The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “medium”

A Prison of His Own Making

(continued from previous post, 11/24.   Please read it first.  This will make much more sense if you do!)
Originally posted  Nov 30, 2014

 

prison of his own making

Ru

There always came the day of reckoning when I’d be pushed to the wall and the truth squeezed out of me. There were tears and anger at my emotional treachery. My wrongdoings had to be discussed and dissected so the relationship could be closed with finality.

I would listen to the litany of all the ways I had disappointed and hurt her. I did not run from this. This was my penance. Once again, I had selfishly allowed an innocent person to fall victim to my toxic curse. Whatever vitriol and disgust she felt for me, I felt it exponentially more. She would get over me; but for me there was no escape from my worthlessness.

These final conversations, though painful and difficult, came as a relief.  I was weary from dancing around the truth. I welcomed the opportunity to relax my vigilance.

If I had withdrawn completely from sex and emotional relationships, I might have avoided most conflict. If I could have merely skimmed the surface of love with no deep or meaningful involvements, I would have taken fewer trips to the black depths of my soul.

I tried. I did enter into these emotional hibernations from time to time, but I could never withdraw completely. I could not forgo passion or the excitement of discovering a new woman. I loved the sensation of falling in love.

To hibernate forever would have been tantamount to abandoning any hope of overcoming my curse.  So I tottered on the razor’s edge between optimism and despair, my mood dependent upon which way the wind was blowing.

After every hibernation, came finally an awakening; a desire. The seeds of Hope. But before love flowered, it was strangled by the weeds of her expectations: Reciprocal love. Commitment. Proof of the depth of my feelings. Intimacy.  Trust.

None of these desires were unreasonable.  Other men seemed able to fulfill them,  but (so I believed) they were not as flawed as I was.  I, however,  always hurt my women in the end.

Believing this, I didn’t trust myself around them. I saw myself like the Frankenstein monster, destroying those who were good and kind to me because I couldn’t stop myself.

This cycle was repeated so many times, with so many women, it wore a deep groove into my psyche. I was exquisitely attuned to every nuance. Long before a woman noticed anything amiss between us, I sensed the moment when the balance shifted. As soon as she cared enough to be disappointed, I started to slowly back away, using the same techniques one might use if confronted by a wild bear: No quick movements; speak softly; do not become agitated lest you be perceived as a threat, and be attacked. Avoid eye contact and walk slowly in reverse, without turning your back. If confronted, play wounded or dead.

I continued this way, one woman after another, around and around, the shape of my life always drawn by someone else’s needs. I felt emotionally distant from my own relationships, and always on the wrong side of the cage.

Unable to understand the root of my problem, I thought of myself as tragically complex. I imagined my head filled with millions of tiny gears, levers, and switches,  each acting upon others in arcane ways. I had no hope that anyone would ever understand me, least of all, myself.

From here I see there was only one moving part in my head, and that was the axis of the hamster wheel I ran on.

Each lap, I`d notice something a bit different and I`d think I was making progress. In reality, I never went anywhere. To have gotten somewhere, I would have needed to step off the wheel.

Sometimes to go forward you first have to step sideways.

I spent my life fighting to control my guilt and shame and fear without success. I did not understand that mastery over human emotion is not possible.  I did not recognize that others were also caught in their own emotional struggles;  struggles which were going to plague them with me or without me.

Humans seek the emotional interactions which move them along their spiritual path. The victim seeks the abuser; the masochist seeks the sadist; the giver seeks the user.   Those who cannot bear the truth attach themselves to liars.   Those who cannot accept responsibility for their own feelings seek out those who burden themselves with responsibility for the feelings of others.  And vice versa.

Similarly, we can only give to others that which they are willing to accept from us. Kindness is not always met with appreciation.  Compassion is sometimes fosters anger or guilt;  trust can engender suspicion and fear. Love is not always received with love.

Humans radiate uncontainable emotion, broadcasting not only in words, but in body and face; by action and inaction;  attention and inattention;  fear and trust.  Others perceive these emotions instinctively, unconsciously.

So many signals! So much energy! All there for the taking. A boundless emotional bazaar! Find anything you’re looking for! Set out shopping for anger, and you can always find plenty to raise your ire.   Seek victimhood, and your ego will become bound by every slight and insult and disappointment. Search for love, and you will find it mirrored back to you everywhere.

In my case, I sought guilt and found it by the boatload.

We choose what we seek. Mastery comes in recognizing when we’ve found it.

 
artwork and photo: (c) 2014 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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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.
 

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 Wisdom of Failure

First published November 28, 2014

Mother-and-Child-reading

Ye

I died while giving birth to my second child. This was how we arranged it before any of us were born. They needed to experience life without a mother.

Previously, we had also been mother and children. In that lifetime, I was very controlling. I lived a long life so neither of them ever learned to be fully independent. By the time I died as an old woman, my children were old themselves, with children and grandchildren of their own.

By then, they were fearful of everything, full of self-doubt and lacking all natural instinct. I recognize now how deeply I crippled them but at the time, in that life, I was only pleased and made secure by their need of me.

It seemed to be accepted by us all that I alone, knew what was best for them. They deferred to me on almost all their life decisions, from who they married to what kind of work they did to what they believed about the world.

Of course I always had their best interests at heart and usually chose well for them, based on their personalities, their abilities and their nature. They understood this and so deferred to me on everything.   But in doing this, I never allowed them to find the way on their own

They brought me all their problems and ceded to my advice. They were usually satisfied with the results, if only because they were content and secure in knowing the best decisions had been made for them. They trusted that I would always direct them to the best possible outcome, given the circumstances.

They valued me for my wisdom, and it is true that I was wise in many ways. I did provide well-considered solutions to their problems. But in the most important way, I was not wise at all. I kept them passive and obedient, willing to accept the wisdom of another, never motivated to search for wisdom on their own.

This time, they have no choice.

 

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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.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Originally published November 11, 2014

indiginous

Je

I was born among my people on land we had lived upon since the beginning of time. I was bound to that land through my soul.  I lived many, many lives there.

I knew all the trees by name. The paths through the woods had been worn deeper into the earth by my feet, over thousands of years.

I knew the place in the river where it curves around a sharp bend.  The fish got trapped there.  They were easy to catch. I knew the warrens of the rabbits  — the entrance hidden between the roots of a large tree or under a large, moss-covered rock. I knew where to set my traps. I never went hungry.  I knew every plant, nut and berry and which of them were edible, medicinal, intoxicating.

I knew every landmark; the way the silhouette of the hills cleaved the sky from every angle. I always knew how far I was from home.  I could walk for days and never get lost.

Everything I had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.   My parents were born there.  My grandparents were both there,  and theirs, and theirs, and theirs.   I was married there.  I had children there.  And everything they had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.

It was not a paradise.  Life was hard.  But it was our life.  We were characters in the same story as the land.  Inseparable.  Our histories, intertwined. To take one from the other would be to destroy both.

And then, eventually,  the Strangers came.  I was a grown child before I ever saw one with my own eyes.  But slowly,  like stalking a deer,  they drew closer in increments so small we barely noticed.

Soon there were borders which were not allowed to cross; where we were not allowed to hunt.   They would not bother us as long as we stayed on our side.  But they kept pressing forward,  encircling us,  drawing the noose tighter.  We were being strangled but we were too small a group to put up much of a fight.

Eventually,   they took us all to a place far, far away. There were many different people there, speaking languages I did not understand.  It seemed there were many who did not understand each other.

I did not understand this land.  It was dry and dusty.  There were no forests.  There were no streams or rivers anywhere.  There were no hills.   Just ugly, flat, colorless dust for as far as my eyes could see. I hated it instantly.  I was resentful and angry.  I had been forcibly removed from my past.  I no longer felt whole. I knew as long as I lived there I never would.

Some tried to live outside our forced settlement,  but it was nearly impossible to survive.  It was a world so different, so strange from the ones we had known. We had no skills; did not understand their customs or their ways.   At least within the settlement,  we were with others in the same predicament.  For the benefit of all, each People tried to put aside their ancestral differences with others,  so we might all work as one.

The elders knew immediately this would be the end of all of us.  In order to survive, it would be necessary to give up some of our past identity and forge a new identity.   If we were unwilling to do that, if we insisted on clinging to the old ways,  if we wasted our energy to getting back to the old lands which no longer existed as we once knew them, we would have been too divided and too weak to survive in the face of the Strangers.  We needed a single, strong, united voice.

Positions of power went to those from warrior Peoples.  My People were small in number and not known for their bravery against the Strangers. It was natural that we all put our faith in the mightiest warriors of all.

But,  in the end,  none of it did any good. Our weapons and tactics were ultimately useless against them.

The old ways are gone.  Some rituals and stories remain of course, but now, disconnected from the land, they no longer make sense. The food and methods of cooking are lost, because we could not find what we needed in our new land.  We lost our cures, our intoxicants, our aphrodisiacs.

We survived, but we did not thrive.

It had always been the duty of all elders to teach the young ones their People’s history, traditions, language,  culture and skills.   But now,  what did it matter?  Many elders realized this knowledge was not useful for the new world.  We needed to learn a common language so we could communicate with other People.  We needed to learn new skills for new land with new rules. What was the point of passing on valuable information such as the best place in the river to catch fish,  or the best place to set a trap for rabbit,  when that river and that mossy rock were half a continent away? (Nobody knew exactly how far,  but certainly a walk of many moons.)

There was no going back.  The elders were without hope.  Most,  like myself, who remembered the land eventually died lost and heartbroken,  with wounds to our souls that never healed.

The younger ones took to changes more readily,  more willingly.  For them, it was an adventure.  They didn’t have such long memories.

They had fewer psychic wounds but they also grew up without traditions and stories that bound them to their spiritual past, without the reassuring knowledge that they stood upon the land upon which they were born and to which they belonged.

They had no ambition for anything for what could they aspire to?

Some took on the ways of the Strangers.  I did not blame them.  They needed something to fill the huge gaping voids inside themselves.

If the old stories don’t work, find new ones.  So they discovered Jesus. They learned to read and write and count many things.  They learned the ways of the Strangers so they could interact with them and perhaps find some advantage.

But even with this, they were not accepted outside.

And so, all the Peoples are not really People at all anymore. They are the children of People and Strangers. It is impossible to be anything else.   They live in two worlds and will never again be whole.

I am grateful that many still have pride in who they are, in who we were.  It is good to know that the People still endure.

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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.

 

Your Golem

NEW

 

Ipo

This man you call your leader is not a damaged human being.  He is a perfect Golem. A thing without a soul;  a roaring, infinite black hole pulling everything in its path into its center.  It is an insatiable, mindless monster tearing off greater and greater chunks of the world, shoving it two-fisted into its ravenous maw without consideration except to its own hunger.

He is not human yet you persist in believing that he will behave in human ways.

You apply human terms to him to try to make sense of his behavior. You are shocked when he shows no empathy or compassion or remorse.  But he was not created for this.  You cannot apply human morality to him.  He is as amoral as a tornado or a hurricane, destroying without discretion.

He is not human  He is a golem,  created by you, from  all your fears and neglect, while you slept. And  now he has slipped his bonds.

His power commands your regard.  Your focus feeds him, yet you are unable to turn away. He is a gale force wind rending the house in two.  He is flood waters drowning all reason. He is fire,  setting forests aflame and blackening the wilderness. He is a mass murderer, set wild in the town.  He is all these things at once and you cannot ignore him, even knowing that he thrives and grows stronger by your attention.

Just as the problems, worries, concerns, failures, disappointments which arise in the lives of individual humans are the result of their emotional, mental and psychological conditions, and their unwillingness or inability to confront them,  so this Golem has been created by the collective consciousness in the same manner.  You have birthed this monster with your hatred and fear. He will continue to devour you until you confront these issues which give him power.

You are at a crossroads.  Your choices now,  made together, will define the future of the human race.

human. This is not about him.

It is about you.

________

Me:   I’m thinking this is not the end of the world; just the the end of the world as I want to live in it.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have 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.

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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Laugh, So You Don’t Cry

 

Originally posted October 24, 2014

comedytragedy masks

 

Jo

It’s a good thing parents are biologically programmed to love their children; to believe that even the strangest-looking baby is the most beautiful creature on earth. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have survived. I was not an attractive child. As a toddler, I had the nose of a 90 year old man. People kindly told my parents it was just an awkward phase; surely I’d outgrow it.

Unfortunately, my awkward phase lasted my entire life.

I learned early that being funny was the key to my emotional survival.   It was far better to have people laugh with me at myself, than to laugh at me.   If I made a self-deprecating remark, they were disarmed. If I could laugh with them laughing at me, I was protected from their barbs. If they repeated my observation as an insult, I was able to take it as a compliment. They were using my joke, after all, and that meant they thought I was funny. Or, if they insulted me but not as cleverly as I insulted myself, I won again! Say the worst about yourself and nobody can insult you!

Humor was the path I took to love. There are other paths, but that was mine.   When I made people laugh, they wanted me around. Instead of being ostracized, I was included in their social groups. I was popular, even. Playing the clown was how I negotiated my way through everything. All my life lessons came through this.

I may not have been much to look at, but what did beautiful people offer the world anyway? You have to be a decent human being to be truly beautiful. Still, I was never quite able to let go of the nagging sadness to not have been born lovely. I eventually learned that everyone hurts in their own way. Everyone carries the wounds of childhood well into old age. Maybe forever.

The funniest people (and I have known many) are always outsiders. Sometimes they’re on the outside because of their odd appearance. Or maybe they’re just quirky in some way. Usually, though, they it’s just because their observation post on the world is in an out-of-the-way place where others dare not go. From their unique viewpoint, they see the things in ways that most others cannot.

I’m not saying that it’s only funny people who have unique viewpoints, but if you can make people laugh while they consider your way of seeing things, they are more likely to remember and agree with you and see things as you do. “Speak softly and carry a big shtick.”

The funniest people are also very smart. They can pluck the seed of truth from chaos. They hone in on hypocrisy like heat-seeking missiles. Their lack of respect for authority makes them natural iconoclasts. They are natural empaths, too. They instinctively understand the deepest fears and insecurities of others; they clearly perceive the nature of the ego that drives them.   That’s why comedians make such great actors. They understand the most subtle nuances of emotion, something also absolutely crucial to delivering a good story. Looking at people, they see behind the veil of bluster and into the folds and shadows where self-doubt hides.   Once seen, it cannot be un-seen.

The great funny people are also often the most troubled, the most confused. We all secretly believe we don’t belong. There’s this over-reaching fear that if others saw us as we saw ourselves, they would look at us with the same pity and contempt they regard a sad, desperate, alcoholic clown at a three year old’s birthday party. “Get lost, Bozo! That red nose and big shoes aren’t fooling anyone!”

I developed a thick skin. I took the hits and stood back up again. I had no choice. I won’t say I wasn’t hurt when people said bad things about me – and they did, because I had a sharp tongue. I had no patience for the thin-skinned; for those who could dish it out but couldn’t take it; for those who pointed to the sins of others without considering their own. I pushed the edge, I know. Sometimes I went too far. I often made people cringe. I did try to limit myself to those who I believed could take it. But if they couldn’t? Well, that was their problem, not mine. I wasn’t responsible for the feelings of everyone in the world.  I’d taken my licks and learned my lessons. They had to take and learn theirs.

There were the haters. Lots of them.  I tried to ignore them but when they got under my skin, my salve was to surround myself with people who got me; who could laugh with me at the same stuff; who enjoyed the view from where I stood.   If I could make someone laugh – even one person —   really laugh from the deepest part of themselves; if I could get them to laugh at my truth, I was healed. The rejection of those who didn’t understand me no longer mattered.

To the question of whether a sense of humor is an innate talent or a learned skill, I say it’s a bit of both. Like any talent, most people pursue what they are good at. No normal person pursues a lifetime of failure and humiliation. And the longer you pursue, the better you get. Like an Olympic athlete. It’s natural talent, nurtured. I was the Nadia Comăneci of the Chuckles Olympics.

Being able to laugh at ourselves and at our tragedies takes the sting out of it. It puts things in perspective; helps us wrestle an unruly life back into our control. Laughing files the sharp edges off the pain.

 

(I know who this is, but we agreed that it would be best if I didn’t say.  😀  Nevertheless, we had a couple of very deep yet funny “conversations.”  I was given some personal messages for others, two of which I was able to deliver. The general message for all is “Be kind to others. Make sure the people you love know it. Do the right thing, follow your conscience, be true to yourself, and if they don’t like you,  f&^% ‘em! That’s their problem!”)

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