Life

Jan 18

Day follows night and night follows day. I’ve watched the Pleiades rise in the heavens, and seen the leaves fall off the trees in annual succession, without fail, all my life. Tonight it is cold and still outside. Silent. And in that silence and dark and cold, so close to death I wonder if my life is something that I’ve created or if it is something that I’ve acted out. Am I writing the script or reading it? Do I have free-will, or is my life predetermined for me? I suppose that life is what we make of it. Certainly, it seems that the choices we enact in life are entirely of our own devising. But are they really? Things happen, as they say. There are times when life comes into our careful day to day world and interrupts it with matters that are inconvenient and perhaps more dramatic than that. At these times, we decide how we react and that is a sort of control, a way of working with the cosmos to determine how events will be played out within it.

I’ve always liked the word ‘weird’ which, in its original meaning, meant ‘fate’. One’s weird is one’s fate, and the extra and common meaning the word has acquired colors our concepts of fate. Fate is strange, destiny bestows upon us a trasnformative alchemy which, when we work with its processes consciously and presently, results in the miraculous phenomenon we know as life.

We’re alive. That is the great Mystery, the great miracle-anything else is ancillary, is a description of the event and not the event itself.

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Dreams

Jan 17

I read somewhere once that all the world is woven out of dreams. I believe that this was meant in a mystical sense at the time. That, somehow, the cognitive states that we have in dreams contain more reality than what we expereince in the day-to-day world, and therefore, what happens there is both more real but also what happens here is somehow a reflection of what happens there (in dreams, that is).

Now, that may or may not be true. Certainly, it is a pretty and poetic thing to think about life in that context (on the face of it, personally, I’m not sure if I would want my dreams to determine my reality-too embarrassing for one thing). However, I do think that we can qualitatively say that our lives are driven by our ambitions and that these ambitions are, in fact, shaped by our dreams. Now, in this sense a dream is something that we are aware of while in the waking world-the dream is something that we perceive in our mind’s eye when there is enough respite in the day to see it.

Perhaps many assume that day-dreams are less valuable than night-dreams because we exert more conscious control over them, this seems to take away from the experience, as though something that is less controlled is more honest and therefore a better model for things as they actually are. But is that the case? A day-dream is no less than one that occurs at night, it’s just that we are active participants in the day-dream. Properly executed, a good dream during waking hours is an excellent lens through which we may examine ourselves as we really see us. Is there fear, anxiety, anger, lust? Certainly, these conditions may prevail on a very cursory level. This is because few of us delve deeper than the shallows of ourselves. If we make an attempt, we can dive deeper and find another world of possibility in the depths of our being. Down below, we find the eidolons of who we are, the models from which we have molded the personas we present to the world.

And then, deeper than that, we find the seed, the pith of our being, something that exists without words and is only itself, and it is the dreamer from which all other things have emanated.

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Stories

Jan 16

I write stories. What is a story? It’s a narrative that we express to others, the content of which is meant to convey a certain sort of information. I say information, because it is a generic enough term to apply to something like ‘story’. Without any preconceived ideas, it would be logical to assume that stories told are true stories; that is, that we are relating a factual rendition of specific events as they happened in the past.

But is that the case? No doubt there are inspirational and true stories from out of the past, as innumerable as the human beings that populate the planet (each life, a tale of its own). But perhaps the truly immortal stories are those that never happened. When we relate content that is meant to appeal to certain emotions (love, sorrow, what have you), fictional tales are the ones we refer to.

I have a degree in history and one of the first things I noticed was that people do not easily remember history. Exact dates and events are recalled by rote memorization, a process that takes discipline and even science if we are to keep the record of history honest and objective.

People remember mythology. We all are familiar with the myths of the Greeks, the tragedies and comedies of Shakespeare. Even if we don’t consciously know the acutal tales, their influence pervades our society, informs our world by explaining it to us on terms that our souls as well as our minds find acceptable.

Obviously, fictional stories such as these (thought perhaps based on true events) are not meant to reflect historical events. But does that make them any lesss real? The story of Romeo and Juliet contains plenty of raw, emotional power-enough that it can evoke real reactions from its audience. The trials of Orestes can make us all feel the struggle of family obligation opposed to social religious observance. The emotions we feel are very real, the events we experience while reading the story of watching on the stage or in the film are no less for them being fictional. At this point, the story, like all real art, is cathartic, it encompasses, exagerrates and transcends the human condition for us, allowing a release without ourselves and an immersion in a space where all things-even contradictory ones-connect and make sense, if only for a brief moment.

Then, we are finished, and close the book or exit the theater, feet padding quietly on popcorn strewn carpet, absorbing what we have seen or read, and incorporating it into who we are, what we believe and how we see the world.

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Music

Jan 14

I went to Nashville over the weekend; and, of course, listened to quite a bit of music while I was there. It may seem obvious, but it is rarely stated, that human beings are musical creatures. There are others, of course: birds, whales, etc. One may say that many animals make sounds that are musical in nature-even if it’s something that human beings don’t readily recognize as such. I’ve heard coyotes howling, and it was like an orchestra-they were definitely working together to produce the sound being made.

Because we are a species that uses sound to communicate, and a complex vocabulary to convey a large body of different meanings, any conversation about the human use of sound usally falls into a discussion about speech itself, rather than music. However, at the show I attended, it was very apparent that music was something basal, instinctive, an aspect of our folk soul on a very deep and archetypal level. It exists at a strata of consciousness that is among the earliest, the most chthonic. It’s not without reason that so many songs are about violence and sex, about love and hate. It’s not without reason that we imbibe alcohol to lose our inhibitions and fully engage, perhaps loosening our minds so that the subconscious part of our selves can also participate and get its arms around what is happening. Music is an expression of the human condition in its rawest, purest, most unexpurgated form. To be involved in music (whether playing or listening) is to experience a primal component of what it means to be a human being. Because of its primordial nature, it hearkens back to the dawn of humanity, to the period where our species transitions from being timeless, animal participants in the natural universe, to conscious human beings that are aware of the cosmos about them….

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Life in the city

Jan 09

Today I spent two hours in commuter traffic trying to get from work to home. Now, I realize that this is the price we pay for living in the suburbs and working in the city; but it strikes me that there must be a better way. You see, Atlanta, like many other American cities is woefully lacking in any sort of public transportation system that can realistically ferry its citizens from their houses to their jobs. We like our cars, they are a symbol of independence. But more, cars are, for Americans, something that is symbolic of the nation itself.

A car is a symbol of wealth, power, success. This isn’t just expressed individually, but on a national scale. To drive a car not only says that you yourself are successful, but that the country as a whole is successful-that it is able to afford such largesse as individually owned and driven transportation, and that a majority of the population is able to do this. Somehow, not owning a vehicle (unless you happen to live in New York) means that you do not buy into the notion that America is the most powerful nation on the planet and the envy of the world. To not own a car means that you are rebelling against our very society, that you do not buy into the platitudes of its unquestioned and self-understood capitalism. Not owning a car means that you do not buy into the American dream and what it represents. So-as long as this delusion exists, I’m afraid we’re all destined to waste a significant amount of our lives sitting in traffic.

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