The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “spirit world”

No Risk, No Love

First published Nov 3, 2015

Pra

Lies. Every sweet word out of my lover’s mouth was a lie. And once I recognized them as such, it all became clear. I saw how things really were.

I understood that every person tells the lies they must to get the things they want. The worst of them manipulate the feelings others so they may bask in the glow of being loved without the risks inherent to  loving in return.

Some lie without even realizing they are lying. They carve out their little corner of reality and abide in it. As long as they remain confined within this small place of reference, their truth is The Only Truth.

Some love only when the situation suits them, and easily withdraw their love to seek advantage elsewhere.

The more I paid attention, the more I recognized the patterns. I became a master of these observed manipulations, which made me wary and cynical. I felt proud and clever to have figured out how to protect myself. I would not give my love. I would trust no one.

Not that I didn’t suffer. It only saved me from the ignominy of publicly granting others the power to hurt me. I gave them no satisfaction. I licked my wounds in solitude.

This became the irony of my life. The more times I was hurt, the more wary I became. The more wary I became, the more I, myself, became the very nightmare I was trying to avoid

I never found the way out of that cycle.

From here, the route is clear.  This is the truth:  To love requires remaining vulnerable. Vulnerability inevitably, eventually results in pain.  Thus the quest for love guarantees pain.

With this understood, there are only three choices:

Avoid the pain by locking the gates to the heart.

Remain vulnerable in weakness, suffering every slight with no enlightenment.

Remain vulnerable in strength, accepting of whatever comes, marveling at the full range of the emotions of which we find ourselves capable, regarding each passion and sorrow as the first chapter of a lesson.

 

______

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!

Things of Beauty

NEW!

Dre

Oh, I had such things!  Things so splendid, magnificent and rare, they could take your breath away.   Beautiful objects made with such pride of craftsmanship,  with love for the act of creation,  by hands dead far longer than mine.

While I, myself, created nothing,  by owning and cherishing such things, I felt part of the creative process.  Beauty cannot exist anywhere except in the eye of the beholder.  I was completing my part of the bargain, to behold, appreciate, and preserve it for future generations.

These things were precious and rare but it was neither preciousness nor rarity which drew me to them.  Even though they were inanimate objects, they contained in their making the best of humanity.  What I loved was the singularity of their beauty, the detail of workmanship. When it takes a master a year or a decade or a lifetime to create a project, such a thing will be, by definition, rare. And rarity makes for preciousness. Those were simply by-products

In my entry foyer, stood a carved, antique mahogany desk with half a dozen secret drawers which revealed themselves only when other drawers were opened and levers tripped in a specific order. The desk surface was an intricate mosaic of exotic veneers from trees which grew in the far jungles and forests of the world.  In the center was a writing surface of polished green leather the color of Irish moss, tooled around the edge in gold in an ivy pattern. It was made for an Italian prince centuries before I acquired it at auction.

In the living room was a magnificent silk Tabriz rug, 400 knots per inch, of a design so intricate the details were like a fine painting.  I tried not to think how many young girls went blind working on it. But it too was an antique when I bought it,  and those young women were long dead before it came into my possession. I was not insensitive to their sacrifice for art, willing or not.

There was gold enamel tea set of fine detail, set with pearls and semi-precious stones.  To drink from it was merely an excuse to admire it.

To fill my house with such masterpieces was to bring into my home the energy of genius. Sometimes, I felt as if I could slip inside the mind of the creator.   I had, you might say, an emotional relationship with beautiful objects.

Perhaps that is why I never felt the need to marry or have children.   I had an older brother who died in middle age.  In my old age, the only blood relative who remained was his son.  My nephew was rather boorish, despite a cultured upbringing, with little appreciation for anything fine. He knew the cost of everything but had no aesthetic sense whatsoever.  If he owned anything beautiful, it was only because he was impressed by the price tag. This was his only criterion. Not surprisingly, he had been fooled more than once by a dealer who could spot an ignorant mark.

Despite this, I did not dislike him.  He was pleasant enough, if one didn’t mind his lack of a good eye, the complete absence of discernment.  But I was not so shallow as to judge him too badly for that.  He was a good a kind man, who loved his wife and children, and checked after me from time to time out of genuine concern.   It would have been cruel to leave my beauties, which comprised the bulk of my fortune, to a museum or to someone who would have appreciated them more. I assumed he’d sell it all off and use the proceeds for other things more to his personal liking…expensive but tasteless, gaudy and new.  Someone else would then come into possession of my beloved objects, just as I had, and they would love them as I did.

After I passed, he had the contents of my home appraised by professionals with the intention to sell.  They ooohed and ahhed and gushed over the collection, and in hearing them speak of these things and their history and their singular beauty, he began to regard them with a new eye.  His mind had been opened to the pleasure of the exquisite hand-made object.  In the end, he sold most all of my possessions,  not because he did not understand their artistic value but because he understood it too well; he recognized such things would need more care than he was willing to give.  He did retain a couple of small items which he came to appreciate,  perhaps not as emotionally as I did, but at least intellectually.   He began to develop an aesthetic sense.

He and his family made good use of the money. They applied it to things and experiences that made them happy, and that was well and good,  but I consider his late-in-life appreciation of beauty the more valuable inheritance.

 

—————–

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!
~~~~~
(When looking for an image to illustrate this post,  I did a Google  search using some basic keywords per the description (antique inlaid mahogany desk)  and this came up.  It’s so close, it might seem as if I found the image first and simply described it…but not so!)
Photo: http://www.artfactory.com/

 

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.

————–

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!

 

Fields of Dreams

Originally published on Mar 20, 2015

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

I am republishing this one somewhat out of order.  I thought it was appropriate to read now,  given the recent outrageous  round-ups by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here in the USA.   They were targeting parents when they went to pick up their children from school.  They are rounding up people in raids all over the country. We are in frightening times.   

 

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms, like we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I think I might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to night school and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he wasn’t, but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. Never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

_______

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 Engine of Progress

New!

hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

____

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!

 

Rarefied

First published May 28, 2016

mountaintop

Arj

Looking back, if I have anything to apologize for, it’s that never apologized for anything. I did what I wanted, what I had to. If people were hurt or inconvenienced by the way I lived, this was their problem to solve. I couldn’t be responsible for the feelings or well-being of others. Should I have pulled back on the reigns of my ambition for fear of stepping on the toes of those who did not want to win as badly as I? Should I have kept promises which no longer suited me, for fear of shattering someone else’s dreams? (Simply being able to shatter the dreams of others made me feel powerful!)   Should I have allowed myself be weak so as to give space to those who were not as strong?  To do any of those things would have compromised who I was and who I was determined to become.

Others hesitated for such sentimental reasons, and consequently lost ground. Greatness requires a monomaniacal fixation on the prize.   One misstep, one falsely placed trust, one momentary glance away from the path, and it might all crumble; the fractured shatters of ambition tramped upon indifferently, like long-neglected Roman ruins.

The best game is at the top. There you meet others who are as good and as determined as you are. Maybe more so.  Players are steeled for a fight to the death. Dying is better than achieving that height without finally taking the prize.   Each, willing to die for the glory of standing in the rarefied air at the top of the peak. Each, willing to kill for the privilege of being able to look down and survey the land below, knowing everything and everyone belongs to them.

It was in this struggle that I felt most alive.

The urge drove me like a ravenous, heartless beast.

Most humans don’t have the stomach for this game. They do their best to stay out of the way of people like me. Little fish, schooling together, believing that in numbers and anonymity, they will better their odds of surviving the inevitable shark attack.

Most, even those with a fair amount of ambition, are limited by their unwillingness to sacrifice everything else in order to play The Big Game. They are unwilling to take what they want. Only those who take, get.  They are unwilling to compromise their so-called morals.

I had only one moral: Win at any cost.

And so I did.

I lived for years at the top of the mountain, self-glorified and in absolute belief that I was deserving of my lofty place. I never fell from grace; I died of old age at the pinnacle.

Only then did I understand what I had missed by not living in the valley below.

____

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-Adrienne

The Aging Heiress

originally posted 4/27/14

glamorous vintage woman

 

La  

I was vain, it is true. And my vanity caused many others to suffer. I was vain about things I had no right to claim as my own – my looks, my status (which was inherited, and then enhanced by marriage.)

In my 20’s, I was known as a great beauty. I was invited to all the right parties. Men desired me.

As I got older, I took care of myself as best I could, to maintain the illusion of youth as long as possible. After a certain number of years, however, age simply catches up. A woman loses her sexual power over men. If this is all she has, if she’s put all her eggs in this particular basket, she ends up with nothing.

I had four husbands and excellent lawyers, but even money doesn’t fill that void, though I worked hard to prove that statement incorrect.   Still, it was better to have money than to be poor.

At 79, I was still elegant; still invited to all the right parties. My last companion was 53. It was obvious to everyone except me that he was playing me. I wanted to believe that I still had enough wit, charm, and charisma to attract such a witty, charming, charismatic man.

When I died, he and my children (with whom I was never particularly close), got into a protracted legal fight over my estate. From where I was, I didn’t care who won. I could see how utterly pointless their battle was. The loser, in the end, was the real winner, although it took a while for that understanding to sink in.

***

note: Today I was out for a walk and ran into two women I haven’t really spoken to in over a year.   The first woman is a neighbor, and though we usually have a quick hello when we see each other on the street, today we ended up chatting for an hour. Mostly, she talked about her mother, who had passed the previous year.  There was nothing unusual in that.  It made perfect sense in the context of the conversation we were having, although it was the longest conversation we’ve had, probably in two or three years.

From there, I went to the supermarket.  Right in front of me in line, was someone who’d worked for me very briefly over a year ago.  We have not been in touch.  I asked her how she was doing, making light conversation.  She told me her mother had just passed away. While waiting to check out, she started telling me all about her mom, her personal history, her days as a political organizer.

I didn’t think anything odd about either of these encounters at the time. Later, however, I wondered if this wasn’t something more than mere coincidence.   They hadn’t simply mentioned their mother’s recent deaths. That would have been the normal kind of news one might share in such circumstances. But thinking about it,  it seemed unusual that they both spontaneously told me their mother’s story, in far more detail than what was warranted by our casual relationships, as if it were important for me to know. 

 

___

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!

Two Fall to Their Death

Originally published April 15, 2014

It’s the late afternoon and I am so exhausted, I lay down for a nap but I do not fall asleep. I have the same experience as before – the sense of being in a place and being shown a story.

***

I am on a large outdoor dining patio, outside a restaurant near or at a national park or state monument. It’s not a fancy place; just a casual dining area where families come for lunch after seeing the sights. The patio is cantilevered out over the side of a deep ravine or chasm, and offers an incredible view of whatever monument people have come to see. I try to see what that is, exactly, but it never becomes clear to me.  My area of sight is limited to just the patio, the railing, the chasm below.

I kept trying to figure out where I am.  The railing and drop remind me of Snoqualmie Falls, WA.   The patio reminds me of Pena National Palace in Sintra, Portugal.  But it’s neither of those places. I sense it’s in the USA. Mentally I am running through the names of every park and national site I can think of,   to see if I get a positive feeling about any of them.  It’s as if I’m mentally asking, “Is this it?  Is this it? What about this?”  But none of them return a strong “yes.”

Then I sense the presence of a woman.   She wants me to know something.   I know this entity is female but I have no sense what she looks like — not her age,  race, height, weight, hair color.    She “tells” me that many years ago, she was here on vacation with her family.   They were taking photos. As  she leaned back against the railing, it gave way. She plummeted hundreds of feet to her death on the rocks below.

On her way down,  she explained,  she knew what was going to happen, so she astrally projected out of her body before she hit. She said she was  able to watch herself crash on the rocks, but she felt nothing. No pain and no sadness.

I asked what year it this was. I “felt” it was sometime in the 1970s but can’t be sure.   I asked her age. No response.  She’d said she was there with her family, so I asked if she was mother or daughter.  I asked her name. I tried to get some kind of visual on her.  I got no feedback on any of those questions.   And then she was gone.

*****

I’m still not sure where these stories are coming from.  If I were writing them myself,   I would have given her a name; described her and her surroundings, made up a year and a place,    but the story  “resists” my input.  When I ask questions, it’s like trying to fit keys from a big pile, one by one, into a lock.   Sometimes,  they click.  Usually not.

****

The next day, another quick story passes through my head:  I “feel” a Jewish man from my grandfather’s generation. He is  originally from Kiev. Came to New York with his wife, before the war. They settled in the Bronx, and opened a butcher shop.  (I can see the store — it’s somewhat old-fashioned,  with clean white display cases.)   He “tells me” he  died after a fall down the stairs into the basement of the store.   He hit his head and the next day,  died of complications from a concussion (which was shocking and mysterious to his family, because he hadn’t mentioned the fall to them.)

****

Well, these stories are certainly more interesting than just  a bunch of names, thank you very much!   I open myself to the possibility that they are, indeed, some kind of  spiritual communication from Il Mondo Beyondo, and invite more in.     And boy, do they come!

M says, there probably are not too many people alive who are willing to listen to the dead, so when a channel opens up,  they line up to tell their stories.  So I’m like, what?  The podium at a town hall meeting in the afterlife?


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!

Fields of Dreams

Originally published on Mar 20, 2015

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms as we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I  might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to school in the evenings and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he was not — I loved them both their same — but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. I never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

 

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link 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! 

Beautiful Birds in a Cage

 

New!

Schi

I was born into slavery ; I never knew any other life.  My mother was taken as a girl.  As I was the product of her body, so I was property as well.  My mother was concubine to the master and even though I was the offspring of that union,  I had no birthright.

We, and others like us, had to work because we were not wives.  We had no power, no rights, little privilege.   We were at the beckoning of the master’s mother, who ruled us like a queen.

Those who were concubines went to the master or his guests when summoned.  Otherwise, we worked in the house or in the court at jobs that best fit our skills and age.  The concubines did not work in the fields,  lest we become unattractive and our usefulness diminished.

When I was young, I sewed tiny precious beads onto beautiful fabrics, in elaborate, intricate designs using the finest golden thread.  These were later made into clothing for the family.  I did this until my fingers cramped and bled (I had to be careful not to stain the silk!) I did it until my eyes crossed and I was nearly blind. I did it until my neck and back ached even when I slept.

Still, my lot was better than the slaves who worked the fields and orchards. I thought myself lucky.  I was fed regularly. My living quarters were clean and dry and warm in the winter. If I became very ill, my symptoms were tended to by the doctor.  We were not beaten or whipped.

We were kept away from all men. Our bodies were not ours to give nor for any man but the master to take or share as he saw fit.  We belonged to him, to be used or lent at his (or his mother’s) whim.  I was never sent to the master because I was his own child but I was, from time to time,  offered to visiting dignitaries or officials.  These men were not gentle or kind,  but fortunately, as I was not particularly beautiful or adept in bed,  my charms were not in high demand.   Eventually, I was completely ignored for such things.

All I knew about life beyond the walls was what some of the others,  including my mother, told me. For many, the outside world seemed more difficult,  full of poverty, back-breaking work, and starvation.  Almost all were young virgins when they were captured so they did not long for lost husbands or lovers or children.  Many were captives of war, and were grateful for the peace and plenty of their new circumstances.  But some were captured away from their families.  These girls found adjustment most difficult. They would weep and cry when they first arrived but in time they forgot their old lives and settled into the new. I was lucky because I had nothing to miss,  and because my mother was there to teach and protect me.

I did not consider my life bad or unfortunate.

When the weather turned warm, I enjoyed being outside in the courtyard with the others, working, gossiping.  Not all the women were embroiderers.  Some minded the children.  Some played instruments and sang. Some were dancers.  Some were ladies’ maids to the women of status.  Some of the favorite concubines  had only to keep themselves attractive. This was very important as it was her access to the master that gave her power.  Each of us had access to different parts of the household, and so each had different information.  By sharing what we knew, we could put together a bigger story.

Oh, the plots and rumors and intrigue that were discussed!

Some of the older women, longtime favorite concubines and lesser wives, those with more power and influence than I could ever hope for, were quite adept at grand manipulations. A carefully planted rumor, a well-told lie, a damning truth, whispered genially and sincerely in the right ear, all served to help accrue more power and influence.  Over the years, there was more intrigue and machinations than I can recount. There were poisonings and betrayals, false friendships and lies, all in the service of power and rank.  But my own ambition was never so great as some of the others.

When I was young, I was useless at that game but I observed and listened closely, and slowly, I learned the way it was played.

My first manipulation began accidentally when I befriended the youngest child of one of the lesser wives.  The nanny who minded her was dull and sullen and was too lazy to play with her. I could see that the child was bored so later, alone, I fashioned a small doll for her from scraps of blue silk, with eyes of fresh water pearls and tiny lapis beads, and a smile of garnets. This was not done with any specific plan in mind.  The girl seemed lonely and I felt sorry for her, so I made her a small gift using what I had at hand.  She was, after all, my sister (although this was not common knowledge among the other women.)

I gave it to her the next time I saw her.  She was delighted. And her nanny was pleased that someone else made an effort to entertain the child, relieving her of the burden of having to pay attention.

Several days later, when we were again all outside together, the girl came over to where I sat to watch me work.  She seemed fascinated by the idea of making designs with beads and thread.  As I worked, she listened raptly as I told her stories about fantastic creatures and faraway places, completely of my imagination.  I felt a kinship for her and although she did not know who I was,  she sensed the attachment.

Seeing us together, it occurred to the nanny that I was perhaps entertaining the child too well. She suspected that her position might be in jeopardy.  She called the child to come away from me but she was reluctant to go. In that brief moment, I sensed opportunity. I whispered to the girl to come see me again soon.  I’d have more stories for her.

Her nanny, by then, had become wary and prevented her from visiting with me. But the girl kept her eye on me.  I would smile and wave.  I would tell funny stories to the other girls my age to make them laugh, so the child would see this and feel she was missing the fun.

And one day, not long after, I was summoned by the girl’s mother and informed that I would now be her nanny.

And so, my rank among the women of the household increased.

The girl loved me because I devoted myself to her.  And I loved her, because, even though there was a great difference in status,  I knew we were blood. We shared many of the same features, and I brushed her long black hair and styled it like my own.

When she was grown enough to no longer need a nanny, she kept me close by making me her ladies’ maid. And so my rank increased again, as I was now privy to more important information, received firsthand, which made it more valuable.  Information was currency.  I could trade it for favors.

Eventually it came time for her to marry.  Her husband lived afar. Although she wanted me to come with her, I was still property of the household and her father would not give me to her. Both he and I understood that if I went with her,  her husband would be my new master,  and if he took me as his concubine,  as was his right,  it would cause her deep pain.

She did not see the danger of this new situation as I did.  I consoled her,  assuring her it was for the best.

We bid our tearful farewells.  She was both a child and a sister to me.  She was the only person I ever missed.  I only saw her once again, many years later, when she returned for her father’s funeral.  It was a sweet reunion.

By then, I had spent many years as a ladies’ maid to increasingly important wives,  my circumstances improving and my status growing.

I was a slave , but as a life,  it was better than many who live free.

Humans are all and always slaves to someone or something.

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link 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 hooe

artwork: Kamil Aslanger  (I discovered this image a year after writing/channeling this post but it’s such a perfect image, one might think it was actually inspiration for this story. It was not.)

 

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