383. Counterintuitive

Here’s a disturbing question for you:  When do folks suicide most often– summer, winter, spring or fall? Most folks think winter and the holiday season is ripe for suicides. That may be, but it’s spring that consistently hosts the most suicides in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. (You know they are opposite, right?)According to the CDC April and May show a marked increase in suicides in the U.S. and other northern countries, and that suicides actually decline in the bleak winter months. One study I saw clearly demonstrated Monday as the favored day for suicides to occur. Maybe those folks just didn’t want to go to jobs they really hated. Hmmm, you’d think quitting or calling off might have been more effective.

Not to make light of suicide. I feel deeply for folks who are in such a pain filled state that they can only think of destroying the pain container instead of destroying or managing the pain. It’s the all-or-nothing approach to problem solving, similar to burning down your house to make sure you eliminate the pesky mice that run around your kitchen at night. Undeniably, it works; but this solution obliterates the plaintiff, bailiff, courtroom, reporters, judge and jury. It’s an odd sort of justice that obscures the original injustice.

I recall a local anesthesiologist who offed himself on an examining table at the hospital to protest real or perceived maltreatment. The thing is, we’ll never know what the rest of the truth  was because he executed himself as he executed his strange justice. I do not recall if it was a Monday in spring or not. Doesn’t matter. His job was to anesthetize patients in surgery and to revive them afterwards. It’s supposed to be a round trip ticket not a one way. Which is why single passengers who buy one way airline tickets with cash attract so much attention from the TSA. The guys I know who do this are not terrorists; instead, they are repossessing cars or delivering machinery. In any event, they are coming back… unlike Dr. Doom, who fully anesthetized himself forever.

Sad and disturbing. No one can grasp the unbearable weight that moves a finger to pull a trigger of the cocked pistol at one’s temple. Follow the triggered nerve back to the tortured brain that has been rehearsing this exit strategy. Almost all suicides are completed alone, which reduces the risk of revival or interference. Still, what an airless bedroom closet or bathroom it must be as the suicider sits and builds up the critical and final momentum for the ultimate terminus. Like waiting to vomit and then ride the terminal wave out of consciousness, where the constant is becomes the eternal is not. The pain and hopelessness must feel like giant aliens that must be destroyed.                                                                                 Image result for giant alien pictures

The demoniac self named “Legion” in the Gospel of Mark 5, had so many unclean spirits driving him that he smashed rocks against himself and ran around tombs naked and screaming near the pig herds of the Gerasenes.  His repetitive insanity was ended by Jesus with a command, “Come out of him, you unclean spirit.” The legion of unclean spirits came out and complied. They asked Jesus not to torment them and begged to be cast into the nearby herd of pigs. He complied and they possessed the pigs, leading 2,000 to hurl themselves into the Sea of Galilee and drown. That’s a lot of bacon, folks.

One life was saved, one mind restored. And you’d think that the folks around the Gerasenes would be pleased, but they weren’t. They begged Jesus to get back in his boat and leave. No thank you or praise or worship, nope. Just fear simmered in the melted grease of confusion. It’s been said that miracles don’t produce faith; rather, faith produces miracles. I agree. Despite witnessing the overcoming of supernatural forces, the locals wanted no part of this Savior. Counter intuitive again. If you don’t want the problem nor the solution, then really, what do you want? More confusion, I suppose.

 I recall a story of a young man’s suicide with a pistol. The parents were devastated, yet they gave the gun to the victim’s younger brother.  I’m not a gun hater, but if your older son overdoses on oxycontins do you give the rest of the prescription to his little brother? Or if the one hangs himself, do you give the remaining noose to his kid brother? Seems counterintuitive again. The math of suicide is not that hard to do, if you simply possess the courage to do it.
 semi-colon
Despite the common terminology, no two suicides are identical. Some are grandiose exits with letters full of anger and bitterness. Some are murder/ suicides involving children or partners, parents or pets. Somewhere in the convoluted thinking the perpetrator believes the survivors can’t make it without him/her, or he/she can’t make it without them… and it’s better to make it a package deal. Some are desperate hangings while the family is away. Even when clear reasons are attached to suicides, survivors ponder the WHY? I suppose this question comes from the valuing of life on the one hand, and the incomprehensibility of destroying oneself on the other hand, which is literally no longer there.
Guilt and shame follow suicides as surely as the million WHYS. Yet, if survivors look hard at the evidence, it is usually not their fault. The fault is most often in the suicider’s brain, where he/she solves a temporary  problem with a permanent solution. Overkill is a fair comment, I believe.  Intuitively healthy minds seek survival and generativity. Counterintuitively, unhealthy minds seek death and the cut off of their loved ones. A life well lived is a beautiful thing. A suicide is, no matter how meaningful or dramatic, is a disaster.
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360. 1461 [Days]

In case you were wondering, the title is not a phone number I found; it’s 4 years of days plus one day for leap year. That’s how long I’ve been at this blog business. Averaging 90 posts per year or one every 4 days. Whoa! If this wound up on paper, I could be sued for wasting trees and contributing to global warming. I could also be charged for corrupting miners, except I have never written for or about miners– coal, gold, salt, silver, copper, nada. Internet loitering is not a crime yet. But I plead guilty, my honorable blognoids. I have loitered in cyberland and wasted over a thousand hours in the passionate pursuit of purposelessness.  Yet, never has posting felt like forced duty at the gym or reluctant treadmill time. No, I find it therapeutic to blather into the blogisphere as my life sputters by.

It feels like I’ve been at this a lot longer, but my trusty WordPress stats confirm it– four years. Over 300,000 words easily since most of my posts come in around 1,000 words, my self imposed limit. Along  the way I learned how to import pictures that I scammed off the internet. What a difference that made. I’m a fairly visual guy and love finding images that seem to connect with my eccentric words. Some folks go about with metal detectors and find metallic treasures in fields and stream beds. I go about with my image detectors, my eyes, in search of connective visual tissue. But for me a tiny 8 watt bulb lights up when I find a picture that adds energy to my impoverished, eccentric words, caged in horizontal lines.

Centric means to be in the center or central. Ec & centric means to be off center or outside the circle of centeredness, often taken to mean ‘unconventional and slightly strange’. Outside the box, over the top, in one’s own orbit, marching to the beat of a different drum, etc. Yeah, no argument from me. Looking at my body of work, or is it play?, I’d have to conclude that it constitutes a strange stream of consciousness that sometimes flows uphill, backwards, nowhere, and everywhere; spiraling inward and outward across the limits of time and space. I have written about penguins, vodka, birds, flowers, dogs, gila monsters, coyotes, hitchhiking, God, prison, health, age, youth, music, art, innocence and experience, coffee nation, immigration, politics, love, faith, forgiveness, death, plumbing and the list goes on and on. Why?  Many reasons. I like language. I enjoy writing. I like to entertain, maybe even educate, folks

When I worked as a construction laborer in the early 70’s, I felt there was more to life than shoveling dirt and gravel all day long. I remember reading The Brothers Karamazov that dark winter and feeling deep intellectual and spiritual pings on my soul’s sonar. The messages were not acutely articulated. It was more like whales barking across the ocean. That was the same year I took my trip to England and Scotland, ’73-74, without a plan. I simply followed magnetic fields that drew me elsewhere. At the time I attributed my spontaneity to freedom and nonconformity. Looking back I give God credit for protecting me from my own arrogant stupidity.

Later on I went to college because my closest friends were going. I fell in love with learning and with my future wife, who had odd concepts like goals and structure and discipline. Whew!! I am still amazed and grateful that we continue to travel life’s path together. And still those sonar pings keep hitting my soul, telling me to be elsewhere, beyond this moment that I usually enjoy. Not alone necessarily but elsewhere. I guess it’s the same old wanderlust that led me away from safety and routine in the first place, deep into wooded acres and far across forbidden perimeter roads. Hearing my mother say, “Don’t….” often led to a desire to inhabit the prohibition, unsupervised by adults.

The Gravel Pit was fenced off from our ball field and elementary school yard. Of course older boys had created openings for us to pass through. When The Pit was operating, we’d sit on the surrounding banks and watch the big machines load dump trucks with orange sand and bank run gravel. Duly impressed by the diesel smoke, the loud thuds of a load, and the rumble in the earth as overloaded trucks ground gears across dusty roads. We’d ride out bikes across hillocks of hard clay and jump gullies eroded by years of heavy rains. Days had no numbers then, no end was imaginable beyond one setting sun. Watches and calendars were for adults to worry with. We pursued lizards and turtles and snakes, squirrels and possums, along with the secrets of becoming a young man. After the last employee left the Gravel Pit, we’d inch down like forest creatures and explore their vehicles and sit in backhoes and bull dozers. We were  in awe of the raw power they possessed. Yes, we trespassed but did not vandalize. It was more like going to a museum or an amusement park. We displayed boyish reverence for these enormous clanking monsters.

 They were huge and powerful, and we weren’t… yet.

Richard Cooper had a Suzuki 90 cc motorcycle that he’d ride like a bat out of hell up Dorset Drive and across the school grounds, down into the Gravel  Pit. No helmet. No license. No tags. It was the 60’s, man. I was often on the back of the overloaded machine, hanging on for dear life or any life at all. I have a vivid memory of chasing down a ground hog that was too far from its hole. I caught it under a basket and had no idea what to do next, so I let it go. The outcome did not matter so much. The wild chase, the breathless hunt, the exultant thrill were all that counted. We weren’t huge and powerful, yet.

At nearly 60 years of age I can roughly calculate how many more days I am likely to experience in this life. 7305 if I live to see 80. I’ve never calculated my expiration date before, but I can’t say that any more. So, happy anniversary to me, Burrito Man. Live big but practice humility. It’s easier to carry than shame.

 

320. Humility

“Practice humility”, said the Wise Man.

“Why?”, said the Whys Guy.

“Wisdom encompasses humility. Without it you cannot become wise.”

“I guess I was absent the week that lesson was taught.”

“No, you were present. It’s a lesson taught everyday; you’ve just chosen not to learn it.”

“Ouch!! That stings, Wise Man.”

“Antiseptics usually do sting as they cleanse the filth in your wounds. Be grateful for the sting.”

“So, you are saying four things here:  I am wounded. My wounds are filthy. Your truth serum stings as it cleans my wounds. I should be glad of the pain.”

“Correct.”

“So why don’t I  feel these wounds instead of just your stinging antiseptic?”

“You have chosen to defend the wounds and guard against any more. Your vigilance makes you numb to the spirit but keen to the flesh.”

“I thought a spirit needed to be vigilant.”

“Your vigil is defensive, actually keeping the spirit outside you. Be vigilant in pursuit of the spirit.”

“I  can see I’m going to lose this debate.”

“You lost it a long time ago, Whys Guy.”

“When was that?”

“The day you mistook cocky for confident, swagger for faith. They are not even close to the same.”

“There’s that sting again. Sigh! So, what do I have to do?”

“Surrender your false pride to find your true worth.”

“Man oh Man!! Just stop being who I am, huh?”

“No, again Whys Guy, you have mistaken who you are for what you do. You have mistaken the actor for the role he plays.”

“I’ve been a smart alex all my life, Wise Man. Jokes, puns, funny stories, impersonations, word play, outrageous booty dances…”

“I know. I’ve seen the act.”

“Oh yeah, you are the Wise Man.”

“The act is not who you are, Whys Guy.”

“This is gonna suck.”

“Sting. It’s the reverse of novacaine. You will need to increase your pain reception and build tolerance.”

“Pain will set me free?”

“Honest suffering will lead to deeper understanding of who you are.”

“So who am I? It seems so silly to be asking this question after forty years of adult life.”

“You are creative and compassionate and funny and connective to your fellow man.”

“Okay, but this isn’t cutting it with my closest loved ones. They know the actor and see the void between me and the act. It hurts to see the sparks and know all that static shock spirals out of my choices.”

“Stay true and humble to the who.”

“That’s like telling the guy without a compass to keep on walking to True North.”

“You have a moral compass for everyone else, don’t you, Whys Guy? You don’t hesitate to judge others and point out where they are wrong. You’ll figure it out.”

“So the beginning of wisdom is shutting up?”

“Yes, a wise man once said… nothing.”

“Let’s see– my life should be blank white space, the polar bear in a blizzard?”

“No. Baring your soul should be a silent, private exercise. Purifying oneself is not sexy or entertaining. It is bloodless surgery of the putrid soul.”

“Amen to all that, Wise Man. Uh, I’m hearing Bob Dylan in the alleyway…”

When the rain is blowin’ in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love.

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawlin’ down the avenue
No, there’s nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regrets
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothin’ like me yet.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
There’s nothing that I would not do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love.

“That’s nice sentiment, Whys Guy, but it amounts to nothing more than an emotional breath mint.”

“Wow, Wise Man, I thought it was powerful and meaty. At least a strong appetizer if not a full meal.”

“It’s all promises, nothing more. Glorious potential sacrifices, nothing more. Don’t you see?”

“I guess so. This is hard.”

“Yes, hard like a diamond. Because it’s so hard, it can be cleft and cut into a hundred brilliant facets. And through each facet God’s light can penetrate and dance prismatically, reflecting His beauty and glory in you, His creation. You must be like that, Whys Guy.”

“I can hardly breathe. I feel like a soggy sponge not a diamond.”

“This is how we’ll know God visited you. Your sponginess will firm up as God squeezes the mess out of you. You were, after all, made in His image and likeness. You sucked up all the nastiness  by traveling your spineless ways along the mucky seabed of sin.”

“Wise Man, you are killing me.”

“Just your stupid pride, Whys Guy. It needs to die at your own hand, though. If I kill your pride, it will only grow back as shame avoidant narcissism. Ten times worse.”

“So I have to stand naked and wash my underwear in the town square fountain at noon?”

“Strangling one’s pride is a private, daily affair. It grows back overnight, you know. The process is more like a daily shower with God’s word washing over you, you know?”

“I don’t know anything, Wise Man.”

“Good. That is the beginning of wisdom.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

282. Into the Mystic

[ After visiting Brovania, the ancestral home of apartment gypsies and Ramen noodles, I feel a need to look at life on the coast of consciousness.]
 *****************************
“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
 ====================
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
 ====================
And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home, mmm mmm
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
 ===================
I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float
Into the mystic

Image result for water gypsies pictures

When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float
Into the mystic
Come on girl

Too late to stop now”  Van Morrison, poet

***************************************

Van creates musical atmospheres that are nice to travel through even years after hearing them. Though I’ve never been a sailor or known a gypsy lover, I can taste a bit of both in his song. It’s simple enough: A sailor man has been away from his gypsy lover girl for too long and he can’t wait to hold her again. The foghorn is a welcome sound after being out to sea; it also warns him of potential dangers, even death, as he is getting closer to his loved one. There is both urgency and timelessness in this simple song. Moving “into the mystic” happens in present, past and future time. The mystic is not tied to history or politics, economics or technology. It exists outside of these structures in a billowing silken sail made of love… which I can relate to.

noun: mysticism
  1. 1.
    belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.
  2. 2.
    belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.
    You know like everything else that’s attractive, mysticism is double-edged. If you go with definition 1, it’s cool. A higher Zen-like knowledge or state of being comes over you like a holy cloud. All religions seem to get to this absorption with the Deity– oneness. It’s a great place to visit but impossible to live there because your desire filled body gets in the way, calling you back to otherness .
    Then there’s the second definition that’s less attractive. It’s syncretic and creepy. Requiring a map and a conspiracy theory in order to figure out the inscrutable mysteries and secret codes. You might have achieved oneness but nobody else is there– no Deity just disembodied delusional voices in your head. Unfortunately for folks who do live in definition 2, they struggle to visit reality on brief occasions as they walk relentlessly around their downtown streets. There goes one now, swatting at gnats that are not present on this cool spring day.

I like to think that I’m in the first level, with a healthy appreciation for intuition, associative thinking, creativity, and yeah,  the mystic. Not the occult version, no. I prefer to believe in an oceanic mystic and osmotic experience that is open to everyman as one praises and meets God. A balance is reached in that ocean just as a balance is reached in the arms of your loved ones.  Separateness and longing surrender to one warm amniotic embrace.

Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line, Severing rightly his from thine, Which is human, which divine.     Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know where to draw this mystic line, maybe in the sand of a Zen garden, with a handmade bamboo rake. Why rake sand? Not because you are OCD and you want all the grains to fall the same way, but to lose your otherness and join that elusive oneness of the mystic mind. The burden of otherness gets to be too much too often.
Lying on your back at the beach with eyes closed breathing in rhythm with the waves breaking at your feet… that’s the mystic too. Life is in you and around you and through you. Your sweat dries and becomes humidity as you breathe air in and hook up oxygen with your blood cells. You realize in the mystic moment that you are the lilting breeze, the falling leaf, and the damp soil on which it lands. What you had for breakfast grew out of that very same soil. One and other and the same.
Image result for leaf falling pictures
Divisions and boundaries dissolve in the mystic just like salt in water. Oh, it’s still there in every sip and will return like dried sweat on your skin. It all makes more sense in dreams, this mystic dimension. Time and space and gravity and form all work differently in the land of dreams. What is another paradox is that our bodies and minds are refreshed when we go there for only a few minutes per sleep cycle. I suspect that dreams are the mystic harbor where our ships of consciousness rest and replenish ever so briefly, weightlessly formlessly mindlessly, slip safely into the arms of God.
“And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it”
Sail on, Blognauts, Into the mystic.

213. nothingness

How can you hang a noun ending on something that does not exist in the material world? Okay, abstract nouns, I get it. But the -ness of nothing? The state of being nothing. What’s that? I imagine it’s like pulling into your designated parking space at 6:43 a.m. as usual and then the defining lines fade away. Your space boundaries vaporize. And then your car follows suit. It leaves you there on your butt on the asphalt. Whoa!! Did you take a hit of acid with your Cheerios? Did someone put a psychedelic sugar cube in your coffee? You reach into your pocket for your cell phone, wondering if you should call 911 or your insurance agent. But your hand disappears into the feel of your pocket like a phantom sensation from an amputated limb. A rabbit down its hole…You yank your now stumpy wrist out of the void only to see your vacant sleeve hang limp. You can’t stand up because your legs are just breezes in fast disappearing slacks hung on a laundry line blowing out to the horizon like a great blue heron. Your sensory system is rapidly failing, overwhelming your ability to intellectually deal with this unreality. Cognitive concern turns to fear which turns to panic. Gravity becomes irrelevant. You float like a wisp of smoke or a line from an old song on a distant radio…”breathless, you leave me breathless.”

Derealization, you think. Okay, I can name this phenomenon and therefore claim and control it. “Al Haig, I’m in control here,” you say to nobody, not realizing that these are the last audible words that will come out of the face hole that used to be your mouth. Is it possible, you wonder, that listening to Jimi Hendrix and the Dead can destroy the listener’s neural pathways and put him in an LSD coma by proxy? No, no, no. But you’re not sure. The Loch Ness Monster of Nothing is rising wildly the way flames fly up from a bonfire, which after all is the fire of bones. This is nothingness, you guess, cremation in a downtown parking lot. Disembodied consciousness is all that remains, or is it cremains? Ghastly paranoia, well, no. It’s just noia at the extreme end of the leash. This is really happening, dammit. Why do I not cast a shadow? My tattoo devolves into a small ink puddle.  “Sic semper tyrannis” updrains into a hypodermic needle of black fog. What’s happening? My wholeness has turned into a void. I am a hole outside the real.

No one can hear what I cannot speak out. I can still see and hear and smell, but I can’t be seen, heard or smelled. It will pass, this dissociation, won’t it? I have moved across the time/space c0ntinuum. That’s all. I must have gotten the other Kevin’s coffee order, the four shots of espresso and I am just racing out ahead of reality, waiting for it to catch me. Right? Right. I’ve  broken the sound barrier, that’s all. Sure. But my heart rate is not all that accelerated except for the panic. Plus there is no bladder irritation that would come with mega doses of caffeine. Where does that leave me? Not so much lost as stolen.

I know I am not dead. At least I am pretty sure. I read a book on after life experiences and this is not what was described. No angels attend me inside a beam of brilliant light. No demons either. I could not write a book about this lost body experience. No hands, see.  And I don’t want to. I want my body back. I want my voice to make sounds that my ears hear. I want skin over muscles that can feel the wind and humidity… like it was before I became a gas. I feel as if I checked my body in the coat check and now that the concert is over, I’ve lost the ticket…my body has been hijacked by deaf theater ushers. I scream silently, “Give me my body back!”  Nothing. She looks away as if… well, I guess I don’t exist…materially.

Dream? Even cruel ones end with this much activity. Once the brain begins problem solving, it wakes up the body… which I still am lacking. Think harder! I shouldn’t have gone out on that existential limb, wondering what the spiritual world was like, the after life, the great Beyond. Cuz here I am with an experience but not an answer. What is emptiness, the gap, the blank space? Perhaps if I had Asian philosophical roots, I could enjoy this swirling balloon release. The whoosh I don’t hear is my life emptying out itself. This is great news if your name is Lao Tzu and the end of desire and seeking The Way is the beginning of true consciousness. But my last name is Irish. I used to be sure of that.

What to do? Wait, it’s always about waiting, the art of waiting. For what, though?  Oh, yes, nothing. If I had hands I’d slap you off your bull, Lao! I desire my bodily desires back. I want to be hungry and thirsty and tired… or do I? This whole time I have been fighting nothingness instead of embracing it. I’ve been trying to conjure up exits based on my own strength. But I have none, and that is humiliating. Eviscerating… which is maybe a good thing. If I just surrender my will, my guts and desires, I can sit on that bull with Lao and find the Way.
Hmmmm, the spirit thing is not so bad. No sooner do I think something than I am there. It’s like Googling an entry and BOOM! I’m there– Singapore, Mongolia, Newark. No, forget Newark. In fact, since I have transcended my desires, let’s skip Vegas and Miami, Bangkok and Amsterdam.  Rather, I am simply a grain of sand on a deserted beach, a particle of a speck of dust on the ocean. Even that is too much thingness but will have to do for now.