Short Stories and Creative Nonfiction Essays

Saturday, October 31, 2020

 


The Value of Past and Future

 

            At the age of twenty, for my first Creative Writing class in junior college, I wrote a short story titled La Gare, about a train station. In it, two strangers, each waiting for a respective train, hold a conversation. It turns out the woman, the man’s senior, is traveling to a high school reunion in hopes of recapturing something from youth that has gone missing. The younger man’s destination is a new town where a romantic opportunity and a promising livelihood await. On arriving, he’s sure, life will be fulfilling. It’s a parable, of course—both characters miss the charm of the train station itself, and a surreal twist that leaves the reader to wonder if it exists at all. It’s a parable, of course.

            I’ve always been fascinated by time. I’ve been baffled by the illusion of ‘linear time’ that is said to but a construct of man, haunted by the ineffable concept of eternity, and inspired by the people, places and things that seem to defy time altogether. The stories that have resonated with me throughout life are those, like ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘Wuthering Heights ‘and ‘The Scarlett Letter’ that speak of the interconnectedness of every moment—a seed planted here or there that comes to fruition decades or even centuries later.

            I suspect the fascination is somewhat universal; like most things, it allures or repels. Those inspired by time cultivate a fixation with it and those who fear it dismiss it altogether, relegating past and future to the dusty, cobweb-laden corner of their minds in which so many inconvenient things reside—the annals of existential terror. My hunch that I am not alone in my fascination with time is confirmed by language itself—it is fraught with idioms, colloquialisms and figurative expressions on the matter: we love time when it heals all wounds, and we lament it when it marches on. We embrace the notion when it is on our side, and resent it when we run out of, are in a race against it, or have none to lose. Some sayings are contradictory: There’s no time like the present, and yet hindsight is 20/20! We waste time and never have enough of it, and yet time abounds when there is plenty of time for something. At its worst, time destroys all and all good things come to an end in time. You get the idea.

            In the late -90s, popular culture embraced—even touted—the value of being ‘in the moment.’ Entire books like Eckhart Tolle ‘s ‘The Power of Now’ entreated us to stop ruminating on the past or worrying about the future as this moment is all that truly exists. All else is an illusion; a cobbling together of neural circuits relegated to former sensory impressions. Worry about the future is no different; low-level anxiety is known to be more destructive to our health than acute stress. In that way, another popular sentiment seems prudent: change what you can and accept what you can’t. Surrender. Or conversely, take the bull by the horns and profit from every moment. Every moment is a universe unto itself that can be transformed.

            I subscribe one hundred percent to the above. I am acutely aware that many find themselves trapped in past narratives, beating old drums that do little more than justify the less-than-desirable circumstances and conditions known as their present. I see families that insist on holding members to old ‘roles,’ limiting their freedom to grow and transform; the challenge is universal. As an artist, I have had the good fortune of indulging a lifetime of meditation while plein aire painting or even singing. When engaged in the creative process, the mental chatter subsides, yielding to gamma waves; the equivalent of meditation or chanting. I also keep a regular regime of the aforementioned, but when I can’t, I remind myself that performing Ave Maria at the steering wheel of my car serves the same purpose: that of stripping away mind and ego. And not just for the embarrassment that arises when caught belting it out at a stoplight. Every painter knows that appreciating a dapple of light, or the play of light on a leaf as it refracts its hues into the particles of the atmosphere is a form of love. Appreciation—gratitude—is the ultimate in platonic love. In short, I am a big fan of the moment.

            And yet, another quality I would count among those that make me an artist is my nostalgic streak. My love and appreciation for history—for style and its evolution, for the dialectic of our human evolution. My fond memories, and even those with darker edges, are one hundred percent what I draw on in my writing. The reservoir of archetypes that live in me, infused with the authentic charge of a lived experience, is where the universality lies. I would not trade this love of the past for the world. The bonds I share with family and loved ones was forged (yes, chemically) by shared experiences and time spent together, whether tangible or not! Love requires a past. Indeed, so does the future. The word quierer, in Spanish, is used for to love. But literally, it means to want. In my experience, desire, another word for love, is the wanting of more. It’s a projection of hope and aspiration on an imagined future. All creation comes from envisioning what is not yet manifest but will be in the imaginary future.

            And so, I am torn. I strive to remain unhindered by the past, unshackled by narratives, mantras and counterproductive thought forms; after all, beliefs about the world are really just familiar neural circuits—the thoughts we keep thinking. At the same time, I value my memories and the collective annals of human history on the macro level. Memories of the past keep us warm on cold nights, and visions of the future inspire us to rise another day. To add to the value of past and future, consider the familiar conventional wisdom: we must remember history lest it repeat itself.  Communities and ethnic groups who have been marginalized, ostracized or even subjected to genocide very much honor this sentiment.

            I do not have all the answers, nor do I wish to impose my own values on others—simply to engage in the conversation and contribute to transformation. I would offer that, as always, balance is where it’s at! I have read and live by Tolle’s The Power of Now—have made a concerted effort to resist defining myself by the past in perpetuating it—to resist ruminating, perseverating or reciting the obsolete mantras that are a laundry list of excuses for so many. Simply put, my violins are firmly under lock and key. Similarly, I look for satisfaction and fulfillment now, rather than always attaching it to some future accomplishment or milestone. I strive to smell the flowers along the way, unlike those characters in the train station unaware of their surroundings. Even so, I cannot help but notice that those who take the dismissal of the past to the extreme—who seemingly haven’t a sentimental or nostalgic bone in their bodies, seem to be missing out. In fact, their memories appear to be stilted, repressed, unavailable. Victims of abuse, trauma, or even the horrors of war cannot be judged for keeping painful memories at bay. But within reason, I find the popular speaking out against the value of the past of late a form of overcompensation. A form of confirmation bias that justifies one’s own inclinations and asserts or imposes on others. To counter such, I am gently offering that there is value to past and future, as long as one observes balance. As in all things. I am constantly inspired by luminaries like Jane Fonda, Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, who insist on remaining relevant. Rather than taking us dinosaurs out to pasture or to the glue factory, society might benefit from the wisdom that comes with age. These legacies, war stories, fond remembrances and tributes are the means by which we continue to transform and evolve! The theory of Relativity suggests that time is but a construct of man, that it is relative, and though it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around, that all times exist simultaneously in the space time continuum. It is my contention that many of our prophets—visionary Creatives—recognize this fact and often predict phenomena science or quantum mechanics has yet to explain. 

            As Mentalism, the Law of Attraction, Manifestation and other concepts often lumped into the New Age category of the bookstore capture popular imagination, the idea of heightened awareness, or consciousness, is more and more a cultural value. Many strive to navigate life ‘fully conscious’ or aligned. Far from the concept of enlightenment, stripping away mind and ego to one’s core consciousness is said to yield platonic qualities like love, compassion, joy, equanimity, creativity, and higher vision. I would add gratitude, compassion, empathy and pure appreciation to that list. In that spirit, the state of pure appreciation and gratitude that comes with stillness—with a heightened awareness of the most subtle stirring of a leaf or a dapple of light, is synonymous with being ‘in the moment.’ But perhaps it’s also being conscious—or aware—of all moments. J

 



           The Moment as Alignment


     During this seemingly unprecedented moment of isolation, our interconnectedness as humans, ironically, could not be more apparent. There has been much talk of the fear often at the core of our divisiveness. My own attention has turned to healing that divisiveness, dissolving those illusions that we are separate, isolate beings. In practice, many have had the experience of stumbling into states of higher consciousness, those characterized by platonic values like compassion, gratitude, unconditional love or agape, personal liberty and pure appreciation. It is in this pure state of awareness that we are most attuned to our kinship with all of creation as the physical manifestations of a single life force. When admiring, adoring or appreciating a perfect rose, an infant, or even a puppy, we discover the place where inner peace, stillness and well-being reside, beyond the constant mental chatter that normally dominates. Very few, however, have a conceptual understanding of how and when this state occurs. Ironically, the state is one completely independent of the conceptual mind. For this reason, I have always found books on how to align spiritually or reach a state of higher consciousness a contradiction in terms. But there is no way around it. The ideal would seem to be digesting concepts presented in a book, finding their resonance within based on past experience and imagination, and applying those principles moving forward.

            

            Many schools of thought distinguish between mind and ego, and one’s core essence or baseline state of awareness. There are many ways of putting it, but the consensus is that this state is synonymous with life. The conceptual function of our brains arguably evolved over time and became synonymous with language. And yet, as humans, we have come to identify 100% with that voice in our head that never pipes down. Plato called the realm of concepts, nearly always tied to a word equivalent, the realm of ideal forms. As a less than perfect example, the definitive statement, ‘this is an apple’ can be disproven if enough questions are asked. The truth is, what we call an apple is simply a collection of particles that is in process, subject to flux: that is, time, circumstance, and perspective. That collection of particles was once a seed, now appears to be what we call an apple, and will one day be in complete decay, its particles dispersing and returning to the collective. Deepak Choprah speaks of the body not as a ‘thing’ but a ‘process;’ the body one lives in today is not the body one lived in as an infant, or a toddler, or even yesterday. To compound the fallibility of labeling matter via language, both the apple and the human body we call ‘me’ or ‘I’ is 99.9999999 percent comprised of energy. In that way, ‘Apple’ (with a capital ‘A,’) is but a concept. There is plenty in existence that we simply can’t find the words for; we call that which defies language and cannot be approximated in words ineffable. The real problem is, those words that symbolize concepts are subject to context and laden with cultural relativity, connotation, and other baggage like intonation, intent and nonverbal communication.

            Mentalist schools of thought like the Law of Attraction and manifestation speak of the mechanics by which we create our own realities. To have a hand in it, we are encouraged to maintain an awareness of our narratives, world views and beliefs—which in the end, are just thought we keep thinking. Familiar neural circuits. Went on auto pilot, most of us are so seamlessly identified with the thoughts in our heads that we simply take them for granted. And yet we are still manifesting, all day every day—creating by default. Conversely, there are said to be moments of alignment during which one is stripped of mind and ego. In these moments, the mental chatter is quieted and we have access to pure state of consciousness. This heightened state of awareness severs identification with our conceptual minds. That is, we experience the true nature of things rather than the label or concept that language has attached to it. In this way, we disidentify with mind and ego.

            So, what is left? According to many, a pure state of being. The baseline essence of consciousness, unfettered by mind and ego.  In addition to yielding the higher platonic values mentioned earlier, I would venture to say that wellbeing and inner peace characterize this state of gamma waves, absent interference. During meditation, or when deeply engaged in the creative process, we tap into a field of pure potential that explains the metahuman feats of athletes at peak performance and the masterpieces of artists and musicians who seem to have a direct line to the transcendent. This is no small thing, as the field of pure potential is where all transformation begins—on the individual level and the societal. The wellbeing and health—physical, mental and spiritual—of an individual, is innate in this state. The forces that erode it, like low-level anxiety and chronic stress, are born in the conceptual realm; if one worries about the future, he or she may experience the physiological panic of a fight-or-flight response to something that merely exists as an idea in the mind.

            The benefits of reaching this state of detachment from what I’m calling the ‘conceptual’ realm—whether through meditation, prayer, chanting, creative endeavor or simple stillness—go far beyond the prospect of simply manifesting one’s desires. I would venture to say that doing so is integral to our evolution on a macrocosmic level, especially that of our ethics and morals. It should be clear that transcending the limiting thought forms of our social conditioning is what allows us to send rockets into space—we must envision what lies beyond current paradigms. And all inspiration, all imagination, lies in this field of pure potential. But the most prescient fringe benefit in my view, especially at this moment of acute upheaval and social strife, is the altruistic instinct that may just be our salvation. Only by recognizing our shared humanity—the consciousness we all share, can we choose compassion over judgment, grace and mercy over vengeance.  When we quiet our minds, we experience the true essence of things. Once one we dissolve the illusion that dominates much of daily functioning, can we appreciate a tree as just another physical manifestation of the consciousness shared by all of creation. We can see the shared humanity in the eyes of our fellow man. We can access the true power of love in the appreciation of a gentle breeze, a fluttering leaf, or the dapple of light dancing thereupon!

 

Friday, September 18, 2020


So honored that a story so close to my heart has placed in the annual 
Writing competition 2020! 




CIRQUE

The orphanage was a dusty place, and dimly lit. No matter the time of day or year, beams of speckled sunlight dared enter only at oblique angles, illuminating narrow slivers of buckled, faded wooden floors. Arranged haphazardly to conceal particularly unsightly water stains were great Persian rugs with fantastic designs, also choked with dust. As if to compete, the musty aroma of mildew hung in the air, a permanent resident of Wonderlodge Home for Children. The must and soot were perfectly warranted; the orphanage was actually a Victorian cottage predating the village of Slumber Cove itself. 

            The building’s classification as a cottage was somewhat misleading; in truth, it stood austere and grand, tiny shuttered windows dwarfed by a colossal Moorish spire like the Taj Majal’s. Some of the other boys and girls found the place oppressive—scary even. Especially in the rain. I, on the other hand, saw (and smelled and heard and otherwise sensed) nothing but magic. 

            Its nooks and crannies begged to be explored—laundry chutes and dumbwaiters leading to unknown places, pointy gables that had been converted into box rooms and attic space and then completely forgotten. My exhaustive exploration of the grounds, of course, was done in secret. During playtime, I’d steal away from the others and slip into some dark corner or other. Though it took an entire childhood to fully discover the place, the slow revelation—the magic of it—made all the lonely waiting worthwhile.

            There came a time when I did not have to seek out magic; it came to me. At the age of seven, I was abducted by a small band of clowns.

            But only for a week.

            They were your standard issue circus clowns—joyfully sad, provocative, creepy but not sinister or stabby, jubilant and vaguely inappropriate.  They exhibited all the qualities one would want from a circus clown. Only they did not take me to the big top or a carnival. Instead they took me to strange, exotic places far away from buttered popcorn, cotton candy and screaming children. They took me to places with strange names (that could not be found on any map) and places with no name at all (which I did not bother looking for on a map.) Far away places where birds swam and fish flew, where lakes reflected in skies and not the other way around. I saw upside-down sunsets that tickled the stars. Looking at them, I felt jubilantly sublime and sublimely jubilant. I felt ecstatic melancholy and somber whimsy and a number of other things difficult to describe.

            Later in life I would recall them only vaguely, as if from a dream, and yet never fully forget them, as if from a nightmare. Wherever they came from or continued to dwell, the poetic things I saw and felt hinted at what lay ahead—all the horror and beauty life promised. 

            My final night with the clowns (though I did not know it would be at the time) I saw the birth of a star. The clowns never spoke a word the entire week, but somehow they told me the star was mine. That it was more than a ball of gas; it was a whole world awakening. My world.

            I was returned home after a week, in one piece.

            The staff asked over and over again where I’d been off to. But I’d never spoken a word since arriving at the orphanage shortly after birth, so my silence was received as customary.

            A week later I was adopted out to a middle-aged couple with frosty silver hair.

            They quickly became Mum and Pop, the first I’d ever known. They came with a brother and sister—a built-in family. 

            I began speaking, and stopped seeing fish that flew or birds that swam. The clowns only visited in my dreams.

            Until they didn’t anymore.

            Eventually, even my dreams were clownless.

            I studied business and became an entrepreneur. I married and bought a home in the suburbs with a white fence and an orange tree in the yard.

            My wife Zoe became pregnant a year into our marriage.

            The night Zoe was due to give birth (or so we thought) her labor turned out to be a false one. The hospital staff sent me home but kept her for observation should there be an encore performance. 

            The moon was hanging full and low when I passed Slumber Cove’s only orphanage. Silvery light frosted the treetops and the peaked roofs. The great Moorish spire of Wonderlodge Home for children thrust higher than all the rest, silhouetting itself against the enormous cratered disc.

            For some reason, I pulled over.

            Twenty minutes later, I found myself still parked, gazing at the iconic image like a postcard sent to me from childhood. I’d driven by the landmark countless times, but rarely if ever thought of my childhood there—the long lonely waiting or the magic that made it all bearable. 

            But tonight, the half of my brain that was not anxiously fretting about impending fatherhood, the responsibility that came with it, the part of me that was considering running away, dwelt in that nostalgic place known as childhood.  Just beyond the iridescent halo of the harvest moon, a tiny star was burning brighter than the others. Signaling to me.  I recognized it as my star—the one bestowed on me by clowns. The one whose birth marked the unfurling of a world. 

            It suddenly came to me: when the clowns had appeared to abduct me, they’d not shown up on foot or arrived in a taxi. They’d climbed one-by-one from that old, rusted trunk in the orphanage’s basement. It had been off-limits, but I’d found a way to get in through a crawlspace in the back yard. 

            For some reason I found myself stealing across the narrow sidewalk, skirting the great Cyprus hedge that hugged the property, slinking past the porch and the kitchen windows, careful to remain in shadow. What are you doing? I asked myself. You’ve got  a mortgage and mouths to feed. Sanity to preserve!

The crawlspace was still there, its louvered hatch askew as it always had been, partially shrouded by overgrown weeds. I threw it aside as quietly as possible, eased myself into the mysterious dark. The trunk was there, exactly where I’d left it: slid up against a mildewed cement wall beneath the stairs. 

            I gazed into the dark recess, wondering what it would take to pry the thing open—a crowbar? A sledgehammer? And if the clowns were still available, would I have the guts to steal away with them and leave the life I knew behind? Half of me wanted it more than anything. The other half would miss my wife, my unborn son, the connections I’d made in life. Why couldn’t one have both, I wondered—the magic and the connection for which it was a substitute? I’d learned in college most of man’s endeavors were driven by fear. But when we obeyed it or stuffed it away in a trunk, the clowns went with it—the inexplicable, the indefinable, the inconvenient. The blinding beauty between the cracks in life’s façade, the possibilities of true imagination that make life worth living. 

I decided to return to my car, and my life.

But first, I’d slide the trunk away from that mildewy wall, just a bit, out from under the splintery stairs and into the light. That way, should some kid be adventurous enough to explore the endless nooks and crannies of the dusty old manor, he might stumble upon it, and what climbed out of it just might make all the lonely waiting worthwhile…

 

 

 










Sunday, September 13, 2020

STOLEN


So this is healing

Messy, scattered like grains of honey-hued pollen on blind wind, as chaotic as the dysfunction that demands it.

Moments of unburdening are stolen, between filter-changing and brewing

But the spilled spores are an allergen

Inconvenient and out of season.

The damage is done, a fait accomplí.

When one blossom opens in Spring and another in Fall, repentance comes

too much, too little, too late,

Soiled by the looming promise of death.

But redemption knows no season

Open wounds, left by pride to fester and weep, at last sprout forgiveness.

By the awkward grace of entanglement, it thrusts through stubborn clay

Roots twisting and writhing

Growing deeper

Tapping soil for retroactive tears

For what was

Stolen

The Meaning of This Moment

The Way Out of Divisiveness

 

            Ideological warfare, the battle between the sexes, holy war, jihad. Language is fraught with vernacular terms to describe conflict, ever on the tip of our collective tongues. The sheer familiarity with these terms and their availability suggest one thing: conflict is a given in life. Adversity and strife seem to be inherent in the human condition. Though many of us are uncomfortable with conflict, clearly it has its value. Evolutionary theorists posit that every behavior, convention or institution that persists over time in society benefits the propagation of the species in some way. It’s well known that humans grow, evolve and transform solely through crisis. In life and storytelling (from mythology through religion to literature and cinema) conflict resolution is the means by which thematic content (or message) is delivered. The protagonist, the goals of whom are precisely what we are invested in, resolves his or her conflict, prompting the listener, reader or viewer to resolve cognitive dissonance, to synthesize seemingly opposing thought forms, and thereby arrive in new territory. To transform.

            In my own life, having grown up in a rather chaotic environment, I grew comfortable with conflict. I may have even developed the peptide addiction that led me to seek it subconsciously, the way an alcoholic and an enabler or an abuser and a victim with find one another across a crowded room at a cocktail party, like magnets. I never identified as a drama addict; quite the opposite. But I knew nothing other than low-level fear, so I found myself remaining in volatile or dysfunctional environments throughout life, long after others would have hit the highway. I simply didn’t have the tools to look out for myself. In my youth, perhaps as rationalization, I adopted Thomas Moore’s view that we must ‘embrace the shadow,’ and other heady ideas about the value of the yin to the yang in balance, the western compulsion to assign value judgments like good, bad, right or wrong to neutral events that simply are. All around me I saw passive-aggression among those uncomfortable with confrontation, and the damage that resulted from indirectness. Rather than going straight to the source of angst, most were apt to remain silent, then vent to (and ostensibly bond) with others about the perceived perpetrator. Everyone loves a common enemy. I pined for effective communication and directness with every breath. Flash forward thirty years, and I am just like everyone else on the conflict/confrontation front; I’d rather not, thank you.

            But my policy on conflict is not based in avoidance. My view of it, at this stage of my life, is simply that it’s unnecessary. It’s been decades since I felt the need to utter the words ‘I disagree,’ ‘you’re wrong,’ or even the ever popular, ‘let’s agree to disagree.’ These phrases are the handiwork of mind and ego, and nothing else. In most cases, with a very slight shift of perspective, broad enough to shift semantics, most seeming contradictions can be reconciled. It’s more than the skill of ‘passing the talking stick;’ on the individual level and the societal, what’s missing is the ability to take a step back. To nurture a meta-self, a conscious observer that can step in for mind and ego. 

            In case the prospect seems daunting, let me digress. Throughout life, and even now, I have had trouble signing up for any personality profile that attempts to categorize the vast, complex amalgam of traits that comprise an individual—from type A or Type B, astrological sign and introvert versus extrovert, to any of those wacky Scientology types. You get the picture. A few weeks ago, at fifty-one, I was invited to fill out a questionnaire to determine which Enneagram profile I adhered to. It was for a friend whom I greatly admired, and I really was open and receptive, owing in no small part to her qualification: “It’s not cut and dried; each of us is a combination of all the types, just in different proportion, one being dominant.” Even so, I struggled with the questions, a very familiar sensation dating back to the ‘80s, when my friends and I would allow ourselves to be plucked off Hollywood Boulevard to be tested by Scientologists, having been mistakenly identified as young and impressionable. My dilemma was this: each question had an implicit inference with which I did not identify. Three of four qualities or tendencies one was asked to identify with was always lumped together with an incongruous, and often silly and distasteful trait only a Neanderthal would exhibit. More to the point, my mental reaction to most questions sounds a bit like this: (in the spirit of this article) when you ask, ‘are you comfortable with conflict?’ do you mean the twenty-two year old me or the thirty year-old me or the current model who rides a dinosaur and farts dust? Do you mean the temperament and disposition I was born with, that is arguably my essence, or what I’ve done with it along the way? Don’t we all evolve and transform? Aren’t all of the traits in this questionnaire universal and innate to the human condition and don’t they all resonate via the power of suggestion? Isn’t that shared reservoir of human experience what made Emile Bronte a great writer despite zero life experience and what makes Meryl Streep a three-time Academy Award winner?

            At the risk of sounding elitist (I am well aware that ship has already sailed) the other overarching sentiment behind my resistance is the voice in my head that protests: Anyone who would identify with all four suggestions lumped together in this leading question clearly hasn’t an introspective bone in his or her body, nor have they been to therapy a day in their life. Aren’t these implicit characterizations base tendencies—primal, childish trappings that we grow out of? 

            I acknowledge that most of us do have a baseline temperament and disposition with which we are born. But it’s primarily physiological. Beyond that, both nature and nurture get their hands in the clay, crafting personalities comprised of hormonal and chemical components. Social conditioning and learning by example have their way, fixing world views and thought forms (familiar neural circuits) and paradigms. Peptide addictions seek to maintain homeostasis, the very reason we all see cycles in our lives, choosing the same type of partner (usually our mother or father) time and again. Those with a spiritual sense posit we repeat the same patterns because we are meant to conquer certain challenges in our redemption. Despite the above (potentially damning) forces at work: nothing is fixed. I cannot count the times I have heard the parroting of the declaration “Personality is fixed by the age of six, or seven, or (insert number of preference here) without a thought toward parsing what is meant by ‘personality.’

            Neuroscience and studies in brain plasticity tell is in no uncertain terms that neural circuits—counterproductive thoughts (or ‘ruts’) can be disentangled at any time and replaced by new thought forms. Meditation, in many traditions, keeps the mind ‘clean’ in this way. Remaining intellectually curious and committing to the introduction of new and novel stimuli can keep dendrites moving and promote the formation of new neural circuits. These changes of scenery (literal and mental) can keep the pipes clean of the plaques that characterize Alzheimer's. Everyone who has ever lost a motor skill due to injury and had to relearn it knows the power of brain plasticity.

            The very repetition of the notion that ‘personality is fixed by the age of___’ is an example of a limiting thought form counterproductive to an individual’s transformation, and by extension, that of mankind in his journey toward human potential. It is no different than the limiting thought form ‘aging equals deterioration of body and mind’ or ‘people are inherently selfish’ or ‘men are dogs.’ A child who is told time and again that she is clumsy, will inevitably never excel in figure skating. Once negative messaging is internalized, each one of us is destined manifest the words we put out into the universe.

            The good news is this: modern studies in epigenetics are devoted to parsing the mechanics by which we craft our DNA within our own lifetimes—the very genetic makeup we will pass on to our children. Our choices, habits, lifestyles, conditions and yes—thought forms inform the methyl groups that squelch or suppress, conversely, every potential trait on the DNA strand to which we are predisposed. Among the many things that becomes encoded on DNA and passed on, according to a recent study, is the chemical makeup responsible for a tendency toward depression and even psychosis. In this way, the implications are enormous.

            If individuals took the responsibility of actively co-creating the makeup to be passed on to their children, the macro would benefit by extension: the paradigms, thought forms, and—possibilities—of society would be limitless. At this seemingly insurmountable moment of strife, we are being called to evolve, as is always the way of conflict. We are being called to actively contribute to our evolution, both biological and moral.

            What does all this have to do with divisiveness? With ideological warfare? Most of what divides us is an illusion—from the political divide to racial inequality to the fight for tolerance and marriage equality. From the civil unrest and complete upheaval of the Arab Spring and the  Christian/Muslim standoff to the imaginary divide between science and faith, from backlash against the patriarchy and imperialism behind centuries of destruction to the dissolution of gender roles and the integration of left/right brain sensibilities, this is what evolution looks like. It is full of growing pains. There is solace in knowing all evolution and transformation is rooted in adversity. But I’d be willing to bet that if more exercised their relationship with perspective and shifted their subjective semantics, our differences might appear less glaring. We might recognize our interconnectedness and heed a calling to contribute to our evolution. In short, we might transform without having to reach the brink of extinction. 

            I have often said that ‘all good things come to an end,’ even democracy, which has never lasted too long. America was a great experiment, and it will be sad to see it go. But what must be must be. For that matter, humankind has had a pretty good run. The detachment is not defeatist: it’s called faith.  In the universe’s ongoing dialectic, the intelligence behind the persistence of life ensures that the pendulum will swing as necessary toward that end. A recent documentary on climate change suggests that the Earth will be just fine, with or without man. In that way, many subscribe to the notion that ‘all is just as it should be.’ But I am not ready to give up on humankind as a (perhaps less destructive) inhabitant of planet Earth.

            Before we kill each other off—whether by habitat destruction or global warfare or Zombie Apocalypse, I would hope the critical mass might rise to the challenge of the moment—that of swapping out paradigms. As Ghandi once entreated us, we must Be the change we wish to see in the world. Michael Jackson followed suit in his conviction that changing the world begins with The Man In the Mirror. It is my personal contention that the solitude and isolation demanded by Covid-19 is no mistake. That universal intelligence is, among other things, forcing many to confront the dark, cobwebby corners of their minds. With faith that this unpracticed introspection impacts the collective, I offer this final thought to chew on:

            It may well be that we are evolving out of obsolete thought forms and paradigms that no longer serve us—institutionalized ideologies like patriarchy and Imperialism that have absolutely led to exploitation of resources, our fellow human, the planet itself. It’s entirely possible that these ideologies have birthed entitlement, capitalist greed, manifest destiny and other forms of shortsighted hubris. It’s pretty clear that the current impasse—the divisiveness and unrest and strife—is a call to transform. In the meantime, the younger generation who identify as the solution and see the older generation as the problem, need to remain civil around the dinner table at Thanksgiving lest someone carve more than the turkey. Whether or not the young truly have a monopoly on cutting edge thought form, I would urge them not to throw out the baby with the bathwater…to consider that one bad apple does not spoil the bunch. In this less-than-perfect mixed analogy, the bad apple of an archaic value that is the product of grandma’s generation, does not nullify the wisdom informing other aspects of her worldview. Put another way, one cannot argue with the perspective that comes with age and experience; certain universal conventional wisdoms do not retire, and we might be wise to preserve them. Revisionist history is not the way to go. The young do not know what they do not know. I would wish that we all come to appreciate the value of all of it—to say amen for all the forces at work in our ongoing dialectic—even the dissonance—and understand that all exists in concert, dovetailing for the greater good. 


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Saturday, August 22, 2020

 


What if all the songs and poems got it wrong and Icarus did not perish when he fell from heaven? What if he was picked up by a passing mariner—a seafaring demigod unaware of his divine heritage? Dominick Domingo's The SEEKER is a genre-blend: Visionary Fiction meets Mythic Fiction. Set in Bronze Age Minoan culture predating classical Greek mythology, its resonant parable speaks to the core of the human condition—our capacity for transformation and renewal!

Follow Dominick Domingo, Author on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DominickDoming1
Learn more about the launch of The Seeker on his author blog: http://dominickdomingofiction.blogspot.com

Friday, August 14, 2020


          
                                           


 I have regularly joked that as a writer, solitude is a must, so nothing much changed in my life when this pandemic came along. It took me a loooong time to become restless during 'lockdown,' but I eventually did. Wrote this on July 21st:


Parched, buckled asphalt scored with gritty fissures and whitewashed by time heaves moonward, abducted by her pull, splitting and falling away, at last surrendering to gravity. 

To remain like chapped urban lips, pursed at a buttermilk sky and taunting the tread of tires.

Of all the things lurking in hidden alleys, today’s glimpse ranks highest—fleshy and diaphanous, catching sun

He brakes, second-hand cherry-red Schwinn grinding to a halt.

The world has yielded nothing familiar, for months—nothing lifegiving—only the promise of more: More withholding, more destitution, the fleeting memory of freedom a shapeless reckoning licking a moonless night, like flames. 

The horizon hosts but looming threats—of micro-invaders and police states and orange-haired assholes breathing lies to sheep.

Brown muck has settled, clearing the once oppressive silt of sky and promising eternity.

Metal behemoths jet few and far between, assaulting the air with sputtering coughs of the brown muck that once blanketed all, horizon-to-horizon.

It’s all that’s redeeming in this silence.

Nights, absent yuppies and hipsters, coyotes have the run of streets.

No touch, no connectivity, for months—only masks and gloves and distance, suspicion and insurmountable divide.

And if the world without is inept as a prison, his own cells mutiny, render themselves as prone to invaders as a flame to the slightest breeze: a year without touch.

And now this:

Sinewy arms peeling damp cotton from a lean torso, click with sweat. All efficiency, no excess stored like toilet paper or Handi-wipes.

Only what’s essential.