The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “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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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 Greatest Sin

NEW!in-shell

 

Pau

Of all the sins and injustices ever perpetrated against me, the second cruelest was being told “I love you” when it was known to be lie.

I lived for years believing it was true, when all the while I was nothing more than a convenience, a stepping stone, someone to be mollified until something better came along.

The reality of the lie shook me to my foundation.   It was more than a betrayal by a lover. It made me doubt myself to my core.  How was I not able to differentiate truth from lie? How could I have been so naive? Was I really that gullible, that desperate to believe?  How did I  miss the signs, which in retrospect seemed obvious. What did all that say about me, about who I was? About who I thought I was?

I never did get over it.  I could never bring myself to trust anyone again because I was no longer able to trust myself. I crawled down deep inside myself and let nothing and no one pull me out.  It was lonely but it was safe.

The cruelest sin of my life, the one that did the most damage, was the one I perpetrated upon myself.

What I could have learned, what I should have learned, is that there is no love without risk. The very nature of love requires flying without a net.

 

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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!

Couple of Hours, Max

 

balloon-pin

 

NEW!

Jul

I was not an average kind of person but I absolutely was of a specific known type: a depressive, nihilistic, pessimistic, angry, neurotic intellectual.   I was thoroughly convinced of my own genius to the point of condescension towards those who were not as sharp as I.  At the same time, I also harbored a  profound self-loathing which sprung from deep insecurity and crippling self-doubt.

I was quick-witted, extremely well-read, with a sardonic sense of humor.  I could, when it suited me, be quite charming.  Although few people dared stray too close to me emotionally,  I was often invited to parties and social gatherings.  I stirred the pot in the controlled way a host likes. It makes for interesting conversation.

One on one, I was off putting; tolerable only in limited doses.  I could find the negative in everything; suck the joy out of any occasion.  I was rain at a picnic.  The pin in the balloon.

Not surprisingly, I did not have any long-lasting intimate relationships. My longest affair  was four years. The only reason she stuck around as long as she did was because she had nowhere else to go.  I knew she was trapped;  I knew why she was with me, and I tortured her for it. She was weak; she was desperate; I resented her need and detested her for it.

Eventually, even the notion of being penniless out on the street was preferable to living with me.

In a strange way, I missed her for a while. She had been, for all her flaws, human company. I craved it while simultaneously being repelled by it, and by my own need for it.

As I got older,  the vague paranoia that had plagued me since childhood began to consume me.  I imagined conspiracies everywhere — by the government, by my landlord, by my neighbors, by whatever family members still had anything to do with me. I picked fights over imagined slights.  If I misplaced or lost something, I accused other of stealing. Eventually even those who had tolerated me and my trunkful of quirks had enough.

My final years were spent alone, mumbling to myself, angry at the world that it did not recognize my genius. I read voraciously and wrote manifestos to newspapers, to authors,  to people in the government.

My observations about the world, about humans and the way they are, were not insane.  In fact, it was the truth of them that nearly drove me mad.

 

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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!

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

Will to Live

girl_affected_by_famine_in_buguruslan_russia_-_1921

NEW!

Nur

When you are healthy and happy, secure and well-fed, you believe you can withstand any hardship. Sacrifice, discomfort, deprivation are all abstract, as they were for me until the end of my life.   Before then, I never understood what it meant to have nothing.  I never understood starvation or thirst.  I never understood the true meaning of “the will to live” until I lost mine.

The deprivation began slowly. Shortages of this or that.  We made do, hopeful that things would soon go back to the way they were.  But they did not improve.  Rather, they got worse. The things we took for granted were no longer available.  We had to find other ways to survive. There was no place else to go and no way to get there, and even if there were, we wouldn’t have had the strength. All of us, men, women, and children were starving. We fell sick easily and succumbed to things that would not have killed us if we’d been strong to begin with. Slowly, we dwindled in number. Those who were left were skin and bone.  Hollow ghosts of what we once were.  Eventually, it became apparent that few, if any of us, would survive.  Deliverance, salvation, was never going to come.

There was no honor, no satisfaction being the last to die. I’d been welcoming the end for a long time.  I simply did not have the energy to stay alive.

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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 Path of Least Resistance

first published July 8, 2014

seaweed

 

Ne

I was swept along by the tide of indecision. Always afraid of making a mistake, I never committed wholly to anything. The minute I walked into a new situation, I was already looking for the exit doors. Life happened all around me but I was not a full participant. I let others lead me, mold me, direct me. I was, indeed, nothing more than a piece of seaweed, drifting along, catching on some flotsam and clinging to it for a while, until I was washed away by a current, to float on my own,  until once again I caught upon something else.   My job, my marriage, my friends were all found along the path of least resistance.

I never stood up for what I believed because I never believed in anything. I was not a bad person. I did not harm others except by frustrating those who wanted more from me.

I was lucky, I suppose, in that I always managed to attach to the right kind of person – people who were stronger, more determined, more motivated, more passionate than I – and I rode along in their wake. So my life was comfortable enough. A decent existence. Not poor but not rich. Not accomplished, but not a failure. Not particularly happy but not exactly depressed.   Mainly, I existed going from day to day with very little drama. Which is not to say there wasn’t drama around me. I just didn’t get drawn into it. My attitude was “Do whatever you want. Let me know your decision.”

I guess I would say I sleepwalked through my life. My feelings were just a low hum in the background, like the sound made by power lines. I don’t remember ever getting angry. What was there to get angry about when nothing mattered?

From here, I understand that many of the things we find so very important during life turn out to have had no real value. We often chase illusion. Perhaps on some deep, spiritual level I instinctively understood that and so, was never drawn into the chase. But I also know now that if you don’t embrace it, feel it fully, allow yourself to be completely absorbed into it  as if it were the most important thing in the world, no matter how pointless the chase might ultimately be, you don’t get any of the lessons.

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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 Late Lesson

old-woman-with-cane

NEW!

Zor

We were a love match.  School sweethearts. We married young and within a few years, together we opened a men’s haberdashery.  We worked hard and slowly made a success of it.  A few years later, we had a son.  He was a clever boy.  We put him to work in the shop when he was old enough to wait on customers and handle money.   You could say he grew up there.    My husband expected him to take over the business.   Our son had other ideas. The store was stifling for him.  He had no interest.

Eventually, he went off on his own,  pursuing a line of work more suitable to his talents.

We had a falling out.  It was mostly with his father, but since he regarded us as an indivisible unit,  he stopped talking to me, too.  He moved far away.  We never repaired our relationship. We were not close. I barely knew his wife or his children — my own grandchildren.

My husband didn’t seem to mind this loss too much.   If his son had no use for the business, he interpreted it to mean he had no use for him, either.  The business was his baby.  Over the years, he nurtured it, dedicating many hours to making it thrive.  I was always at his side, doing whatever I could do to help.  But the vision was his.  He knew where he wanted the business to go, and he was good at finding ways for it to get there.   I did not resent that my own dreams never had the opportunity to manifest because, to be honest,  I did not have any big dreams.  I was content being a mother (until I wasn’t any longer), and being my husband’s helpmeet.  This provided me all the satisfaction I needed in life. The business grew into a successful enterprise which allowed us to live an agreeable and secure life.

We grew old together,  still working side by side in the shop.  We continued to live, as we always had, in a comfortable apartment above the store.  Over time,  the world changed and it was harder to keep up.

Business had not been good for a few years already when my husband suddenly died.

I was completely lost.   I had little idea how to run the store — what to stock,  how to negotiate with suppliers,  how to balance the books.    We had almost nothing in savings – every last coin had been spent trying to remain afloat.  My husband had been good at treading water.  I began to drown immediately. It did not take long for the store to fail completely.  Without any source of income, I soon lost the apartment, too.

At 83 years old, I was alone,  without a home.  I reached out to my son who was kind enough to send me a pittance, just enough to pay for a roof over my head, but not much more. I was grateful not to have to sleep on the street but in all other things, I was completely at the mercy of strangers. Most were not very merciful.  I was sick and frail.  I was consumed by the pain of loneliness.  I’d worked hard my entire life.  I’d been the good and faithful wife of a good and faithful husband. I’d lived in relative security and comfort.  I did not understand how all this misfortune had befallen me so quickly.  I resented the world for taking everything away from me.   I became increasingly forgetful. Confused.   It was easier to let go of reality which had become simply too painful to bear.

I was dead within two years. Two years which seemed to stretch out to an eternity. Two years which, looking back,  defined my life more than the eighty three years lived before it.

Sometimes,  life lulls you into a stupor and doesn’t give you the lesson until the very end.

 

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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!

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!

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

New

rock-uphill

*

Ruf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

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