Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘inner searching’

Metamorphosis

 

I meandered from this plastic world,

Of silicone charlatans,

Paper tigers in cardboard cages.

This well-trod path toward Wonder curled.

 

 

With heightened every faculty,

Around each turn another yet,

And the trail it rises higher still,

Each crest a broader world to see.

 

 

And hence do these two worlds collide,

Of the past and the present Me.

Of true and false, of mystery,

Contrasted boldly. Inside, outside.

 

 

Now I fold and gently knead,

And loaf this new Me, let to rise.

A crusty crust, yet soft within,

Warm and whole in thought and deed.

 

 

Please do not think me unkind,

Must you remain in this land of mimes

And brightly backlit images of

This phony world I leave behind.

 

 

For all the colored flags unfurled

And shiny things to catch the eye,

The tin machines and mounds of gold

Are good for naught in Nature’s world.

 

 

My voice I’ve joined with nightingales’,

With eagles I have flown on high,

Held up my gaze to seek the joy

Of blue skies where the storm cloud sails.

 

 

I felt compelled to let you know,

As I blend into the trees,

Am borne aloft upon the breeze,

In case you wonder “Where’d he go?”

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Librarian

A reply to a young person’s post, looking ahead at their life. The idea is postulated that “age is in one’s mind”, and drew a reply including the statement “Age is simply not a significant number.”

 

Age is, indeed, a significant number.

It would be folly to deny this.

Can a newborn walk?

Can the eldest elder run like a child?

We must recognize and enjoy each year that comes to us. We must celebrate our energy and wonder and unbounded future of our youths.

We must stop and smell each and every rose during those wonder-filled years if one is blessed with children. Drink in every moment, tuck these memories into your heart.

We must be willing to relish the maturity of our age. To have a wondrous well of experiences and memories that add hue and tone to our every living moment.

To cherish those days remaining, knowing we are closer to the end of the trail than the beginning.

Age is a name for each book and chapter of your life. “Me, age 10”, “I go to School”, “Learning to Drive a Car”, “College Days”, “Time In Service”, “Marriage”, “My Children”, “Saying Goodbye to Mom”, “Life Filled with Wonder”, “Joy and Tears”, “Me, age 40”, “Me, age 50”.

Each volume is neatly stacked in the library of your mind.

What a fine and joyous thing it is to peruse my library.

To carefully select a volume, hold it in my hands, linger over the stories and illustrations.

One day, I shall fall off to sleep, reading…

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Beautiful Yesterday

Ordinary Folk

I saw my Beautiful Yesterdays in the passing strangers.

Perhaps I should refer to them as “The Unacquainted”, as they are far from strangers.

Now, at 57, and having raised five children, they are almost a flashback.

They are walking in the park, these four, this pack. Two in the prime of their youthful adulthood, the four-year-old toddles along behind him, and she is pushing the stroller with the littler one.

He (and toddler) string out ahead a bit, pause, wait for the other two. They catch up. He looks up from his phone to address her. (I cannot hear their words, if any, at this considerable distance.)

She is saying “Put up his hood, it looks like rain.” or “Do you have three dollars?”

He is saying “Do you want to get lunch?” or “What time will your mother be over?”.

Their clothes are ordinary. Not old or worn, nor necessarily new or fancy. Perhaps they’ve bought these things, perhaps some were gifts. A winter coat from Grandma. A new shirt from sister. Fuzzy lounge pants from a sweetheart.

They’re walking and pushing a stroller because they have no car. Maybe they are saving for one, hopeful for this summer. That he may reach out for that better job across the river, so she can bring groceries home in a trunk, not a stroller laden with bags and bundles. So that they may drive to the lake on a Sunday afternoon and have a picnic while the children play in the cool water.

Maybe they are city folks, and have no need for the expense and burden of a car. Buses take them to work, to the barber, to Cub Scouts. They will almost never use a taxi. Cab fare that could be spent elsewhere. Two suppers. Formula. Diapers.

The apartment is small, in Woodbine Square, known to be…affordable. Perhaps they dream of moving to the Gramercy Apartments. Tall windows, Victorian stairs. Maybe this year.

The challenges laid before them come at a steady and manageable pace. They appear not as mountains or even boulders in their path, but rises in the road ahead.

She wants to take up knitting. Has a few needles and things from Mom. She parts grudgingly with the six dollars for a skein of yarn. She knows she will have three warm and pretty scarves to give to her little family when her labors are through, but still feels a slight twinge of guilt spending this money which could be milk and eggs, apple juice, bus fare. Still, she must have this small comfort. The price of one small beauty in this world surely will not break the budget.

He is saving his money. He thought he was saving for a new pair of waders for himself, just in time for Trout Season.

But then, next month is Mother’s Day, and his savings are three-quarters the price of the Mother’s Day ring she admired in an advertisement. Perhaps waders will wait.

Each day they bring the energy and spirit gifted to the young and the young at heart. He rises with the sun and goes off to work, to return twelve hours later, a little richer, a little older, and a little tired.

She follows a different clock, independent of the sun and Earth and the world spinning around her. The slightest coo in the crib that shares the master bedroom, and her “mother alarm” sits her bolt upright.

“Hey little girl” in hushed tones, heard only by these tiny ears, quiet, so as not to disturb the others, “Is it time to get up?”. A beaming smile greets the child.

Life is far from care-free. Fortunate enough to have a decent job in the richest country in the world, they are taking care of themselves, independent, paying their own way. Some bills may need to be put off a week, and there are few extravagances. Yet there is comfort, and simple joys.

There will be a few arguments. There will be some heated debate about topics which are very important to those in this stage of life. Sometimes it’s about money. Their goals and desires, the someday place we want to be. Sometimes the money is a tyrant, lording over them mercilessly. Slaves to monetary society. Sometimes it feels like the money is so finite, we fear our little tribe will go under. We think this last thought in silence, in the darkness of night, the solitude of rational fear.

Sometimes the argument is centered on symbols. Behind the argument is a ponderous pile of memories and imaginings. Childhood dreams she feels are slipping away. A dream of the person he imagined for himself, before he vanishes into the “Mr” of “Mr & Mrs & Family”.

Underlying the sentiments are fear and uncertainties. health and success for ourselves and our children. The not-knowing of the future. How can we be sure we’ll “Be okay” as dad says? Will you really stick by me? Like the old song about old people, written by a man at the ripe old age of perhaps twenty-five, “Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?”

The little family walks on, down the path and turning left into the apartment complex.

And I see in them the beauties of untold tomorrows. It’s not necessary to make a morbid account of those (we pray few) Black Days which seem to visit most lives. I see in them all the beauty of my own beautiful yesterdays.

Lunch in the park over, I must return to work now.

You see, I’m saving my money…

Earthbound Angels

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

This journal entry was originally posted in 2012.

It seemed worth repeating.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sunset Moon

It wasn’t easy choosing a name for the blog Armchair Zen, though that’s how I’ve referred to my personal philosophy for some time. Names like “Zen in the modern world” and “Everyday Zen” and the like seemed to be taken. I guess everyone has the same idea.

Mostly the idea of ACZ is to share thoughts and philosophy with those that want to seek enlightenment, peace in their daily lives, harmony with the world, nature, the cosmos and life itself. It’s not about achieving perfection or some higher plane or a place in the next life or eternity. It’s about understanding our capabilities and limitations in this life, it’s about acceptance, understanding, compassion, forgiving and letting go.

As it says in About, these things are nothing new. Applying them to today’s world is not always that easy. We live in a world I term a Techno-Monetary society. We’re surrounded by wonderful technologies from life-saving medicine, global communications, electronic entertainment, space exploration and productivity greater than mankind has ever known, bolstered by the machines and artificial intelligences of our modern world.

In ancient times and old days, individuals and whole communities were isolated, and did not have the benefit of the vast volumes of knowledge mankind has compiled since. Their lives were filled with strife, at the mercy of the elements, filled with superstitions, fears, and lack of understanding of things that seem simple to us today. The sun, the solar system, what makes rain, thunder, tornadoes. They had more time, and perhaps a greater need, to seek peace within their lives.

We are also slaves to the monetary system. In all the developed countries (probably 90% of the globe), we need to work at something to earn money for rent, taxes, clothing, food, transportation, and the list goes on. This is really not new, nor does it strictly apply to developed countries or societies. Go back a couple thousand years and we find people did not live the simple agrarian lives we might imagine. Subsistence farmers & ranchers, mountain-men and even minimalist communities of today need to barter goods or trade cash for the things they can’t make. Cooking kettles, sewing needles, broadcloth, tack supplies, sugar, salt, bacon.

Finding our personal zen and peace within our lives seems like a considerable challenge after negotiating traffic, signing in at work, talking to customers, clients or co-workers that are not seeking enlightened ways, and any number of non-zen, non-nature, non-peace-encouraging things we must do.

Still, I find my ACZ to be pervasive. It hasn’t always been that way. I was “Two Jakes” for many years, seeking solace in nature and creative expression during my precious evenings and weekends, and turning off the peace machine when going to battle with the world. After some years of concentration, practice and informal self-cognitive behavioral therapy, the zen has spread to all hours of the day.

Nowadays there are few interactions with others wherein the conscious-competence of ACZ does not rule. Filter-monitoring, managing emotions & reactions, thinking forgiveness & acceptance, seeking to navigate all situations for the best outcome of all under the guidance of enlightened thought & behavior. Spread loving compassion by being loving and compassionate. Spread forgiveness and acceptance by being forgiving and accepting. Appreciate the beauty of the world around us by opening our eyes and minds and truly seeing. It’s not always easy, but it’s always simple!

That’s really all for this post. Perhaps it’s not a lot of meat, but an encouragement to those that may be seeking the path to peace. Sure, it takes a little time and concentration, but it can be done without extensive training or effort or money or social status or massive brain power.

You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to be perfect. Everyone is welcome.

The cosmos, and I, love each and every thing without judgement.

That includes you!

Be at peace,

Paz

Trip A

Winter Sun

Winter Sun

 

My car has an odometer you can reset. Actually it has two, Trip A and Trip B. How you can have two trips at the same time in the same car I’m not quite sure.

Trip A reminds me of my life. Not the past, but the whole span including the inevitable end. This is it.

There is no Trip B in life.

Whatever I’ve done is done, and can’t be changed, taken back or undone.

Whatever I am to do I have this one life, this one trip, my Trip A.

When I was young I thought it was important to be someone, be something. Make your mark.

Funny how many songs written by twenty-somethings address life-view topics, including aging.

“Will you still need me when I’m 64?” written by twenty-somethings McCartney & Lennon.

You won’t find lyrics or poetry written by mature and senior wordsmiths addressing the angst of “will you be mine forever” or “my heart is broken and will never heal”.

Old poets write of the long view. The view from near the finish line.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

As we grow nearer to that end gate, as we fulfill our promises made, we see our lives as a wondrous play that has had a record run. From our own silent mind, gazing out through eyes that have seen a fair share.
There is a certain comfort and confidence in our selfness.
I, alone in this island of body & mind, eternally isolated from all others, have a sense of being a part of something much larger.
There is no alone.
There are no guarantees that you will be mine forever or that I will be here for you when you are sixty-four.
In this we share. The rules are the same for you as they are for me.
My horse may think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near.
Between the woods and frozen lake.
The darkest evening of the year.
And Trip A just keeps moving forward. Mileage rising.
And I have miles to go…
Seek peace,
Paz

My Cosmos

The Corner Star

The Corner Star

When I take the time to remember that this is My Cosmos, relief washes over me.

The world of this creature on this green rock is downright bizarre compared to the consistent, predictable, unhurried pace of the universe.

No need to run to the Corner Star before it closes because it burns always, with enough fuel to run four billion more years or so.

By then, it’ll be of no concern to me or my kin.

In spite of the seemingly-fantastic speeds, vast expanses measured, unfathomable numbers expressed using the mechanical and mathematical terms of the species trapped on a single tiny planet, the cosmos will not be rushed.

You and I cannot compel it to finish the Quasar before our vacation. We can’t postpone or reschedule the meteor shower due to cloud cover over North America. We can’t call in and skip the crash of our galaxy into the next as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second on a collision course.

And so, with relief, I said aloud to the sky, “Well, this is My Cosmos. I’ll do whatever I want with it.” I may seize the day or let it pass. I can fritter away the minuscule ration of hours afforded me. Trapped here inside this mind, on this planet, in this wondrous thing called life and time, complete and total freedom awaits me.

“The world is your exercise book.” roughly paraphrasing Richard Bach in Illusions.

You’re free to write your reps, or write lies, or scribble, or tear out the pages.

Go ahead. It’s Your Cosmos.

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

A Wild Life

Passerby

Passerby

Seeking to master my Armchair Zen is a constant challenge, a complicated prospect. Studies are a staccato of moments plucked from days immersed and submerged in a modern techno-monetary society. Commutes with think-time to fill, accompanied by three-hundred sixty degrees of an ever-varying natural world. Brief grasps of insight when ACZ tenets are applied to the events of the workday, when opportunity and memory allow. Alas, sentenced to a life as a human following the generation before and living in the richest country on Earth, the ubiquitous full-time career is required.

The imagination can have a great run at envisioning a natural life, in the wild. Sleeping in a nest of grass and leaves, arising with the sun. Drinking from the stream and foraging for food without clocks or jobs, cars or homes. A Neolithic dream which can never be realized lends itself well to Hollywood-style fiction and fantasy. Days pass wandering gently through hills and glens, communing with nature and all the living and feeling and visceral experiences imaginable. We have become accustomed to our style of living, and can’t go back to life without shoes and refrigerators. Very few really want to. Those that pursue life away from society are viewed as recluses, loners, mountain men, or worse. The truth is, heat and a steady supply of food is impossible to forget, and you will soon miss them both.

Out in the real world, the natural world, things carry on, day in and day out, without machines and modern conveniences. What are crows doing while we check the clock to be on time for a meeting? What is the coyote’s “lunch time”? Where are the owls during the day?

Driving to work, there are the deer browsing the field of corn stubble. Finding treasures, missed by the harvester, dropped from the wagon, covered by snow and now finally revealed. Flocks of Canada geese pass overhead, circle the fields, descend for landings with wings flapping and horns honking. Others are ready for departure, as they take to the sky, thirty or forty at a time, raising the call to flight. Turkey vultures soar above, two or three or five, making fixed-wing circles, scanning the ground for the next meal.

In the midst of a modern day, it’s intriguing to think of the life going on in the wild world. From remote tracts far from power lines and the sounds of trucks rolling down the interstate, to the fascinating pockets interspersed and interjected into the most modern-human-industrialized places. In the woods and along the banks of streams in the wilderness, time is at a fixed and unmeasured pace. It is now, then now has passed and it is now again. Actions are carried out as they come to mind, from leaving the den to fording the creek, landing to check out carrion, or crouching low to spring an ambush attack. Some play if there are cubs or pups or kits or simply the mood. Some concerted effort to clean out the nest (or the kits or the pups), or to go forth with the pack on the hunting party for mutual benefit.

Jack London himself could not know what it is like to be a wild thing, a thing having never been aware of being or self. To follow instinct and impulse in every moment, every day, from birth to death. Our imaginings and fictional tales are Disney-esque dreams of a Bambi life. Tweeting birds floating around his head, flowers growing all around the looking-glass pond as he watches antlers grow in. As beautiful as the total freedom of life in the wild may seem in our mind’s eye, reality must be very different. Imagine a sparrow, spending the whole day finding food where it lays. Hopefully finding food. All the while looking down for threats from below; foxes, bobcats, fishers, northern pike. And all the while looking up for threats from above; hawks, eagles, harriers, rain and hail. The harrier and hawk looking out for the eagles while airborne,  minding the foxes and fishers when grounded.

On sunny spring days we hear birds singing with apparent glee, and we romanticize about the squirrel filling his stores with winter stock. We watch Canvasback ducks and admire their opportunities to see beautiful landscapes, to cross international borders without blinking an eye, to mate for life and raise fluffy yellow ducklings on the shores of Hudson Bay.

At this moment, the day’s rain has just ceased. It’s a mild spring day to us. Soon it will be dark. Wild things will bed down in damp and cold nests. The bare trees of April offer little camouflage from the silent night flyers for those on the ground. Temperatures will drop in the night, below freezing before dawn. The snow has receded, thankfully, and more forage is about than last month. Still, the long hard winter has left little by way of greens and berries, nuts and seed pods, for those that must collect them all day. It can only be the knowing of no other way that makes this all bearable. There is no other choice.

In human society, we may choose. We may choose to work and earn our livings or we may drop out and hitch-hike to California, live on the beach or under a bridge. We may choose to take from others, in the natural world a simple prospect. If you’re bigger and faster and meaner and deadlier and hungrier, you might take what you try to steal. If unsuccessful, you may run off with your tail between your legs. Or maybe you’ll be killed and eaten. Whatever.

In the human world you will be captured by other humans and spoken to then locked in a cage. Here you’ll be kept warm and fed and receive medical attention, cable TV, and free access to the library. We may choose to ignore the statutes of other humans in a wide variety of ways, most of which end the same way. Once in a great while (and it’s very rare indeed), you actually will be killed by others. Sometimes you’ll simply hand them paper earned by labor, and the score is settled.

As time marches on, it becomes more and more difficult to see, imagine or comprehend the true wild nature of wild things. The wild things themselves are increasingly being drawn into the anti-natural human world. Folks think they’re helping when they feed french fries to the seagulls outside the fast food restaurant. When they toss bleached white-flour bread to mergansers. When they feed their yummy table scraps to their own dogs. These things may be tasty, but how do we know how it will affect animals? Look what it’s done for humans, a frequently-overweight animal beleaguered by blood pressure, circulatory, cholesterol and other problems.

Too fast for you

Too fast for you

Treks into the wood with the faithful dog are but brief glimpses into the real, natural world. It is a beautiful, if sometimes harsh, place. There are no fakes in the natural world (though there may be camouflages and lures). No hawkers (hawks yes, hawkers no). No artificial conveyances or communications.

And it’s happening right now. Without fanfare or infomercials. Birds fly, eat, die. Gophers dig, eat, die. Insects crawl, eat and die. The sun rises & sets, winds blow and abate, tides ebb and flow. Grasses and trees and shrubs await their time, sprout buds & catkins, drop seeds to the ground or launch them airborne into the wind. Tiny spider hatchlings will float on teeny web-parachutes. Mature beavers will leave their families after a few years, to build their own ponds.

And along comes an odd animal. With four appendages, none of them wings, but walking only on two. It is covered with a most unusual coat. Not fur nor feather, but a colorful mix of woven fabrics. It’s feet are bound in coverings as well. It comes into the woods for short sojourns, then returns to the odd, square nest built from heavily-worked trees. It is a strange animal. Like all strange things in the natural world, it is eyed cautiously and given a wide berth. It is, nonetheless, accepted and respected as part of the world. A world we all must share.

Be kind to the upright animal, for its upbringing has left it short on natural skills and movement.

Give it some time.

Seek peace,

Paz

Brave New World

These days I seek to simplify. Like Thoreau at Walden, I’m not entirely removed from my local world, but surrounded by it.

I see people, the masses, by and large, hurling themselves daily through a Brave New World, in many ways unrecognizable from the world of my youth, a brief half-century ago.

Everyone must work now, it seems. There are few Moms these days. I mean old-fashioned Moms like June Cleaver, my mother, the Mom on Father Knows Best.

Not to begrudge women their opportunity to be a “whole” person unto themselves, capable of doing truly great things in our world. Discovery, Leadership, Industry, Medicine, Education. It appears, however, that most of this working is born of necessity. “We need the money. There’s no way we could do this without both of us working.” (The ultimate irony: complaints about the cost of daycare, which consumes much of the second check.)

I’m not sure I don’t hear some degree of selling out in these statements. Things were not “easier” back in the when. When Harold and Marie welcomed their boy into the Brave New World of 1959.

Moms were home when I was growing up. I wonder how many people, if any, realize the great and simple value in that. Moms were always there.

Whether it was my Mom, available at a moment’s notice to find another hat, serve an extra sandwich for a lunch guest, bandage a boo-boo or give us a quarter to take to the General Store at McMurray’s boat livery. Keith’s Mom was home at Keith’s house, and Randy’s Mom was home at Randy’s house. We didn’t even need to think about it. In the event of any calamity or emergency, large or small, someone’s Mom was standing by for rescue.

Nowadays it’s a complex mix of afternoons at the Youth Rec Center or Daycare Provider, (in the old days we called that “babysitting”), or an after-school program for latchkey kids. Moms arrive home with Dads at 5:30. When we raised our kids, Mom stayed home until they went to school. After that, Mom got a job that allowed her to put kids on the bus in the morning, then greet them as they disembarked in the afternoon.

The difference, it seems, is that the children I thought I grew up with apparently never grew up. Somehow, I’m the only one of my childhood contemporaries that has made the leap to full-on adulthood. You know, adulthood, where we take most seriously our duty and obligation to our families. The Adult-hood of my world is a direct result of observing the adult-hoods of the adults around me as I grew up.

Adults work hard and save their money. They save their money to buy a house one day (if that’s your preference). They bought Savings Bonds for babies that would mature when junior was ready for college (or a car and a job). They saved their money for two years for the family vacation. They vacationed at the cabin on the lake a hundred miles from home, or the Jersey shore, two hundred miles from home. They didn’t charge three thousand dollars to a credit card to fly the whole family to Florida to see Mr.Disney’s park. (Okay, so, Mr.Disney’s park was only in California in 1965, I think). They saved four hundred dollars to drive to Old Forge, New York, to Frontier Town. Or saved two hundred dollars which was enough for gas for the boat and food for two weeks of camping on Scout Island.

Adults handled their money responsibly. They didn’t spend three hundred dollars on a new iPhone while complaining the School Tax was too high. They didn’t run up credit debt equivalent to a year’s salary then call the debt consolidator. They kept the old car for another year, or bought another used one with the money they had. They didn’t run out every three years to roll over their lease on a brand new Jetta, all the while complaining that Town Taxes were too high.

Nowadays, it seems the adults just never grow up. They’re buying toys for themselves (as well as for their kids) as quickly as they can be released. While literally reliving their childhoods by purchasing every item for which the whim strikes them, they’re also apparently making up for their own less-than-perfect childhoods that did not include hundreds of dollars in the bank and thousands available on credit cards. Meanwhile, they vicariously re-live and repair their tainted, impoverished childhoods (a time when you didn’t have a TV in your room {GASP!}, when you waited for the first day of school or a birthday to get new clothes {those poor children}, or when you didn’t have your own phone and computer {what’s a computer?})

Our boys had friends in their class that lived not far away, brothers. They lived with their Dad, kids of divorce. For every birthday and Christmas, our boys would regale us with the tales of lavish gifts bestowed upon these kids. My guess is their parents were trying to relieve some guilt by spoiling the kids a little. Frankly, I’m for spoiling kids within reason. Remember how much we love them?

But these kids seemed to get everything all at once. Things our kids wanted but hadn’t received yet. A shelf stereo, a boombox, a Walkman, a Nintendo game, a mountain bike, a thirteen-inch color TV for their room. These things were “regulated” in our house. You could get a Walkman if you were over ten. You had to wait ’til thirteen for the shelf stereo or TV in your room. And a telephone extension in your room? My daughter counted the minutes until her fifteenth birthday when she could have one. (google “extension phone” to find out what it was. You may have to add the word “wired”. Or maybe “antique”.)

Partly it was money. We literally could not afford to go out and buy everything a child would ask for. Partly it was the simple life, and the simple concept of having something to look forward to. We reasoned that there would be no “big present” for Christmas at twelve, fourteen and sixteen if we gave them everything before their tenth birthday.

I blame the Simpsons. The mother and father are dolts, and Bart the insolent smart-mouth. I love the show and the humor and the laughs and even Bart, but it seems that show was the catalyst for change. Pre-Simpsons, children respected their parents and their parents’ authority more. Some out of fear, but many out of honor for their parents, traditions, civility. Kids were expected to be respectful of adults (and- brace yourself—polite!) Grandfather was the patriarch, the wise old man. Even if grandfather was fading into his twilight of life, he was respected for going to war for liberty, for building the American Industrial Machine, for being a part of The Greatest Generation, taking our country from the aftermath of the Civil War, Gold Rush expansionism, Teapot Dome, Seward’s Folly, the Great War and the depression to the height of free democracy and economics, all the way to the moon!

In a post-Simpsons’s world it seems nothing is sacred, no one is immune from biting sarcasm and harsh ridicule. Respect appears to be garnered only by the rich and famous and beautiful. Rappers, Sports Superstars, Super models, movie stars, dot-com billionaires, the Bill Gateses and Mark Zuckerbergs.

Sadly, this has become the life view of so many children, and now the grown children (I hesitate to use the term Adults), of the Simpsons’ generation.

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley takes us to the year 2540. The book, published in 1931, observes modern man and all he has become, and relates a sort of Tarzan tale of finding a primitive people that live the way they had centuries ago. The primitive man marvels at the Brave New World, but the modernistas also marvel at the primitive one, unveiling subtleties that may have been lost in the conversion to modernity. Primitive man finds the New World too fast, impersonal, cold, filled with rules that appear to have left the human touch behind.

Simultaneously, Modern Man in the story travels to the primitive place, an oasis that missed modernization, and discovers that people are closer to animals than machines. The things deemed important in the visceral primitive world are people, babies, community, fairness, solidarity, art, appreciation of nature and beauty, and other things long-forgotten in the twenty-sixth century.

So, Orwell’s 1984 has come and gone. Lost In Space, set in 1997, is retro in reruns. Strange Days, a futuristic story of the millenium, is 16 years old now.

We have a long way to go to get to 2540 (if we do).  Let’s all re-read the book now, and see if we don’t want to pause and think of the things we’re discarding.

Put away your credit card, snuggle in with your kids, and have a good old-fashioned read. Let’s see if we can’t shape a better Brave New World.

 

Seek Peace,

 

Paz

As Bob Lies Dying

My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, is dying from cancer.

 

My Sisters, circa 1970

My Sisters, circa 1970

There are lots of details of how it started five years ago with a simple skin cancer. Treatments. Recurrence. Spreading. Treatments.

Now he is leaving the hospital after his kidneys began to fail. He’s going home, to finish his journey “on his own terms”, as my nephew, his son, states.

Not only a beloved family member, but a contemporary. Just a few years older than my wife and I. Stuck in denial? It’s unreal. It’s unfathomable.

I’ve always looked up to and admired Bob, since I met him when I was about 16. I remember the first time I saw him. My sister Bonnie and I were driving through Johnstown and there he was, playing basketball on an outdoor court.

“There’s Bob!” Bonnie screamed as she saw him, turning down the volume on the rendition of “Bobby’s Girl” she played repeatedly.

We couldn’t stop right away because she’d just finished a cigarette, and Bob hated cigarettes. We hit the drug store for soap and breath mints.

Thirty-plus years later, Bob lies dying.

Bob is a third-generation farmer, but a college-educated one. A degree from Cobleskill Ag & Tech. When his father got out of the dairy business, Bob went to work for the town and stayed there until retirement.

He was cantankerous, sarcastic and flawless. He never smoked, and drank little.

When they were married, Bob, along with help from friends of all kinds, built the house he and Bonnie would call home, (I mean he built it, he didn’t have it built for him) eventually filling it with a girl and a boy and dogs and cats over the years.

Bob went down to the creek and hand-picked the stones to build the double-faced fireplace, the centerpiece of the living room and kitchen.

I guess I really don’t simply look up to and admire Bob, but am in awe.

As I grew into a young man, Bob’s example was quite a high bar to reach for. Like great people from history, Lincoln, King, Kennedy, Salk, I always felt that Bob was one of those people whom I could never equal. I could never be all the things Bob was, but I could try to emulate as best as I could.

Now, Bob lies dying.

These days are fractured. At work I am distracted by demands, and the pace of the day engulfs me. A tech calls for support and I run to the parts room. FedEx Freight is on the line about shipping from Houston. Someone relates an anecdote and I laugh. Then I remember. How can we be laughing? Bob lies dying.

At home I fall into the routines of daily life. Filling the pellet stove. Letting the dog out. Letting the dog in. Then I remember. How can these things fill my mind while Bob lies dying?

I drive to work. I drive home. I think of Bob as he lies dying. I think of my sainted mother, our dear late friend Mary Mone, her husband Frank. How life and work and laughter and driving and letting dogs in and out just continues as we lay dying, as we entomb our loved ones and friends, as the flowers on the graves fade and wither and are removed by cemetery caretakers.

I think of my own death, my own funeral. How strange it is to think that family and friends will be mourning my passing (perhaps), while all around them and dead me the world will keep going. It won’t hesitate for a moment. It will make little difference to anyone other than the undertaker.

With this thought I am kindred with Bob. And all the Bobs and dead me’s that have come before us. We are never ready to say goodbye.

And the world and the pellet stoves and the dogs and FedEx carry on. It’s a strangely warm sensation that they will continue with nary a skipped heartbeat for those that still have them. The world will keep spinning, and the universe expanding. Babies will be born, Bonnies will be married. Bobs will build homes.

Many years ago, behind the hearse in a procession of cars a mile long, we wound our way to the cemetery. The procession moves slowly, as if it helps to slow down the parting, spread out the pain and loss. Someone at the back of the line was not in the procession. They peeled out and raced past the cars and the hearse, on their way to work or responding to an ambulance call or going to see their sister’s new-born baby. Even in that moment was an understanding that we can’t all join in the procession. The world can not slow down because you died.

And I am writing blog posts and approving overtime and buying Gravy Bones for the dog and I remember.

How can we write and approve and shop as Bob lies dying?

In New Orleans, the band plays jazz ahead of your casket as it wends its way to the cemetery. I don’t know much else about a creole funeral, but I know it embraces the concept of celebrating a life as we move the decedent to their final rest.

My mind is fogged with all of these thoughts. In little glimpses, my armchair zen reveals lessons learned. The sense of the constant and timeless universe. The sense that we are all but specks on a speck of a rock in a far-flung galaxy arm. We come and go as through a revolving door and the universe is unaffected.

Still, something in my upbringing, my life, my past, my desire and attachment, feels impending loss despite conscious efforts to navigate this in a learned and wise fashion. Now is the time to bring all my living and zenning and caring to my sister and Bob. Their kids. Their grandkids. There is work to be done. I must go now.

As Bob lies dying.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Solstices & Red Sands

Mars Winter

Mars Winter

 

 

It begins back at the winter solstice. The time these humans have labeled December.

It’s an absolute leap of faith to look out upon the frozen tundra before me, waist-deep in drifting snow, to look up at the crystal clear starfield overhead, bright and brilliant seen through air that’s well below freezing, and to know our great green planet is making a shift, beginning her annual tilt, swinging the northern hemisphere toward the sun.

 

Each day lengthens, and from that point forward my mind is focused on the Longest Day, the summer solstice. Each day the sun’s arc swings northward, skating the ridgetop of Victory Mountain. Each morning gets brighter until the magical day when the sun arises at the same time as me.

 

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Perhaps only a madman would “rage against the dying of the light”. Only a fool would watch and celebrate the imperceptibly slow revolution of our world, the gains of daylight, which our planet consistently delivers like cosmic clockwork.

 

These are things that are real, predictable, dependable, understandable. If these events were to change, if the year unfolded itself in a new and unprecedented way, it could only mean disaster at some level to the world we’ve come to know.

 

Alas, these days I question my logic, my approach, my eagerness to chase after the sun and the solstices.

 

Is this akin to rushing through the Fun House at the carnival because you want to get to the end? In doing so, we cut short the time we are enjoying the Fun House, we forfeit the extra time we’ve paid for. We rush through our only chance at this once-a-year offering.

 

Carnival

Carnival

 

“Time is not holding us. Time is not after us.”, or so say The Talking Heads.

 

These days it seems that time is a commodity. Carve out this chunk for work and this chunk for sleep. Write off those portions claimed by others for birthdays, weddings, funerals, dinner parties and club picnics.

 

I raise the giant sand timer that is my life. Like Dorothy in the castle of the Wicked Witch, I gaze at the red sand ceaselessly flowing, draining. Running out.

 

There’s no bucket list, no unfulfilled lifelong dream. I’m not that complicated, organized or energetic. There is, however, still a lot of work to do, and I’m not sure how much I can cram in before the red sand runs out.

 

I’ve heard folks say, interpreting Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening”, that there’s symbolism in there for suicide. The line “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” seems to evoke an impression among people that the author wishes to lay down and die here and now.

 

Of course, the next two lines are: “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” I think Frost was just watching the red sand flow. Wanting to take a break and rest, maybe wanting to lay his burden down.

 

Yet each day we awake and have a little more time before us. A few more miles, a few more promises fulfilled. And so it goes.

 

Forked Lake Sunset

Forked Lake Sunset

 

The Talking Heads are right, of course. Time is not holding us, time is not after us. There is potentially plenty of wisdom, symbolism and philosophy in that little ditty.

 

Of course, The Talking Heads also say “There is water at the bottom of the ocean.”

 

No denying the logic, I suppose.

 

Both statements are true and accurate.

 

And the red sands flow.

 

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

%d bloggers like this: