Tag Archives: life

                                [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

Given the way global and local events are developing, a serious observation can give but one conclusion: that long-talked about collapse of civilization is going to take place.  It probably will not be tomorrow, or next month, or next year.  It may not happen in ten years, or fifty.  The forces orchestrating the collapse of man’s “great” accomplishments are on the job, so to speak, but not all are totally committed to their task.  With all the moving and shaking, who knows but we may yet enjoy some reprieve, some years of relative calm and peace.  Unlikely but possible. 

That said and out of the way, I’m currently reading a dystopian novel called “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi.  It’s centered in the US – namely the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.  The droughts have been severe and finally it’s been realized that water is at a premium.  Acts of sabotage and quasi-civil war take place between farmers, states, and cities fighting for water, and those fighting to keep their water rights: fighting for survival.  It’s a horrible time for all involved, with massive movements of displaced persons or refugees leaving farms, towns and cities that have lost out to the highest or most aggressive bidders and find themselves literally without water. 

It’s not too difficult at this point to see how this could happen, and in a short time.  Even flooding is not a good gauge to use to measure drought: there’s short term and long term, and man should learn to reason and act long term, but so far that ability has quite eluded the creature.

I want to end this with a quote from the novel: [Maria Villarosa, a young girl alone and lost in the chaos] “Why?” she asked, finally.  “Why are you so nice?  It doesn’t make sense.  I’m not your woman.  I’m not your people.”

[Toomie, an old black man] “We’re all each other’s people.  Just like we’re all our brothers’ keepers.  We forget it sometimes.  When everything’s going to pieces, people can forget.  But in the end?  We’re all in it together.  You are my people, Maria.  No question in my mind.”

No question in my mind either, not now.  But it took many years to work that simple addition to arrive at the correct answer.  And even now, having made compassion and service my purpose, my passion, the selfish thoughts and times arise.  Not as powerfully as they once did, but it is still a narrow path from which it is easy to stray and stray too far you won’t find it again.  That is my one fear: that I would follow some will o’ the wisp, some lure, some promise of a short cut and find myself hopelessly lost.  So I gnaw at this compassion bone, and drag it around with me.  If I bury it at the end of the day, I make sure to dig it up again in the morning and drag it along to worry it some more. 

Some might say, why should we care?  You live, you die, case closed.  That works for those who convince themselves that is how it is.  There are some of us, and you may pity us indeed, who happen to k-n-o-w that death is not an end but a passage, and a sort of test.  On the other side there are no “things,” no pretty bodies with seductive smiles to win over the judges, no Olympic gold medals, no Nobel or Pulitzer prizes, no stacks of money, no deeds to any plantation.  Yes, there are deeds, and that’s the problem.  Our deeds, my deeds.  My thoughts.  My words.  These are my judges, after death has done its thing and stripped me of all those physical “things” that don’t mean a thing at the end of the path. 

So yes, it’s going to happen.  In this life, in the next, whatever.  What matters to me is preparedness.  Knowing how to face to chaos when it comes.  Note that I’m not saying the sky is falling, I’m merely saying that we should all take advantage of this warning time to teach ourselves how to respond… properly, as compassionate and caring individuals.  Not as survivors – these die last – but as sharing and giving people, for if I have and my neighbour does not, I’m but half-alive until I share.  Openly, freely. 

Just thought I’d pass that along.  It’s what’s been filling my days (and dreams) lately, while the wild fires continue to burn.  A picture of a smoke-filled sunrise taken a week ago.  The smoke continues… though somewhat abating in the Lower Mainland (B.C., Canada) 

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Imagination on the List of Banned Substances

                                        [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara

“The older you get, the more you realize it’s OK to live a life others don’t understand.”

Few older people understand this but it is quite true.  What’s to lose?  Very little, but what would cause an old person to become a rebel of the imagination?  Not someone as in this picture but someone who could make a difference to society?  OK, let’s describe a normal life lived normally, see where it ends up. 

 

There is one time in life when it’s also OK to live a life others don’t understand and that’s in early childhood.  “They” allow you to use your imagination then because society doesn’t feel threatened by you when you live an imaginary life with imaginary friends.  After all, you’re just a child, how much harm can you do with your imagination? 

But the seasons, they quickly turn, and turn.  From childhood you enter your brave new world.  You spend your in-between and mostly significant years serving the “they” in various ways, some by killing and dying (as in the military), some by slaving and consuming, and some by entertaining and partying.  During those years you are severely controlled and your imagination is permanently on the list of banned substances.  Use it in public and soon you’re out of a job, out of favour, out of the family or even in jail.

Every rule has exceptions.  You can use your imagination if you plug it into the System, in an approved way.  You can use it to spew fake news (which used to be called propaganda); teach fake Church history or write popular novels that guarantee a profit for book-makers… or do I mean book sellers?  You can use it to make gaudy or mindless commercial art suitable to adorn the entrance of some government building or corporate headquarters.  You can use it to entertain those who can pay.   In short, you can use it to make money and become famous.  It won’t be much of an imagination, but it will be profitable and therefore it will be unlikely to be put on the Matrix list of banned substances.  The Matrix will allow you to believe you are being rebellious, or effective; that you are moving and motivating and empowering when all along you are just following a script from which you can never depart. The more successful you become on this path, the more trapped you are in it.  

Then one morning you wake up… and you’re old.  The years passed.  You served well; you shopped, consumed and hoarded.  You dutifully voted and believed (in God, science, your favourite football team or the Great Pumpkin.)  You read, or listened to, your allotted share of lame stream fake news media.  You took in a few cruises, gambled, played your computer games, watched your  professional sports, sitcoms, political rallies and reality shows on your big smart TV.  You had your flu shots, bought your meds, pledged allegiance.  You might even have marched on a pre-approved “protest” rally. 

Now you’re old and out to pasture and the System doesn’t care about you. At this point in life you could realize you can return to that child-like imagination once again.  Nobody would care; nobody would listen to the rantings of an old has-been.  Look at that picture again: you could dress weird, act weird, eat weird, talk weird… if you wanted to: there would be few consequences.  All you’re good for now, all “they” care about is whatever property you may still have when you die, or for the medical system, what your physical disintegration can generate in terms of profit: yes, in a consumer society there’s money to be squeezed out of dying and death. 

The sad part of this however is that a life spent dutifully serving the System, and believing in the System will not be conducive to development of a great, imaginative mind.  More likely, the older individual will continue the life-long pattern; continue serving and supporting the System, and in “entitled societies, continue to have expectations of the System.  It has been observed that the older a person gets, the more likely they are to become increasingly conservative and “right winged” in expression.  We certainly see much evidence of that in Western society and it’s probably no different in any other society.  

Imagination is never conservative, nor “right-winged” in expression.  So, an imagination that was killed in order to fit into the public education meat grinder and religious indoctrination is not going to magically re-appear at the end.  Life will end, not with a bang, but a whimper… a long drawn out whining, raspy whimper.  Take another look at that picture: do you really see a change agent there?

We’ve got our Backs Against the Wall

                                            [short story, by Sha’Tara]

James Macken closes down his netbook and goes looking for his daughter.  Twelve year old Ellie or “Elle” Macken is leaning on the railing of the cabin’s small patio, looking intently into the night sky.  There is no moon and the stars, this high in the Coast Mountains, shine brightly.  Despite a light breeze blowing from the west, the summer night remains warm. 

His voice breaks the night’s silence, “Elle?”

“I’m over here, dad.”

James walks over to her and leans on the railing, his face following where she was staring.  “What’s up there, Elle?”

“ I don’t know, dad.  I just feel so funny, so detached, all of a sudden.”

“Funny, like how?”  He isn’t joking or pretending.  He’d learned long ago to take his daughter very seriously or else.  She was already a very deep thinker, or perhaps more of a thinking machine.  Her thoughts are her reality.

“Well it’s like this.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, mostly about my future… well really, the future of this world, and however I extrapolate my thoughts on it, I don’t seem able to picture any sane, safe, comfortable or desirable future.  OK, so here we are, out here almost by ourselves in these mountainous wilds and it’s really nice.  Don’t get me wrong, dad, I love it here, and I’m very grateful that you got us this place where I can spend some of my summer vacations, and I wish mom was alive and with us now… but this is an illusion, isn’t it?  We’ve got our backs against the wall, haven’t we?”

“I should understand you by now, Elle, but what exactly do you mean?”

“I mean, dad, this planet has no future as long as mankind, as “we” continue to take over and basically eat it alive.  We are a disease, dad, can’t you see?” 

James Macken is no fool.  He knows exactly what his daughter is saying and he’d be the last person to contradict her observations.  In a purely technical sense, she is correct: man is destroying the world, the only world he knows, or can have on which to live.  Man is destroying his own living space without the least hope of gaining access to another should this one become unlivable.  But he’s a forty-two year old research scientist while his child is but a twelve year old who has yet to commit to any discipline.  She’s expressing her emotions about what she sees, hears and reads.  He’s thinking that perhaps with puberty in the offing she’ll give more attention to another side of life: romance, and girl stuff.  But then, some never do, and based on her IQ scores it could well be that Elle may not pay much attention to that side of life.  

“I’m not certain you’re giving us a chance here, Elle.  Not everybody is a destroyer of nature.”

“Of course I know that, dad.  Most of my teachers are quite keen on making us aware of the problems this world is facing in the immediate future – that being my future – but you know?  Most of the kids just smirk, or laugh, or ask really dumb questions, especially when we discuss climate change, for example.  People really don’t care, dad.  And you know what’s the saddest part?  Those who make the laws, the politicians; those who sell stuff, the corporations, it’s the “don’t care” crowd they rely on for votes and consuming!  So, how can anything change?  How can anything get better?”

“You care, don’t you?  There must be others like you in your school?”

“Not many.  What if we were one in a hundred – what sort of balance is that?  We can talk but then we’re made fun of and ostracized.  Most kids can’t go it alone, dad.  They need friends and they’ll do almost anything to have friends.  So, statistically, the “don’t care” crowd, being the vast majority, forms the winning pool and those who care stop caring to fit in.”

“Sometimes when I listen to you, I think you were born old, Elle.  I love you, you know that, don’t you?” 

She puts her arm around his waist and looks in his face; “I know dad.  I know.  But I’m growing up fast and soon I’ll be on my own, having to live with myself.  I’ll be the product of my own thoughts and I’ll have to confront a world that is totally alien to the way I think.  You know what dad?  I’m truly scared.  So scared that often I think I should just, you know, call it quits and leave…”

“Elle!”

“I’m being totally honest with you dad.  When mom died, I nearly did it; I wanted so to follow her.  But you were there, as you’re here, and I didn’t want to leave you behind and I knew you wouldn’t come after us, so I stayed.  But for two years I haven’t been able to shake the idea that perhaps I would be much better off if I died.  How can I really live if I can’t see a future for myself?  What’s to live for, dad?  All the things I love and care about are being killed and destroyed.  The world, my piece of the world, is becoming noisier, dirtier and more dangerous all the time.  Something’s so wrong.  There’s what they call “degeneracy” happening all around and the more of that there is, it’s like stepping in swamp mud, you don’t know how deep you’ll sink or if you’ll be swallowed whole.  On top of that you’re getting older too, and you will die and then I’ll have nobody, nobody at all.  That’s not a challenge to me, that’s a nightmare.”

“You’re not alone in that, Elle.  But I think you’re both, over-thinking, and under-thinking this whole thing.  Isn’t it possible that in a couple of years you’ll fall in love with a boy who is really nice – can’t imagine you falling for some cretin – and he’ll become your world for a while?  Then you’ll go to college and find some subjects you really like, pursue a career and then meet the man you will want to marry.  Likely you will have kids and you’ll have your own family, make your own world.”

She sighs and leans into him.  He can feel her vulnerability, wishing he had something better to offer her.  “I’ve thought about that dad.  It’s soothing sometimes but it changes nothing.  When I speak of the future, I mean “the” future, not just something I’ll carve out and struggle to keep for myself.  How could I, in conscience, have kids if I can’t give them a real future?  That would be horribly irresponsible of me.  I have to be sure and what I’m sure of isn’t conducive to a peaceful and safe life.  There’s something seriously wrong with all of our lives; with our life as a people, and I really hate it that I’m one of the very few who can see this, and actually cares about it.  I don’t like being alone but I have no choice, see?  And what if I found someone who thought like me, was like me, how could we ever have a happy life knowing, and living with, what we know?  What would be the point of trying to live together if we decided to spend all our time fighting for causes that take us away from each other, or worse, that land us in jail?”

“I’ll be totally honest with you too, Elle.  I truly don’t know.  I know that I love you deeply.  You’re all that I have left of Amber, of your mother, and you’re so like her in many ways, but so different in others.  I admire your intelligence even though it makes it very challenging for me to keep up with you.  I think I’ll stop trying to do that, just try to be your friend for now.  What you say about leaving breaks my heart, but I know you know that.  So instead of panicking about what you may decide to do with your life… I’ll make a friend’s pact with you.  Hear me out and let me know if we have a deal.  If you come to the end of your road, and you are convinced it is the end, I promise not to stand in your way.  You can even tell me that you are leaving, and I’ll let you go.  I won’t help you, and I don’t want to know the details, but I promise to honor your choices, your decisions and most certainly, your memory.  In this, our private world, Elle, you are no longer a child.  Make your own choices and I will support you as best I can.  Deal?”

“Oh, dad, no one can ever have had a better father.  I love you too; I can feel that so deeply.”  And in between deep sobs, she finally managed to say, “We have a deal, dad.  Thank you for giving me my freedom to choose.” 

 

 

Listening in Time

(short story,  by Sha’Tara)

“I know you are keen, and willing.  Good traits in a researcher.  But you are missing the key ingredients.  You must sit quietly, by yourself, for hours, maybe days, and listen in time.  Listen to the voices of the dead, and the pre-incarnate.  They are in the voices of “others” and in the sounds of the earth: the wind, the cracking soil, the moving grains of sand, the patter of the rain on scrabbly hard-pan soil.  They come on the heat waves.  Sometimes they get playful and paint mirages which tell stories from within your own heart and soul which your tired and bleary eyes will translate into images of desires.  

If you do not learn to listen, all you will accomplish in these places as you sift through dirt and rubble is collect garbage.  It will be recognizable as works of the people but it will reveal no stories, no myths, no history.  These you will have to create from your own imagination and trust me on this, it will not be the same stories as what was, even if the entire world should buy your interpretations.  Honest archaeologists are a rare breed but there is nothing written, either in this desert or in mountains, that says you can not be one of that small group.  When you teach yourself the secret of time listening the people who made and used the objects you unearth, they will tell you their stories.  Some will seem strange and some will be, to your modern understanding, quite unbelievable, but just listen.  It is not your call to re-interpret the lives of others according to your current knowledge: that is sacrilege.  Let the ghosts speak; let them tell their story, and accept it at face value.  It may be that they lie to you, but let it be: do not add insult to injury by adding to the lies.  After all, as you will discover in time, all of your history is lies.  There is no truth to be found on this world, or in this universe.  We know, we’ve been looking for millions of your years and there is no such chimera.”

I was young then, and I’d been experimenting with the local flora under the auspices of a would-be witch doctor who called himself George but whose real name was an unpronounceable Mexican word that sounded like apple-cotle or aptly cotli.  This particular drug induced “time dreams” he had told me, and… “You should only smoke a small amount at sunset.  Sit against a rock, or a tree if you can find one, and set your mind free to roam.  Do not try anything, just let it all go.  It is the time of the spirits and sometimes one of them will notice you and approach you with a story, or some advice.  Just listen and do not try to make any judgment about what you hear, or think you hear.  Put your own thoughts aside and just absorb.” 

I smoked slowly, not eagerly, trying to practice “wisdom” in my folly.  How long I sat against the rock that dug into my back, feeling the sand getting cold beneath me, I don’t know.  Darkness came and the sky exploded with myriads of pin-points of lights: star, planets, meteors, even satellites and flashing lights of planes.  Time passed and I no longer felt the cold, nor the loneliness or that deep fear of the dark unknown.  I “slept” with eyes open, hearing and learning to listen.  I heard small animals squeaking to one-another, some unrecognizable insects repeating endless calls; owls, even one loud shriek of what could only be some wild cat, cougar perhaps.  It didn’t matter.

It seemed as if I’d become a part of the landscape, an extension of the rock I leaned against.  I felt a deep well-being; a thoroughly unfamiliar certainty.  I was “here” and “here” was where I belonged.  This was “home” like nothing had ever been.  “Here I sit, and here I remain,” I thought, against all common sense.  I felt the cold, hunger and thirst but it did not matter to this “me” that was being absorbed by the land, the air, the sky, the universe, the cosmos.  In that time I was no longer a body-centered, or physical being.  I was a member of the cosmic races, with a part of me resting upon a planet called earth – a very small, very strange planet. 

That’s when the voice came to my mind; when I heard the words I quoted above. 

I have been digging up history in this part of the world for almost fifty years now.  I’ve become old and bent.  My skin is like that of a lizard, dry and scaly, with brown spots.  I’ve loved being naked in the sun and it has left its marks on my body but I don’t care.  He was my lover and I cherish his touch still.  I haven’t become famous.  No best seller came from my notes; no following.  People came here to dig with me, and left to seek fame and fortune.  Some managed it, returning to tell me about it.  Some even provided funds so I could remain here, on my wind-swept plateaus digging up ghost stories; me, the crazy Canadian who should have been more at home on the snowy wilds of northern Canada, than here. 

To the local people, I am “loca perdida” or the crazy one, though many come just to be with me, or to listen to my stories.  They come to get me sometimes, either with a jeep, or even a donkey, and take me to a village feast so they can hear some of my stories about their ancient peoples.  They seem to have no difficulty believing me, and I have wondered about that.  Do they also listen in time? They “pay” me in food, or in new blankets for my tents or shelters.  Good people, all of them.  I’ve always felt safe here; not sure I could have managed that in cities where people crowd unhappily together, hardly ever getting to know each other though rubbing shoulders every day.  How sad is that life, I think.

Here I remain.  Here I belong for my body’s time being.  Here I taught myself to listen in time and it is here that I will die so another archaeologist, another time listener, can find bits and pieces of my presence in this place and unearth my own story – a story that will have meaning only to her and the few who carry our vision of living in time.  

How I wish I could express, in words, how blessed my life has been and how much I look forward to new digs out there in the stars, knowing that when I sit down and look up I will see more stars.

A Difficult but Necessary Matter of Balance

 (thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara)

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, being as they say, busy.  But surprisingly, I’ve had time, perhaps too much time, to think about this world, about its overall condition and where it is heading, apparently heedless and unaware.  I know this is a judgment forming an opinion, but not once in my entire life of 70 years has my sense of where things are going ever been wrong.  It’s like a compass in my mind, something I can “see” and rely on entirely, basing my personal movements on it, knowing when to “hold and when to fold” as the song goes.

I feel massive waves of sorrow passing over me time and again, triggered by many encounters: a baby in its mother’s arms; an old man hunched over waiting to safely cross a busy street; a homeless lady holding a sign saying, ‘Please buy my CD, I’m hungry’ and displaying a CD she probably found in a dumpster – (she got lucky: I saw her and I chose to believe her despite all the propaganda against her) or even moved to a helpless stop by the wind’s choreography of tree branches not yet covered in leaves.  A house hunched behind a sagging gate; a rusting sign from a business that went broke years before…  

Have you ever just “thought” about “the world” and had tears well in your eyes until they started flowing down your cheeks?  Closed your eyes and brought your hands together as if in prayer, though you don’t pray?  Then thinking, ‘Do I want to be here?’ and knowing the answer is ‘No, I don’t want to feel this, this way, connected to this chaos of ignorance, of pain, of apparent mindlessness.  I don’t want to be the stranger any longer; to not be able to speak to the trees, the birds, the clouds.  I’m tired of just feeling and finding it so terribly difficult to harness those feelings; to draw intelligence, awareness, understanding, acceptance and meaningful teaching from them.  That is probably neither their purpose, nor task but I’m breaking the rules here.’ 

Life, I find, is like driving a street.  Some parts are smooth, some rough.  Some are safe and some, well, you may not get out of alive.  The truly sad part is, much of life is entered into without its overall costs duly assessed.  People are programmed, it seems, to repeat patterns and unable to stop and consider the risks, the odds, based on previous lives, previous experiences of elder people, or people in history.  ‘What are my chances this is going to work as I hope?’ Is not the question asked.  Plunge into the swamp, there are no alligators here!  But there are, disguised as floating logs.  You may have passed your swimming tests and won medals, but guaranteed: terror is but a splash behind you, and it isn’t virtual reality. 

Too dark a vision?  Probably, but some of us have chosen a path that runs counter to that of the herd and we see that which the herd isn’t permitted to see, and would not want to see in any case. 

Someone has to shed burning hot tears for the dying.  It’s a difficult but necessary matter of balance.  

 

The Edge of Human (Borrowed title from Blade Runner 2 by K. W. Jeter)

[Voice from  ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

In the beginning was the Past.  Father God stood alone, last remaining Titan, proud in his quasi-Omnipotence gained from the overthrow of his enemies.

 
He created Time, the lever with which he would reach across eternity and weigh all life.  And he stood at one end, holding it, fondling it, loving it.  Then he created the fulcrum, which he called the Present and which history named the Christ.  Then he created the human, the man. 
 
But the man was cold and afraid in the dark and cried.  And she heard his sobs in the darkness and drawn by compassion, came forth to comfort him.  She came from Spirit, without father or mother.  And she made herself human for him and called herself Eve.
 
“Be not afraid” she said, pressing herself against him.  But the man was provoked by her naked truth and violated her.  Then she saw the emptiness of his soul, the ugliness of it.  She ran away from him but could not go far.  She became heavy with child as she walked down the time ramp hoping to find its end.  She bore her child in pain and horror but also in love.  It grew heavy in her arms and took the life from her as it suckled greedily and painfully. 
 
Father God felt the presence of her weight and that of her child upon his lever and in his quasi-Omnipotence, pushed down to force her to come to him.  He sensed a great fear and hatred of her, as if she could somehow put an end to his self-delusion of Omni-grandeur.  Eve struggled along the incline of the lever, intent on finding the end.  She knew if she surrendered and went back she would be swallowed in the anonymity of slavery and her child would die.  But her humanity pulled her down.  Exhausted, she dragged herself upward, splinters entering her hands and knees.  On and on until finally she could go no more and collapsed.  She put the child down and waited.  
 
The End, my End, will find me here.”  She reasoned.
 
“Why have you stopped, Eve?” Came a gentle voice from the darkness before her.
 
“I can’t go anymore.  I am empty.  My child is starving.  This is my end.”
 
“It never is, Eve.  You have travailed throughout the history of humanity and you bore the future in your womb and in your arms.  You suckled it from your spirit.  It surely will not die.  And neither will you.  Listen carefully — It is always the darkest and coldest just before the dawn.  You are not dying, you are changing. 
 
You’ve come to the edge of human. 
 
Look at your child – it’s not like you, nor like its father.  It is all that you ever wanted for your world and yourself.  Let it stand on its own.  It will take your hand and lead you into a new world.  The world in your mind.  For that is who this child is: your world.  You created it, from your hopes, dreams and feelings.  From your sufferings and pain.  From your dignity and strength.  From your walk that refused to surrender to any man, demon or God.”   
 
And her child stood beside her and picked her up.  With one blow, the curtain of darkness was rent in half and she saw a shimmering light beyond, at the end of the coarse wooden ramp she’d walked on for so long; where she had left a trail of tears and blood.  The great hell of time deflated like a balloon behind her and she walked forward, knowing that she was now more than human, more than god or goddess, something entirely new. 
 
But she remains Eve. 

“Follow the raven into shadow and you will find the light”  (medicine man saying)

The Gift of a Life Changed

                                        [a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Oh, he knew her so well.  He remembered how she came and hovered over his crib when he was a tiny baby; how she fretted over him, and kept his rattle or soother at hand.  She was his “other” mom, and the older sister he never had.

Over the years she had come to him at different junctures of his life.  He remembered the glow of her presence at his first communion and later, his confirmation.  She encouraged him, and gently taught him to notice how other people, especially his elders, teachers and parents, lived their lives.  Don’t judge them too harshly, she’d whisper, but notice the hypocrisy, always notice that.  Don’t confront them, just note and remember.  Especially remember. 

Then he grew up and he didn’t see her during his time of rebellion, anger, chaos and confusion.  He saw girls instead and he lusted after them.  He did stupid things, boastful, ignorant, hurtful; things that endangered the lives of others.  It was as if he was possessed to do evil.  The girl he dated became pregnant.  He still had a sense of the old chivalry he’d learned from his childhood fairy tales and fantasies.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted.  Not the best start, but on their wedding day, she was there again.  He saw the glow and suddenly his heart opened and guilt filled his mind to overflowing. 

The moment passed.  Life was tough enough.  Wife, kids, a mortgage, car payments, responsibilities he was trained to handle, but nevertheless, stress.  There were other things to impede the good life: a growing awareness that the world was not a great place to be.  There was “the war” that needed protesting – he’d become a conscientious objector and tried to live by some personal code of non-violence.  There were draft dodgers from across the border to help find shelter and jobs.  Then environmental issues took priority and his life grew very complex and a darkness grew in his heart. 

The marriage failed.  He found himself, thanks to his losses, freed of a commitment he felt was complete.  But the darkness held him down.  He re-discovered religion and attended church.  It provided little.  He saw more of the old hypocrisy.  He saw how the claims failed to match the lifestyle.  Disappointed and discouraged he struck out alone looking for something, not finding. 

Lost in mid-life, he was walking along the river shore one cloudy day and sat on a fallen log on the bank.  Staring at the shining waters flowing past him, he formulated a prayer, or rather a request.  He addressed her and said, “You know, I’ve made a complete mess of things.  I wanted to do right, and did wrong.  I wanted to change the world and couldn’t even change myself.  The things I’ve done are horrible to me.  I’m sorry for my ignorance and stupidity, but most of all, I’m sorry for my pride. 

I need you to help me now, though I don’t deserve it.  I’m going to ask your for the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that it cannot be bestowed on anyone, that it can only be earned through experience.  I am asking you to grant me the gift of humility.  Only with that can I re-learn to live with myself.  I don’t expect to suddenly become humble, but I need you to guide my heart into this new and alien territory I intend to walk across until I reach the other side.  I’m going to proceed knowing that you are here, guiding me, and reminding me.  Thank you.

And so it was that he gradually changed.  He did not feel any more humble, rather the opposite, but others noticed.  Always he’d be shocked when they said something, or praised him for his kindness or gentleness.  That can’t be me, he thought.  Then he’d know she was there, calming his heart, softening his hands, making him choose his words with care, showing him how to proceed in all situations.  Over time he understood what it meant to be blessed.  He thought, I find it so amazing that the less I possess and the more I give away, the more I have; the more filled I feel.  And he learned to laugh. 

He lived long past his chosen time.  Those who knew him believed he’d discovered the secret of immortality but that was only their hope he’d always be around.  One day he left.  He walked away with only a small overnight pack on his back.  She walk silently beside him, then she touched him.  He was never seen again.  

A friend of his, having understood, said, we held on to him much too long.  We made him feel guilty about leaving but finally he allowed himself to hurt us a bit so he could claim his own freedom.  He’ll never be completely gone for he lives in each of us.  What he showed us, the wisdom he taught and the changes he wrought: those are the pieces of his heart we hold within ourselves.  He’s still here, giving us of himself when we emulate his burning joy.

Quote: Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” ― Flannery O’Connor