Gathering Moss

I’ve been away for a while.

It can be hard to feel as though one has anything worthwhile to say when one does more-or-less the same few things day after day. Today, however, is a day worthy of note and reflection. A friend of mine will be leaving us, soon. Don’t panic: he’s not dying, just moving to a new home and a new job. In light of that, I’ve been thinking more about my own situation. 

I’ve tried a few times in the last few years to find a better-paid, differently-stressful job. (I honestly don’t believe that truly stress-free work environments exist.) As yet, I have had little success, though that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. But I do wonder if I’m limiting myself too much. The jobs I have searched for have been under the same umbrella of employers where I currently find myself, I the hopes that I can stay in a system that stands to benefit me at a time years from now. I have only occasionally sent applications because, truth-be-told, jobs in this system that interest me are somewhat few and far between. There are other careers out there that hold a higher appeal, but that would mean leaving the system and abandoning any progress I’ve made towards retirement benefits. I am not yet ready to lose the safety net, I think, especially given that I intend to soon enter the world of home-ownership and face the demon Mortgage that dwells therein. 

I have to congratulate my friend, though I shall do it anonymously, for pursuing his career and his dreams. It takes courage and Will to step away from home, friends, and familiarity and try something new. I wish you the very best, good sir, as you go to your new home and a fresh start.

I have heard it said that a rolling stone gathers no moss, and lately I can’t help but feel burried under quite a layer of the stuff. It won’t last, though. I can feel a change in scenery coming, like footsteps through the ground. It’s distant, elusive, but coming closer. 


Thoughts From A Dark Empty Room

First and foremost: DEATH TO 2016! This has truly been one for the history books, and not in a good way. But most of you already know that: you’ve lived it. 

This year, for the new year, I’d like to share a little secret. 

People have asked me off and on over the years why I spend so much time alone. Why do I go off by myself at parties, why did I always hug the wall at school dances and social functions, etc. And the answer is fairly simple: it’s easier–and that is to say, less painful–to be alone in an empty place than to be alone in a crowd.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love my friends and I really enjoy spending time with them. Just this evening, I walked into a house full of friends I haven’t seen in ages and I talked, laughed, hugged, and genuinely had a good time. 

For about ten minutes.

Currently, however, I find myself sitting on the floor beside the locked door of a dark, otherwise empty room. Am I happier here? Not really. But it’s hard to keep smiling downstairs where the party is: hard to be happy when every direction I turn I see another reminder of how alone I feel. I can still hear the party through the floor, and take some comfort in the fact that I can go back at a time of my choosing.

I just can’t lose myself in the party atmosphere the way I used to. (I’ve tried drinking, and I wish I could forget the rest of that night.) I feel like I’m broken, sometimes; like there’s a socialization mechanism that most people are born with, but I somehow missed out on. And sure some people will say, “just go with it,” but what do you do when you don’t know how? 

What do you do when all you see is the empty space around you? When you miss all the jokes, and you don’t know any of the stories? What do you do when, in spite of everyone’s best efforts, (and I give my friends all the kudos in the world, here), you still feel left out? 

Well, if you’re me, you find a dark, otherwise empty room and sit there feeling numb for a while and wait until it passes. Sometimes it takes an hour, or five minutes, or all night. Sooner or later, though, I’ll leave this room. But, for now, it’s easier to be all alone in the night than all alone in a crowd. 

Good night, folks. And Happy New Year, 2017.

Facing the Darkness

The following is an excerpt from an entrance essay I wrote to a nearby college a while ago. Enjoy.

There is an inescapable truth to the world in which we live: every person that is born must also die. But it is neither the situation of our birth, nor the circumstances of our death which make us who we are; it is the manner and quality in which we live our lives that defines us.

Unfortunately, it is also true that the manner in which one lives, whether it be righteous, wrongful, or indifferent, does not always translate into the quality of life which one enjoys. There are those who govern their lives by a strict moral code, and appear to reap all of life’s rewards as payment. We call them the Blessed. There are those who live wrongfully, and cheat their fellows, yet appear to reap equal reward regardless. We call them the Corrupt. There are those who abdicate virtue, and appear to be punished with misery and deprivation. We call them the Damned. And finally, there are those who live righteously, and uphold the Rule of Law, yet are made to suffer regardless. We call them the Destitute.

It is the Destitute, whose unwavering moral rectitude is constantly confronted by a deluge of depravity, who are to be most pitied. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon us, who have the means, to discover within us the Will to raise up our fellows in just reward for their virtue.

I speak, not merely of material goods, but also of matters of the Spirit. There are those among us whose greatest worry is not a leak in their roof, or a deficit in their bank account; it is a crack in their very soul, left by some sudden trauma or the slow decimation of affliction. These people are all around us. They live next door to us, work in the same offices, shop at the same stores, and watch the same television shows. And every day they struggle, alone, with a demon in their mind.

To offer them succor, would be such a simple thing. It costs us nothing to listen; it costs us nothing to love; and for so many whose hearts are overcome with sorrow, compassion is the only coin they require. To stand, just for one moment, shoulder to shoulder with someone who has looked into the face of Darkness and say to them, “You are not alone,” is the greatest gift any person can give. And it costs us nothing.

A Musing on Muses

The other day a friend of mine shared a link on one of the Facebook pages I follow that was both beautiful and inspiring. It was a short video of a woman singing to call a herd of cattle. Immediately, upon watching this video, I was struck by a notion: Is this how we first domesticated animals?

We have all, or most of us at least, heard the expression “music soothes the savage beast,” but where did such a concept come from? It has been my observation that most domesticated animals enjoy the sounds of music and song, and it does seem to have a calming effect on them. In ancient times, when animal husbandry was new or just beginning, humans would have needed a way to summon and placate their herds. I don’t know how many of you have ever worked with or around herd animals before, but they can be remarkably skittish and prone to wild, panicked outbursts. But a simple song can summon and soothe instinctively, making it the perfect tool for primitive human herders.

I wonder when we forgot about the power of song? When did we decide to use dogs, and prods, and whips or to simply keep our herds and flocks locked up in barns all day long? I think we know the answer to that, too. It happened a long time ago, when we as a species discovered that animals could carry material value as well as intrinsic value. When the concept of profit entered the equation we began to care more about the price in gold owed to us by other humans, and less about the price of beauty and respect that we owed to the beasts.

I have little talent for singing, myself, but I think it would not be so bad a thing if those who are able were to return to the practice of, (if you’ll forgive the pun), ‘singing for their supper.’ We have led a good many lambs, and other creatures, to the slaughter over the last eon, and we have given them so very, very little in return for their lives. Maestro, an A, please.

I Miss The Darkness

I miss the Darkness. And I’m glad I took a few days to collect my thoughts before composing this post, because I read something today that added a new “flavor” to what that sentence means to me. 

The post I read, on a blog I had never heard of before, referred to the intrusive presence of social media in our lives as “a bunch of flashing lights.” (Not at all an inaccurate description if you’ve ever sat next to someone checking Facebook on their iPhone in the theater.) And when I say ‘I miss the Darkness’ one of the things I realized I meant by that was that I miss a world with fewer distractions. It’s not for nothing that most forms of meditation begin with closing one’s eyes: the world around us is full of distractions, now more so than ever. (And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of posting this on social media via an iPhone.)

But Darkness hides more than just the world’s distractions: it also hides our actions from the world. We all have secrets. We all have dreams. And for one reason or another we choose to keep those secrets and dreams hidden away in dark places. I miss the Darkness. I miss having that place that I could go, and things that I could do, that I would never dare show to the daylight world. It was a kind of power, and a kind of victory, to have those secrets and that freedom. And it was freeing to be able to go to that place, dissolve into it, and be carried away. At some point, Darkness becomes as much a practice as a place.

I miss the Darkness, and I miss the perspective that it gave me. In the corporeal world, one who stands in the light will have difficulty seeing into shadows, whereas one standing in shadows can see a lighted area with ease. Much the same is true of incorporeal matters. Recall the meditation example from above. When one seeks the Light, or Enlightenment, it is first necessary to recognize that one is standing in the Dark. We distract ourselves in this life with a lot of flashing lights and brightly colored things, but they dazzle our Eye in the search for Light. Soon we become dependent on those distractions; for as soon as they are gone all we see is the Dark and, out of fear, we find new bright and pleasing distractions to hide the Dark, because that is easier than seeking for the Light.

I have been walking in the daylight world of flashes and colors for too long now; telling mysel that I must be concerned with practical matters for the time being. Well, at long last, the practical matters have begun to fall into place, and it’s time to go back out into the Darkness and seek for true Light.

I miss you, Darkness. But don’t worry: I’m coming back.

A Brief Realization

No one really talks about stem cell research in the news anymore.  But I got to thinking about the subject this evening and something unusual occurred to me. It’s no secret that the various Christian religions are among the greatest opponents of stem cell research, but I believe they are on the wrong side of the issue. 

Consider the following: it is written and taught among Christian churches that “greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life” for another, (the identity of said other being somewhat fluid). It is also a know fact that removing stem cells from embryonic humans, (which are far more useful and effective than the ones from adult humans), usually kills the fetus. Bearing in mind that these cells can then be used to repair damage done to other people which would have been irreparable and possibly fatal without the stem cells, is it not true that these donor embryos die a noble death by saving the lives of others?

Now, some will doubtlessly say that since the choice to die to save another was not made by the fetus but rather imposed by surgeons then it becomes meaningless. Truth be told, I don’t know that there’s really a difference. After all, a truly good, God-fearing Christain person would not hesitate to lay down their life for another, even a complete stranger or an enemy, (hence the story of the Good Samaritan). And if the fetus were to oppose such an operation, then it has allowed another to die to save itself and is therefore evil and must be punished, (preferably burned to death like a witch or a heretic). 

Stem cell research, and the use of embryonic stem cells in life-saving operations, is a perfectly legitimate and astonishingly Christian ideal that churches ought to be funding instead of fighting. 

I’m not sure where this train of thought came from. Mostly, I just wanted to preserve it for future reference.

Outward Momentum

This will be a brief post, but an important one, I think.

A realization struck me the other day: no government ever wants to win a war. That sounds utterly preposterous on the surface, of course, but try to follow my thinking here. What happens when a war is finally over? Soldiers come he and have to reintegrate into society, infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and the economy has to shift back over to peacetime products, and you have a huge mess in some country or another that has to be cleaned up or at least paid for. Dealing with the consequences of the aftermath are expensive, time-consuming, and (quite frankly) boring. No government wants to have to do these things.

That’s why the war never ends, or is never allowed to end. This way we keep our soldiers overseas where they’re stuck with whatever situation they land in, we can keep spending stupefying amounts of money on military production, and we can allow our domestic infrastructure and economy to crumble and sputter. After all, what self-respecting patriot would push for spending on improved roads or bridges while our brave soldiers are dying in a war overseas?!

And so we push ever outwards, looking for new enemies, new struggles, new wars, so that we can turn a blind eye to the problems here at home until they blow up in our faces and then we just blame the faceless enemy for all our problems. 

A system has been designed to sustain this campaign by militarizing our youth. Now, making American soldiers heroes in the eyes of their children is not a bad thing, or, frankly, a difficult one, but the psychological intervention goes deeper. 

You hear from time to time a number of upset parents complaining about the amount of violence in television programs and video games. They make a good point, but not necessarily the correct point. Television was just as violent “back in the day.” The Looney Tunes used to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other with hammers, baseball bats, anvils and dynamite. But only on the rare occasion did these characters do this dressed in military camo fighting America’s enemies.  Nowadays, the greatest attractions for young people feature American soldiers as the heroes, especially as the playable characters in video games (the Call of Duty series comes to mind). We are training are youth from a surprisingly early age to interested in an enthusiastic about military duty especially active combat. If I may be permitted to quote music icon Marilyn Manson:

We don’t like to kill our unborn
We need them to grow up and fight our wars

And there are a host of social issues ranging from birth control rights to women in combat duty that tie into this military-machine culture we have created for ourselves.

Now you may find yourself thinking that this is not your fault: that corporate enterprises and government officials are to blame. Well, America: you buy from those corporations and you voted for those politicians, so yes: you ARE to blame.

Outward expansion has been a driving force in some of the greatest empires ever established on this earth, but with one critical flaw: it is not and can never be eternal. Sooner or later, you run out of room to expand.

Any competent physicist will tell you that momentum is conserved when objects collide. Consider these examples: you slide a ball into another ball on a table and they both roll away slightly slower, or you throw a ball against a wall and it bounces back. As our campaign of outward expansion continues, we bring along those objects that can be moved to join us until we encounter something that cannot be moved, and then we will bounce backward.

Once that expansion is fully and unequivocally rebuffed, our outward momentum will reverse to inward momentum. As we are forced to leave behind resources we acquired while moving outward, the speed with which the inward collapse proceeds will increase accordingly until it slams back in on itself and implodes.

I have not been the first to say these things, though I doubt I will be the last. Stop following the bouncing ball, America. Reel this country in before we hit that wall, because make no mistake; it’s out there, and we’re getting closer to it with every passing day.