The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “universal wisdom”

Anchors Aweigh

This was first published last July but it reminds me so much of the current news story about Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald being hit in the Sea of Japan, and all those sailors dying while sleeping,  I am  reposting it again today,  out of order.

 May they all rest in peace.   Condolences to their families and loved ones.

 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40317341

The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A11482

 

Gle

I was just out of school,  still mostly a boy,  when I joined the Navy.  There was a big war going on, and I was eager to serve my country and see the world.   In the early days, I had the exuberance of youth; the certainty of my invulnerability. I believed I would return home a hero, with interesting tales to tell for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before my fantasies collapsed and my mood (and most of the others’ around me) swung between a self-protective detachment and abject terror. These emotions often manifested at inappropriate moments.   One afternoon,  our ship was strafed by enemy planes.  I and my fellow gunners manned the positions,  immediately becoming primary targets for fire.  Two of my companions died right on the deck beside me, but I had no time to mourn, no time for fear.  I focused on my job.  My aim was true.  I brought down two aircraft, watching with indifference as their pilots and their crews were swallowed by the vast ocean, unbroken ocean.

During that battle and in the hours that followed, I felt nothing.   It was only much later that a thick fog of terror and panic rolled in,  enveloping and smothering me.

Weeks later, a bird fell from the sky, dead,  onto the deck and suddenly,  I felt awash in guilt for having taken the lives of those foreign flyers. They were not so different from me and my mates, all of us just doing our jobs.

Some nights after many days of relative calm, I’d wake up in a cold sweat.  The quiet felt like a bad omen.

Apropos of nothing, the hair would stand up on my neck.  My breath would grow short and my heart would beat, rat-tat-tat, like an artillery tattoo, in my chest.

But in action, I was distracted,  attentive,  too focused on what was happening in that very moment to worry about what might happen in the future, even the immediate future.

And so the months went,  a pendulum between action and tedium,  fear and fatalism.

Eventually,  it was my turn for leave.  We were heading for a friendly port, and once there, I would be flying home for a week or so to see my family and my girl.

I hung in my hammock,  wrapped like a cocoon so I wouldn’t fall out,  swinging to and fro in the rough seas.  When I first came to the ship,  I found this movement rather sickening, but eventually I grew used to it and felt it comforting, like being rocked to sleep in a cradle.   The sound of the other guys snoring and grunting gave me comfort, for we were brothers and took care of each other.  I was sleeping peacefully,  dreaming of home.

And then, suddenly I was wide awake, up to my face in quickly-rising salt water,  the smell of fuel thick in the air. The ship had been hit by a torpedo and we were sinking fast.  I could see others floating around me, already dead.   I had only a few moments of consciousness left before it was my turn to drown.  I said a quick prayer and then gave myself over to remembering the last time my girl and I kissed.  And then I was gone.

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 just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Bound

NEW!

 

Ipo

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

 

 

 

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

One Truth

First published Oct 16, 2015
truth2
listen to One Truth/Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Ipo

Whoever believes without question and adheres most closely to dogma is not the holiest among you. There are no answers without questions, rejected answers, and more questions.

There is only one truth and it is this: You will never know the Truth.

To settle on understanding is delusion, but to cease questioning is to shackle the soul’s ascent.

 


Omar Faruk Tekbilek,  an amazing and deeply spiritual musician whom I’ve had the privilege to meet, interview and chat with many times.  If you don’t know his work,  I encourage you to search him out.  His first solo album, Whirling,  is still one of my very favorites,  even 25 years after I first heard it.  Absolutely hypnotic.  If you’re looking for one album to listen to when you’re in “that mood” — that’s the one!  He is a virtuoso on many instruments and his voice is like buttah.  Or honey.  Or honey buttah.

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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
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

 

 

photo from http://www.ruthlera.com/

The Perfect Life

NEW!

Gra

I had a perfect life. That’s what everyone told me.  I was blessed.  Lucky.   Other women envied me, wishing even for a slice of my life. They envied my handsome successful husband,  my three beautiful children,   my large home in the best neighborhood. I was quite attractive and always dressed in the latest styles.  I never had to go to work. I was free to enjoy the kinds of activities women of leisure enjoy.

I should have been happy.   I had what everyone else wanted; what everyone else was sure would make them happy.  I felt there was something deeply wrong with me because even though I had all this, I was profoundly dissatisfied.

I was happy enough when my babies were small, until the youngest started school.  Suddenly, my days were unfilled.   I didn’t quite know what to do with my time.  My husband traveled frequently on business and was often gone for days, weeks at a time.  I didn’t particularly miss him, but it did leave me lonely for adult company.

I joined a club and met some other women who also needed to fill their days.  We gossiped, complained, and bragged over cards, over lunch, in the pool.  I needed a challenge so I took tennis lessons, and risibly fell victim to that utterly predicable and clichéd story line:  attractive but bored, unhappy housewife has affair with handsome, raffish instructor.

I craved emotional diversion.  I was desperate for my blood to run with passion again, to feel that yearning in the heart and loins.  I rejoiced to feel alive and desired. I hungered for it like a drug.  He began to appear frequently in my dreams and always in my fantasies.  I touched myself, imagining it was his hands on me. Everything reminded me of him. I lived for our weekly trysts.  He became the main focus of my thoughts and attention. I needed him like oxygen.

The weight of my need was more than he was willing to bear. I was too attached, too needy.  I became demanding and weepy.  I wanted things from him that were ridiculous to expect from such an ultimately meaningless relationship. I became undignified.  And so he broke it off.

I was devastated.

I could not go back to the club.  I could not bear to see him with other women.  I could not even bear to be out in public, so raw and so vulnerable.

In the beginning, I would have a drink or two in the morning – enough to help me tolerate the empty hours, but early enough in the day so that I would be relatively sober and put together by the time the children came home from school in the afternoon.

After a while, I’d drink just until the moment the first one walked in the door.  I thought they were too young to notice.  (I was wrong.)   Eventually, I didn’t even care enough to hide my drinking — not from the children who seemed not to need me, not from the housekeeper who was smart enough to do her work and mind her business, and not from my husband when he was around.  He didn’t seem to notice me much anymore anyway.  Other than civil dinners lacking all intimacy, we mostly stayed to ourselves,  him in his part of the house and me in mine.

The drinking transformed from something I did to numb my sorrow and loneliness to a genuine addiction.  Early on, when necessary, I was capable of functioning out in the world  —  go to the market, the shops,  bank, the hair salon.  I’d have just a quick one before setting out and I could tolerate it for a few hours. I didn’t think anyone knew my secret. (I was wrong.)

Over time, it became more important to me to be able to drink at will than to be able to hold myself together for the sake of others.  I was aware enough to recognize that in my usual condition. I was too sloppy to be in polite company.  When drunk, I was prone to doing embarrassing things. I did not want to bring that humiliation on my family.  So I stayed at home.  Besides, daylight and other humans had begun to bother me.

Once, while in the middle of figuring that out,  I picked up my youngest son and some of his friends at an after-school event.  I was quite drunk.  The teachers must have noticed my condition, but they dared not stop me from driving. Although it would have been the reasonable thing to do,  it was not their place.  On the way home, I swerved off the road on a sharp S-curve and came perilously close to a fatal accident.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but the children were terrified and I was deeply shaken.

To my credit, I learned from this incident never to drive in that condition.  And since I was almost always in that condition, it was easier to remain inside, curtains drawn.

As my appearance deteriorated, so did my health.  I grew soft and sloppy.  My face puffed and my muscles sagged.  I looked years older than my chronological age.  I had gone from the envy of all to the person everyone pitied, including myself.

Towards the end, when my condition was too awful for my family to continue to ignore, they tried to get me some help, but I was already beyond the point of salvation.  I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t want to change. I just wanted to remain numb until I died, which I expected would not take long.  I knew it would kill me.  I hoped it did so quickly.

My children cried because I loved the bottle more than I loved them.  My husband felt guilty for not having gotten me help earlier, when possibly I might have been saved.

But it was not the drink, itself,  that did me in. That was a symptom. What destroyed me was my guilt over not being happy despite all that God had given me. According to everyone else, I had everything a woman could desire to achieve maximum satisfaction.   If I was unhappy with all this, clearly there was something wrong with me; there was nothing that could make me happy. I was too damaged and undeserving of happiness. If I could have assuaged my guilt by giving those slices of my life to whoever could take benefit from them, I would have.  Such advantages were wasted on me.

I had made the grotesque mistake of believing what everyone else did: that money and possessions and status and appearances were the source of happiness.  I could have been happy in that my situation, just as anyone can be happy in any situation, if I had simply placed the greatest value on the smallest things.

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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!

Lay That Burden Down

NEW!

 

Len

If you’d asked me if I was a good friend, a caring and generous person, I would have said, unequivocally, yes. In many important ways I was all those things, but I was also deluded about myself and about how others saw me.

I was happy to give my time and my energy and my money to others, and I could always be depended on for a favor.  Even though I rarely asked for anything in return, truth was, I did expect something very big in return.  But what I wanted could not be bought with time or energy or money not matter how much I gave.

What I wanted more than anything  was to be loved exactly the way I wanted to be loved, completely as myself with no need to fit myself to another.  I wanted my every flaw to be overlooked.   I wanted to be seen as perfect. And in this I was most needy.

Oh, what heartache I suffered when the ones I loved (or wanted to love)  did not love me, even after all I’d done for them.  When my expectations were not met, I grew resentful.  In my resentment, I became angry.  Angry people are difficult to love.  This anger was a heavy burden which I bore without ever truly understanding how the weight of it bent and crippled me.

I understand now that people don’t always love you the way you want to be loved.   To be loved, you must allow others to love you in whatever ways they do,  in whatever ways they can.

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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

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!

No Philosophy, No Mechanism

First published 8/16/15

candle smoke

 

Pa

From the time she left me until the end of her life, all I wished for was that she would finally comprehend what I’d always been trying to make her understand.   Even after the years passed, I always held out hope that one day she would have an epiphany and all would become clear; that she would finally see her own truth from a new perspective, one which afforded her safe distance from her pain. I prayed that one day she would see in herself all the beauty that I saw. I willed that she would understand that believing something is either good or bad fortune is simply a matter of perspective.

She was too unhappy, too caught up in her own pain, to make sense of any of it. I tried with all the love and forgiveness I could muster to keep at her my side, though she fought me as if I were a demon.   She lashed out at everything – good and bad –equally. She had no philosophy, no mechanism by which to extract any value from her suffering.

A tragic life is one in which suffering is in vain. Where pain brings no growth; no advancement in understanding; no deeper empathy for others. No breaking of walls. No ability to be vulnerable. No opening of the mind and spirit. No conquest of fear.

Fear shades the light which illuminates the Truth.

 


 

As I was writing this, my first impression was that it was a man speaking of his lover, but after a while I had the sense it was a parent speaking of their deeply unhappy, emotionally-challenged child. There was  pain because the child predeceased the parent (by suicide, perhaps.)

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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

I, Golem

New!

bridge-to-nowhere

Riv

I was just eighteen when I married.  My first child,  a boy, arrived ten months later. Another child came quickly after that and by twenty-three, I was the mother of four. My husband offered little support or help raising them. They were all left to me, these young, hungry, screaming, clamoring, curious, mischievous, needy children.

I’d led a sheltered life within a religious family in a like-minded community.  I had not had much sense of myself to begin with.  I was raised for one purpose: to become a wife and a mother.  Once I was both, I had even less idea who I was except breasts to feed and lips to scold and arms to carry and hands to cook and legs that itched to just run and keep running until I was somewhere completely different, and all alone.

I felt no love for my children, no love for anyone or anything.  I knew this was wrong, that I was deeply flawed. It was one of the greatest sins for a mother not to love her children.  Love is what makes humans human. If I was not capable of love, then I was no better than a golem, an automaton. I was less than human.

But, in fact, I was not less than human.  I was painfully, achingly, tragically human.  I was simply numb to my own pain. I was too exhausted to live; too completely without ego to care about anything.

Perhaps, then, it is not love, but ego that makes us human. Without ego, there is no point to human life.  Nothing to drive us forward along our path.  Nothing to give us purpose.  No pain or joy to teach us lessons.

I was, therefore, nothing.

It followed, then, that my children were also nothing.  I regarded them as merely attachments to my appendages. If I had been capable of regarding them as individual, unique human beings, I would have had to also conclude that I, too, was human.  After all, a golem cannot create human babies.  But since I was certain that I was a golem, it followed by my logic, that my children must also be made of mud and clay. Empty. Hollow. Unable to feel.  Unhuman.

Given this line of logic, I did the only thing that made sense to me.

When my husband was off to work, I gathered my children for a trip. Only the oldest was curious about where we were going, but I quieted him by telling him we were going on a secret adventure.

I drove around for a while, in growing outward spiral, circling further and further from home.  I knew where I was going, what had to be done, but I needed to approach it obliquely, to work up my courage.

And finally,  the children fell asleep and I finally found myself where I was heading all along.

I drove to the big bridge.  Halfway across, I turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the accelerator. In an instant, we were over the edge and into the river.

It was where we needed to be. There, we would dissolve and return to what we were: just mud and clay.

 

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

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!

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