Bus station ecology

Outside a café by the central bus station.

Wasps. A gentle breeze stalling their forward propulsion. They hover, drawn to the foamed milk and cocoa powder topping my cappuccino.

Enlightening places: central transportation hubs. A congregation of humanity’s diversity: addicts; homeless; drunkards clasping and gulping bottles of warm beer; schoolkids travelling home from school; workers in dirty work pants and black heavy-soled boots; housewives pushing carriages of napping babies; immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe; bikers and walkers and taxi-cab drivers; old retirees in white Velcro sneakers and dated threadbare dress pants and sport jackets; the low, the lower middle, the middle classes; the working classes; students; artists; the down-trodden; the hopeful; the resigned. All jostling, vibrating, moving lives and lifetimes, stories, criss-crossing, weaving paths back and forth and back again on the concrete canvas.

And me. Another node of carbon-based molecules connected by infinite invisible threads to the world around. Inhaling. Exhaling. Respiring the same gas as the drug-addict missing her two front teeth; as the Arab hairdresser speaking a strange tongue to a friend on the threshold of his shop. Shooing wasps from my drink. Smiling inwardly at the too-fat pigeon waddling underfoot for crumbs.

A crippled man passes. The click-clack of a cane. And a woman on an old cellular phone.

Here’s one with cigarette in hand, shawl wrapped warmly, multi-coloured polyester handbag fit snugly into elbow’s crook, texting all the while, as she pauses briefly at my table, puts her bag – still looped over her texting arm – down on the seat, cigarette pressed between lips, and rummages through.

Do they know? Do they know I see them? I really observe them? I study them? I think of them? I remember them? For now. For today. And perhaps longer still. Do they know, they have become a part of me?

Now two ancient nodes have joined my table. Prehistoric lovers. His teeth perfectly pearly white. She wearing rouge on her once flawlessly beautiful, now wrinkled, and still beautiful cheeks. Wedding rings. Umbrellas. He making jokes. She barely smiling, barely giving an inch, but still giving that inch: yes, she’s heard them all before. Two ancient prehistoric lovers.

The pigeon waddles past. The breeze becoming a wind forces the hovering wasps to the eaves. Overhead a flock of city birds circles. Rested, the two stand, hand in hand, and depart.

 

Twenty-four fountains

Twenty-four fountains. Spitting vertical spouts of clear water a foot high. Each stream pulled down on itself by gravity; unfurling liquid ferns held together by surface tension. At the tip of each transparent crystal frond quickly accelerating towards Earth’s center, fracturing and division as multiple single droplets break free; the droplets pit patting, pit patting, pit…pit…patting, the grey concrete paving stones. Tapping out a plot, a rhythm rich in meaning, just for me.

Twenty-four transient translucent authors, communicating amidst the jostling bustling hive of unaware humanity. Secretly, just to me.

Ego metamorphosis

Trapped in this skin,

A developed presence trying to break free,

From the lower back, up along the edges of the spine, over and around the middle of the head: a pulling, wrenching pressure.

Something long dormant has awoken,

Cracking the thick, drying skin,

Snapping the taught sinew and corded muscle,

Breaking brittle bone, relieving tension.

Emerging, curled up, soft and rumpled folds;

A new body, a fresh wisdom and refined ego, stretching and extending, filling this old space with something new, hungry and invigorated.

The fortress nursery

I am a play-acting leader wandering aimlessly,

Trudging up and down each ridge and valley,

Marching headstrong on twisted paths unknowing;

Eager to say ‘Here is the way, follow me.’

 

I set off young, ill-equipped, and eagerly,

To a distant snow-capped peak I aimed to journey,

Heavy burdensome pack filled to overflowing;

Doubt, inexperience, arrogant insecurity.

 

In each palm five tiny digits clasped firmly,

My delightful, loving, innocent responsibility,

Yet cradled deep within another growing;

Swaddled in armoured layers deceptively.

 

I now know I am the king of a fortress nursery,

Revealed to me by their lips curled mockingly,

To veiled contempt, through muffled laughter owing;

They all scorn the child I refused to see.

 

Now too great the burden’s intensity,

A suffocating pack and no hands free,

Foundation’s cracked, there is no more going;

Deep within a child cries desperately.

 

In this storm of clear and urgent necessity,

Heed those mocking faces – growth requires honesty –

King’s garments stripped as the tempest continues blowing;

I, reborn and naked before you, stand awkwardly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyrics #1 – The Grudge – by Tool

Check out video here.

Check out lyric interpretations here.

Writers: Adam Jones, Daniel Carey, Maynard Keenan, Justin Chancellor

The Grudge

Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity.
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate.
Desperate to control all and everything.
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen.Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end.
Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Terrified of being wrong. Ultimatum prison cell.Saturn ascends, choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again.
Humbled again.Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end.
Saturn ascends, comes round again.
Saturn ascends, the one, the ten. Ignorant to the damage done.

Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity.
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate.
Desperate to control all and everything.
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen.

Wear the grudge like a crown. Desperate to control.
Unable to forgive. And sinking deeper.

Defining, confining, sinking deeper.
Controlling, defining, and we’re sinking deeper.

Saturn comes back around to show you everything
Let’s you choose what you will, will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child, light and innocent.

Saturn comes back around. Lifts you up like a child
Or drags you down like a stone to
Consume you till you choose to let this go.
Choose to let this go.

Give away the stone. Let the oceans take and
Transmutate this cold and fated anchor.
Give away the stone. Let the waters kiss and
Transmutate these leaden grudges into gold.
Let go.

Narrative seeds

Severed narratives. Ego, understanding, security, perspective, ripped asunder.

Open, festering, emotional wounds.

Who am I?

With what do I build again? How do I see again? Where does the nightmare end and the future begin?

I repeat: where does the nightmare end and the future begin?

Optimistically uncertain. But afraid. Nervous. What parts of the old me are worth holding onto? Which bits scattered afield should I collect, pick up and place in my bucket, to be cleaned and reassembled?

I survey the fields. Empty. In need of nourishment. I survey the fields. A hollow shell.

Who am I?

A father. Aye! A father! I am that. Indeed I am. And what else? A fighter. Aye! A fighter! I do indeed care enough to fight. And what else? Alive. Aye! Breath still enters these lungs. And what else? Principled. Yes. I am grounded in principles.

And what are those principles? What grounds me?

Truth. Yes truth, and self-awareness. Avoid, at all costs, self-deception, willing blindness. Avoid, at all costs, refusal to peer within and assess, comprehend what you see.

This aids truth.

Truth. Yes truth, and respect from others. Accept only so much deceit before moving on. People lie for any number of reasons. You have the power, the right, to move on, to no longer accept partnership, subjection, to another’s consistent lying.

This aids truth.

Truth. Yes truth, and forgiveness. Understand we all, everyone of us, make mistakes, are sometimes led down dark corridors, can lose our true paths. Forgive others and forgive yourself, but never forget. Don’t become naive. Don’t blind yourself. You can forgive, but you must not allow yourself to become the victim of another’s consistent, disrespectful, harmful actions and words.

This aids truth.

Truth. Yes truth, and self-confidence. You are as capable and as good as you currently are. Have you reached your potential? Continue the struggle with confidence, head held high, looking skyward, until you do. You are only as capable and as good as you currently are, and nobody can ask more of you at any given moment than that, including yourself. There is no reason to get down on yourself. Control only what is in your power to control. The hand you were dealt belongs to a cosmic lottery, the same one played by every single person who exists or has ever existed or who will ever exist. Compare not with envy and longing yourself to others, but look hard into your own eyes and find where you can and are willing to improve. Control only what you can control, with confidence.

This aids truth.

The nightmare ends, and the future begins, at truth.

Not so hollow after all. I survey these fields, life-giving, life-affirming seeds in hand.

Quote #1

I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. – Henry David Thoreau

Connections

There a seed, and a little tree. There a brook, and rolling rocks. I see sky and birds and fluttering monarchs. I hear the field frog sing. There, moths circle the light, and congregate around the bulb, while dusk brings the chorus of crickets to life.

I rest my feet in the coolness of the lake and watch as the fish, like shadows of airplanes, soar beneath.

Not only in the air can one fly.

This world is as deep, and as lovely, as her eyes.

Morning vespers

I crave the morn. The crystal dew on the petals of an opening rose. The dripping drops of water from the thorns – a ladder of leaking faucets.

There is a comfort to the sun’s early slanting rays; they cast a warm and magical spell. Belief in rebirth; that first draught of fresh clean air; awe, and to be filled with optimistic confidence – these are the gifts of rising with our morning star.

Rest moon, rest.

You’ll be here longer than I.

It is my time,

My time moon,

It is my time to shine.

Sink to your hole in the sea and close those cavernous eyes,

And remember when the sun and I go to bed,

It will be your time to rise.

 

Lullaby

Sing me softly to sleep life,

Let all my dreams drip into days,

Let love and joy fill me life,

Till death takes me gently away.

Sing me softly to sleep life,

And never let me wake.

Life

Life. Beautiful and tragic and absurd. We are unlikely fleeting nodes of structured matter, atoms arranged through increasing universal entropy, taking the form of great apes encoded in DNA; living, loving, suffering, pondering, overcoming, dying, waltzing ever-long in a cosmic embrace between order and chaos.

Positive pride: a remedy for hate

Hate, anger, jealousy need to be expressed. They do not, however, command such respect. They definitely do not need to be heeded. They want justification to exist. Well they have it! What more could they possibly want, why are they so insatiable? What could satisfy them? I imagine, not much.

I wonder: What if the whole world felt my pain, your pain? Felt sorry? Would that placate hate and anger? What if half the world felt it? A quarter? A single country? Your community? My street? A neighbour? Simply just you? Just me? Where does it begin, where does it end?

What do hate and anger want? To hurt? To hurt others? Me? You? To dine at the table of vengeance? And then what? Reduce the target of their existence to a heap of guilt, of ridicule and tears. Vengeance smells sweet, looks pleasing, but how does it taste? Bitter? Take the pain and inflict it a hundred fold. Would that act, that behaviour, lead to anything good, respectable, positive, forward thinking, upward looking?

Oh, I believe the act itself could feel good, cathartic, for a fraction of a moment. The consequences, not as much. I do not want to be enslaved by these emotions. Quite frankly, they do not become me, and they are tedious companions, exhausting. The desires whispered in my ear by hate and anger, the goals they think they would achieve, would never come to pass. They appear only to want to salvage pride, the ego.

Egoistic pride isn’t worth the effort. Egoistic pride can be hurt. But there is a type of pride to nurture, a positive, illuminating, motivating pride. Beneficial pride is progressive, not regressive, a spring of confidence and optimism, not a blanket for insecurity and doubt.

Beneficial pride cannot be hurt, does not bend to the whims of negativity. Deep abiding pride heeds not insults, nor affronts. Positive pride belongs to a confident soul; it is the engine of the motivation to do well, to do good for oneself and one’s community.

Positive pride is a monument to just deeds and deserved recognition, a stopping point on one’s life path, a sign-post, forever accessible on one’s journey, pointing forward, ever forward.

Positive pride says ‘saddle up, there is the way, you’ve made it this far, there is your way…onward! Onward, life traveler.’

Is it not said that ‘pride commeth before the fall’? This is the pride protecting the ego, leading to hubris, to overconfidence. This is the pride that can be vengeful, because it can be hurt, can become resentful and hateful. The good pride of which I speak is related to the feeling one has of good deeds attempted and desirable outcomes achieved, of the fleeting yet reinforcing admiration of others, by doing and achieving deeds and outcomes deemed worthy by yourself and the community. It is not pride that inflates the ego, that feeds off selfishness, that feeds selfishness in turn; it is the pride that indicates, that signals, that one is on the right path, a good direction. It is a road-mark, a checkpoint, a milestone. Beneficial pride is but a shadow cast by good deeds, an after-glow, an impression of great things on one’s emotional fabric.

To have a sense of pride is not a bad thing. Positive pride cannot possibly be dirtied or defiled or hurt in any way. It is but a corollary of good actions attempted and good outcomes achieved. It does not hang around, seeking undue admiration. It is not a garb to be worn defensively by one’s ego. It is not even a thing, in and of itself, for it cannot exist without the actions and results in whose presence it is cast. Beneficial pride is utterly dependent. It has to be earned, continually, through deeds confidently taken, outcomes deliciously obtained.

Positive pride is a shadow, and a shadow cannot be harmed.

Hatred and anger need a foil for their existence, they need a target for their justification. They are vengeful, spiteful emotions that want to inflict pain. Hatred does not point anywhere positive. Anger is all consuming, fueled by the positive essence of one’s being. Anger will burn until that essence is all used up. The only benefit of these emotions is to draw attention to potential and actual threats to oneself and one’s community. Many things are not okay. There is much vice and immorality in the world- Hatred and anger can draw attention to morally suspect realities, can motivate the identification, combating, and remediation of bad things. If bad things go unchallenged, the world is worse off. Hatred and anger are two emotions that motivate the challenge of bad things.

But hatred, anger, jealousy, can so easily lead to ruin, for oneself and others. The outcomes they effect may very well be out of all proportion to their cause. And what kind of outcome should one wish to effect, if not a positive one? What kind of outcome, that cannot possibly be positive, is desirable at all? We are no longer members of wandering bands of proto-humans. Anger and hatred have little reason to exist today, as our survival no longer depends on them. But our egos do! Our egos, if weak, dine on hatred, drink of pain.

Am I hurting? Are you? Yes. We all are, or will be, or have been. Would reducing the source of your pain, the target of our hatred, to an emotional mess, disgracing it in the eyes of the community, serve any positive end? No.

It is extremely selfish to think my pain, the motivation behind any form of vengeance, is more valuable, more worthy, than the pain and suffering my vengeance would create. What actually would I be avenging? My sense of egoistic pride? But that is not worth fighting for.

A strong sense of ego cannot be dismantled nor destroyed by anything external. A strong ego is forward thinking, upward looking, impervious to wrongs committed, yet not naive. A strong ego knows life brings many challenges, but that striving for good for oneself and one’s community is the highest, the most noble path. Take pride in leaving sign-posts and monuments along your path, provided they teach valuable lessons, distill wisdom, and point forward, ever forward.

Happiness lost is always found within

January 13th, 2005

It is a new year and the streets of Bamberg are still free of snow. My son was born Wednesday, December 8th, 2004, at 3:39 in the afternoon. Enan Franz smiled on his first day of life, and poured forth his innocence and purity, bringing clean tears to this dirty face.

Your birth was the finale of a development well over nine months; the development is as old as I, and perhaps as old as time itself. For you see, Enan, I am the product not only of my own life and experiences, but my mother’s and father’s also, and their parents, and their parents’ parents, ad infinitum; my actions, my behaviour, guided by more than my lack of wisdom.

For every action there is an equal, but opposite reaction. Remember this Enan. The path of your life is not all of your making, nor of your will, because you are tied to me, to your mother, and to all who have impacted our lives, either directly or indirectly; you respond with action to an infinite set of reactions vibrating the web that keeps you alive, keeps you human, and you in turn pluck the threads of that web to send reverberations to those around, in an ever-widening circle of influence. However, you will always be unique. Like a star in a sky of a million, a trillion, other stars, of the same stuff you are made, but you shine with a different light.

There are two inside you, Enan, the world and you. They are tied together in inexorable knots, where one ends and the other begins is impossible to know. So remember, you are never alone; you have the whole world within.

Use your own voice to guide the world within, and learn from your experiences, from history. Try not to make the same mistakes as many before. But if you do, don’t despair, for those who stumble, yet pick themselves up, construct bridges for those to come. One day, Enan, one of those bridges might eventually span the gap between ignorance and understanding, and make the world a better place.

And if you fall, if you become lost, get back up and recover your bearings. Build more bridges ahead, forge fresh paths. You may find the last chasm you cross separates the world from your dreams, and the green grass upon which you land is no less than the rich pastures of your freedom and happiness. And that is a worthy struggle.

Raise your voice to the sky and shout loud over land and ocean. Tell the world that you are here. Be not afraid. Sing loud and for as long as you want. Sing in the sun and sing in the rain. You have a limited number of days to sing, and all eternity to be silent. Flex your voice in pure happiness, fearing not the stillness of death, for death will surely come, regardless of how you live your life. So live your life well.

Wail when you cry, whether you shed tears of pain or tears of joy. Let the animals in the forest feel your emotions and let the echoes of your weeping carry to all the lands. You and the world share the same wild nature, the same primal emotions. There is no pain worth concealing, and no joy too small to share. You may shake the very hearts of humankind, and this is not such a bad thing.

If you feel down and are lost, remember, those who pursue their dreams also live their dreams, so continue your drive, only then are you alive. And those times when all hope is lost, listen to your heart, for your dreams and your heart are one. And when your heart is silent or you fail to listen closely enough, sit under a tree or watch the moon, and let Nature’s devices instil you with peace and harmony. As you return to yourself, let your wildest fantasies and dreams bloom like lilies in the pools of your mind, the coves of your soul. Be not afraid to admire them, to pick them, to inhale their fragrance. Let their beauty diffuse through your mind and heart, easing your troubles and bringing calm.

Never forget who you are or where you came from. Look in the mirror and stare hard into your eyes. Look past the costume of daily life, peel away the layers of insecurity and doubt, wade through the muddy waters of your fading youth, your incompetence, your troubles, your lack of wisdom, your mistakes, and find the very muscle and sinew, the essence, of your being; you will find you have folded wings of white. With great optimism you will navigate toward sparkling horizons of colour.

Listen not to those who say angels are not real, that rainbows are not magical. Listen not to those who cannot appreciate the infinite wonder of reaching out, of nearly grasping the stars on a cloudless, moonless night. For, Enan, I have stood on a mountaintop, have seen a rainbow touch the ceiling of heaven, and upon its arch I walked, hand in your mother’s graceful hand, until she took flight, and left me standing there, filled with the deepest love.

Do not be too harsh on metaphor. The story of your life, the one you tell yourself, is but a metaphor.

Remove the mask of most men, and you will find a deep well of fantasy, of joy. What you feel and what you think when you experience a shooting star or gaze into the unbroken surface of a mirror lake, is what you will feel and experience when you peer into the hearts of others, including your own. Awe. Desire. Wonder. Curiosity. Happiness. The very best of humanity.

We are all children, Enan. Each and every one of us. The majority of our lives is a process of covering ourselves with layer upon layer of worldliness, and then spending time and tears trying to recover what we have hidden.

Happiness lost is always found within.

And do not let the apparent sterility of science diminish your awe, and do not feel disheartened when reason explains away the wonder of rainbows. Reason and science explain how the world is, but cannot give it meaning. That is your job.

Enan. Make your own why. Imbue your life with your own meaning. Feel free to climb to the moon. Jump around in amazement and bewilderment. You have nothing to lose. You have everything to gain.

The narrating consciousness

Narration. Storytelling. Meaning. All combined in consciousness. The ego, too, a product of the conscious mind. A powerful, at times all consuming, illusion. Children, at the earliest possible age, should be taught these truths. All manner of trauma, of fear, of anxiety, could be learned to be placed in their proper context. As I recently read: life, living, straddles the fine line between order and chaos. Order is a narrative, a sense of security, a sense of knowing the world and your place in it. Chaos is an assault on that narrative; chaos is unleashed when the death of a loved one, when the betrayal of a lover, when the loss of a job, when the paralysis-causing head-on collision suddenly and without warning severs one or more of the intricate threads holding your narrative together. And we will do nearly anything to salvage, to repair, to retie those threads. Getting up in the morning and facing the day is greatly aided with a secure narrative. Believing one’s health is good, is order. Believing one’s family is safe, is order. Believing one’s job is secure, is order. Believing one’s loved one is faithful, is order. As the events of life pass through our senses and are viewed with the light of consciousness, they are immediately and without notice fitted into one’s narrative. Cold objective reality is given meaning. The sense of one’s autonomy, of one’s ego, is continually fed the illusory nutrition of the free will. All control; all keeping chaos at bay.

But because the universe is not a reflection of our (often self-serving, at times delusional) narratives, chaos can and will emerge at any place, at any time, in any form. Chaos severs and hurts and maims our sense of security, our foundations. Some are more susceptible to assault than others. Some have a narrative thread so large, so thick, so structural for the whole of one’s story, that its severing can cause serious instability and anxiety.
One of those threads of my narrative has been cut. Imagine a great river flowing, nourishing the otherwise infertile plains around. Imagine a great tree reaching to the sky, the trunk of which supports countless branches and leaves collecting the sun. Now dam that river, over night. Cut down that tree, leaving nothing but a stump. What happens to the fields that depend on the water, to the leaves that need the support? Chaos ensues.
The narrative torn-up, consciousness is at a loss. It desperately tries to fit events into their rightful place, assign meaning, but there is no more structure. The ego is floating, pieces of it breaking apart, being lost to the ether.
But there are threads remaining, rivers still flowing; there is a forest yet. As I spin and float and do somersaults in the air, my hands are grasping, my eyes searching for the ends, for the lines that can save me. But alas, whatever I may salvage, the illusion has been shattered, for good, for all time.
A healthier, more stable, more compatible narrative must be written.
I was not responsible for my first narrative: my ego built itself. Now I am an author, I am aware. It is now my destiny to walk the thin line between order and chaos, keeping a foot firmly rooted in each, as I weave a new narrative, imbue my life with new meaning, mould an ego that (it can only be hoped) is less illusory, less naive, less susceptible to the chaos all around and within everything.

Fatherhood – a poem

Silence reason and there, within

A fruit of consciousness and reflection,

Pushes like a force against the walls of the mind,

Like the beauty of a cloudless morn,

Something indescribable.


On another plane,

When you were young, paddling

A warcraft canoe with your dad – captain,

On Frog Lake in the failing light,

Toward your amphibious haven.


And oh the sound! Of fiberglass on sandy shore.

Of kindling crackling and flame warming.

And oh the smell! Of steak and onion and pine-needle carpets.

Of supping and talking and laughing and thinking.

And the sight…the sight,

Of two people on a log, and a dog

In the bush on a bed of moss.


Tired. Cold. Afraid.

Lying there you listen

To his breath, its rhythm.

As an anchor in the storm of your mind,

You sleep.


Sitting still in the afternoon sun,

This fruit of consciousness and reflection,

Pushes like a force into my mind,

And I relive the feeling in perfect detail, of a time

Indescribable.


I have this image as in a dream:

A wrinkled man with parchment skin, my father

Weeping he forms pools, floats away.

“Captain!” I cry…”Come back!”

As our eyes meet across the infinite sea of tears, joy

Like music composed with the deepest meaning, I awake

To the sound of distant voices singing – and little feet running –

“Papa”.