The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts


originally published August 22, 2014

Artist: Mobstr/location: London


Genius. My greatest sorrow and frustration in life was that I was able to recognize it; appreciate it when I saw it; easily discern between the very good, the great and the brilliant; and yet, I, myself, could not produce anything of such caliber.   I could see the tricks and techniques the masters used to imprint their work with their unique creative flair. I was able to read between the lines and marvel at a turn of phrase or an especially apt metaphor. I noticed the nuanced underpainting and the way it brought life to the subject. I could hear the subtle change of key that lodged a melody in the head. And yet was not able to reproduce any of it.

I did not begrudge them their success. They deserved it. I only wanted to whip aside the curtain to see how they did it. Was there a trick? A skill I could learn? Techniques I might master?   The answer, I found was yes to all those things, and yet, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. There was something inside those people, something I didn’t possess. No matter what I did, somebody else did it better.   More naturally. More easily.

Perhaps if I’d had no aesthetic sense; if I’d not be able to catch that flash of brilliance that separated the journeyman from the prodigy, it might not have pained me so much. But I was able to see it and each time I did, it reminded me that I lacked what came so easily to them.

I plugged away at what I did best. I was moderately successful. I was able to earn a living, but few outside my immediate circle sang praises to my talent.

They stood at the pinnacle and I was left to worship from below.

I suppose this was the main thread of my life: To envy what I could never be; to live in the disappointment of not being able to be better than I was.



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Artist: Mobstr/location: London


Without a Trace



I was just 27. I had my whole life in front of me. I had a good job, career prospects, lots of friends.   One night, I went into the city to meet a buddies for drinks. It was late when I left them to head home. I was a bit tipsy but not exactly drunk.  A man on the street approached me, asking for directions. I stopped to help him.

After that was a blur. I woke up groggy, bound with nylon rope, in the trunk of a car, bumping along very potholed roads. I had no idea where I was. Or why. Or how. It took a while for me to put it together, but he must have drugged me somehow. Maybe stuck me with something. I didn’t remember.

Finally, we came to a stop. When he opened the trunk and pulled me out, we were in a garage…not a house garage but a commercial one, like a chop shop. I had no idea exactly where we were but my sense was that it was in a remote, industrial part of an outer boro, far from prying eyes and out of earshot of anyone who could help me.

My captor was insane. That much was obvious.   I was terrified. I knew I was going to die at his hands, but I didn’t know how, which terrified me more.

He started with the tools for breaking apart cars, and took me apart slowly, methodically. He knew was he was doing. He took pleasure in my pain.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I tried to will my soul out of my body, so I would die faster. It didn’t work as quickly as I prayed it would. When I passed across, as soon as I felt my soul leave my corporeal form, I was met by others; other young men he’d killed in the same way.

New York has a serial killer but nobody knows it. He disposes of bodies so well, none of us were ever found. We are all still listed as mysteriously missing persons. Nobody suspects that all our disappearances are related; the work of one man. Nobody is looking for a single killer. He is too clever for them.

Our bodies are in the Gowanus Canal, but no one would ever think to look for us there. Even if they did, they would never find us. We are melted into the toxic soup.


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Losing Feathers

New Post
aeg sky feathers

“Hope is the thing with feathers.”  — Emily Dickinson


I could not point to any reason for my unhappiness. It was rather that because I was, by nature, unhappy, I found reason for unhappiness in everything.   It became worse as I got older. Perhaps it was hormonal or maybe it was simply that I was now on the downhill side of my life with narrowing opportunities or reasons for hope.

Gradually, I lost the taste for that which I once enjoyed. I ceased to care about the problems of others, both large and small. I stayed more to myself and found less tolerance for the petty interests of the general public.

I went through the motions of life without extracting any joy, making my last years sad and full of regret.

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Sooner Than You Think

Originally published Sept 6, 2014

calendar pages turning


Well, tomorrow finally came, and here I am.

I put off almost everything I dreamed of doing until it would be more convenient; for when I’d have more time, more money, more bravery than I currently possessed. That I would eventually run out of time or energy or opportunity was such an abstract concept that it had virtually no meaning.

Equally abstract was the notion that I could ever actually have or do the things I’d always dreamed about having or doing.

My dreams existed only in the future.

“Someday” became tomorrow. Tomorrow became next week. Next week became next year, until one by one, the windows closed for me on all my dreams.

I never completely threw myself into any of those pursuits.  In my heart of hearts, I never believed the things I most wanted were possible. I didn’t think I was good enough to deserve them. I didn’t believe I was clever enough to grab them and hold on to them, even if they were within reach.  It was easier and safer to simply fantasize, and perhaps blame others, or circumstances, or even some completely unrelated flaw in myself for my unfulfilled dreams.

I never started my own business, which I’d always fantasized about. Instead, I stuck with my boring but reliable job until I finally retired.   It was the safe choice but of course, I have could have achieved my dream unless I’d been willing to take a risk. Which I was not.

I never traveled to all the exotic places I thought I wanted to go; never explored the world. Truth was, I barely ventured out of my comfort zone. I never went to places where I didn’t understand the language.   I worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate; that the food would be too strange for me to eat; that I wouldn’t understand the money and end up being taken advantage of.

I always wanted to learn to play a music instrument. Maybe piano. Perhaps guitar. In my fantasies, I was quite good. I would entertain my friends at parties.   But in truth, I never took a lesson. Never stuck with anything long enough to even get past the most rudimentary familiarity with a chord or a scale.

Most problematic of all, I never really found love. None of those other things would have mattered if I’d given up those pursuits in exchange for another person’s happiness. But that was not the case.

I had several long-term relationships, but the longest one lasted only about seven years. Never a lifetime commitment and all it entailed. Maybe I never met the right person. Maybe I was never ready for it. Maybe I was not open to it. Maybe it was simply not my destiny in that life. I still haven’t figured it out.

I thought I loved a few of them, but looking back, although some relationships were emotionally intense, they were not really loving. I felt no deep commitment in any of them. I was content as long as things were going well, but as soon as things got rocky, I saw no point in sticking around. I’m not even sure that more of a commitment on my part would have made any difference. Let’s face it, sometimes, you just have to cut your losses. But then, sometimes, you have to see it out past the bad or inconvenient stuff and hope it turns a corner.   I was never good at knowing which was which, nor very patient at waiting to see how it would play out. Perhaps the right person might have inspired me to put it more of an effort. Perhaps I was the one who needed to be the inspiration.

I never had children either. I always thought that, too, would just happen. But it never did. Never the right time. Never the right person.

I lived a small life; didn’t learn as many lessons as I could have, should have.

The main thing I’ve come to understand is that fear is the enemy of everything good.


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Keen Observer

Originally posted August 31, 2014

Bread in Oven


In the village where I lived my entire life, the roads were made of dirt and mud. Those people who could afford to, built their homes from brick or block, cement, and corrugated metal. Those who could not, build theirs of wood, metal scraps, and mud. Nobody had more than four sets of clothing: two for summer and two for winter. Many had only one.   Some people had shoes; others did not.

I suppose by some standards,  we lived in poverty, but since we had no idea how others lived, we had no basis of comparison, and so we never thought of ourselves as poor. Ultimately, it made no difference to the lives we lived, the lessons we learned, the love we shared, the pain we suffered. The human condition is the same everywhere.

Even among those who have so very little, there were the haves and the have-nots.   My family was in the middle. We went hungry from time to time, but mostly that was because of the weather, when the crops didn’t do well, or the animals starved. But then, most everyone suffered during those times, as well.

I never felt myself poor. We were not so different from most everyone we knew. I never longed for more. I was content.

From the time I was a young girl,  I enjoyed observing people,  watching how they behaved, how they socialized with others.  In my small village, everyone knew everyone. Keeping secrets was impossible. We knew who was happy in their circumstances and who was not, and why.  We knew who loved unrequitedly, who held a grudge, who envied whom. We knew who was stupid and who was wise,  who was selfish and who was magnanimous,  who could be relied on when you needed help and who you could count on to stick the knife in deeper.

From an early age, these personalities, these relationships, these behaviors fascinated me.

There was an old baker in the village who had built his brick oven himself,  long before I was born.  All the women brought their bread and larger meals to be cooked there. None of them could have built such a hot fire at home because it would have been impossible for a woman (even with the help her children) to collect that much wood. It was difficult enough to gather enough to keep a house warm in winter. A fire in the small stove might be enough only to heat a pot of water for tea or to boil an egg or to keep a pot of bits and scraps cooking until it became soup. Of course in the summer,  it was  too hot to keep a fire going inside.  And so we had a communal bakery.

Every morning,  the wives or their young daughters or sometimes a servant, brought their kneaded loaves or other ingredients to the baker, to be cooked together with everyone else’s.  The old baker, who everyone called Grandfather even though he had no children of his own, also sold his own bread and buns and some savories and sweets, which some villagers bought as well.

Grandfather was a nice man with a good soul.  Everybody liked him.  If a family could not pay, he would never shame them. He would tell them kindly to pay when they could, even when he knew he was likely to never be paid at all. It was not in his heart to let anyone starve if he could help it.

When I was about 8 years old, there was a young man in the village who worked for the baker. He was very full of his own worth,  full of important advice for everyone, always telling others the best way to run their businesses even though, he, himself, had no business of his own. He was always telling Grandfather how to improve things, but Grandfather had been in business since before this young man was born, and he did not appreciate the unsolicited advice.

Others advised the young man to mind his tongue and do his job,  for the old man would eventually pass away and then he could take over the business and do with it whatever he wanted.   But he could not wait.   So, he moved away to the city, which was very far. He worked there for a few years at something (nobody really knew) until he had saved enough money to start his own bakery in the village.

When he came back,  he built his own oven. In front, he built a low wall to create a kind of outdoor room. There he put some tables and chairs. It became a kind of spontaneous café for men to gather, to drink strong tea and eat a small cake or two, to smoke, to play cards, to discuss politics and religion.

The young man thought he was very clever because now he had both a bakery and a café, and was sure he could make twice as much money as Grandfather. The fact is, the bakery was where all the profit was. A café didn’t earn much. These men sat all day with one pot, always asking for more hot water.

In his foolishness and ignorance he expected the village women to flock to his bakery, which was larger and of course newer and offered some social activity. What he failed to consider, was that the women did not want to pass through a group of men, on their way to the oven. These women worked hard.  They gathered wood and carried water from the well. They minded the small animals. And the children, too, of course.  They worked like donkeys from sunrise until everyone in their families was safely asleep.  These women resented working hard while men sat idle. They did not want to be reminded of it.  It made them bitter.  And so,  they avoided the place.

Soon,  with no customers for his oven, the young man could not keep his business open. He lost everything. Ashamed , chastened, and once again poor,  he left the village for the city once more. I never saw him again but I thought about him a lot.

He had failed because he was a bad judge of human nature, including his own.

That was the first time I understood how tragic a human flaw it was not to understand others; how much more successful someone could be in life if they paid close attention to the needs and desires of both their friends and enemies.

And from then on, I made it a point to study others and to understand what they wanted most deeply.  I quickly learned this was rarely what it appeared to be on the surface.  A man might start an argument with someone of a higher status not because he was angry at the man but because he resented his own low standing. To win such an argument was to steal some of that man’s power. A woman might want a new piece of jewelry from her husband not because she needed more finery, but because it showed others that her husband valued her. She craved the status of that; not his actual love..  A girl might act aloof or tease a boy, not because she wants to hurt him or push him away, but because she likes him and doesn’t know how to express her own feelings.

Like everywhere, people desired the same things: love, power, status, freedom from pain and discomfort. And like everywhere, they often went about getting them the wrong way.

I observed these things closely all my life, and I thought about them as I went about my days. And the more I understood, the more things made sense to me.   I didn’t get upset when people behaved badly because I could see through it to the real reason, and I had compassion.

Many people came to me, asking for my advice. And from where I sit now, I still believe it was good advice.

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you so much for your support!


photo: Roseman Creek Ranch

One Truth

listen to One Truth/Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Whoever believes without question and adheres most closely to dogma is not the holiest among you. There are no answers without questions, rejected answers, and more questions.

There is only one truth and it is this: You will never know the Truth.

To settle on understanding is delusion, but to cease questioning is to shackle the soul’s ascent.


Omar Faruk Tekbilek,  an amazing and deeply spiritual musician whom I’ve had the privilege to meet, interview and chat with many times.  If you don’t know his work,  I encourage you to search him out.  His first solo album, Whirling,  is still one of my very favorites,  even 25 years after I first heard it.  Absolutely hypnotic.  If you’re looking for one album to listen to when you’re in “that mood” — that’s the one!  He is a virtuoso on many instruments and his voice is like buttah.  Or honey.  Or honey buttah.


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photo from

Layers of the Seasons

first published August 28, 2014

Lock and Key


He was the lock; I was the key. Or so I thought. Maybe it was the other way around.

I loved him because I could love him in exactly the way he needed to be loved. He was difficult (as was I!) and often tried my patience, but if I didn’t love him, who would? He often treated me badly, occasionally took his hand to me, frequently neglected me,  routinely said hurtful things, but even so, I knew he loved me in his own, often emotionally convoluted way. He knew I could find a man who treated me better, a man who deserved me more,  so it meant everything to him that I stayed married to him.

Over the years, friends and family urged me to leave him. He was no good for me, they said. He made me cry, made me feel less of myself. They made me question whether I was lying to myself about why I stayed.

But not good for me? What did that even mean?

Sometimes, I thought of myself as pathetic, desperate and needy. Other times, I felt proud of myself for taking the higher but more difficult road.

When things were bad, they were painful and awful and made me doubt. But when they were good, they restored my faith in the belief that this was the right choice for me.

When he was sober and contrite, he was loving and charming. He was intelligent and deep, but too often his demons got the better of him. He knew he mistreated and neglected me, and he knew that he had to make it up to me, double, when he was capable. That was how he held on to me through the worst of times.

I suppose I could say our marriage had its seasons. There were times of plenty followed by drought and famine. When love was abundant, I’d gorge. I’d fill up my heart to bursting. I’d squirrel away every bit of kindness, storing them in the hidden recesses of my soul and my memory. This got me through the lean times.

There were months, even years of famine when I felt it was time to pick up and move away. This soil was dry and dusty and nothing would grow here anymore. And then, just as I was about to leave, the rains would come and everything would spring back to life! Love burst back into bloom, and I’d think, How can I leave this place? It’s the only home I know.

I felt bound to him though never dependent. If I’d felt dependent, I’d surely have left him early on. No, that wasn’t the word. I felt responsible for him. As if I’d been put on the earth just to understand him; to be the only one he could love.

But that was only part of it. It filled a need in me, too, to be with him. I needed to be loved like that – singularly and deeply. As long as there was that, I could deal with everything else.

Most people search for a perfect, flawless human being to love and be loved by. They believe that such perfect person will provide perfect happiness.   In fact, nothing in life is learned from perfection. The lessons are found in working with and through the imperfections. I could not have expressed this while I was alive. I raged at the imperfection. I wanted the pain and frustration to end so all would be peacefully ideal.

In the beginning, I didn’t understand all the layers beneath the layers. But as we shed each one, I loved us more. We became closer, paring away our fears, one by one. We scraped off the veneer to reveal the truth below. We melted off of the coating that held everything neatly in place so we could deal the messy reality. Sometimes it felt like too much to process, and one or the other of us just wanted to run.

Apart and together. Apart and together. Apart and together. And with each together, another layer was gone, bringing us closer to the meat of it, to the seed, to the real reason we stayed with each other; to understanding the basis of our bond.

I don’t know if I could have done it for fifty or sixty years. I died before I found out. I am not sure we would have been willing to keep scratching away like that or if we would have eventually come to an end.   Or perhaps, one day, finally, all would have been exposed and there would have been nothing left to learn of or from each other. Maybe one of us would have reached that point first, and walked away.

Certainly, I was not so easy to live with, myself. I was often angry, impatient, demanding, frustrated, mean, ornery and occasionally violent. I tried my best to rise above my anger but I will admit to flinging the occasional vase or dish.

I know now that this was one of my tests, my lessons for that life – to understand and overcome anger. I was better in this life than I was in lives past, but I still have work to do.

I supposed I stayed with him because I sensed I needed to learn this.

But it could have been he who ended it. He might have decided that domesticity wasn’t for him; that he was no longer willing to do the work to maintain the balance. He might have been no longer willing to toil when the land was fertile; unwilling to stock the pantry in preparation for the lean times. Without me, his life would have been easier in many ways, but I understand now that he needed the challenge of me, too. I suppose he knew that as well.

This understanding, though unspoken and unconscious, is what bound us. We both heard that inner voice that told us that we were on the right path.

Running away from the lessons is always an option. Human have free will.   I doubt I could have stayed on that particular path for decades more.   Perhaps, if I had lived longer, I might have chosen another road,  leading to different but equally important lessons.

I stayed with him as long as I did because until the very end, I always felt I hadn’t yet solved the riddle of us.  It still intrigued me.

He is not here yet, but I will wait and we will do it again, in a different way.


Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks for your support!



photo credit

I Know What Girls Like…


first published August 25, 2014

Henry Darger from "In the Realms of the Unreal"


My life was just shame. The shame of who I was and of what I did.

The shame of who I was led me to do what I did. The shame of what I did led me further into the shame of who I was.

Where do I begin to explain? My sin is something few humans can comprehend. They can understand murder and rape, thuggery and genocide better than they can comprehend my particular crime. This is not to say they accept or sympathize with such crimes against humanity, but they can make sense of the perhaps irrational motivations – the need to destroy, the need for power, the need for money, the need for freedom or supremacy especially after a lifetime of repression. Perhaps even misguided religious fervor. The human mind can understand how such malignancies can develop because they can make sense of the root cause.

Not so for me.   Even here, looking back, I can’t say I totally understand it myself.  It was just a need, a drive I had. It was an attraction that I could not control. I suppose if I were different, stronger, I might have been able to control my behavior, but my feelings? No. Impossible.

The first time I felt it, I was still young, but old enough to recognize how wrong it was. This is when the shame began.

For most people, sexual and romantic attraction are age-appropriate.   A kindergartner might have a sweet first crush on another child in the class. A twelve-year old boy might try to steal a kiss from a another twelve year old.   Teenagers lust after other teenagers. And adults generally mate amongst themselves.  Certainly children develop crushes on teachers or older persons of authority, but most adults understand what the child has yet to learn:   any sexual relationship would be completely inappropriate and out of balance.

I, however, never grew out of my grade-school sexuality.   By the time I reached my teens, girls my own age frightened me. I felt too much a child, myself.   I sensed they could see right through me. I feared they could see things in me that I didn’t want them to see; things which needed to remain hidden but which I had no ability to conceal.  I suspected they would demand things of me – sexually, emotionally – which I knew I could not satisfy. I feared they would consume me whole or mock me.

I kept my distance.   I spent a lot of time alone. I eventually learned how to fit in. I wasn’t stupid, just emotionally immature with a tragic lack of impulse control.

At first, I’d just fantasize. There were times when my loving gaze fell too long on a beautiful little girl. The accompanying parent would quickly hustle the child out of my sight, while casting back a warning glare over his or her shoulder.

I learned to be more discreet. Not to leer or stare.

I used to masturbate to catalogs of children’s clothing, filled with adorable models. Even as I did it, I recognized how pathetic I was. I went to a couple of those junior beauty pageants, but they were too creepy even for me.   I recognized in the audience, other men with the same feelings as mine and it frightened me. I saw my future, older and just like them. I didn’t want to end up like that, even though I feared I would.

One day, when I was in my late twenties, a new family moved into my apartment complex. They had a beautiful little daughter, maybe 10 or 11. I fell instantly in love with her. I was obsessed.

I bought a puppy to attract her attention, which was the perfect ruse. She would come over to pet him. I’d give her little snacks to feed him. Then, I got her to help me teach him tricks. That gave me an opportunity to be around her longer, with her feeling happy and relaxed.

Her pure joy! Her unsullied innocence! Her translucent skin that allowed her inner light to shine through! The way she looked at me with those huge blue eyes when she asked me a question, and awaited my response as if having an audience with the Buddha! Truly, I was in love. It was as real and deep and meaningful to me as any kind of love is to anyone.

It did not feel shameful. It felt pure. I felt that if she could love me too, it would redeem me.

I was as nervous and afraid as any inexperienced young man might be about approaching a girl he likes. I didn’t want to frighten her. I wanted her to understand things as I did.

I complemented her. Told her how pretty, how smart, how good with animals she was. I gave her small gifts.  I invited her in for snacks. (Her single mother worked, and she was mostly on her own in the afternoons.)   We’d watch TV on the sofa, and eventually, we cuddled.

For her, it was no different than it might have been cuddling with her own father, who had all but abandoned her and whose male attention she obviously missed. But for me, it was absolutely romantic. I was in heaven, just to have her near me, just to smell her hair, to hear her laugh.

And then, one day, we got on the subject of boys. She wanted to know certain things about the facts of life, about male anatomy.   From where I am now, I recognize that she was just a normally curious kid. Her father was absent and her mother was barely there. I was a trusted adult. Who else would she ask?

I understood it as a seduction.  A black curtain inside of me blocked out all normal human emotional logic.  In my immaturity, I imagined that she wanted me, as I wanted her. I believed that this was her way of making the first move. It meant she loved me!

I started so slowly and gently, just touching and telling her how beautiful she was, and how sexy, and how much I liked her and how she could drive a man mad. And she liked it. She did. But she liked it because she was just a child and she had nobody else to tell her these things that she desperately wanted to hear. In her own way, she was as needy and lost in the world as I was.

Of course, she was just a child and I was the adult;  I should have known better. But it didn’t feel that way to me at the time. Emotionally, we were the same age. In fact, to me, she felt older. She seemed confident but in fact, she was just trusting and naïve, and was thus not nervous. She had no reason to be.

Eventually, we had sex. At the time, in my delusional state, it seemed she desired me as much as I desired her. I realize now that I forced myself too quickly on her. She was not ready — not physically and not emotionally. Even if I’d gone more slowly, she still wouldn’t have understood.

For a young girl who is just beginning to recognize her potential as a woman, to sense she has power over an older man, is a heady feeling,.  but is emotion that a ten year old mind cannot process in its full scope. She could not have understood all the ramifications. For her, it was a game: to have a man do whatever she asked; give her whatever she wanted. That was as far as she thought about it. She might well have played this power game with her own father against her mother if he’d been around more.   It was not a sexual thing. She was just a child, only just beginning to understand her power as a female. She was testing her wings.

She didn’t even understand, really, what sex was. She didn’t comprehend the brutality of it on her small body. She didn’t anticipate the pain. Or the terror of having a grown man upon her, essentially holding her prisoner.

When I imagine her face now, I know she was terrified. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I was oblivious to her panic.

And when it was over, she cried. I tried to comfort her but she wanted no part of me. I will never forget the look in her eyes: they screamed “Betrayal!”   Her innocence was gone and it was all my fault. I had totally misjudged the situation (because truly, there was some part of me that was missing, and this rendered me incapable of understanding any of the dynamic in what had just transpired.)

She left and never came back.

I understood after the fact that I’d hurt her but I didn’t understand how I had so badly misjudged. Maybe I was also angry because I felt we were in it together, that our feelings for each other were mutual, that we both wanted it, and it wasn’t fair that she blamed me after she changed her mind. But again, this was a result of my immature thinking.

And in the weeks following, whenever I’d see her around, she would quickly walk the other way. There was a complete change in her demeanor. She had closed in on herself. She was no longer that open, trusting, carefree little girl. The joy had gone out of her eyes, replaced by shock, sadness, fear, mistrust. I’d selfishly stolen her innocence.

I was consumed by guilt.   I knew I’d done a horrific thing. I knew I had destroyed something in her, and that she would not get over it for a long time, if ever. And yet, I could not stop my desire. The worse I felt about myself, the more I needed the love of an innocent to justify my feelings, to restore my sense of self-worth.

It was not logical. I don’t expect anyone else to make sense of it.

She never said anything to anyone, at least not that I ever knew. Her shame and guilt were as great as mine.

I couldn’t bear to see her. I couldn’t bear to have her look at me like that.   I moved far away, to another city. Eventually, I went through something similar with another girl, age twelve. It, too, ended badly. And she also never told. I moved away, again.

The third time, the girl told her parents. I ended up in jail.

This was the right place for me. I fully felt I deserved it. It was a relief not have to worry about further temptation, because I knew if I were still out there, it would only happen again. There was something broken in me, but I couldn’t change it and I couldn’t stop it and with my limited emotional depth, I couldn’t even understand it.

Being in jail for this kind of crime is probably one of the most difficult sentences a man can serve. Even other prisoners are repulsed by such urges.   I did not last long in there, which was for the best. I was long out of choices.


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Henry Darger

artwork: Henry Darger from “In the Realms of the Unreal”

Try A Little Tenderness

New!self awareness self forgiveness


I was intelligent enough to understand that self-knowledge and self-awareness were crucial for spiritual evolvement,  and I absolutely wanted to evolve. I believed that if I understood myself deeply enough, I could become free from my pain.  Although I dove deep, I was not able to find the way out into the light on the other side. I was trapped inside myself with the knowledge of who I was.

I was painfully familiar with every dark, back alley of my soul. I kept strict accounting of my limitations, my fears, my perplexions. And yet, I was powerless against them all.  Neither knowledge nor awareness was able to banish any of it.

I watched  as others went about their lives in blissful ignorance of their own flaws. I wished with envy that I too could forget all that was wrong with me.

And so, I held myself apart from others for fear of hurting them as I flailed around in the darkness. I couldn’t bear to burden anyone with the wretched curse of who I was.  And so I lived alone,  in the shadow of the Light.

Now it is all clear: It wasn’t the knowledge of my flaws that caused my torment. It was my inability to forgive myself for what I could not change.


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Rational Fear


First published Sept 3, 2015
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising


I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

Irrational fear is just a trick of the mind but rational fear scars the soul.

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you always for your continued support.



photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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