The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “medium”

The Lessons in Everything

NEW!

 

Nal

My grandfather’s hand held firm on my rudder throughout my life, even after he was long gone.

My earliest memory of a lesson that stayed with me throughout my life was at age 4 or 5.  We had planned a day at the beach, just the two of us.  I had him all to myself (and he, me.)  Before we got on the train,  he took me into a small shop that sold children’s clothing and toys, and let me pick out something special for the day.  I chose a colorful pail and shovel, imprinted with my favorite cartoon character.  I was as happy as a child could be.

We set out a spot on the sand.  He took me into the water and held me while we dove through the waves, me clinging to him tightly while laughing and giggling in pure joy.

Back on our blanket, he showed me how to make sand castles.

On the next blanket, there was a boy about my age, who did not seem very happy.  His mother was kissing and touching a man who I learned later was not his father, but his mother’s new boyfriend. They were secretly drinking beer even though it was not allowed on the beach.  They were in their own world and mostly ignored him, except to yell at him for some small infraction.  His older brother, maybe about nine or ten, entertained himself by harassing his younger sibling.

The boy seemed lonely so I invited to join me, building castles.  He was a fun and willing playmate, running down to the water’s edge again and again to fill the bucket to wet our pile of sand.  My grandfather had brought some lunch along, and I offered him half of my sandwich, which he ate hungrily. Even in my child’s mind, I had the impression he wasn’t very well-fed.

When it was time for us to go,  my instinct was to let him keep the bucket.  I recognized, in my childlike way, that I had so much more than he did.  I had many toys at home and he probably had none.  I had parents and grandparents who loved me and paid attention to me.  His mother treated him like an annoyance.    But the pail had been a gift from my grandfather.  I wasn’t sure how he would feel if I were to give it away.

I asked him.

“It is yours to do with as you please.  You have to ask yourself if it is better to keep it  or if it’s better to use what you have to make other people happy.  I have found that sharing with others makes me much happier than keeping things all to myself.  I am proud that you feel the same way.”

And so, I gave the boy my special toy.

My grandfather could have replaced it for me but he didn’t.  This was a good thing.  If he’d bought me another, I would not have remembered the lesson.  Missing it reminded me of the pleasure of sharing, the joy of making another happy.

A few years later, I was in the small grocery store my grandfather owned.  A boy, about thirteen or fourteen, came in and took some cans of food and hid them in his clothes.  Grandfather caught him.  I expected him to be outraged; to give him a lecture and call the police.  But instead, he recognized that the boy was poor; that he had stolen only to eat.  So instead, he offered him a job.  It didn’t pay much but it was enough to keep him from stealing.  Grandfather often gave him food to take home to his family.  The boy worked for him for many years, until he left to join the army.  From this, I learned that believing in someone can change their life.

When the school bully started harassing me, Grandfather explained to me that bullies puff themselves up so nobody will see how weak they really are.  They were not to be feared, but rather to be pitied.  And so, I learned to show compassion in the face of fear.

Even after Grandfather died, his lessons remained with me, guiding me in my judgment and   in my relationships with others.  He was then, and remains even here, my spiritual teacher.  We have been together in other lives previous, and will be together in the next life coming.  Not always as grandfather and child, but always as teacher and student.

 

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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.

Ignored Intuition

originally published June 17, 2014

forest floor

Da

He murdered me. Stabbed me to death, alone in some dark place; a basement, I guess. My life was already a mess. I knew at the first hint of danger nobody would come looking for me. He held me there, a prisoner, for three days. That was a terror I hope never to live through again.

I wavered between wanting to die quickly (when it seemed obvious I wasn’t going to be able to escape) and defiance; showing a strong will and determination to get myself out of there. He seemed to enjoy manipulating my emotions like that. He would pretend to relax his vigilance to give me false hope, but in fact, he was in total control the entire time. This was his game. It was no fun for him when I was too passive.

By the end of the second day, I was too weak to fight. I drifted in and out of consciousness. He gave me just enough relief to prevent me from dying too quickly. That’s why he took me in the first place.

When I finally expired, after he’d taken all the pleasure he could from my body and my pain, he just dumped me in a woods, barely bothering to bury me. Nobody would look for me there. Nobody would look for me at all.

He got back into his car and drove towards home, stopping in a small store to buy himself some snacks and beer. He was calm and relaxed. Nothing about his demeanor said “I have just murdered someone, and I enjoyed it.”

I watched him, knowing he would get away with it, willing his car to crash but not having the power to make it happen.

I follow him still. I try to cause him whatever discomfort I can but he seems oblivious. His need to torture and kill is so loud, it drowns out any subtle voice or message.

Instead, I try to warn other women away from him. I have succeeded in a few instances. I gave them a cold sense of  foreboding, enough to feel anxious and uncomfortable around him, enough so they wouldn’t go home with him. But not all of them listened. Some felt the hair on their necks stand on end but ignored the sign because they needed the money too badly. Or, like him, something louder (or whatever drugs or drink they used to quiet it) made them immune to their inner voice. If they had followed their intuition in the first place, their lives probably would be on a different track.

This was not how I’d expected it to end for me. It wasn’t the lesson I’d set out to learn, but I strayed off my path early on, and soon there was no redemption for me. So many missed opportunities; so many lost chances. It might all have turned out differently.

So, I try now to save others from the same fate. Do they hear me? I don’t always know; can’t always tell but I keep at it as a kind of penance.

 

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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.

By the Sea

 

Originally published Sept 30, 2014

 

She remains one of my favorite narrators…

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

Ja

I grew up in a busy fishing town at the edge of the sea. What I remember most is the smell of the place. I can recall it even now – briny, fishy, sweaty, acrid. The scent of wood fires and charcoal burning; the oil and petrol from the boats; salt water and rotting fish.   Sometimes, after school, I would go to a small cove, away from the boats, just to have the sea to myself. I would dig my little toes into the wet sand, and just breathe it all in.

The smell of the shore is, in fact, that of decay and death. It’s seaweed rotting on the sand; small sea creatures – shellfish and crabs – wounded or dead on or under the rocks. Even the sea birds dined on death, feasting on carrion. But these aromas were familiar to me. It was the smell of my home.

Once, when I was quite young, we traveled to visit some of my mother’s family up in the highlands. Even at that young age, I marveled at how different the air tasted.

Up there, was the sweet smell of life. Of flowers and things green. Of birds and animals living in the forest. It was the organic smell of humus which is technically not alive, but from which life springs so abundantly, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a living thing. The scent of the flowers — pink and orange and violet — was intoxicating! They grew everywhere, springing up from the ground; hanging from the trees; climbing on vines up the walls of the houses.

It was a magical place, and I could not decide which I preferred more – the shore or the hills. I wondered where I would live when I was grown.

Like many of the other men, my father was a fisherman. One of the aromas I most associated with the shore, and which I loved the most, was his scent when he held me. When the smell of his manly body odor, fish, motor oil, and cigarettes tickled my nostrils, it meant I was safe.

As most young girls, I was in love with my father. He was a handsome man, brown from the sun, with thick, black hair and straight white teeth. His strong arms could lift me up high and carry me all the way home.

He went out to sea almost every day on his small wooden boat, painted white and blue. It had a motor in the back which was often in need of repair. He spent many hours working on it.

Although fishing was the main industry in our area, there were few who had the money for a brand new motor. They all bought the best used equipment they could afford. That meant being a successful fisherman was not just knowing where to find or how to catch fish. It meant one also be good at repair; to have an understanding of how a motor worked, how to fix it with whatever parts were available or that could be cobbled together, with old tools which were always on the verge of giving out. When a motor stopped, there was no time to waste, especially not out at sea.

I knew it was not good when my father couldn’t be out on the water; when he was stuck in port trying to make that old piece of machinery sputter to life. It meant a loss of income. This situation was inevitable for every boat owner. It was time loast which none could afford, yet, it was accepted that this was just how it was.   The men used to say, “Just when you get ahead, you fall ten steps back.” Thinking philosophically instead of feeling sorry for themselves was another necessary requirement for being a fisherman.

Still, as a child, I loved the days my father was stuck in the harbor. I was happy knowing he was safe, close to home where I could keep my eye on him or run to see him. It scare me to imagine him out there, with all the many unknown dangers. It was never far from my mind that the sea might take him and I would never see him again.

My mother was as beautiful as my father was handsome. She had a stall in the market where she sold small sweets and savories, all of which she made herself; some at home and some fresh on the spot. She was famous in town for her cooking.

She’d been in that stall since she was 16. Since before I was born. Since before she met my father. It had belonged to her mother, and when she died, it fell to my mother to cook and sell, to help support her family.

That’s how she met my father. He always joked that he first fell in love with her sweets, and then with her sweetness.

My mother’s sweets were so delicate, they would dissolve on the tongue. Some of her small pastries were so spicy, they could make a grown man cry. Her savories had such complex flavors, you could still taste them, mingling on your tongue even after you’d swallowed.

Most people didn’t take the time to really savor them, which was a pity. To them, they were just a quick bite to eat when they didn’t have time to stop and sit and have a proper meal. The shoppers, the other vendors, the workmen and women passing by, they all had a need of a her snacks, but only a few took the time to fully appreciate what an innovative cook she was. Everything she made — even for strangers, even for those who never gave her refined cooking a second thought — was made with love. But if people’s palates were not sophisticated enough to recognize her culinary genius, they certainly were able to taste the care and joy that went into each piece.

Her stall was in an excellent and much-coveted location, at the outer corner of the market, which gave her maximum exposure to passersby. Her food stall was the most popular and had been so since shortly after she began there.

If the market was open, Mother was there. Usually six days a week, even through her pregnancy with me and with my younger sister.

My father and I both agreed that my mother was the prettiest woman in the town. She had big eyes and long lashes and skin the color of the sweet milk tea I loved to drink. She had long, dark hair which she wore in a single braid down her back. I, myself, wore two braids, which she plaited for me every morning and carefully combed them out every night before I went to bed. Then she would brush my hair, gently, as she sang to me or told me stories, relaxing me for bed.

Some days, after my father came in from the sea and had unloaded his fish and had finished cleaning the boat, and tuning the motor, my mother would take me and my sister to meet him in the harbor. Mother would bring whatever snacks she had left over from the day, and together we would sit on the boat and talk about our day, as we watched the sun set over the ocean. We were happy and we loved each other.

I was lucky. Between my mother and my father, there was enough money to send me to school, and in a new dress every year.

Every year, at the end of December, we celebrated a family tradition, the same as my mother had done as a child. There was an exchange of gifts. The year I turned eight, my special gift was a new pair of “big girl” shoes. They were shiny and black with a pink ribbon. I felt like a real lady in them. I couldn’t wait to show them off to my friends at school! As was always the case with new shoes and new clothes, they were purchased a bit too large to give me time to grow into them. I pushed paper into the toes so they wouldn’t fall off.

The next morning, on my way to school, I scanned the harbor. Most of the boats were already out to sea. Father’s was not there, which meant his motor was working that morning. I would worry about him until I saw him again in the evening.

And then something strange happened.

The sea peeled back from the shore, exposing more beach than I’d ever seen before. It sloped steeply down.

Some people started to panic and run away from the water, but most either weren’t paying attention or, like myself, went closer to see what was going on, not understanding what it meant.

I stood there, fascinated. And then,   suddenly, there was a wall of water so high and frightening it took my breath away even before it crashed over me. Instantly, I and everything else was under it.   My new shoes were sucked off my feet. In those last seconds, before I drowned all I could think about was my lost shoes.

We were all lost except my father, but when he came back to shore and saw the devastation, he no longer had the heart for living. He rejoined us soon.

By human standards, it was a great tragedy. So much loss of life. But it was a necessary correction which the universe must make from time to time. I do not understand the reasons.

So many souls, all leaving the living world at one time, creating so much energy. I was just a small part of it; a tiny speck in a cloud of dust, floating upwards on a ribbon of sunlight.

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image: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

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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 the Shepherd

Ib

While I was channeling The Liar, (the previous post), a different fellow came into my head as clear and powerful a picture. (Most often, stories come to me in words or as feelings).

He is an adult man, a poor shepherd in ragged clothes, tending his flock. He sits on a rock, with his rifle close at hand. The terrain is bleak and mountainous. I know we are in the foothills of the Hindu Kush… Afghanistan or Pakistan perhaps.]

“I grew up with it,” he said, showing me his gun. “It was an extension of myself. It never left my side.  I learned to shoot as a child and so I was an excellent marksman. When I was out with my herd, I was always scanning the horizon and the skies for predators – wolves, jackals. Even a hawk could take away a small lamb.”

“I also watched the narrow paths leading into our valley, keeping my rifle trained on anyone I didn’t recognize until it was known whether they were friend or enemy. In this way, I, like everyone else, helped guard the safety of our village.”

All well and good, I thought “aloud” to him, but this is not really a story. It’s just an image, and I might just be remembering that image from a photograph.   I need more.

He then “showed” me his small house – a typical low mud and brick hut. He told me he had four children, two boys and two girls. The girls were married and living with their husbands’ families.

Sorry, but this is still not particularly interesting. Yet he was coming to me so strongly,  I felt he must have more to say.

Don’t you have a story, I asked. A lesson?

And then he started to wax philosophical…

===

Living in such a small, isolated village, it is impossible to comprehend the life of a person who works in an office in a big city in another country. And the person who lives and works in a big modern city cannot fully imagine the life of a person who lives in a small village.

It is difficult enough to understand the feelings and the suffering and the pain and even the joy of your own neighbor. Sometimes, not even your own family member. Each human being is at the center of his or her own reality. The reality of others is completely abstract. You might as well be on completely different planets.

When the feelings and hopes and dreams and pain of others are abstract, and when their needs and desires conflict with your own, it becomes easy to vilify and hate.

To push aside your own limitations in order to see beyond the limitations of others is the path to compassion. But this takes a tremendous amount of work and energy, more than most humans are willing or able to expend.

It takes far less energy to hate.

Humans like to believe they are compassionate but they make so many exceptions, that they are not compassionate at all.   There are always others — a group or a class or an ethnicity or a nation — for whom they make exceptions.   “Yes,” they say, “compassion is good BUT those people….” are this way or do that.  They are somehow unworthy of compassion.

And how many humans can feel compassion for their enemy, especially if they are trying to kill them? But without compassion enemies are always plentiful.

People claim to want peace in the world as if it is the responsibility of nations or governments. But peace begins with compassion within ourselves. Each time we vilify others, even a neighbor or an old friend or a family member – even if we feel justified because they have done us grievous harm — we move the world one step further from peace.

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Addendum:  Well, I have to admit, by these standards,  I’m not very compassionate at all!  Guess I have something to work on!

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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.

 

Love is the Way to the Truth

First published Sept 18, 2014

 Aya (a new voice)

I believe in the redemptive power of love. It is the prism through which everything passes. It is the path along which the most important lessons are learned. Love turns you inward; directs you to where the most important answers are.

When two people make a commitment to each other in love, that commitment is as much to themselves as to each other. It is a promise to grow and change; to bend to fit with an open heart; to see clearly both the good and bad in oneself;  to continually reevaluate beliefs; to rethink behaviors and view them from different perspectives; to see the world through another’s eyes.

To love is to commit to working on everything that prevents us from becoming our best self. We commit to knowing our own true self, and when we have discovered it, all things become clear. The result is true intimacy — with ourselves, with each other, with the universe.

In loving fully, we make ourselves whole.

[more from Aya later]

 

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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 Perfectionist

first published September 15, 2014

Perfektionist | Metapher

Win

I was a precocious child, adorable and smart as a whip. Things came easily to me. I mastered whatever was put before me quickly and perfectly. I could not understand why others struggled with things that came to me so naturally. I always aimed for perfection (and usually achieved it) because I loved being praised for my cleverness. It made me feel special and more important than everyone else.

As I grew up, I become more and more accomplished at various things. I could do more in a day than anyone else I knew. I looked down upon those who could not complete tasks which to me were simple; or solve problems when the solutions seemed obvious to me. I felt pity and contempt for the lazy, the ineffectual, those who did not have the capacity to do what needed to be done. I assumed that anyone who claimed not to be capable of these things was just being lazy or purposely obtuse. I had no patience or compassion for those who struggled with what (to my mind at least) should have been straight-forward tasks and easy-to-attain goals.

I entered the business world and was extremely successful. It never occurred to me that I would be otherwise.   I went over and above what others expected of me, always working hard to top what I’d done before. I was driven, but the rewards were great.

That was the upside.

The downside was that I pushed others relentlessly.   I expected them to value perfection as I did. If I asked someone to do something and the result did not meet my high standards, I would get angry or dismissive or even cruel. I had no use for imperfect people. Those who wanted to work with me and for me, knew what was expected of them. Failure, laziness, mistakes, miscalculations were not options.

I was not well-liked.

There was no place for laziness in a relationship. How difficult was it to get things right? All they had to do was pay close attention, watch how I did it, and learn the right way. Wasn’t it better to do things the correctly than to make mistakes? Wasn’t it better to be industrious than to be lazy? My motto was “Properly not sloppily.”

How convinced I was about this! How sure I was right; that my way was the best and only way. I worked myself relentlessly towards perfection in everything.

Ironically, this was my greatest flaw.

I had no respect for the journeys of others. No compassion for their challenges. No empathy. No understanding of different values. And worst, no ability to feel or give unconditional love.

I was successful in life, but in death I see I was an utter failure as a human being

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

originally published August 22, 2014

Artist: Mobstr/location: London

Sa

Genius. My greatest sorrow and frustration in life was that I was able to recognize it; appreciate it when I saw it; easily discern between the very good, the great and the brilliant; and yet, I, myself, could not produce anything of such caliber.   I could see the tricks and techniques the masters used to imprint their work with their unique creative flair. I was able to read between the lines and marvel at a turn of phrase or an especially apt metaphor. I noticed the nuanced underpainting and the way it brought life to the subject. I could hear the subtle change of key that lodged a melody in the head. And yet was not able to reproduce any of it.

I did not begrudge them their success. They deserved it. I only wanted to whip aside the curtain to see how they did it. Was there a trick? A skill I could learn? Techniques I might master?   The answer, I found was yes to all those things, and yet, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. There was something inside those people, something I didn’t possess. No matter what I did, somebody else did it better.   More naturally. More easily.

Perhaps if I’d had no aesthetic sense; if I’d not be able to catch that flash of brilliance that separated the journeyman from the prodigy, it might not have pained me so much. But I was able to see it and each time I did, it reminded me that I lacked what came so easily to them.

I plugged away at what I did best. I was moderately successful. I was able to earn a living, but few outside my immediate circle sang praises to my talent.

They stood at the pinnacle and I was left to worship from below.

I suppose this was the main thread of my life: To envy what I could never be; to live in the disappointment of not being able to be better than I was.

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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: Mobstr/location: London

 

Without a Trace

First published Oct 28, 2015

gowanus

Ja

I was just 27. I had my whole life in front of me. I had a good job, career prospects, lots of friends.   One night, I went into the city to meet a some buddies for drinks. It was late when I left them to head home. I was a bit tipsy but not exactly drunk.  A man on the street approached me, asking for directions. I stopped to help him.

After that was a blur. I woke up groggy, bound with nylon rope, in the trunk of a car, bumping along very potholed roads. I had no idea where I was. Or why. Or how. It took a while for me to put it together, but he must have drugged me somehow. Maybe stuck me with something. I didn’t remember.

Finally, we came to a stop. When he opened the trunk and pulled me out, we were in a garage…not a house garage but a commercial one, like a chop shop. I had no idea exactly where we were but my sense was that it was in a remote, industrial part of an outer boro, far from prying eyes and out of earshot of anyone who could help me.

My captor was insane. That much was obvious.   I was terrified. I knew I was going to die at his hands, but I didn’t know how, which terrified me more.

He started with the tools for breaking apart cars, and took me apart slowly, methodically. He knew was he was doing. He took pleasure in my pain.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I tried to will my soul out of my body, so I would die faster. It didn’t work as quickly as I prayed it would. When I passed across, as soon as I felt my soul leave my corporeal form, I was met by others; other young men he’d killed in the same way.

New York has a serial killer but nobody knows it. He disposes of bodies so well, none of us were ever found. We are all still listed as mysteriously missing persons. Nobody suspects that all our disappearances are related; the work of one man. Nobody is looking for a single killer. He is too clever for them.

Our bodies are in the Gowanus Canal, but no one would ever think to look for us there. Even if they did, they would never find us. We are melted into the toxic soup.

 

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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!

 

 

Voices in the Calm

NEW!

 

Cla

When I grew old, I spoke to the dead and they spoke to me.  I heard them, clear as if they were standing in the room with me.  They told me their stories, just as I tell mine to you.  I answered them, and asked them questions.  My neighbors could hear me chatting through the door and the walls, apparently to no one.  They thought me odd but I was harmless,   so they left me alone. They whispered that I’d gone mad after my husband died, and my son a year later.  Some said I talked to the dead in my imagination because I couldn’t stand to be alone.  Others believed I imagined the dead to be alive because I was afraid to die.  If the dead were alive, then I need not be afraid of death.  Most assumed the dementia of old age had set in and I was just imagining things.

But they were wrong about everything.

I also spoke to the dead when I was young.  But then life got busy and I no longer had the time for them.  But the main reason was that the noise of the world, the noise of my own questions and worries inside my head, crowded out any other voices.  I could no more hear them than I could perceive a hushed whisper across a noisy, bustling train station.   I could not stop the noise, nor did I think to do so.   Whatever was inside my head was me, and that took up all my mental energy and attention.

But then, eventually, I found myself old and alone.  I had lived long enough to be philosophical about life. I no longer worried or questioned.  I simply accepted.   And finally, once again, it was quiet enough to listen.

______

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!

 

 

Note:  this one’s kinda meta, isn’t it?

Keen Observer

Originally posted August 31, 2014

Bread in Oven

Re

In the village where I lived my entire life, the roads were made of dirt and mud. Those people who could afford to, built their homes from brick or block, cement, and corrugated metal. Those who could not, build theirs of wood, metal scraps, and mud. Nobody had more than four sets of clothing: two for summer and two for winter. Many had only one.   Some people had shoes; others did not.

I suppose by some standards,  we lived in poverty, but since we had no idea how others lived, we had no basis of comparison, and so we never thought of ourselves as poor. Ultimately, it made no difference to the lives we lived, the lessons we learned, the love we shared, the pain we suffered. The human condition is the same everywhere.

Even among those who have so very little, there were the haves and the have-nots.   My family was in the middle. We went hungry from time to time, but mostly that was because of the weather, when the crops didn’t do well, or the animals starved. But then, most everyone suffered during those times, as well.

I never felt myself poor. We were not so different from most everyone we knew. I never longed for more. I was content.

From the time I was a young girl,  I enjoyed observing people,  watching how they behaved, how they socialized with others.  In my small village, everyone knew everyone. Keeping secrets was impossible. We knew who was happy in their circumstances and who was not, and why.  We knew who loved unrequitedly, who held a grudge, who envied whom. We knew who was stupid and who was wise,  who was selfish and who was magnanimous,  who could be relied on when you needed help and who you could count on to stick the knife in deeper.

From an early age, these personalities, these relationships, these behaviors fascinated me.

There was an old baker in the village who had built his brick oven himself,  long before I was born.  All the women brought their bread and larger meals to be cooked there. None of them could have built such a hot fire at home because it would have been impossible for a woman (even with the help her children) to collect that much wood. It was difficult enough to gather enough to keep a house warm in winter. A fire in the small stove might be enough only to heat a pot of water for tea or to boil an egg or to keep a pot of bits and scraps cooking until it became soup. Of course in the summer,  it was  too hot to keep a fire going inside.  And so we had a communal bakery.

Every morning,  the wives or their young daughters or sometimes a servant, brought their kneaded loaves or other ingredients to the baker, to be cooked together with everyone else’s.  The old baker, who everyone called Grandfather even though he had no children of his own, also sold his own bread and buns and some savories and sweets, which some villagers bought as well.

Grandfather was a nice man with a good soul.  Everybody liked him.  If a family could not pay, he would never shame them. He would tell them kindly to pay when they could, even when he knew he was likely to never be paid at all. It was not in his heart to let anyone starve if he could help it.

When I was about 8 years old, there was a young man in the village who worked for the baker. He was very full of his own worth,  full of important advice for everyone, always telling others the best way to run their businesses even though, he, himself, had no business of his own. He was always telling Grandfather how to improve things, but Grandfather had been in business since before this young man was born, and he did not appreciate the unsolicited advice.

Others advised the young man to mind his tongue and do his job,  for the old man would eventually pass away and then he could take over the business and do with it whatever he wanted.   But he could not wait.   So, he moved away to the city, which was very far. He worked there for a few years at something (nobody really knew) until he had saved enough money to start his own bakery in the village.

When he came back,  he built his own oven. In front, he built a low wall to create a kind of outdoor room. There he put some tables and chairs. It became a kind of spontaneous café for men to gather, to drink strong tea and eat a small cake or two, to smoke, to play cards, to discuss politics and religion.

The young man thought he was very clever because now he had both a bakery and a café, and was sure he could make twice as much money as Grandfather. The fact is, the bakery was where all the profit was. A café didn’t earn much. These men sat all day with one pot, always asking for more hot water.

In his foolishness and ignorance he expected the village women to flock to his bakery, which was larger and of course newer and offered some social activity. What he failed to consider, was that the women did not want to pass through a group of men, on their way to the oven. These women worked hard.  They gathered wood and carried water from the well. They minded the small animals. And the children, too, of course.  They worked like donkeys from sunrise until everyone in their families was safely asleep.  These women resented working hard while men sat idle. They did not want to be reminded of it.  It made them bitter.  And so,  they avoided the place.

Soon,  with no customers for his oven, the young man could not keep his business open. He lost everything. Ashamed , chastened, and once again poor,  he left the village for the city once more. I never saw him again but I thought about him a lot.

He had failed because he was a bad judge of human nature, including his own.

That was the first time I understood how tragic a human flaw it was not to understand others; how much more successful someone could be in life if they paid close attention to the needs and desires of both their friends and enemies.

And from then on, I made it a point to study others and to understand what they wanted most deeply.  I quickly learned this was rarely what it appeared to be on the surface.  A man might start an argument with someone of a higher status not because he was angry at the man but because he resented his own low standing. To win such an argument was to steal some of that man’s power. A woman might want a new piece of jewelry from her husband not because she needed more finery, but because it showed others that her husband valued her. She craved the status of that; not his actual love..  A girl might act aloof or tease a boy, not because she wants to hurt him or push him away, but because she likes him and doesn’t know how to express her own feelings.

Like everywhere, people desired the same things: love, power, status, freedom from pain and discomfort. And like everywhere, they often went about getting them the wrong way.

I observed these things closely all my life, and I thought about them as I went about my days. And the more I understood, the more things made sense to me.   I didn’t get upset when people behaved badly because I could see through it to the real reason, and I had compassion.

Many people came to me, asking for my advice. And from where I sit now, I still believe it was good advice.

______

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 al

 

 

photo: Roseman Creek Ranch

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