The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “karma”

Going Under

first posted Sept 13, 2015

drowning hand

On

There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy.   They will work to coax a smile from a stranger.  They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.

I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.

People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.

Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation.    Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior!   We wait to be pulled in.   We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.

At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.

I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.

Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.

 

—————–

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Sloppy, Painful, Glorious

 

First published Sept 1, 2015

messy-heart

Ge

For some, love is theoretical. All the action takes place in the head. Emotions are based on fantasy which  is within control,  and thus cannot disappoint. These people cannot bear to be soiled by love’s sloppiness and unpredictability.  They play at love, but never truly engage.

For me love was real and big and sloppy and painful and glorious. I wanted to be in it elbows deep, mucking about the unknown. I wanted to roll around in its stink; smelling everything and everyone who preceded me.

It was never going to be perfect. I knew I’d be lucky if it was merely good. But I relished the mess; the challenge of unwinding a knotted ball of yarn;  the stains and scars standing as witnesses.   This is living! To jump first and learn to swim as you’re drowning!

In the end, complex, challenging, emotionally-muddled love affairs cause far less heartbreak than those which never get started.

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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!

The Choice of No Choice

first published 7/29/15

 

drought-cow

Ka

When you’re poor you do not have a lot of choices. The poorer you are, the fewer choices you have. We were so poor, I had only one choice.

I had seven to care for…my wife, my five children and myself. I had no work. The soil was so barren, nothing grew. We were starving to death.  We had already lost two little ones, but we didn’t have the luxury of mourning. Poor people living in such dire conditions know better than to become too attached to infants until it’s clear they have the strength and will of spirit to survive. Life for us was difficult and precarious. Chances of living to an age of self-sufficiency were not high.  This is not to say we did not do our best for our children, but we were philosophical when they did not survive. So many died young. That was just the way of life.

Of course, as they got older, as their personalities developed, they became more precious to us. My oldest daughter was 14, born during better times, when we had some hope. She was quite lovely and graceful, a very sweet child.  She was strong and smart. To look at her made me happy and proud, and yet sad and ashamed that she had been born to me — I who could do nothing for her. I wished I could have offered her more.

One day, I was approached by a man from the city who offered to give me money for her. He promised to take her to a place where she could have a better life – lots of food to eat, pretty clothes. My wife wanted to do it. She knew the promises were hollow but she would have sacrificed her for the benefit of the rest of us.   But I was not naïve. I had heard about what they did to the girls from the small, poor villages. Stories came back, in bits and pieces. They were horrific. I  had heard of the kinds of things they made the girls do. I knew the kind of lives they were forced into. It was said these girls were usually dead of drugs or beatings or suicide in just a few years.

I couldn’t do it. I could not sell my daughter like a goat, to be slaughtered. I could not condemn her to a life – such that it was — of slavery and abuse. It was not her fault she was born to such a useless father.   As desperate as I was, I knew it was immoral to sell my child. I could not bear the guilt, even if it meant saving my other children, at least for a while.

So, I did what I had to do. This was discussed with my wife who finally agreed that my plan was the only way.

I knew of some plants that would put us all to sleep so we would never awaken. We fed them first to the youngest, then the older ones, then my wife and I took ours.

There was no pain and at least we died together, in our own hut, as a family. It was more loving and peaceful and compassionate than watching each other die, one by one, from disease and starvation, counting the days until finally Death came for us, too.

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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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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!
 

Working the System

First posted August 10, 2015

tree against night sky

Ipo  

It is in the nature of human beings to place their faith in a system of logic in which the world makes sense. They seek the type of structure which best suits their outlook. If they are the kind who need tangible, visible proof, they turn to science. If they are the kind who need ritual, they turn to religion.   If they are the kind who don’t cotton to authority, they take a more nebulous spiritual path.

Strict adherence to any of these paths is not the answer; these are only the ways to the answers.

Most humans don’t get beyond the specific rituals of their chosen path.   They follow, but they don’t chart their own way. They stop seeking long before the real quest even begins.   They become distracted by easy answers to their questions and quick solutions to their problems.

Gurus speak of becoming one with a higher consciousness. Scientists speak of the wonders and secrets of the universe. Priests and rabbis and imams speak of abandoning oneself to God (i.e. giving up the ego.)   They all speak of the same thing. When one understands that, they are just beginning to comprehend.

Humans look for word from on high. They seek guidance.  They look for signs.

There are no signs needed. All the answers are within your own heart.

 

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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!

ofthedead

Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional

First published July 11, 2015
suffering

Ipo  (it’s been a while!)

Every living thing — human beings, animals, plants — does what it must to avoid deprivation, injury and pain. This is their biological imperative.

When pain cannot be avoided, it must be numbed or ameliorated as best as possible, with whatever means available. This too, is a biological imperative.

Since there is no life without pain, part of each human journey is to develop one’s own methods for avoiding as much of it as possible. This defines life’s path.

Even those humans who harm themselves or invite others to inflict physical pain, do it to supplant/ protect themselves against/ distract themselves from an even deeper, psychic pain.

If the pain, whether physical or psychic, is ongoing and considerable and cannot be avoided,  the method used to numb that pain becomes an addiction.

Some quiet their pain with excessive drink or inebriates. Perhaps they court danger by taking unnecessary risks.  Perhaps they lie naked, too often, with strangers. Or attempt dominion over everything around them. They may eat or starve themselves until they lose their health; or acquire too many things they do not need; or alter their physical form in the hope their monster will not recognize them.

But these methods merely mask the pain; they do not destroy it.   Until it is vanquished, there can be no release from addiction.

Much pain can be eliminated once the source is found. In order to find it, however,  one must stop running from it. It must be allowed to manifest itself completely in order to ascertain its full shape and size. It must be studied so its weaknesses are revealed. Confronting such a formidable enemy demands extraordinary bravery; it requires cutting a new path across uncharted territory.

Depression and anger are side effects of the belief that one is powerless against the pain.


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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!

A Leader for His Time

New!

let-go

Soa

I was a leader of my people for many, many years.  I was chosen because I was wise and good, and I had learned to lead from the leader who went before me. I was fair in my judgment, even-handed in my decisions.  I understood that if my people were to live in peace, everyone must believe their needs are being met.  For some to prosper while others suffered,  for some to win at the expense of others,  caused resentment, and this caused problems. No one went without, regardless of how little they were able to contribute. These were our values and we understood that they kept us whole.

But there came a time when I was old, when the bravery and boldness of youth was more important than the wisdom and steady guidance of age. And so I relinquished my power to a warrior chief.  I did not agree with all he did,  but once I ceded my position, I did not question his authority. He was the leader who was necessary for the times.

One must never hold too tightly to what must be let go in order to achieve  the greatest good for the greatest number. This is not a sacrifice.  It is the minimum requirement necessary in order to consider oneself a member of the human race.

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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!

Show Me the Place

 

leonard

first published Sept 25, 2015
(And since it was Yom Kippur again this week,  I’m posting this one slightly out of chronological order….)

A post from me:

Wednesday was Yom Kippur. Although it’s been many decades since I observed the Day of Atonement in any traditional sense,  this year I spent all day listening  Leonard Cohen, who is, after all, a great rabbi.  Actually,  I listened to one song in particular  again…and again…and again, each time hearing it anew. The song, “Show Me The Place” is from the Old Ideas album.   I found myself moved more deeply than  any synagogue service or rabbi ever could.

LISTEN

The song addresses the struggle shared by so many of us; of trying to remain “in the light” while dealing with the necessary mundanities of real life – earning a living, having to interact with those who test our ability to forgive, to curb our anger at life’s indignities and injustices.

Most of Leonard Cohen’s work deals with his own quest for peace through love and spirituality; his struggle to overcome the depression, self-loathing, fear, cowardice, shame and sense of unworthiness which have plagued his entire life. His songs have always been filled with imagery of submission and slavery and supplication.

“Oh, take this longing from my tongue; whatever useless things these hands have done.”

        –Take This Longing  

I asked my father I said, ‘Father change my name’. The one I’m using now it’s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.”

     Lover, Lover, Lover.

In the 90s, he spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, where he eventually became an ordained monk. He credits this time of study and the Buddhist philosophy as having helped him greatly to understand his own pain and to ameliorate some of his emotional suffering.

By the late 90s, he was in a good place.  Then in his 60s, he had ample income from his music, and was able to devote his time to writing and recording, living a peaceful life of meditation and introspection  writing about the things that moved him without financial worry, insulated from many real world distractions.

In 2004, he discovered that his long-time manager, a trusted family friend, had embezzled millions of dollars, draining even his retirement account. There were lawsuits and counter-suits aplenty. One  can imagine his state of mind at this time. Ripped from a life of relative peace,   and thrust into nasty legal battles and heavy financial obligations to others. He had to go back on tour; back to working for others, relinquishing his well-deserved freedom.  (“There were chains, so I hastened to behave.”)   It’s easy to imagine him overcome with very un-Buddhist-like feelings of anger, betrayal, frustration, even hatred which must have been difficult to assuage. He may well have lost the ability to keep his depression at bay.

All those years of living in the light, of letting go of ego,  and suddenly, all the lessons feel lost to him. He tries to hold on as best he can, but can only salvage a shred of light – “a particle, a wave.”

In this song of supplication, he is entreating God to tell him where to stand so he can regain the old perspective, so he may once again live in a state of grace.

It is a song of supreme sadness and pain. It put me in a tender, weepy state. Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for two days straight.

For me (and I know many of you readers), it’s a constant struggle to forgive those who need forgiveness most; to open my heart to those who hate or who have hurt me. I work every day to separate the needs of my ego from the path of my higher self.   Although I would be most content spending my days in spiritual contemplation, I must work to make a living, often forced to deal with people who fill me with some very UN-spiritual thoughts.

This song is a hymn to that struggle in all of us – to hold on to the Light in the face of darkness;  to truly live in the light and not just pay it lip service. I don’t always win that battle, and the losses are always filled with pain.

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place, where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

 

yom-kippur-prayer


FYI,  Leonard has a new album out next week.  Click to order.

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He Carried a Torch

originally posted May 23, 2014

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

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Dim

I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but she was not the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite so there would be no temptation for comparison; so I would not be constantly reminded of what I was missing.

The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything important or worthwhile.

I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard.  I hid this truth from my wife but such feelings cannot be concealed.  They permeate every action, every thought, leaving a whiff of disappointment and regret on everything.  My heart was elsewhere; my desires lived in the past.

My wife deserved to see love in my eyes, but I never fully gave myself to her. I held back a large part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was seventeen.

My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go and that she would be there when the floodgates opened, that she would finally be washed in all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that this was the issue. I never told her “the truth.”

Looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.

I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.

After she died, when I was in my late seventies,  I made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it were my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.

I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)

I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.

I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it.

Perhaps it’s the same thing.

There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.

 

 

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-Adrienne

 

Love at 67

originally posted May 18, 2014

 

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each other’s’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some political groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books, had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music, had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but I’d been afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t, I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I hope the next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other.  I suppose we might have found each other sooner if I’d been true to myself earlier, but I could evolve only as quickly as I could understand.

The journey is the lesson. The lesson is the journey.

____

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!

 

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