Connection

We struggle, all of our lives, from birth to death, trying to make connection. Connection with other life, connection with our environment, with our souls, our emotions. Our most primal biological imperative is to reproduce, to send forth a new generation of our species, to connect so deeply with another human being that a new life is formed of us. It is impossible to deny this primal programming even while we might cheat the odds with birth control or abstinence. All of our behaviors can be traced back to this most basic of our evolutionary goals. It is so far beneath our consciousness, in the bowels of our genetic makeup that we are seldom aware of any correlation between our habits and the biological imperative that drives them. But it is, nonetheless, there.

Long-term connection is not easy. We are each programmed so differently that good matches are rare and precious. When we find one, it is undeniably right. The person that we successfully partner with will unconditionally love everything about us, will make us better than we were before, will bring forth a joy in us that is impossible to overlook. This person will remove all doubt in our minds about whether or not there is some dance we need to do, right now, with them. They will love us, and respect us, and trust us—they will put our needs above their own. And they inspire us to do the same for them.

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It isn’t easy. It must be searched for, relentlessly, almost with our eyes closed. We literally check out every person we meet with this search criteria in our subconscious mind. We silently say “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe” to ourselves as many times a day as the new faces we meet. It’s done in an instant, often without our conscious oversight. But these micro-decisions drive our actions, all day long, every day whether we are aware of them or not. The search will make us question things we think we know, and give up things we think we like, and try things that scare the hell out of us.

The rewards of connection are not as obvious as the reward of a good meal or a fine wine. They are neither as dazzling nor as transient as a win on the field or great episodic television. Even though a connection without great pleasure as a reward is most often a damaged connection, the rewards of connection show up more in crisis than in pleasure. It is deep in the chaos of tragedy that partners most find their true individual natures, their true ways of relating with each other, and their true reasons for bonding. It is in the light of the worst of our times that we illuminate the joy we feel from being with each other.

Connection should not be forced, although it can certainly have its moments of utter awkwardness. It should always make us feel more of ourselves, not less. It is well worth waiting for the right connection to happen, tasting the fruits and smelling the roses along the path, and only giving our hearts freely when we know we want to. We give of ourselves even while fearing a connection might end in pain, because connection often comes with an expiration date—and the very act of BEING is a learning experience. The knowledge we hold of who we are is constantly changing, growing, evolving—even while holding our essential essence constant from birth to death. Connection changes us. Connections end because of the changes they bring to us.

As surely as our thoughts rewrite the synapses of our brains, our connections change who we think we are. This is never more true than when one of those connections has set a new creature forth on this Earth. Children are the connection that changes us most. We are who we are, but what we know of who we are changes from moment to moment, always growing, always yearning, always seeking more connection.

Embrace the changes. Make them work for you. And keep seeking the connection that makes you more you, certain that amongst the flotsam and jetsam of failed connections there are jewels that are fully worth all the patient searching.

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Life Can Be Knotty

Life comes with complications

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Habits

By that I mean Chop Wood–Carry Water

What we do each day, habitually, determines who we are. It shapes our priorities, and either strengthens or weakens our values. Our habits are the modern day rituals of whatever tribe we belong to. Tribal community is much harder to define now. It no longer adheres to geographic borders. But we all follow a tribe, defined by the habits we practice.

I try each day to wake as the light is breaking. I love sunrise, and if it were easier to do, I would go and sit and watch the sun break through the distant horizon. Sometimes I do, but more often I watch as it crests the giant slabs of rock five hundred feet behind my house. Only on special occasions do I get up early enough and charged with the proper enthusiasm to climb up on top of those cliffs and watch the horizon as the rising sun plays on the distant hills of New England. But most days I just watch the light as it pokes through the trees that line the rocky ridge of my backyard.

In the colder months I tend the woodstove, and take a long and grateful piss, in whichever sequence that seems most critical. Oh, and I let the cats out so they can tend to their bladders as well. Then I brew, either coffee and tea, or the occasional hot chocolate. I sit with it on the john until my business is done. I read, either book, or magazine, or lately the morning’s internet stories. When I have my habits in proper order, instead of reading, I write, or edit some apparition of a story that’s cluttered my hard drive for months or years, lingering unnoticed and unappreciated.

I wish I could find an effective way of ritualizing my writing. I have in the past, but it’s slipped beyond my grasp for the past five or six years. There are lots of reasons for it, some of them outside of my control, and some of them perhaps just puzzles yet to be solved. But I’m determined to write, and to publish, preferably before I die. Otherwise, like the poor dead and tortured authors scrambling for tight space inside my head, I’ll have to look to some future writer to put my words to the page. But that’s for another entry.

Habits.

Our food habits are among the most important. Our culture, driven by profit first, convinces the majority of consumers to purchase cheap “food” that isn’t food at all. It is a physically dangerous mix of terminally refined food product with lots of added crap that also is not food, combined and packaged to make an exciting seduction of our eyes and taste buds. Our bodies require actual food, the stuff your grandparents would recognize as food. Again this is far too complex a subject to exhaust in this entry, but remind me to talk to you about the movement toward real food at some later date. The point is—eating well is THE most important habit we can adopt.

Habits. When and how we sleep, and wake, and dream all shape our realities in ways both subtle and profound. Our plastic brains respond to millions of messages every day. We change who we are, physically by the actions in the synapses of our brains. The more often we perform any activity the more the brain connects those participating synapses. That’s why most things we do regularly we don’t even have to think about. The unconscious part of the brain takes care of it, leaving the cerebral cortex free to make the many conscious decisions of our daily lives; left or right, now or later, him or her, all the decisions we need our brains to consciously assess.

As for me and my habits, one of the most critical each day is to be sure I get enough vigorous physical exercise. Without it my system goes quickly downhill. When I’m at my weakest, I get sick. And these days, the allergens in the air alone require constant bodily maintenance, and then there’s lyme, stress, trauma and disappointment. To feel my best I must keep walking, or chopping wood, or carrying water or weeding, I must keep moving, or the shark in me will die. I believe my heart needs it, my brain needs it, my psyche needs it. Unless I genuinely can’t–every day I must make my body work hard and long.

Periodically I must examine my routine, eliminate those habits that have ceased being helpful, reinforce those habits that help to strengthen me, and create new rituals that will guide me along my path to a better tomorrow.

The bad habits we form can be hard to break. It often involves replacing these habits with other habits, or shaking up the routine enough so the old habits no longer have sway over the direction of our day. The irony of my quest to spend less time online being resolved by doing a blog is not lost on me. It has been hard for me to wrap my head around the idea, and long periods of time fly by when I just don’t blog at all because it seems contrary to avoiding long hours on the web. But I keep coming back, trying to establish a rhythm that can become a habit. I want to write—therefore I blog.

Sometimes I just need to turn my days upside down to get the desired affect. Change the time of day that I write. Stop getting stoned in the late afternoon, and try it first thing in the morning. Eat six smaller meals instead of three big ones. Go for a walk in the morning before I have my coffee or sit down for my morning poop. Freedom comes with breaking the routines that bind us, but freedom will also arise out of healthy rituals that shape our days. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s one we must tend to as regularly as weeding a garden.

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The Sixties

The generation we grow up in makes a difference in how we and our generational peers view the world. It’s the lens through which we see the rest of history. My parents had The Roaring Twenties and Great Depression followed by World War II. It gave them great flexibility and faith in the future. I was a child in the innocent fifties when we all liked Ike. And when I was ten, the age my youngest is now, The Sixties quietly arrived with the election of the youngest President ever, the first Catholic, an inspired man from an ambitious and influential family. We were going to the moon.

And we did just that, eventually. But, before that could happen a lot of other stuff happened, while I was cutting my adolescent teeth in life. We came to the edge of nuclear war on our southern coastline. And shortly thereafter we lost the young John Kennedy, who had brought us through the Cuban missile crisis, to an assassination. That moment in Dallas shaped my life in many ways, raising doubts in my mind about everything. Then we had millions marching in the streets for civil rights and for an end to a vicious and needless war on someone else’s shores. We had a vast sea of humanity assemble joyously for four days of peace, love and music. We lost many heroes and many icons to violent deaths. Then we landed two men on the moon and brought them safely back home. By then the world seemed quite unstable.

My head in The Sixties was not yet that of an altered state of mind. It was almost The Eighties before I found the joys of weed. In The Sixties I was a painful mix of idealistic optimist and cynical fatalist. I was quite surprised each time our wasteful culture made it through the succeeding decades. It was obvious to many of us back in The Sixties that humans were trashing the whole damn world with their waste, and that eventually they’d kill everything worthwhile. It was just as obvious to us then that money was at the root of it all. But consumerism gave us lots of toys to keep us distracted, and the masses got very quiet after the Vietnam War ended. Still money remained at the root of most of our problems, and today the wealth has been redistributed, and is concentrated in greater amounts in fewer hands than ever. Watch your asses, middle class – you’re being squeezed out.

I’ve sometimes thought my Sixties cynicism was probably overblown. I thought perhaps I was being needlessly pessimistic. But now, at the beginning of 2012, The Sixties seem so far away and almost quaint in their tortured culture, and the threats that the working class face seem more dangerous and impenetrable than ever. Back then we were sure we could change things. Now I see that the change we made then was only to slow down the inevitable march of the wealthiest to accumulate more and more of the resources, no matter what the cost to the rest of us. But no, we have not stopped them. They are now ready to eat their own tail, to devour the 99%. Bon a petit.

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I’m Sorry

I’m not so sure how many years I have left in me, so I thought perhaps I should get started now on tendering my apologies. I feel like there’s been a lot of things I could have done differently in this lifetime, and I wouldn’t want any of you to think I died unaware of my shortcomings. I did my best, but sometimes my best was just not good enough.

The thing I feel the worst about is the sorry state of the world I’ve left for you. I tried to take care of it—I really did. But there were so many things going wrong that I just couldn’t keep up with all the corrections and repairs that were required. I seriously underestimated how many guys there were out there purposefully trying to fuck things up. I still don’t know what they could have been thinking, but it would appear that they are currently winning the battle.

I just didn’t see it coming. My generation had our hands full trying to get us out of Vietnam, and trying to end racial discrimination (Yes, it really was even worse fifty years ago), and save the environment (We had no idea just how bad things would get). The war in Vietnam consumed our youth, and we were determined to stop it. Whether we had any real effect or it just ran its course after a million deaths, including more than 58,000 Americans killed in action, is unclear. Yes, we got out of Vietnam, but senseless killing goes on around the globe. We’re still willing to kill for the cause of profit, while pretending it’s all in the name of freedom. Intolerance toward others, be they black, or Irish, or Muslim, or American is still fertile ground for corporate profit, leveraging anger and inequality to further enrich the wealthy and powerful. To this end the land and air and water have been raped so badly that we may well extinguish our species, and many others, or at least render much of the world uninhabitable.

I’m really sorry. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the same things that you do. I worked my ass off, but I seriously underestimated how much harm greedy men were capable of. As I’ve aged I’ve come to accept that greed knows absolutely no bounds, and has no respect for life.
I’m also sorry that I never learned to play well with others. I’ve often been too honest, or said too much, and made them cry, or made them angry, or chased them away by being too much myself. I get very few play dates anymore.

I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you.
I’m sorry about television and the internet and how it is rotting your brains.
I’m really sorry I chose your mom to, well, be your mom.
I’m sorry I have so little to leave to you — a lot of paper, and words, and broken furniture.
I’m sorry I couldn’t figure out how to get everything done. I’ve left so many things unfinished, so many places unvisited, so many words unsaid.

But mostly, I’m really really sorry about how broken our world is.

From a personal standpoint – I feel like the rules have all been changed. For a whole generation of boomers, who believed, as their parents had, that if we worked hard and kept building for the future, that we could hand our children a better world. We were naive, clearly, but it seemed to us as if our parents really had created that kind of world for us. And at one time it seemed to work much better than it does now. We believed that our investment in the future would be safeguarded, that our government would protect us from greed and indifference in the markets, just as it had been doing for many decades. We totally bought the American Dream, silly as that sounds in 2011.

The methodical dismantling of government of, by and for the people – and the handing over of that power to corporations whose only goal is money, profits, and millionaires – has been disheartening to watch. The redistribution of wealth has already happened. The middle class has had our pockets picked clean by profits and waste. They’ve squandered our precious resources, our air, our water, our earth, and they’ve poisoned our people. What they have done to the rest of the world makes this land look like the good ole USA, but they have fucked this land, our land, as well.

Occupy Wall Street gives me hope. It’s the first real movement since the sixties, and it is poised to grow, to get legs, to bring some depth to the dialogue about money that is essential for this country to survive, for the world to heal and prosper. The lies of trickle down economics, and corporate welfare, and the wealthy being job creators that we mustn’t burden with the same lowly responsibilities of paying their fair share of taxes as the rest of us – these lies must end. “Occupy” has spread to other cities and around the globe. Now they must go to Washington, to The Capitol, to The White House, to The Mall. They need to surround the Supreme Court with the People’s Microphone. Occupy Wall Street is not a fad that is going to disappear. It is our Arab Spring.

I’m sorry that it didn’t happen sooner, and I’m sorry if it’s too little too late.

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Blogging don’t come easy

Obviously it’s been hard for me to focus on a blog. It’s not that a have nothing to say. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts. But somewhere in the translation, much gets lost.

I’ve been struggling to re-identify myself, according to the mandate of my recent Saturn return. It hasn’t been easy. It seems that at my first Saturn return, when I was turning thirty, the idea that I was ready to be a parent came easily and unquestionably to me. It led me down some very strange paths, but I’ve been totally committed these past thirty years to making a future for my children. Shedding that persona is not so easy, because I still have a ten year old.

But I’ve realized that I can still care for her, without compromising whatever new identity I’m growing into. My older children don’t seem to need me any more. This is good. This is as it should be. But what is my future?

I wish it were that of a writer. I’d like the remainder of my life to be about expressing ideas. I struggle with the challenge of that every day, because it feels like there are too many obstacles in the way of me being able to write for a living. Or maybe I just complicate it in my head. Maybe I just need to write, and in that exercise I become the writer. And the making a living will follow. Makes a certain amount of sense. But it also risks a certain amount of critique, exposing it here in a public way. Perhaps it’s not polished enough, or cool enough, or urbane enough, or relevant enough for anyone to care what I say here every day. Perhaps, and so be it. I write nonetheless, and hope it can be relevant to me.

I welcome your comment.

Happy solstice . . .

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The Labyrinth

  It started as a weedy unused portion of the yard. The ground was uneven and rocky, and we had put a low priority on trying to do anything about it. One day my sweetie suggested “Why don’t we put a labyrinth there?”
 
“A labyrinth? Like a maze?” I didn’t get it. She sent me some links. It’s not a maze. A maze is a puzzle to be solved, with twists and turns, and blind alleys. A labyrinth has only one path. The path in is the path out. The path leads you on a circuitous journey to the center, and back out again. The most common is the classical seven circuit labyrinth that’s shown above. The geometry of it began to appeal to me. My obsessive nature took over. I gathered rocks. I studied the seed pattern:  http://www.lessons4living.com/drawing.htm     By the end of the afternoon I had built one in the area in question. I figured that was the end of it for me. My sweetie wanted a labyrinth. I delivered one.
 
It wasn’t that simple. The labyrinth grew on me. As a ritual it’s almost addictive. I’ve always been a fan of walking in circles. I pace throughout the house as I talk on the phone. I regularly check the borders by walking around the perimeter of our property, or in ever larger loops through the woods that surround us. I explore by walking circles around what I know. I found myself walking the path every day, some days many times. It was soothing. It was centering. It was clarifying. It took me places I couldn’t have gone without it. It became the source of great comfort as I tried to sort out what Saturn had in store for me the third time around.
 
When my enthusiasm began to fade–how many times can you walk the same path–I began to focus on a spot in the woods that seemed perfectly suited for a larger scale labyrinth. And, yes, of course, here’s comes obsessive Older Guy. Within a few days I had a new oversized labyrinth that wove it’s way between trees and around rocks, transporting willing souls along a 750 foot path to the center. In and out was just over a quarter of a mile. I loved it. And soon I was walking both of them each day, although I clearly favored the one in the woods.
 
 
The number of problems I’ve solved while walking it, the number of conversations I’ve had in my mind with people not yet present, the number of glorious moments centered in the awesome power of nature–priceless. It has been the best sanity saving device ever.
 
Yesterday I got to feeling bad about how neglected the area of the original labyrinth had become. The weeds had reestablished themselves, the path no longer worn smooth by many footsteps. I went back to Google what other patterns were available, and found three that intrigued me. By the end of another obsessive afternoon, the weeds were gone, and I had a fresh new pattern to walk, one with far more switchbacks. I walk in circles. That’s what I do.

 

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