Cups of Coffee And The People Over There

img_1147I have been pulled out of my own world and asked for opinions on this dreary piece of dirt recently. What side am I on? This is the question I remove my headphones to answer.  I surmise that my answer is how this eager and anxious little human will decide to hate me or use me. Lose/lose situation as far as I can see.

Ok, conflict. I get that. No story without it, but the conflict out here is the kind that ALWAYS ends badly. So I sip at my coffee and stare blankly at this buzzing little mortal. They do not go away. Annoying. I sigh, rethinking the whole bathing thing. Perhaps, if I could omit enough stench, I would not be plagued with these pick one side and stick to it sorts of debacles humans are always getting themselves into. Binary thinking. It’s so limiting. What the Hell do they teach in these schools these days? Clearly, common sense is not part of the curriculum.

I take a verse from Tolkien and give the emotionally dribbling human the same answer as Treebird. “I am not all together on anyone’s side because no one is on my side.

That pretty well sums up my politics on any issue. I figure that will be the end of the conversation and back under the headphones I can go to drink my coffee and work so I can pay rent and spend the rest of my time writing. No.

The inquirer foams at the mouth and makes an incoherent plea for their position. I hope what they want to happen (which involves death and dismemberment and revenge) never happens. That cycle turns cyclone all too quickly.

C’mon people. Cain killed Abel and after that, we never stopped killing the people over there. Eternity has cried out from rocks and burning bushes that we must love one another. A man of great peace and dignity came into the world and told us to love one another and paradise we would have. We nailed him to a tree.

Everything in us proclaims that love is the answer, the very beat of our hearts, the first cry we make as we enter the world, the last gasp of breath we take leaving it begs us to love one another for goodness sake. All we hear is “go kill the people over there.” Whoever the people over there happen to be. Until we become the people over there. How does this solve anything?

I take another sip of coffee and go under my headphones where the fate of this unfortunate ‘please chose a side so I can decide if I like you or not‘ was foretold almost forty years ago. I put on the headphones and listen to the old song, one that told me exactly what mob rule would get you when I was not even ten years old. Hatchet, axe, and saw.

Yes, I know. I am insensitive. I hear the cry to love one another. And yeah, I’m killing the people over there instead, but only on paper. I am a writer. I don’t get paid to be sensitive. I don’t get paid at all and won’t get paid unless I finish this book. Now stop all the drama so I can work. Geez. Maybe an attack of dragons really would do some good. I mean really.

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas 

The trouble with the maples
And they’re quite convinced they’re right
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light

But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade? 

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘oppression!’
And the oaks, just shake their heads 

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal

By hatchet,
Axe,
And saw

 

 

The Far Unlit Unknown

Subdivisions

Lyrics: Neil Peart

Sprawling on the fringes of the cityCitylights
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

SubdivisionSubdivisions —
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Subdivisions —
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights…

Subdivisions – Rush

In 1982, the year this song by the popular band, Rush, spoke to me and my growing feeling of isolation. It spoke my fears that I would never make it to the “far unlit unknown” and that my future had already been “pre-decided”.

This is timeless in that it speaks to that conflict in all of us between fitting in and living our best potential which is repressed by the forces telling us to be this false ideal that does not truly exist.  “Conform or be cast out” can be read “give up your identity or be always alone”.  I chose to be alone. The cost of conformity – it’s too much to bare.

“Some will sell their dreams for small desires and lose the race to rats…”

Too many suffer that fate, living in their little boxes, repeating the same worn routine day in and day out in some cubicle so that they can keep their box all the while screaming on the inside.

There is something so broken in society, it seems incurable. The way we live is not healthy or conducive to creativity and the resulting productivity that might evolve us beyond our technology.

We have so many more of these “Signals” in society than we did in 1982. We are always plugged in to the beast that is social media which instead of making us each welcome to the world further isolates us not only from each other but from our own humanity.

“Growing up it all seems so one-sided. Opinions all provided…”

This has grown exponentially true. If you dare step out of line with the latest narrative, being cast out is the best one can hope for.

Week 30 2016 – Death By Tiger

LionsA pride of lions was on the hunt. So very hungry and so many mouths to feed. Antelope run too fast and so the big cats opted for a slow group of humans, locked in cages, hanging low from a tree. Not much wanting to be eaten by a lion, I made my escape. Recalling skills of my younger days, I picked the lock and dropped to the ground. Some of the other captives followed me, but for some, the lions were too many and too fast.

Lions could be cunning, and some could be driven mad into a frenzy of killing beyond sating of their appetites. I had heard first hand accounts of lions taking human prey and staking out human settlements. There were never any hashtags to mark these events. Perhaps, hoping to appease this particular pride, me and the others had been deemed a suitable sacrifice. I did not know. It did not matter.

I did not know where I was running too, only what I was running away from. The landscape was utterly alien to me. I climbed a hill once the lions turned their attention on the others. I should go back for them, I thought. I should save them, but then I am no hero. There’s no reasoning with hungry lions, and I had no weapon dire enough to dissuade them from their feast. I was as helpless as a lamb.

HungryTigerI saw lights in the distance sparkling against the dusk. A village perhaps. I fled in that direction, but I did not go far. The tiger, a massive animal, moved in a whisper. The last thing I saw were its jaws as they made to clamp down on my throat. I did not even have time to scream.

IMG_0538I awoke exhausted to Frankie’s most puzzled look. I told her that I had just been devoured by a tiger. The pug tells me that it sucks to be so aware of one’s mortality. It is a great way to stop from living. If you are always running from things, eventually you will run blindly into a tiger. And it will eat you, no matter how majestic of a beast it might be. No matter how much you donated to its preservation. It cares nothing for yours.

I felt small and insignificant, like a cow meant for slaughter all of Thursday as a result of my nightmare. I cursed Robert Blake the whole day as his poem echoed in the reaches of my obsessive mind. And when I slept that night, I found myself that awkward teen in English, reciting the poem before a class of mocking and cruel students. I think I would rather have been eaten by a tiger again. The pug, I have it on authority, cuddled up to a rabbit and a lion in her dreams, and slept quite peacefully.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Robert Blake
The Tyger
Songs of Experience

Week 8 2016- The Desiderata

My grandmother used to ask what I would like of hers after she died. She was determined to leave each of her grandchildren something to remember her by so she was always asking from even my earliest childhood. I wanted something impossible.

I wanted perfect spring days and our talks on her screened in porch over iced tea as we watched the birds flitting about the fountain in the garden, petted her dogs (there were never fewer than three) laying at our feet, and the occasional graces of the cats wandering in and out to see if there was a bird or a lizard they might be able to catch.

I have come to believe that porch exists in my heaven, and it’s always a fine spring day with birds chirping about and cats hoping for prey while dogs are cradled at my grandmother’s feet. She is young once more, and she always has fine company and new stories to tell. One day I will visit her there again.

As the mysteries of the afterlife were not on the table as things my grandmother might leave me, I asked for the framed poem that hung outside her bedroom. I remember reading it the first time. The peace that came over me was mystical. I asked her about it, and she told me of a trip she took to Baltimore ages before. She liked the poem and purchased it from the gift shop of some ancient, historical church. Whether or not the words of this poem had the same profound effect on her as it did on me, I do not know. Perhaps, she never needed these words and they were already part of her soul.

My grandmother left this world four years ago.  The poem, still in its original frame, dingy with age, now sits above my writing desk. When the world tosses and turns me in its fury, these words restore me and calm me.  This is what keeps me going until I find those perfect spring afternoons with my kindly grandmother in the fullness of eternity.

This week started stormy in my head, full of worry and doubt, and ended with me returning to the peace I find in these words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Week 4 2016 – Lost in the Labyrinth

TheRoadNotTaken-Poem

That Robert Frost knew his business. That is one pretty poem, and it’s hard to forget. I am a lifetime out of high school, and I still remember it chapter and verse. Of course, I am older and wiser now, and embarrassed at how badly I misinterpreted Frost’s words. I quoted this thing in my high school year book (and I bet a good many of you did too).

ForestRoadsI was determined to take that road less taken, ignoring those pivotal words “Though as for that the passing there had worn them about the same“.

A “different” drummer pounded in my head. I was going to stand out, be different, and there I was a rebel without a clue.  I saw myself a best-selling writer by 21, the first girl to play football in the English Premiere League, and a good many other fantastical musings. My life went a different way despite that imaginary fork in the road. I imagine most end up in bear’s belly taking a road not taken in a forest.

As this 4th week of 2016, the end’s very beginning, reminded me, there was never that neat, peaceful little fork in the road in that somber forest. It’s a bloody labyrinth and here there be monsters and possibly a worm. If you are very lucky that is.

LabyrinthWormThe little benign worm in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth means no harm. He helpfully tries to guide you away from the goblin’s castle which is precisely where you must go if you are to retrieve that most precious to you. I suppose I listened to the worm when I first became entangled in the labyrinth that is my life. I never made it to the goblin’s castle.

Instead, I found myself in something that more resembles  Pan’s Labyrinth than it did the lovely, Jim Henson, Muppet maze.  NOTE: If you have never seen Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pan’s Labyrinth, do yourself a favor. It is frightening, beautiful, sad, glorious, and a true piece of art in film.

PansLabyrinthI fought against the labyrinth of my life for years, never stopping to gape at the wondrous beauty nor recoil from the horror of it, just wandered trying to get back to that lovely fork in the road. Those crossroads that never offered any choice at all because it was never this or that. Life is a million decisions and encounters, and twists and turns, words and deeds, nuances too subtle for the naked senses of man to perceive. It is truly a labyrinth.  Now, I embrace the unsolvable maze that is life, curious as to what lay around each bend and turn. I turn back at the dead ends, and sometimes sit entrenched in the beauty despite the horror.  This week there was a dead end, overgrown, uncared for, and so I turned around. There was another way to go.