Friday, October 30, 2009

Against The Wind

As has been said, “Kites rise against the wind, not with it.”
Against the odds men (people) find strength.

I recently spoke with a middle aged woman who had survived a battle with cancer, and now, at a most inopportune time in her life, is needing to sell her home because of the accumulated medical bills. As we all know, it is not an ideal time to be selling ones home. It will mean a major change for her, a change that will most likely take her out of her own familiar community, and a change that she will go through alone, without the help of a supportive spouse.

I have recently been getting to know a middle aged man who, after a multitude of misfortune, self-inflicted, and otherwise, finds himself to be his own best resource for getting by. A man who survived a horrible accident, and the succeeding ravages of drug addiction, he has been an inspiration to me in the few short days since making his acquaintance. This man is not interested in placing blame, or in complaining about how different his life might be were it not for the accident. He is a man who has had a hard life, but a man of gratitude for the life that he does have. It is the difference in his world. His attitude and perspective, I must say, make a difference in mine.

I did not know either of these people before their circumstances, but it is clear that they have risen like a kite against odds that would provoke many others to just succumb to the wind. The wind has enabled these people to discover who they are beneath the surface, they have tapped into the essence of being that kite, into the fullness of being themselves.

In our culture, it has become very difficult for many of us to tap into our own essence. Some of us have been brought along pretty comfortably in life, without the kind of challenge, or misfortune, that these folks have had to face. In a way, we can count ourselves lucky to have avoided such happenstance, but on a deeper level, maybe we’re just a little weaker for having done so. I do know, that were I ever again in a challenging life situation that I just could not seem to manage on my own, I would try and tap into the strength, and the courage, that these two individuals have so clearly demonstrated by their continuing lives and attitudes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Bitter Wind

A bitter wind has come up this afternoon, a gusty, blustering blow from out of the north.
It arrived unexpectedly, without the courtesy of a formal warning. Caught unaware in the chill of its grip, I was suddenly conscious of being very naked beneath my light autumn clothes. I could feel my skin as if it were a thin layer of ice encompassing the rest of my brittle body. And I was feeling very cold. If the chill had wandered in slowly like a vagabond meandering through time, rather than rushing in like a bandit, I would have worn clothes under my clothes, and maybe even more clothes beneath those. But I didn’t. Even my dog was shivering.

Life encourages us to be prepared for whatever endeavor we choose to undertake, but it also teaches us that we ought to be prepared for the unexpected as well. We cannot predict every eventuality, but we can prepare for the unexpected by our experience of the past. There is almost always a lesson from the past, our own, or somebody else’s, that we can draw upon as a likely predictor of things to come. It’s just that we don’t always take the time to consider the totality of our existence. Too busy with the day to day, the moment to moment demands of carving out our own lives. But I don’t think we were designed to live this way. It’s not that we can’t, or even that we don’t, do a relatively good job of it, it’s just that I think we were meant to have more contemplative time, to observe, to ponder, to learn, to awaken, and to appreciate.

I’ve been very busy lately preparing my house and property for the coming winter. So busy, in fact, that I was caught unaware by this bitter wind. But there actually had been signs of its coming. Not profound signs, and not the usual blather from the meteorologist on the local news, but there were signs, nevertheless. They were subtle signs, they were invisible to the unaware, but they were there just the same.

Had I been paying closer attention to the bigger picture, to the understated indicators, I would have known it was coming, and dressed a little warmer. Life is like that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Am Being Guided

Sounds egocentric. Delusional even.
If you don’t recognize that life speaks to us in a myriad of ways.

Ears do not provide our only means by which to hear,
and eyes do not constitute one’s only source of vision.
To believe that would be delusional.

I am being guided, not by voices, but by signposts, by circumstance,
by conscience, by that still small voice.
And yes, by the Divine.

I believe that we are all being guided by the Divine. Some of us pay attention, however, and some of us do not.
There is an element of trust involved in the process that is not dissimilar to trusting that the roads drawn on a map will actually take you to where the map indicates they will. One must trust the map, as one follows its indicators. And when you think about it, why would we use a map, or even have one, if we did not first trust that it would, ultimately, do us well?
And so it is with guidance, in life, with direction, with moving through any situation, or set of circumstances. A humble recognition of the guide is sometimes all that is required of us to move into the slipstream.
That, in and of itself, is an acknowledgement of trust.

There is a significant difference between being ‘guided’, however, and being ‘seduced’.
There have been many times in life when I have wanted to, even chosen to, embrace a seduction, when I have wanted to believe that it was actually guidance. That, after all, would enable me to feel better about being seduced. I’m not talking about sexual seduction, although that could certainly be included in the equation, but about the kind of seductions that present themselves as ‘for our benefit’, as ‘just what we need’.

They usually come appealing to our ego, to our sense of financial or social insecurity, to our need for appreciation and recognition, or our desire for wealth and success, to our desire to ‘be somebody’. Seduction also often comes in response to ones perpetual craving for independence. Seduction always recognizes human need and presents itself in a form that promises to meet that need. Seduction, however, is a dishonest lover who never keeps her promises, who never lets on that she is not working in our own best interest.

Besides the times in my life when I have embraced seduction, there have also been many times when I have actually mistaken seduction for guidance. It is easy to do, particularly at an early age, at a stage in life when we are more driven by our needs than by our intention to get things right.

But all that having been said, there has, for me, never been a more clear indication of the difference between guidance and seduction than with a series of events that transpired around me almost forty years ago. I have never forgotten it. I had just begun singing my songs publicly when a man appeared in my life out of nowhere. He came bearing promises of recognition of my music, record deals, tours, and royalties. A means to make a living was no small part of the seduction. He booked studio time, we did a session, but then he took the master tapes and disappeared. From the beginning I had wanted to believe that I was being guided, but I had actually known all along that something was not right with this guy. I had an inclination that he was a liar, and a user and manipulator of people. My internal barometer indicated that the barometric pressure surrounding him was off the charts. I was actually being guided in another direction at the time, but chose to ignore that still small voice, the signposts and the circumstances. I chose instead to embrace the seduction, hoping it would lead to some satisfaction down the line. Of course it never does. Seduction requires too great of a degree of personal compromise to ever return the kind of fulfillment one would hope to find.

I recovered from the situation by recognizing, and admitting, that I had compromised my own integrity in search of some recognition. I’m much more careful today to pay attention to what enhances my life, rather than to the constant lure, and empty promise of temporal gratification. It’s a much better, a more satisfying, and, ultimately, a more fulfilling way to live.

Guidance never leads you to a spiritual level beneath that which you have already risen to. It always leads you toward the light, and away from the darkness. It is never followed by regret, or recrimination. One way to differentiate between ‘being guided’ and ‘being seduced’ is to understand that guidance never comes with a carrot. It presents itself, internally, and often confirmed by circumstances, as simply the right thing to do.
The reward comes in the satisfaction of being in the slipstream.

I don’t know what ever happened to those tapes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Complicated Tree

I watched a man (Ric) climb a tree the other day. It was my tree, and it was an old Oak (he said ‘maybe a hundred and fifty years old’). It was well over one hundred feet high, and leaning precariously towards my house. It was a complicated tree in that it was intertwined with some other trees nearby; one of its limbs was even growing through the trunk of a Douglas fir (Conifer). It had to come down. Either that or I was going to wake up dead one night with my house crumbled down around me like so many worthless matchsticks.

Ric had been up in the branches for over thirty years, so he knew what he was doing. He was an artist, and a magician. It was a pleasure watching him work. Still, it made me very nervous. He had to dismantle the tree little by little from the top down. Too dangerous, and too messy to fell it from the base. Probably would have taken three or four other trees down with it. He hoisted himself up about fifty feet in a bucket, and then climbed up and out onto the limbs from there, using ropes and a harness.

Intertwined with others that are not a good fit for them, or influence on them, I’ve watched people get torn down in much the same way, falling apart limb by limb from the top down, ending up on the ground, wondering what happened. Some people are called to a higher standard, and do not exist well in the stupidity of the crowd. They sacrifice their own beauty, and wellbeing, to grow among the clutter.
Oak trees need space, room to spread out. This one was growing amid a small grove of tall, straight Conifers, crowding its growth. Having to reach straight up for the sunlight, rather than being able to spread its branches, it became top heavy, and began to lean in a direction uncharacteristic of its nature.

Although a skillful climber cut the branches, and ultimately felled the tree, you could say that this Oak was really brought down by being made to conform to the narrow, one-dimensional, growth-patterns of a crowd of less formidable trees.

I will miss that old Oak tree, just as I have missed the company of some who have fallen under the influence, and idiocy, of the status quo.