Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Pleasure Of Knowing Pain

Most everyone has suffered some degree of personal/emotional or situational hardship and misfortune in life. And many have been affected by at least one painful benchmark, including the death of friends or family, the perpetual ache, and disorientation, of divorce (whether it be one’s own, or one’s parents), the onset of illness, sudden accident, the challenge of alcoholism or drug addiction with self or family, the loss of employment, income, home or community. I am not exceptional in this arena. I do not even begin to compare my experience to that of others of whom I am aware, or to the many of whom I know nothing about. It’s just that my pain is uniquely my own, as yours is your own.

There are a myriad of situations and circumstances that contribute to the definition of life. Much of it involves pain. It is part of what enables our perspective. As we all know, without the darkness we would not appreciate the light, without the sour the sweet would be a little less satisfying. Without the cold, the warm gets taken for granted. And yes, without the pain, the pleasure would be compromised.

The pleasure of knowing pain is, obviously, in the aftermath of having known it; and in the continuous process of surviving it. Pain is, assuredly, what has saved me from the saccharine life of the undisturbed, the vanilla existence of the sheltered and protected. Not that I have embraced pain in its frequent, suffocating visitation, but I would never deny the validity, or the profundity of its influence. It is, I can say with the wisdom of experience, the balance to taking everything else for granted.

Having had my share of rabid teeth gnawing at my flesh, I would not trade my scars for the smooth and delicate skin I would be wearing were it not for them. That is not to say that, if given the choice, I would choose to experience the pain, I most assuredly would not, it’s just that, having been partially influenced by its presence, I have gained a certain understanding in, and of, life that I would not possess had things been different. It is a dynamic I cannot refute, wrestle with, or deny. And it is true for each of us.

The pleasure of knowing pain. It is not a masochistic indulgence, or a pretentious concept, as one might conclude from the phrase itself. It is, however, for one who can bring perspective to the scream, the echo of hope coming back to rejuvenate the downtrodden. It is, I might add, an esoteric pleasure, rather than a measurable impression.

It has been said about life, “No one gets out alive”, but as a prelude to that, no one gets through life unscathed either. It is what we do with our grief that matters, that makes it ‘profitable’ pain, rather than just tragic circumstances.

Let me say that again: “It is what we do with our grief that matters, that makes it ‘profitable’ pain, rather than just tragic circumstances.”

I am thankful, however, that in life, pain has been my occasional acquaintance, rather than my companion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I No Longer Need To Be Quiet

I have always lived in an alternate space, in a boundless expanse of the unspoken, the unbroken, and certainly the unannounced. It’s just that not everybody knew that. People have always mistaken my quiet for agreement, my tolerance for affirmation, my moderation for timidity, my compassion for weakness, my modesty for apprehension. And they have always been wrong about me.
They have, also, always been afraid of me.

I do not live there any longer. I no longer need to be quiet.
People are still afraid of me, but for a different reason now.

Actually, they don’t really need to be. I’m at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to relationships, new and old. That’s right. I give my power away. I do not hoard it as a miser would his gold coins, or a bookie would his inside information. Love must be given in order for it to even exist. We all know that. Giving is what actually enables love. But the same is true of power. One can only experience true personal power if one is unafraid of not having it. I am unafraid.

Because of my songs, my blogs, and poetry, people know more about me than I will ever even come close to knowing about them. That is true of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers. Most people like it that way, not just with me, but with others as well. They like the advantage, they like having the upper hand. It helps them stand. It helps them survive in relationships, whether they be ‘close personal’ ones, or casual. Most people divulge very little about themselves. In fact, I’ll bet many people know more about me, what I think, what I believe, how I feel, than they know about their own spouses, brothers and sisters, parents, or best friends. Sad, but probably true.

When I was young I expressed my feelings, mostly through songs and poetry, but usually kept my thoughts to myself. Youth is about feelings because young people don’t really know yet what they think, or believe. And when they think they do it changes. But they know how they feel. In fact, feelings are something one never has to take responsibility for. After all, ‘I can’t help the way I feel’. But what one thinks, or what one believes, requires the probability of having to back it up somehow, most likely with reason, logic, knowledge or experience. That’s a bit more difficult. It’s a little scary for people. Most people just keep quiet about things, about themselves especially. It’s how people get through life. Can’t really blame them. Expression carries with it the possibility, even the probability, of rejection.

I don’t write out of a need of expression, as was the case as an adolescent. I write out of a sense of obligation and responsibility. It has been said, “To whom much has been given, from him much will be required (expected).” I have been given sixty years, and a plethora of experience. I have had the pleasure, yes, the pleasure, of knowing pain (I will write about that in a forthcoming blog), and I have had the privilege of pleasure. I have been to the castles on the mountains, and walked among the desperate in the valleys of circumstance. I have known the commoner and the king, and have found the king to be really nothing more than a commoner with a more expensive hat. I have read the mendacious obituaries of the famous, and the honest obituaries of the invisible. I have trusted everyone in my lifetime, and I have trusted no one. I have ultimately settled into trusting those who are willing to be trustworthy, those (coincidentally) who would require the very same of me. The rest can continue to devour themselves slowly from the inside out. And, although I find it disconcerting, it is none of my concern. I have known the individuality, and the universality, of man. And more importantly, I have known you. I know this because I have known myself, and as I’ve said many times before, “We are each other.”

It does not matter to me why people read my writing. Whether it is out of habit, curiosity, personal identification, voyeuristic impulse, or to gather a grain of truth from someone unafraid of its expression. It only matters to me why I write. And I do so because I am compelled to. It is an internal commission. It does not matter to me that people keep quiet about themselves, even to my disadvantage. I don’t need the upper hand. I do not compete with people. I don’t need their acceptance, affirmation, or even their approval.

That does not mean I would not appreciate their love. It only means that I will not keep quiet in order to have it. As one who has been given much, I have an obligation to its greater intent. It is the responsible thing for me to do.

If there is something in it for some of you,
all the better.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


There was a bear outside my bedroom window earlier tonight. He was quiet, but I heard him rooting around in my truck. I’d heard him every night for the past week or ten days. Then sometimes I’d hear him rustling in the bushes when I’d go out to have a look around in the morning. I went out earlier tonight, about three o’clock. My dog, Chica, was pretty riled, exercising her protective nature. I took her outside to check on things, to allow her to investigate the cause of her concern. It was pretty dark, but it was cool to see her taking control, beginning at the truck, and fanning outward, nose to the ground, working overtime, then stopping and pointing, indicating the direction the bear headed into the bushes. She’d growl a warning, stop and listen for a response, then continue about her business. The bear left three or four big piles of scat a few feet from the truck, just to distract the dog, I presume. Or to mark some territory. Or just to say hello. I can’t really tell you what’s so exciting about that, but it is. Something about co-existence I think.

I’m sitting on the deck now, between bear time and sunrise, there’s just a glimmer of light beginning to come over the hills to the east. I’m waiting for the coyote’s early morning visit to the water trough. Call me an insomniac, I don’t care, but I live for moments like these. Special times, intimate times when nature reveals itself unbeknownst even to itself. The birds are waking up, calling quietly to those still lost in slumber, the early risers prodding the late sleepers to get up before they miss the very best part of the day. I think they call it anthropomorphism when one gives human traits, behaviors, and characteristics to animals. But hey, at least I can spell anthropomorphism, and if I can spell it I ought to be able to indulge in it.

I keep forgetting my Doberman pup is a dog. She’s five months old, but is so smart I take for granted that she knows what I’m saying, and there is ample evidence that she, in fact, usually does. I know, everybody says that about their dog.
Must be something to it.

After sunrise:
I found bear prints on the ground after it began to get light this morning, and paw prints on my truck. Looks like a juvenile, maybe a year or two old. I think there may even be two or three of them visiting together. Probably don’t yet know where my refrigerator is.

On another note, I’ve been looking at a lot of footprints lately, on my property, and at the different lakes in the area when I’m out in the early morning; fascinating indicators of life, of patterns of behavior, of travel unobserved by anyone except the other night creatures. They come and go, confident there will be no humans interrupting their routines. It is a world most of us know little about, myself included. It is a world that exists parallel to our own, but intertwined with ours as well. We work and play, they sleep. We sleep, they forage and play.

As people, we leave footprints too. The things we say, the things we do, our attitudes, our relationships, they are all read by others, and they are indicators of who we are.
Let us all step lightly, carefully,
and with every good intention.

Speaking of footprints, my daughter-in-law Amy, and her friend Katie Fox, have a new business. Check it out.