhaps more simply put, that to which we commit daily, defines us.

But it is no great revelation to say we should commit to our strengths.  And sometimes, in order to act upon our strengths, we must understand first the roots of our own weaknesses that bind us.

A great deal of self-help literature revolves around boot-strapping, positive thinking, saying “yes!” and grabbing your life by the horns.  I have seen this ethos of positive affirmations, visualizations, and the like preached and applied by many people in my varied experiences over the years, from sales seminars to acting workshops.  They are powerful, productive, and have very practical applications.  But they also have tremendous flaws, because they often have no answer for an inevitable question for a fair percentage of the lot: “What happens when it doesn’t work for me?”

Here’s how I’ve seen it play out over and over again:

Step 1: The positive message is received and digested.  It is powerful, intoxicating, and transformative.

Step 2: The person starts the follow through, starts to apply the message, goes for the win.

Step 3: The person falls flat on his or her face.  The person fails.

Step 4: The person continues to try, and continues to fail, or moves directly on to the question, “Why have I failed?”

Step 5: The person realizes that the answer implied by their guide to achievement is, “It’s your fault.”

The blame can be crippling, incapacitating.  And that is often when people give up.  Giving up, really giving up, eventually leads to a place many of us know: depression.  (This may not apply to all of you but bear with me.  The principle I’m getting to is universal.)

Any one of you who has faced depression knows what it is like to wake in your bed, and feel as though the most difficult thing you can imagine is to rise up and live another day in the world.  All you truly want is to find the strength to do so; and then you find yourself quietly give up, close your eyes, and will the darkness to envelop your mind again and pass on into sleep.

So what do you do then?  What are you supposed to do if it takes everything within you to rise in the morning, much less look in the mirror and repeat a set of mantras to convince yourself that life is better than it seems, and tells you that your discontent is your own fault?  How does someone who is depressed, or someone who has been knocked down, how do we find the strength within to overcome?  What do you do?

Anything.

Anything that moves you forward.

Living is not about a magic formula, and I don’t believe that question has a single answer.  It is not one way that works for all.  In my own life I have discovered a variety of principles and perspectives that, faithfully applied, work.  Some are transformative, but most are simply practical.  Applied in combination, they work to get you through the tunnel of that midnight of the soul, and to the dawn.

But at the end of the day, they all boil down to just finding anything, any one thing, that moves you forward, forward, no matter how little, no matter how small, as long as it is forward and something you can build on.  And at the root of that movement, what is required is a small but significant choice to commit to that forward movement.

For all commitment is faithful, and yields a result, whether that commitment is conscious or unconscious.  Sometimes we make conscious decisions to commit to a course of action, or to certain principles or ideals.  But when we do not make conscious commitments, we make them unconsciously with every one of our choices.  At the root of every action lay a choice, and where a choice is made so too is something committed.

This begs the question: how do we commit?  Where do we find that first commitment, the first cause for forward motion?

The answer isn’t in an affirmation, by yelling “Yes!” or anything of the like (though those methods have their time and place).  Paradoxically, it is in the opposite, by giving up a little further, by letting go a little more.  Whenever we find our circumstances so overwhelming that they paralyze us, we can find commitment in the moment we give up our need to know, give up our marriage to certainty and expectation as to the conditions around us.

When you need to find commitment, being certain about the conditions you are in is the greatest obstacle you could possibly face.  The only answer is to give it up.

It seems like the longer we live, the greater the danger we face of locking into viewing the world a certain way.  You need that to function, to a certain extent, the adding on of layer upon layer of experience.  But the flipside of certainty is the absence of wonder.

If we can give it up, if we can accept the idea of not knowing, then at that moment the world becomes new.  Whatever obstacles, imaginary or real, at that infinitesimally small moment, nothing exists but possibility—and more importantly, nothing lay in the path of that tiniest commitment to move forward.

Aphorisms

Nietzsche was a lazy writer when he wrote aphorisms.

I say that because I thought up a list of semi-aphorisms tonight while I was star-gazing, and the struggle of weaving them into passable writing now seems like an insurmountable obstacle.  That said, here goes the fruits of my particular laziness…

I smoked a cigarette with a girl tonight… she’s in charge of quality control at our company.  I helped found a small blueberry export company here in Chile a few years ago, and fresh fruit exports need quality control.  In any case, turns out she wishes she was a chef and I ended up talking with her about pursuing dreams.

She struggles with depression, and life, and living with her parents, and not having enough money to pursue her dreams, and we started talking about focusing on what you want and not what you are afraid of, and so on, and so forth…

As I sat outside my home gazing at the stars, I thought about my own life and experiences, and the aphorisms flowed:

If with our daily actions we commit to our weaknesses, we allow our weaknesses to define us.  Angels are everywhere, if we cultivate the silence within to listen.  Humility is at the root of wisdom.  We live in a world of consequence. Cause and effect.  Our actions have resonance.

These thoughts had more to them, but they were not recorded.  How real, yes?  A creator must never be distant from his or her tools of creation: if you would be a writer, then never let a pen and paper be distant from your hand.

In the days to come I will follow up with posts that weave meaning into these aphorisms.  Until then, good night.

Invocation of the Bold

Be bold. Be wild. Take courage and delight in danger. Inhale the wind and fill your wings askance the stars in flight. Parade your eyes with wonder and take the night, embrace her and when your two bodies collide flush and naked and wild with desire heed not the coming of the day nor the passage of the loam–rush fully and headlong into the seas, caress the storms with thunder and bear the likeness of your God with all the power of creation.

Be bold. Be wild. Live danger and throw caution to the wind. Let burn the spirit, and open wide your eyes to shine their keen upon the world. Plenitude of ages and forgotten stars beam forth, eons find place again and resolution in your stare called forth by this, this bare and lovely drop of the divine, raw and vast infinite of energy, channel of endless elements made flesh made dust made possibility–and so hope goes, and so becoming comes, the endless blossom, the ever flowering cusp of creation, sunburst and supernova–love is the architecture of the divine–actions the temple of being.

So go, boldly and live the temple of your spirit, earn your name crashing through the world, you are awakened, you are powerful, you are the infinite moment of creation made, ever blossoming tender of possibility–it is yours.

Take it and live.

From the archives: May 11, 2009 – Not what I expected on Mother’s Day

So, I never expected for my mother, on Mother’s Day, to almost get cut in the face in the course of a robbery. It definitely puts a different spin on things. But yeah, that happened today.

We decided, last minute, to leave for the rodeo. We locked up the house (without putting on the alarm on, mistake #1), and set off. As we passed the caretaker’s house for the property, we neglected to tell him we’d be out for a few hours. It was only a few hours after all, right?

Rodeo was fun, our friend won first place. And so on. We came home. This is about 4 in the afternoon. We park the car, come inside in good spirits. We’re expecting friends over soon for a barbecue, and there are still embers in the fireplace so I set to building the fire up again. My mother and Bill head upstairs to the room, chatting (in good spirits) about the rodeo and who knows what else, appropriate to happy Mother’s Day activities. They go into their walk in closet, flip on the lights, and happen on two burglars.

Yep, burglars.

And chaos ensues. Granted, could have been worse. The guy who pulled the knife didn’t actually try to cut my mom. He warned her first. Then my stepdad grabbed him and threw him into a wall. He got cut pretty deep in the process, and the guy ran jumped over the second floor railing like spiderman and made for the window they came in through.

Where was I you may ask? Yes, happily and dutifully building the fire. All of 60 seconds had elapsed, and I had no idea what was going on. I suddenly finish the fire, stand up in satisfaction, and hear unintelligible roaring from up above. My first thought? Well, we’ve had lots of problems with the building of this house. It was, to say the least, a clusterfuck. So my first thought was, oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, something’s wrong with the chimney now? How the hell am I going to put out this fire? I yell in response, “What?” More yelling. I step out a little into the hallway, “What?”

Then I hear, “Get the shotgun! Get the shotgun!”

The shotgun? I start in the direction of where the shotgun used to be. I stop. I gave the shotgun to the caretaker. Why do they want the shotgun? More importantly, how is the shotgun going to put out the fire?  No, that doesn’t make sense.  Is someone outside the house? I don’t have the shotgun. So I take out my knife, I flip it open, and I take two steps back towards where I would take the stairs up to my parents. Then I say to myself… if they need the shotgun, these people have to be outside. I have to go get the shotgun and hunt these people down. So I turn around and head for the garage.

As soon as I get outside I look out towards the yard and I see them. They’ve just jumped the fence into the vineyard and these two guys are running for their lives. My first impulse is to chase, and I do, right up to the fence and I almost jump it… but I think again, realize that I have no idea what weapons they have, and that if I can’t catch them, they are going to get away. So I head for the car, and the shotgun, and pray that I get a chance to run them over.

Things are not so simple in the country.

By the time I’m down where I can take the truck, they’ve booked into the mountains where I need to mount the horses to follow. By this time, I’ve called the police and some friends, and my friends show up. One of my buddies, on my horse, takes the shotgun and takes off. I take off with another friend towards their escape route, hoping we can catch up in the middle or see where they went.

My friend with the shotgun gets the right idea, and takes the high road into the mountains where he can get a view and a clear shot. He spots them and corners them in a nearby vineyard, and takes potshots to hold them in place until the cops can come grab them. As night falls though, they manage to slip away.

We spend the rest of the night with the cops and detectives, recalling the story, talking through who might have known how to break in, and all the rest, my stepdad holding his hand up to keep it from throbbing… during the search my mom took him to the hospital. The gash in his hand was 3 cm deep, enough to cut through an artery, some veins, and a nerve.

There came a point where I decided they might have ruined most of the day, but they sure as hell weren’t going to spoil dinner. So I fired up the barbecue, and we ate some prietas and roasted some meat and I had a few beers. Definitely not what I expected on Mother’s Day, but hell, I guess it could have been much worse.