Everything Isn’t Always OK

connection-to-the-world

I was listening to an Ezra Klein podcast interview with Elizabeth Kolbert as I cleaned the bathroom today (BTW, Klein’s podcasts are consistently worth listening to).

As they discussed the fragility of our life on this planet, I thought of a quote from a whisky tour in Scotland last summer that has stuck with me:

Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky.

(Pronounced in a heavy brogue, of course.) In other words, what is maybe not-so-pleasant but necessary gloom now will replenish our stocks and become, with time, refined and complex and to be savored much later.

Elizabeth Kolbert made the point that we live in the climate of the past, while altering the climate of the future, and that’s why this quote came back to me. Because there’s that flip side, too:

Today’s abnormally warm but kind-of-pleasant winter will become tomorrow’s drought.

In other words, at a more general level, everything may not always turn out OK.

We might not make it as a nation. We might not make it as a species. There might not be a technology or leader or alien lifeform or god that will save us.

The fact that we exist at all, on this particular planet, right here and now at this moment in time, is remarkable. (Read Sean Carrol’s superb From Eternity to Here for more on this). The happenstance cosmic circumstances and events and conditions that have come before us that enable us to now live are tenuous. We are lucky to be alive. Our existence, as a species, as an individual, is highly fragile, just as our planet’s current state is highly fragile.

There are moments in our lives when we suddenly see our extreme fragility through the lens of our own frail existence. Times such as when a friend or loved one dies, or when any other cherished relationship or job or possession is lost or close to being lost. When we have an accident. When we are sick or our health is compromised, whether due to circumstances beyond our control, or due to our own shortsighted decision-making. When we are expecting a child, and realize just how precious and influential every feeling, every nutrient, everything that we say and do has on our child to be.

Our lives are short and so very, very fragile. And only precious when we recognize them as such.

As my first love, Sade, croonsI cherish the day. I won’t go astray. I won’t be afraid.

We may not be able to have much influence over the cosmic and planetary changes under way, nor the brutal reactions of a nation’s mob. But we can channel our attention. We can savor the ones near to us. We can love every moment of our lives as closely and dearly and desperately and passionately as we can.

Even as our bodies or nation or earth may crumble.

 

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Cricket

640px-bush-cricket_02_28mk29
By Leviathan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A cricket forlorn on the fire escape,

a regularity in the nightspace

grounds the beginning of fall.

 

On my Twitter feed,

people comment on the #VPdebate.

It is clear, from their collective insight,

 

that a strong performance is not predicated

on truth.

 

The refrain of a lone cricket

outside my window

is more than enough.

 

Buddha Nature

In order to write something, anything, my mind strives for some overarching purpose. But what is the overarching purpose of my life? Could this be defined? And if it could be defined, would it be worth writing?

It is better, perhaps, for me to recognize that writing itself, like life itself, is purpose enough, worth enough, to enact for it’s own sake – for my own sake – here within this very moment of being. I can write, so I will. I am alive, so I must live.

Writing is an act of transcribing waves of thought into the structured symbols our ancestors developed to amplify their minds. Through this amplification, they – and all their subsequent generations to the point of me at this point of now – enabled this text that sits directly before you on your phone or your tablet or your laptop or your desktop monitor, ferrying this current of my thought to you.

There are so many ways to amplify our minds in this day and age – due only to become ever more exponentially electrified – that it bears questioning as to what occurs when there is much amplification of little mind? Springing from that visualization (big waves circling outwards from a small pebble) comes the possible insight that the eventual zenith of all of this streamlined jetsam and flotsam is no mind. No mind as the end game of much effort applied towards mind amplification. This sounds koan enough that there must be some truth to it.

And as Meta as all of that sounded, it really is just an outgrowth of the overarching purpose from which this thought flow had begun, which of course could not be uncovered until I had allowed it to unfold without consciously steering myself to it. I commenced writing here on this post in order to calm my mind, which was preventing me from achieving the “no mind” of sleep. And in allowing myself to tap, however superficially, into the wellspring of my existence within the here and now, which is being for the sake of being, via writing for the sake of writing, I have found a sort of quietitude that will hopefully allow me to slip into the cover of my dreams. Buenas noches.

Unlocking Wilderness

We tend to lock ourselves in our own devices, then blame others for their design. Fits of animal lucidity that may appear madness to the habituated — such as going out for a run in the middle of the night, fasting for no external reason, or simply typing unpremeditated words into the stillness and emptiness of a blog — are perhaps wholly necessary to maintain some freedom from our own tendency toward confinement.

In the flurry of my working urban existence, as if that were any excuse, I have grown complacent, as I am wont to do, being human, in a perpetually exhausted consumptive silence, threading endlessly through the vision of others amplified on my outdated laptop screen. But there is a wind that speaks from deep within that cuts through concrete and forest alike, past and present, a sort of primal divulging light that trumps all, if it could just be heard. . .

I once struggled to understand the language of the ocean as it laps relentlessly against the shore, like a fish-eyed harbinger of hunger, desire, and the wild thrall that lies just at the boundary of death, a  3D sinuously pixellating sound of the loss of everything that had previously been defined, yet comes back again, never to be fully known except perhaps, fleetingly, as beauty.

Like San Narciso expulgated of meaning, there is simply, terribly what lies here, before us, utterly barren, utterly beautiful, utterly unknowable yet wholly tangible through shizophrenic descent into frenzied sensory and metaphoric experience. Here we touch the subway shuddering plastic lights that flash the graffiti of someone who has long since passed onto their way into everyday. . .

The image words of the ocean wind, cutting through the forest mountain of my mind, take me away to your place of desolation.

The Gift

Life lets us know in subtle and unsubtle turns that we must be attentive to our innermost selves, or else we place ourselves and others in danger when we lose our way. That moment in which we are taught this lesson is dumb agony, ripe with tragic comedy, dripping with a depth that is ironic in its vacuity. We stand revealed in our humanity, bathed in blood, upset by regret but relieved by a renewed sense of a terrible divinity that somehow threads our solitary fragility back together again, humpty and hallowed.

All it takes is one spare moment of inattention for the glass to shatter on the precipice of the sink.

Such a simple act, imbued still with such force of meaning, unveiled only thereafter in the throbbing blood from the gaping wound. Reaching for the glass, the dishes done, already lost in anticipation of sitting on the couch with whiskey in hand–it was within that moment that darker forces aligned, necessarily, against me. For I had allowed myself to fall asleep while still awake. There is no greater crime against life than to deny its full terrible beauty and reside in unnatural complacency.

I was then reawakened, as the blood swelled out unstoppered by any pressure I could apply. It seemed silly, how frail and fragile my body really was. I was overwhelmed with annoyance, a deep frustration that now my shallow dream of a productive afternoon on the couch with a glass of whiskey and a netbook was ruptured. The reality of the swiftly ending spring break set in. The dark shadow of work, sleep deprivation, and high stress loomed like storm cloud guillotines above the one day that was left. There was no going back, now. I was bleeding too much to pretend that I could sit there staunching it with a paper towel forever. Fat globs of dark red blood, almost beautiful in surreal insistence, splattered out unerringly onto the kitchen floor.

But I also felt a sense of relief. Now I was awake again. And in a cosmic light, that could be seen as a gift. The 7 hours in a late night ER with criminals and crazy people, the stitches, and the pain were a small price to pay for that reminder of what life is about.

Attention

The most valuable thing I may possibly possess is my attention. Everything else from each focal point flows: money, fitness, conversation, love. It therefore follows that the most pernicious power possibly wielded is inattention. Fallen along the periphery of lapsed perception lies barren decay, the detritus of abandonment. Grown all the more eventually loud and demanding in its rifted divisiveness.

Constant, unwavering vigilance is required, then, in the maintenance of integrity. To enlist an oblique reference from past popular culture, in Blair Witch Project, the moment of greatest fear lay not in the unseen scratching or indeterminate wailing in the woods, but in the closing shot of the friend in the basement corner with his back turned, posed monolithically, a presence assumedly known just a minute before but now no longer understood — for one moment abandoned and thus — in a subsequent moment of greatest peril and need — turned unreachably menacing.

In the ghettos of my soul, an unplumbed, thickened viscosity of malformed and unaddressed feelings can so easily build like malignant plaque. An accumulating pile of secondary priorities shoved into a corner of my awareness. My heart must be opened.

Our innards must be aired. Nothing good can happen unless all facets of each compiling moment are appreciated. The path, the journey that we make is hewn from the gravity of a complete and total immersion in what lies directly before us. The earth. The heated, desolate eyes of the public. Our bodies, our tongues, the sound and the light, unforsaken, believed in, cherished, compassionate,

undivided.

Go Beyond

Gotta escape that zone of sameness and bland expectation, where your complacent everyday self knows exactly what it will do (nothing) and who it will see (noone). Break the cycle of doldrum limbo stagnancy and force yourself into a situation wherein you know you will be uncomfortable and scared to go, cuz in that place of strange alien modish pressure you will be taken beyond what you can control, and you will be forced to be exactly what you are in that exact moment of place-time circumstance. In all of your imperfect, half-formed glory. Go, no matter your status, your age, your defined self in-context: go to places that you have never seen, go to people you have never met, stick yourself into sketchiness, fear, gray dim areas of uncertainty, where you don’t speak the language, and you have to gesture to make yourself understood, and people are tattoed and pierced and confused and full of life. Do this, and you will never despair. Do this, and your fear will lessen. So that you are not scared to live. So that you are not scared to die. Because the two are one and the same. So go go go go go. The tether that holds you to yourself cannot be broken by anyone except yourself.  Be yourself and go to places where you do not belong.