The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Meaning of Life”

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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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.
 
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What Money Can’t Buy

first published Nov 20, 2014

rich kid silver spoon

Cha

What a waste of a life!

It took me until my 40s before I started to feel as if something were missing from my life. I made a few of attempts to find ways to fill the void but I was useless at anything practical. I failed at each attempt — spectacularly and embarrassingly. So I gave up and went back to my former louche, superficial and self-indulgent ways, but now with much less pleasure.

When I was young, I never questioned that I could have anything I wanted. I could buy whatever I wished. I could pick up at a moment’s notice and travel halfway around the world on a whim.  There were always lots of people willing to laugh at my jokes,  to revel in my company, to sleep in my bed. It never occurred to me to feel bad or ashamed that everything I had had been bought…including, in their fashion, the laughter, the reveling and the sex. There was nothing beyond that which I wanted.  I had all that I desired and desired all I had.

Eventually, however, as I got older, the people I met in my circle tended to be wealthy because they had accomplished something.  Even those born rich, seemed to have achieved success in their chosen pursuits.   And while there was a fair share of marriages of convenience, there were many who genuinely loved their spouses.

This started to nag at a corner of my psyche.

The thought started small but I soon began to feel that people only saw me as an extension of my money.

Of course that should have been ridiculously obvious. But for decades it was completely opaque to me.  I’d been content in my shallow world and had seen no reason to think too deeply about matters which might sow seeds of dissatisfaction.

But as this realization grew, I got the notion that I wanted to possess something money could not buy: The pride of accomplishment.   Self-respect.   Someone who loved me for myself.

This was the first good impulse I had in my life.

Unfortunately, it came too late.  I had no idea how to be loved for myself or what that even meant. I did not possess the emotional skills needed to truly love or be loved. My values were too warped. I had no instincts. I tried to express love but other than buying material gifts, I had no idea how to give of myself. I sought love but was too naive to know when I was being taken advantage of. I paid a heavy price for that, both emotionally and financially.

I tried my hand at business and even local politics. Once again, my instincts (or rather lack of them) failed me. I had no understanding of how the world functioned outside my rarefied milieu.

After several years of failures, I was, for the first time in my life, dissatisfied. I still played my social role. Still traveled in the right circles.  Ate and drank in the right places. I was now aware, however, of the subtle mocking disdain of others. Or perhaps that was self-disdain. I honestly don’t know.

There came a time when I withdrew from that circle and surrounded myself with those who admired me…for the same superficial reasons I’d once admired myself.  It was a vain and shallow and unexamined life. Pickled in gin.

I ran away from those who I felt judged me negatively. Ironically, if I hadn’t cared about their respect, they’d have respected me more. Or, again, perhaps I only would have believed they did. I imagine, either way, the same number of people would have liked me perfectly well (or disliked me) exactly as I was (and had always been).

The issue, I understand how, was not how they perceived me, but how I perceived their perception of me.

So, I surrounded myself with those even more needy and self-loathing than I. This allowed me to feel better about myself. My positive delusions about myself were reinforced by my coterie of hangers-on.

I told myself I didn’t need my old circle.  I talked myself into believing that I was lucky not to have been caught in that prison of strict mores and expectations. I convinced myself I was better off and freer where I was.

On those rare occasions when I was took a good, hard, honest look at myself,  I granted that I had run away from them. This notion made me feel bad enough not to want to examine it any more deeply.

What I never understood was that I was not running away from them.  I was running from the image of myself which I projected on upon them.

 

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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.

The Space Between the Galaxies

first published November 14, 2014

immense Andromeda galaxy

Ze

There is an ether separating this world from yours; a vast ocean of energy. To access the other side,  you must be willing to embark on a great journey, even knowing you will likely be tossed back upon the shore. But if you persevere, eventually you will catch the right current. It will carry you out and give you new perspective. If you are willing to go where it takes you, if you stay awake and aware, you will see Truth in new ways.

Circumstances are not always within your control. As with fishing, you must wait patiently, hoping for the right conditions.

Push aside all self-generated thoughts — certainly all the worry, fear, doubt, sorrow, anger, guilt and recriminations — but also pride and any sense of your personal importance. Let go of the egotistical belief that your feelings, challenges and achievements are uniquely important. This is what is meant by “abandoning the ego.”

Focus on the void; the empty space between your thoughts, like the darkness between galaxies. Concentrate your mind there until it becomes real. Then step into it.

Let whatever comes come. No need to force it. It is whatever it is. Allow yourself to be pulled in and carried along.  Dedicate yourself to the practice of quieting the mind; to tune in to what lies beyond. Let go of everything you thought you knew. Accept what you did not believe was possible.  Climb to dizzying heights so you may see life from a more objective perspective, then realign your thinking.

Watching the Earth from the moon, it is easy to recognize how small and insignificant you are.  The higher up you go, the more distant your view, and the wider your perspective.

Even If you can just get above your personal relationships, you’ve gone a respectable distance.

There is no shortcut.

Shed your skin. Step into the void naked and trusting.

The answers are there.

 

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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.

The Eye of the Needle

published Feb  23, 2106

eye of needle camels

 

Ipo

To achieve great wealth and power in a human lifetime, one must be almost single-minded in such a pursuit, desiring these things above all else. These wants are driven by the ego — the gratification of rising above and having dominion over others. The satisfaction derives from the mistaken notion that greatness in one’s lifetime makes one superior to their fellow man.

But human achievement is not equal to spiritual achievement. In reality, one likely precludes the other. The more one appeases the ego, the less one is able to develop spiritually.

Observe  the very rich, the very powerful — politicians and kings, religious leaders and giants of industry.  It is easy to recognize how disconnected many of them are from the purest part of their own souls.

They fill the void with the spiritual equivalent of empty calories – material goods, status, , with the game of bending others to their will. And although they may have greater ability to shape the world to their whim and even direct the course of history, once on the other side they hold no special status except as having been a tool to move along the story of humankind;  a tool of the universe.

However the desire for greatness is not the only way in which humans cater to the ego. Submission to any of the various manifestations of the self  —  insecurity, fear, guilt, desire, grief, anger, pain — prevents  the soul from ascending, from connecting with the greater universe. This is what blocks the soul’s path to true peace

To covet anything –even serenity and spirituality — is to accede to the ego.

sculpture by Russian artist Nikolai Aldunin

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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.
 

The Reality of False Realities

Originally published Oct 27, 2014
M.C. Escher: Relativity

M.C. Escher: Relativity

 

Ipo (again)

All humans are looking for The Truth. They seek one practical unified theory which will miraculously make sense of their lives. They believe that when they find it, they will be happy.

But no such Truth is knowable to living man. He may understand enough to give him peace in his life, but he will not, cannot, know everything.

Imagine the soul as a vast, deep cave, and at the bottom is the Door to the Universe.   Many of the answers to important questions are to be found through that door, but to reach it requires difficult and terrifying navigation, a lifetime of work and complete commitment to the quest.

The main room, itself, is filled with much perceived danger (notice I said perceived because in fact, nothing can hurt you here) and it is with riddled with side shafts leading to other rooms of various sizes.   It is difficult not to become lost in this labyrinth.

These tunnels and hallways lead to rooms of various sizes. Once you find yourself within such a room, your mind perceives what you are experiencing as absolute truth even though this sense of reality is actually illusion.

These are Rooms of False Reality, which are countless in their number.

Some False Realities are shared by millions, all unified by the same delusion. The sense of “living in truth” is reinforced and reflected back by the shared false beliefs of others.

Some False Realities are perceived by only one.   This may take the form of a single delusion, paranoia, insanity, euphoria, monomania, self-aggrandizement, even depression, low self-esteem, self-loathing.

By definition, it is impossible to know when one is inside a Room of False Reality because all experience is perceived as real. The worst kind of trap is one that is not recognized as a trap because one then one remains caught, with no reason to attempt escape. Escape to what? They already believe they are living in reality. From where their perspective, it is other realities which are false. Those so obliviously imprisoned don’t look for an exit. (And there is always an exit. If there is a way in, there is a way out.)

A great general leads legions to death based on his reality. The murderous dictator believes he is the hand of God; that is his reality and he will not be swayed from it. Dogma, too, is False Reality, catching believers in its insidious net. Those who believe they are incapable or unworthy or unlovable cannot conceive of alternate realities, and so remain in their own prison.

Plumbing the depths of one’s own soul is so difficult, only a very few are able to keep to the path. Only those with enough commitment and faith in themselves to give up blindly following the rules or beliefs set out by others, will ever find the Door. The only Truth is found within.

Sometimes, while searching with all good intentions, people simply get lost, and end up in a Room of False Reality. Others, lacking the courage to face the perceived dangers, duck into the first available passage to take cover in the imagined safety and ready answers of a Room of False Reality. Some simply lack the required emotional fortitude for such a journey.

Once a human mind is trapped in a Room of False Reality (which most are), in order to escape, it would first be necessary to recognize that it is perceiving a false reality. This is nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend. And if one could recognizes a false reality, the moment they did, they would be propelled into a new reality, which is also likely to be false.

But there is always the choice: Do you remain in your current false reality? Or do you continue to seek and question, accepting as a matter of faith, that you have not yet found the Truth, and will likely never know it in your human lifetime?

This paradox is the prison into which humans are born, but without it, there would be no reason for human life.

 

(There was much more on this subject, channeled over a couple of weeks – and still coming. It’s very complex and honestly, I don’t really understand all of it, myself.   It’s making my head spin! I am going to parse it out because I’m sure readers will need just as much time as I do to digest it.

An aside here: Those who know me personally would agree that I tend to think about things in deep ways and see things from a unique perspective.

My thought processes usually work like this: I am faced with a question/issue/problem/dilemma/situation. I start to mull it over. I try to consider it from as many angles as my mind can embrace.   It begins with the initial question, which leads to HOW and WHY and WHAT IF. If I’m lucky, the answers [at least MY answers] eventually come to me –sometimes in weeks, sometimes not for years, sometimes not for decades. And some answers haven’t come yet.

These conversations with Ipo (or, if you believe I’m making this all up, my own thoughts) are coming to me whole. I did not inquire. I did not ponder a Big Question. In fact, for the most part, these are subjects I have given much thought to – some not ever. And yet answers and solutions and explanations – at least what seem to be answers, solutions and explanations – are filling my head.

To my rational mind, these “truths” do not seem insane or illogical.   If Ipo spoke of a race of Frogmen from the Planet X7hkn who colonized earth 10 million years ago, I would agree I was losing my mind. At least I HOPE I’d still retain enough sanity to agree!

But then, let’s assume that this post DOES contain Truth. Let’s say that most of us CANNOT perceive True Reality. How, then, could we know that we’re not perceiving false reality in believing this post contains The Truth?

 

Aghghgh! My head is going to explode!)

 

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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.

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.

End of the World

New!

Ipo

If current conditions prevail, within a generation or two, the earth will no longer be able to sustain human life. The reasons should be obvious to you by now.  Vast swaths of the planet will become uninhabitable and barren.   The population will press into the shrinking habitable areas.  There will be wars over resources — water and food and light.   The privileged few – the wealthiest and most ruthless – will retreat into protected habitats, while the rest are left to fend for themselves. The elite will not waste precious resources on human labor.  There will be automatons to do their bidding. These humans will become culturally and genetically cruel, for that will be the evolutionary trait most responsible for their survival.

But eventually, even these victors will be losers, too, for what is it to win if it means being the last humans alive on the planet?

The question is, will you humans buy yourselves enough time to find new ways to adapt to the changing environment before every one of you has perished?  Will you be able to buy enough tme to find a home elsewhere?  Will you buy enough time to find ways of undoing the damage you have done?  Or will you destroy each other first?

Human beings have always been equally resourceful and bellicose. Society can only exists when the balance weighs heavier on the former.

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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.

War, Ugh, What Is It Good For?

Originally published October 30, 2014

armytank-watercolor

 To

I was a tool of history. I was a soldier. I followed orders, which I believed to be righteous in their intent. I never doubted that I was on the side of God; that our mission was His.

I killed without ever looking the enemy in the eye. Modern weaponry allows a certain moral remove. Vanquishing those who do not believe as you do becomes purely theoretical. From the air, from afar, one does not feel as if they are extinguishing a human life. Deaths are merely numbers, calculated and displayed on graphs and charts.

Soldiers are not encouraged to think about such philosophical matters; or to consider that the lives taken likely belonged to a father, a son, a husband or lover. Such consideration would render a fighting force impotent.

There is no such thing as a killing machine with morality.

But, then, what is morality? It is so much more complex than the way humans, in their limited understanding, define it. It is easy to say, simply, that killing is always wrong. Or that killing to defend oneself or one’s loved ones is justified. Or that destroying your enemy — an enemy who would destroy your very way of life if given the opportunity —   is a righteous cause. Anyone can find justification for any of these positions, but in the end, these are human justifications.

War is built into the human experience.   It has always existed and always will, despite naïve calls for world peace.   Peace might be achieved in a limited arena for a limited time, but it will always erupt again somewhere else. Always. War is human emotion and relationships, writ large; the personal human condition, played out on a grand scale;

People call for peace and understanding yet cannot even get along with their own neighbors or stand to be within the bosom of their own family.

War and conflict are part of the fabric of worldly existence. They create  the shadows in the pattern, and it is this darkness which defines the edge of the light.

Pure light is only knowable in this realm.

 

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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.

The Art of Control

First published January  19, 2016

fox.2

 

Wol

I always understood that I was going to have to fight for every advantage, every precious moment of peace, every scrap of comfort. This much was obvious to me, even as a child. Neither my family nor the world was going to give me anything, and so I decided that whatever rules the rest of the world lived by did not apply to me. I never had any fear of or respect for authority. Why should I?   The world only took away; it never gave back.

And so, early on, I learned the art of manipulation. I learned to pit one against the other; while they were arguing, I would move in to steal what was no longer being guarded. I knew how to set others off balance – maybe with a half-truth or perhaps a few well-crafted words to sow the seeds of doubt. Like a hawk, I learned to play with and tire my prey until they lost focus and became confused. And then I would swoop in for the kill.

I was no evil genius. More precisely, I was a feral animal who could sniff out fear and uncertainty, and magnify it,  until I had my opening.

I was very good and very successful at what I did. I gained valuable knowledge about the human heart but at great cost to others. To learn these lessons well, I had to push my hypotheses to the limits. If I hadn’t used my talents to cause a happy couple to divorce or a mother to abandon her child or old friends to turn on each other, how could I examine the edges of human nature? How could I know the breadth of my power?

I held myself apart from other humans, feeling simultaneously superior and inferior. Any relationships I had were superficial, struck only for advantage.   These choices were not a sacrifice.  These lessons greatly advanced my understanding of the world.

 

Note from me:  It seems as if the world is being taken over by these types!

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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.

 

Bound

NEW!

 

Ipo

When will you understand that all your pain and suffering is the result of you being bound to your ego?   It swaddles and smothers and imprisons you so you cannot escape outside yourself;  you cannot view the bigger, more beautiful, more meaningful story.\

 

 

 

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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!

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