Remember Wimpy from Popeye cartoons? I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today! That guy knew what he wanted and couldn’t wait to enjoy it, although I’m not entirely sure about the indebting part, but I digress …
Some truths are hard to swallow. Yet is it possible we court death in postponing joy? When you die, says the Koran, God will call upon you to account for all the permitted pleasures you did not enjoy while on earth. From the Talmud, A person will be called upon to account, on Judgment Day, for all the permitted pleasures he might have enjoyed but did not.
I possess a wicked work ethic, and don’t consider it a bad thing. No matter the pressures of daily living, no matter what sticky situation I find myself mired in, I can always source joy through creative expression and participating in nature. If I find myself making excuses or justifications (some indeed compelling), it is important to recognize them for what they are so that I do not delay any longer. If I sense the corners of my mouth are cranked down in frustration or too much concentration, I know it’s time to get out into the garden and/or with the dogs and start smiling again.
Deepening consciousness through whatever avenues requires that I open my eyes to what is around me, to awaken further to how thoughts and desires co-create my life, moment to moment. Perhaps if one were ever mindful of temporality, one would live that much more fully. We could prioritize like never before while dismissing grievances and getting on with engaging ‘best possible self’ more than occasionally.
The waters of birth released me, dolphin-like,
into a realm of wonder and delight, only to realize
I was swimming with sharks; they, friendly enough
when sated, aggressive and dangerous when needy
and I swam for my life, filling lungs and stomach
and for the sheer sensation of viscous water
stroking sleek skin and oh, I kept on moving,
for once out of water I would perish;
The oceans were vast and dark and deep, caverns
and voids, brilliant colors and textures and hooks;
barbs dangling through refracted rays of sunlight,
tiny concentric circlets framing slender drop lines
nearly invisible, a too-tidy meal wrapped sinuously
around each of them, appearing not quite right
this fast food, still I was hungry and sampled the fare
and the hook jerked and jabbed, piercing my flesh,
tearing off bits here and there; it was painful,
yet still I remained at liberty to continue my journey;
On an on I swam, for what else is a dolphin to do;
each day the waters remained the same, each day
they changed, some tinged with toxic debris,
at other times those brilliant hues of turquoise
and indigo were balm to a weary heart and now,
decades later, I discover tiny hooks embedded still.
As I carefully dislodge each barb, there is
searing pain mitigated by relief; I am free,
if scarred. I am free.
Is it familiar, the aching sentiment
when what seemed known becomes
assumption and once again melts
down, dilutes into watercolor illusion,
deceiving like a dramatic heist
of the pureness of Being;
All feels just until it ceases to be,
no more mistaking favor
for authentic regard
when we find ourselves ducking
into corners to avoid a situation,
as if fate could be averted this way
or that, only not today, we say,
not now, I cannot face it
in this moment;
We do not plan chance, it handles us
until we can no longer hide from who
or what we have revealed ourselves to be
aside from the ego’s estimation;
rightness or wrong of it matters not,
paste-up face turned to a world wrapped
in artifice does not sustain deep down
when we fail to confront the depth
of our own lack of congruity;
It is a gift, this, even though at the time
we feel cursed, abandoned by
the very source to whom we pray, Please set me free from this dark wheel of suffering, yet only we facilitate
re-cognition of our own innate liberation,
encountering what chance tosses daily
into a path provisioned by partnering
up in equal measure, shadow and light.
What if nature existed merely to be noticed;
if our job in life was simply to recognize
the fundamental glory of Creation,
discover a place, either town or in forest,
relax, enjoy, and flow with the current?
What if time, itself was only a ruse
to keep us anchored to terra firma,
our stomping grounds for a century or so,
then back into the flow of no-time;
Instead we lose the ability to view stars,
hear birdsong, recognize rustle
in a lover’s hair; are deaf to small toenails
on tree bark, misinterpret thunder for traffic
as we speed along the road to nowhere,
fretting about nots;
Not having enough minutes in a day,
enough understanding friends,
money, attention, quiet, time, time
to do, to go, to have, to be
whatever it is we keep ourselves
What if this was enough?
If perfection existed, moment to moment,
in spite of aspirations and worries,
as we sit numbly before a beggar’s banquet,
nervous and dreaming, burning holes
in theories of spontaneity
and to what end in this wrinkle,
this blip on eternity’s radar?
Most of the things we carry did not come
through a portal straight into our hands.
Most of the things we carry
were collected then forgotten like stones
on a dusty shelf somewhere in the recesses
of our home and mind.
Still these burdens are there, churning around
inside like corpuscles winking signals
across the blank screen of a vacant movie theatre.
Maybe one day we venture in, hungry
for entertainment and we are not choosy.
Maybe we are triggered by another person.
In either case, the projector whirrs to life,
seeming at first to offer inchoate, fragmented clips
that make no sense. Then slowly images form,
both benign and shocking, as we realize the subject
of this movie is uncomfortably close to the bone.
This movie reflects those things we carry.
The great thing about previews is we can walk
away from the shock and awe
while we contemplate meaning, relevance.
The great thing about our own movie trailer
is the ability to edit, eliminating preconceptions
and memorized dialogue while updating the content
and tone of the production until, at long last, we procure
for ourselves a different conclusion.
I think most of us come into life this way. Open, free, arms and legs flailing, lungs gulping air and expelling futility. We have no idea of the world until we do. We find it safe or frightening, depending on luck, circumstance, and perhaps fate.
I wonder about children in foreign lands – countries that seem always on the brink of civil unrest. How must it feel to fear the night, to keep one’s head down during daylight hours, to roam the streets with armed guards patrolling every block? Yet somehow growing up, I became imprisoned inside myself. I admit this because I hardly think I am alone. Half of me pulled inward while the other part learned how to play the outside game. I wonder how many never reconcile these disjointed factions, once maturity liberates us from the need to placate them.
How often have I repeated Scene I, Take II, over and over again? My story, and unknowingly I stuck by it. For years. Was I attempting to reinvent the past, to right innumerable wrongs? Did I simply forget to ad lib? How attached the guileless seem to the script we have been handed through no fault or direction of our own, as if the gods struck stage marks and we are loathe to step away.
Is free will a disease? For, although I possessed a plethora of choices all along once I attained adulthood, contagion seemingly took forever. But oh, when it caught on! It was like clamping my eyes shut and praying to grab the most fragrant, the loveliest bridal bouquet; watching in disbelief as it sailed right through the molecules of sky, straight into my eager hands.