The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “free will”

The Curse that Was Me

First published Nov 29, 2014

my voodoo vignette

Ru

My father was always angry at the world. To his mind, no one – not the people he worked with, not his own family, not complete strangers – gave him the respect he believed he deserved.   At home, he was a sullen bully. The rest of us responded each in our own way, based on our own character.

My mother was passive and docile. She accepted his emotional coldness and frequent verbal abuse, cowering but never daring to talk back to him or demand anything for herself.   My sister found her comfort and support elsewhere. She spent as much time away from home as possible. Whatever positive things she learned about family was from the parents of her friends. My brother, the oldest, hated my father. They got into frequent screaming matches, which often ended with my brother storming out of the house.

Me? I took on all the emotional weight upon myself.

No matter who was upset, I always felt I was to blame. If my mother cried, surely it was because of something I’d done. If my father was in a particularly foul mood, somehow I knew I was at the root of it. The voice in my head said, “See what you did?! This is all your fault!”

I felt perpetually guilty. Even if I couldn’t see it, certainly I was responsible for the suffering of someone, somewhere. It was irrational, of course, but this was hard-wired into my brain when I was very young.

Everything I became followed from that.

Since any drama triggered a cascade of guilt and self-loathing, I developed a lifelong distaste for confrontation. I cut as wide a swath as possible around anything emotionally fraught. By the time I was a young man, I’d become quite adept at avoiding conflict.

I cultivated the persona of an affable, agreeable, easy-going gent; polite and courtly in my manners so as not to cause offense.  I made myself small and innocuous to diminish my emotional footprint on the world.

Avoidance of confrontation served me well enough in my twenties. Nobody expects too much maturity from a man at that age. As I got older, however, this behavior became habit, and soon it became my character.

Since I internalized any unpleasantness (hurt feelings, tears, anger) as being my fault, from my perspective it seemed I always left a wake of tears. I felt cursed. Anyone who got too close would inevitably fall victim to this poisonous spell. I would disappoint and hurt them. I was dangerous; not worthy of anyone’s trust, love or affection

All my romantic liaisons followed the same basic script and always ended the same way.

Generally, to avoid conflict, I acceded to as many of her superficial and material demands as I could without actually giving anything significant of myself. I did this to keep her quietly satisfied and emotionally calm. When she asked for more than I was willing to give, I had an unassailable excuse at the ready, one with which she could not argue. Like Houdini, I could make myself vanish.

In this way, I found myself always stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was either submitting to her will or fretting about finding ways to painlessly avoid such acquiescence.   I felt cornered, trapped by my inability to say “No! This is not what I want! I want to do it my way.” Although this cage was of my own making, I resented her for putting me there.

This resentment harkened the beginning of the downward spiral.

I approached each finale with mixed feelings. On one side, I hated to let go. I took great comfort in the love and touch of a woman. Their emotional essence which so confounded me, was the very thing which drew me to them. (What was the point of being with a woman if I felt nothing?) If only we could have remained in the passion phase! But the seed of romance quickly become overgrown with duty and obligation and expectations which I could not fulfill.

How could I be responsible for someone else’s happiness when I could not even nourish my own?

Her emotional demands piled up. The pressure built as she required more of what I could not give.

I avoided and evaded and let her believe whatever she wanted. Honesty and assertiveness were not options. They would have occasioned drama, which would inevitably precipitate cascades of guilt. Rather than revealing my true feelings (or lack of them), I held up a mirror and reflected back what she wanted to see. Direct questions were met with silence or evasion or misdirection, leaving her to fill in the blanks. When pressured, I lied.

But one can only avoid confrontation for so long.

(continued in next post)

 

photo/styling:  Adrienne Gusoff

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Free Will and Its Repercussions

Originally posted November 8, 2014

repercussions

Gat

My greatest sin was not that I beat her. Those wounds would have healed. No, my sin was that I sucked all the love and trust from her so that she was never able to love or trust again. She stayed with me, because she had no choice. But in the end she became cold and hard and bitter and angry. I stole her joy. She never got it back. I made her path hard, and directed her away from more fulfilling paths she could have followed.

If she had managed to save herself from the disaster of being married to me, this weight would not be so heavy upon me now. It’s true, she had free choice. And I suppose it’s also true that we were put together to torment each other in this way; to gain the lessons therein.

We are each always free to choose our own path, but we are never free of obligation to those who cross our paths.

While we are not responsible for the feelings and expectations of others, our treatment of others and how they respond to us reflects positively or negatively upon our own journey. It colors how we perceive and are perceived by the world. This shapes our character which in turn influences our behavior. Our behavior defines our path.

We have free will. We are free to change our behavior. We are free to choose how to treat others. We are free to behave nobly or selfishly.   These choices, for better or worse, have repercussions across many lifetimes. Pain inflicted upon others is not a debt quickly worked off.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

Belonging

first published Oct 1, 2015

pitchforks-mob

 

Ger

When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was not well-versed in the social graces and did not get much respect. I felt odd and apart from others.

In my twenties, I volunteered to do some work for an organization. They were happy to have another body and brain to help the cause.   We were all working towards the same goal, and there was a real sense of community.   For the first time, I felt I belonged and was a part of something.   It pleased me and so I devoted more time.

I quickly and mostly unconsciously assessed the group dynamic, even the more subtle, low-level hierarchy. The closer I moved to those in power, the more I emulated them. The more like them I became, the more respect and higher status I attained within the group.

I devoted myself to making myself as helpful as I could be to those at the top.   I made sure they knew they could trust me and count on me, which they increasingly did. I was always there, ready to do what needed to be done, all in order to make myself indispensable.

Over time, I became a part of the larger inner circle. … not the core group, but close enough so those below me on the ladder thought I was more important than I actually was.

This group came to define me. They were my family, my support team, the only ones who accepted me fully, even though none of us ever really shared our personal feelings with the others.

And then, after a many years, the momentum of the group shifted. They wanted to do things which I did not condone, acts which would cause material and/or psychic harm to others.

I was in a quandary.

If I contradicted their mission, if I protested, if I suggested that as a group we reconsider our actions, I would have been ostracized. I couldn’t bear to go back to the days of having no status, no friends, no acceptance.

I felt it was wrong to follow them, but I was too much of a coward to say no.

Initially, I regretted the harm I did to others but I soon convinced myself that our actions were just. In any case, I did not bear this guilt alone. The ones above me, certainly, but also the ones below. Their belief and compliance allowed those at the top to achieve their goals. It was easy to deny my own complicity when I felt myself to be a cog in a machine that was moving forward with or without me.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Head Down, Eyes on Your Own Work!

NEW!

blinders

Alo

I suppose some might have called me a coward but I’m not sure if that was 100% true, at least not in the sense they meant it.  I was simply disinterested in anything much outside of my own small world to take a stand.  All consequences were measured only insofar as they affected me personally. I kept my nose down, did my job, and as long as I continued to be paid for my work, I did not make trouble or take a position.

When things started to escalate and people were forced to choose sides, I just remained where I was, saying nothing. This inertia was interpreted as tacit agreement with the position of my employers.  I served them, not the greater good.  I wasn’t forced. I wasn’t coerced. My moral positions were limited to whatever would allow me to continue to earn a living and feed my family.  I was not obligated to others.  They could fend for themselves.

As discontent and anger spread, I took shelter in the aegis of my overlords, who promoted me because of my loyalty.  In fact, my loyalty to them went only as far as their loyalty to me. If they had stopped paying me, I would have denounced them in an instant. But, at least for a long time, I did not need to do so.

There came a time, however, when one was on one side or the other, whether you chose it yourself or not.  Doing nothing was choosing a side.  Being willingly obedient was choosing a side.  Being complacent was choosing a side.  Turning a blind eye was choosing a side.   And so, my side was chosen.  Ultimately, this was not the side to be on.

But time passed,  and people forgave those like me, who were just trying to keep their heads down and stay alive.  There were so many of us,  and even though, collectively,  we allowed the evil to happen,  none of us, alone, was responsible.  As a group,  we made excuses for ourselves.  Most of those left standing at the end were of the same ilk.  To blame each other would be to blame ourselves.

It was easy for outsiders to blame us; for those who sacrificed to condemn us for not doing more (or anything at all).  They did not have this dilemma of having to forgive others in order to forgive themselves.   It was easy to create our new reality and make excuses when everybody else was doing the same.

And we seamlessly moved through our lives, into other jobs, with other employers, with new overlords,   once again, giving little attention to what was being done in our name.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a lot of hooey.

No Philosophy, No Mechanism

First published 8/16/15

candle smoke

 

Pa

From the time she left me until the end of her life, all I wished for was that she would finally comprehend what I’d always been trying to make her understand.   Even after the years passed, I always held out hope that one day she would have an epiphany and all would become clear; that she would finally see her own truth from a new perspective, one which afforded her safe distance from her pain. I prayed that one day she would see in herself all the beauty that I saw. I willed that she would understand that believing something is either good or bad fortune is simply a matter of perspective.

She was too unhappy, too caught up in her own pain, to make sense of any of it. I tried with all the love and forgiveness I could muster to keep at her my side, though she fought me as if I were a demon.   She lashed out at everything – good and bad –equally. She had no philosophy, no mechanism by which to extract any value from her suffering.

A tragic life is one in which suffering is in vain. Where pain brings no growth; no advancement in understanding; no deeper empathy for others. No breaking of walls. No ability to be vulnerable. No opening of the mind and spirit. No conquest of fear.

Fear shades the light which illuminates the Truth.

 


 

As I was writing this, my first impression was that it was a man speaking of his lover, but after a while I had the sense it was a parent speaking of their deeply unhappy, emotionally-challenged child. There was  pain because the child predeceased the parent (by suicide, perhaps.)

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
 

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

New

rock-uphill

*

Ruf

We were the same age, but she was so much older than I was. She always seemed to to know what she wanted, and what was right for her, and even what was right for others.

She inspired me to be a better man. To do the right thing. To take the high road. To push my limits. To do the things that made me uncomfortable so I could get past my discomfort. She never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t do, herself. She held herself to a high standard and expected me to hold myself to that same standard.

I knew she was right and for long time, I worked hard.  I wanted to become that man she wanted me to be because I knew it would be an expression of my best self. But I was lazy and fearful and I didn’t trust my own instincts.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge to myself that I was never going to get beyond my limitations.   I was never going to be the kind of man who was truly worthy of her.  Trying and not succeeding made me feel like a failure, although she, herself, never suggested such a thing. For her it was enough that I remained dedicated to trying.

I started to resent her moral and spiritual superiority. I resented her certainty in always knowing right from wrong. I resented the way she was always sure of herself. It made me feel less certain of who I was and who I should be. I felt I was losing myself in her image of who she thought I could be. And so I stopped trying to live in the world as she saw it. That was her world. I needed to live in mine. I didn’t want to have to think about things so deeply. I lost my drive to see how good I could be. I simply wanted to be left alone, unchallenged. And so, eventually she obliged me.

Four years of marriage ended in acrimony. It took me many, many years to understand that love.

We had no children to hold us together and so we went our separate ways. Eventually we both married other people. I heard from mutual acquaintances that she married happily, to a man who saw life as she did. I married a woman who was easy and kind, undemanding and simple in her outlook. She didn’t require much more than casual kindness and some basic respect, which is as much as I gave her. I appreciated her but there was no deep love.  Her most endearing quality was that she let me be.

In the end, that was no good for me, either.  I reverted to my lazy ways; no longer pushed myself uphill.   Instead I remained down at the bottom where no effort was required, surrounded by those who were as lazy as I was.

In my life, I never accomplished anything without being challenged by someone else, yet when challenged, I grew resentful, angry; I backed away so as not to drown in the secret humiliation of inevitable failure.

I understand now that my first wife was right.  She wasn’t pushing so much as encouraging me to create my own challenges.  Positive changes are positive changes, even if they are small and incremental.    It’s the not size of the change but the direction.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

Q and A with Davoo

Originally posted May 12, 2014

davoo

Davoo  (This is just a name I made up for this entity, not a name given to me.)
S/he is clearly different from the others thus far, in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

Davoo (this is just a name I created for this entity, not a game given to me.) S/he is clearly different from the others thus far in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

What are my regrets, you want to know? So many, I don’t know where to begin. On the other hand, I know that no one can do it all in one body.   We break off bits of human experience and take them one life at a time. I did what I could do, to the best of my ability. And if my ability was limited, that was as it should have been — for the lessons, of course.

I had more regrets at the end of my life than I do now, because now I can see the bigger picture. Then, dying for two years, I had plenty of time to think about all the things I did wrong and all the things I should have done that I didn’t. I regretted not appreciating my parents more when they were alive. I regretted not savouring the childhoods of my kids to a greater degree.   They grew up so fast!   And because we weren’t close, they moved far away and I didn’t get to see my grandkids more than a couple of times a year. I regretted not expressing to those I loved how I felt about them.

You want to know if I was a man or a woman. Does it matter? Here, there is no gender. I barely can remember through whose eyes I saw the world in which lifetime. I am still trying to figure out how I need to come back the next time.

You want to know how many lives. Honestly, I don’t remember. At least ten. It’s hard to remember further back than that. As I said, they all kind of blend together.   I’ve often been with the same souls, so I get confused sometimes if, in any particular life, I was the husband or wife, the mother or the child.   It’s as if we’re a troupe of actors who often work together, always performing different plays.

How long between? Depends. Sometimes we have to figure things out first; contemplate and answer our own questions. Sometimes we have to wait for others to die, so we can be together again. But here, there is no time, so what does it matter? A month of earth time or a hundred years. It’s all the same.

Do I feel emotional pain? When I first came back I did. I was still somewhat attached to the regrets of my last body. I had to work though my guilt.   But sooner or later, I got the necessary perspective. Now when I feel anything, it’s compassion.

How? Compassion in that I understand that everyone is on their own journey. We are all doing what we need to do, and our worldly goals often conflict with others’.   Up close, we butt up against each other. We are constricted by our lack of understanding; by our base human emotions and instincts.   It is difficult to find compassion among the living.    But here, we are so removed from the pain of everyday life, we are able to see things objectively. We can watch dispassionately yet with more understanding. We can see the how the small players influence the main stage. Mostly I guess, it’s because nobody’s doing anything to us anymore so it’s easy to be generous with our love.

How does that love manifest? As I said, mostly as compassion. Sometimes, we try to whisper and nudge humans in the right direction.   To them, it sounds like an inner voice. Unfortunately, most of them don’t listen. I guess we show our love in that we keep trying to make them hear us, even when they ignore us.

Do some listen better than others? Oh, some are marvelous listeners! Everybody recognizes them, too. They always seem peaceful and sure of themselves. And never afraid. Humans admire those qualities in others, but most of them don’t understand how those qualities develop. They don’t recognize that they could be the same if they only listened to those internal voices that either urged them forward or warned them away.

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was, it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

 

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was,  it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

 

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The Lure of the Jungle

Original publication date Feb 23, 2015

baby_monkey_2

Ca

I once had a pet monkey.  I loved him but he did not stay long.

He was just a baby when I found him. He was hurt and frightened. He’d been orphaned or perhaps abandoned. People believe that every mother has a biological drive to protect her child, but I can tell you this isn’t always so.  So I took him as my own child. I nurtured him and taught him as best I could.

After some time, he began to run away.    The first time, he was gone for a whole day. I looked for him everywhere! I called his name through the trees until my throat was sore.   I was mad with grief and panic! I was sure I would never see him again. But then, the next morning, there he was in his favorite spot on the porch. He greeted me as always. I was so happy to see him, I forgave him for putting me through all that.

As he got older, he began to run away more often. Each time, he stayed away longer and longer. Each time, I was sure I’d seen the end of him but he always came back. For a long time, each time he ran away, I would cry and worry but after a while, however, he was gone more than he was with me. When he went away, I simply shrugged my shoulders and went about my days, without giving him much thought.  I stopped looking for him.

He would return when he returned.

When he did, I let him inside, but I did not hold him close. I stopped feeding him. He didn’t need that from me anymore. I did nothing to keep him bound to me.  I did not allow my emotions to be stirred. I knew he would be gone again soon.

Until a year passed and I realized he was gone for good.

Eventually I moved away from that place. If he ever returned, he did not find me. He could no more stay with me than I could have lived in the trees in the jungle.

I soon forgot the pain of loving that monkey but I remembered the lesson: no matter how much somebody loves you,  if it suits them better to be elsewhere, they will leave. Sooner or later, everyone seeks to exist in the place where they are most comfortable; to live in their natural habitat.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

The Subtle Bouquet of My Pain

First published Feb 5, 2015
Wine_Flood-es

Phi

I had so many opportunities to understand. I turned my back on almost every one of them, avoiding unpleasant emotions as much as possible. Of course, I did learn a few things along the way but these were mostly passive lessons. I didn’t throw myself into life, savoring every emotion, turning the flavors over on my tongue until I could discern the subtle nuance in the bouquet, the way an oenophile considers a complex wine. I did not understand the difference among love and lust and obligation and affection and self-serving need. I never picked up on the connection between insecurity and anger. I didn’t recognize the link attaching my deepest fears to my most self-destructive behaviors.

Instead, I festered and stewed; ate myself up with anger and resentment. I blamed everyone else for my misery. I never looked to the source of the problem which of course, in one’s own life, is always oneself.

It is only through the closest and most brutally honest examination of our emotions that we find our own truth, and the peace that comes with it.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

Ipoism, Part 2

Originally posted February 2, 2015
scribe
 (Continued from previous post. Still taking dictation from Ipo!)

The only truth that matters is the one found within.

A good guru teaches how to dig a thousand layers beneath the ego to find it.

First, you must calm your mind. It matters not whether you recite the rosary, practice transcendental meditation or yoga, or whirl like a Dervish.

Each philosophy, each movement, each religion prescribes its own method of ascent. Many insist their path is the only way.   This is not true.   Dogma is political. It is a way to control. Ritual for its own sake is not the path to spirituality. Ritual is only effective if it quiets the mind and turns thought both within and without.

Choose whatever works best for you. But choose! You must choose! If one method does not work, try another. And another. And another. Do not be lazy about this. It is essential to your spiritual growth.   Without this, nothing else can be learned. So this is the first thing to learn.

The only prayer you need is “Why?”   Then quiet your mind and listen for the answer.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! Feel free to post/ask/suggest/comment.
-Adrienne

 

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