On Love and Living

I had embarked on my journey to rid myself of other’s intentions for me

I had to shed the weight placed on me by others

A weight I didn’t know how to prevent

The weight of being constantly misunderstood

 

The paint of another’s color on my wings

Of being taken for granted

Caged and defined

 

They had drafted me letters of goodbye

Some filled with wisdom

Of taking pictures with your heart and mind before your hands

 

Most were laced with expectation

Things to do

Things to experience

Things I was

Definitions

Things I couldn’t stand to read

I used those letters to dry my shoes after a heavy rain

Laughing at their sudden utility

 

I called no one

I sent no postcards

I cast off and into the wind

 

It was a beautiful place

Accentuated by my unfamiliarity with the language

I noticed the nuances of life so commonly overlooked

The unspoken truth in a smile

Echoing eternal joy in a moment

The outstretched hands of children wanting to be picked up

The calm tone of a voice filled with love for its own

 

I saw walls built by generations

For the sake of their generations to follow

Each stone singing from its proper place in the earth out of love

A love for its purpose and place

Cities built on hills

Cities built in the mountains

Birds perched atop buildings touched by time

 

I saw the dawn rise every morning

 

I walked through twilight

With the moon illuminating the fog around me

And heard the promise of water in the valley below

Meeting in love the earth from its fall

 

I held these moments in my heart along the way

 

I opened up to strangers

And spoke about the existence of God

About the utility of wisdom

And the beauty of a life lived deeply

 

In the night I walked

Stepping through the bramble

Down large rocks and boulders

 

In the day I walked

Glancing at the open terrain

At the birds taking to the skies

At the ocean meeting the earth

 

Along the way

I met the challenge of a great climb

The sun shone brightly overhead

The air cool

The wind blew freely

And I entered into the woods at the base of a mountain

Heeding the advice of three women, I took off my shoes

 

I ascended the path feeling everything

I lived with a heart wide open to the day

A heart that would meet the eyes of a deaf woman

A heart to be warmed by her touch

As she looked into my eyes and smiled

 

I heard the galloping horses

And took to the side of the path

To see the look on the young rider’s face

Eyes wide with disbelief that I held my shoes in my hands

Walking barefoot along the path

 

I focused my life on each footfall

I focused my mind in the moment

And shed all of that weight

I shook off the ink on my wings

Those expectations for my love

And lived with my colors exposed

 

I whispered to God as I neared the top of the mountain

And asked who I was

For so long I had been blind to my beauty

And I felt some touch course through my being

As the question flew from my lips

And heard “You are my joy” come to me in song

And I paused to wipe my eyes under a tree

 

A tree that knew best how to catch the light

Its life lived between the darkness and the light

A tree to hold me upright

As it reached up and over the road

Enveloping the path in its shade

A house for birds to share in love

Its roots plunging into the depths of the earth below

Growing up and out of the pains of its past

 

And on I went

 

Eventually the slope evened

And I paced into a small town

I saw the gardens

The life

The small church and statues

It was there that I saw the old man

 

He was bent over looking at the wall

A wall that had crumbled and needed repair

A large stone rest beside him on the rocky road

I approached him and asked if I could help

 

He replied with words I did not understand

So I pointed at the largest rock

The one I thought too heavy for him to lift alone

And gestured to lift it

 

He smiled and motioned me forward

And there atop the mountain

I helped to rebuild the wall

In that city built out of love

 

And having given my love

The way that I wished

On my terms

Freely

I departed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Psychological Function of Emotion

You are permitted to share my thoughts, print them off, and create your own interpretations of them should you find them valuable as I hope you will.

Emotion is the sea of the soul as it stirs and crashes against the expectations of the heart; a kind of tidal lock between perfection and reality.

I dip a quill into ink, pondering what it means to feel.

Are not all men born into a romance with their own sense of perfection? The perfect lover, the perfect goal, the perfect business objective, the perfect nation, the perfect life, the perfect world…
Constantly we fall victims to the doctrines of our minds which yearn to achieve this idealized state of attaining perfection –

If I only had this one more thing in my life, then life would be properly beautiful.
If I only had this one treasure in my possession, then I would be properly rich.
If only I was without sin, then I would be properly saintly.
If only my lover would say they love me correctly, then I would be properly loved…

Yet, even after we attain that which we most desire, we come to recognize that it is not what we had thought it to be.

Our lover, for whom the passion of our hearts burst forth strikes a discordant chord and we are taken aback; we question their ability to love us before we question how we define love.
Our career, in which we actualize a sense of purpose in being productive for some higher reason, reveals its inability to satisfy that inmost validation that we seek and so we question our jobs before we question our purpose or our higher reasons.

And so, we swim from one emotional shore to the next, adrift in the pursuit of attaining the ideal state that our mind promises will satisfy us; like mice running the wheels of the ego’s desires.

Indeed, the degree to which an individual visualizes perfection and strives to attain it corresponds to the violence they are capable of inflicting upon the world or themselves for the sake of its attainment – zealous radicalism born of narrow-mindedness.

However, there is much to learn from the ideas we all carry and call perfect.
Because that perfection, that dream, that idealized goal – that is the canvas on which an individual’s psyche is projected.

That is to say that the way a person thinks, the way a specific individual houses consciousness is unique to only them. Only they think like they.
All of the schematic underpinnings of their personality which have been honed or allowed to run rampant from youth into adulthood constitute the framework through which they see the world.

In this way, the mind of an individual is quite like its own world.
Memories housed deep within the psyche that were sewn in positive emotion sculpt their mental landscape like a sunlit forest, or the warm waters of a gentle shoreline.
Likewise, memories rooted in pains and fears sculpt the landscape into towering mountains, dark dense forests, and jagged rock.

We all walk ‘in’, ‘through’ and ‘as’ the bearers of these inner worlds every day, and all of the information we receive from the real world influences how we feel. The light from the real world shines forth, casting shadows in some regions of our psyche and illuminating other regions.

Typically, the ego operates as such that we shift our eyes from reality, changing how we see truth so that the light strikes regions we are comfortable with, often leaving the looming hills in shadow – validating the biases which slope our perceptions, deepening the oceans, heightening the mountains.

But as these chasms deepen, as the differences in the landscape grow, we are more prone to instability. Victims of our own neuroticism.

How then are we to reconcile the worlds of our minds with the world we live in without amplifying discord?

We must allow every region of our inner being to be struck by the light of reality.
We must not allow ourselves to hide from the dark parts of our inner psyche. For the darkness only grows when it is not acknowledged.

We cannot thrive if we stay the same and never change.
Some individuals are comfortable living in melancholy for in those dark hills they hear music and art. Others find music and art at the shoreline and so, they too stay comfortable.

But no one changed the world by remaining comfortable.

Who we are fundamentally dictates where we reverberate the inspiration we receive from existence.
It is imperative that we take in the information which challenges us to cast light against our own darkness.
It is vital that we investigate the caverns of our thoughts and liberate ourselves from the binds of our lesser selves which demand we remain distracted and adrift.

Truth is the blade that sculpts the minds of men into houses of art.

I breathe to seek it.

Tomorrow’s Love

Her mind reflects into itself.

I catch her staring out the window contemplating some beautiful thought.

She turns and lifts her coffee to her mouth and a smile flashes in her eyes. And then, like leaves pulled from Fall’s graceful winds it fades.

“What are you thinking about?” I ask genuinely curious.

A smile flashes in my eyes and fades.

The moment is perfect.

 

I open my eyes and see her staring at me.

“What are you looking at?”

I smile widely and touch her face.

Her eyes drop and rise again like dawn shattering the night.

I want to lay there all day beside her.

She loves me too. I can see it.

A little voice calls for us from the room beside us.

The moment is perfect.

 

She breaks in my arms like water against stones.

“It will be alright,” I whisper to her fighting back tears.

My chest is wet from her.

My heart breaks with hers.

“It will be alright,” I promise to her.

I lift her face and kiss her forehead.

The moment is perfect.

 

She points to some obstacle in the distance.

Her words speak of its beauty and the beauty of all the things around it.

“After all of these years, I still marvel at how you think,” I say to her

She looks at me with eyes that reflect a need for more.

I look at the horizon and comment on the beauty that I see in it as well.

Her head falls upon my shoulder.

“Dad!”

I turn and lift our son.

The moment is perfect.

 

And so it passes by.

Time goes on.

Rain, sun, hurricanes and more sun.

And we fought the night like stars the dark.

For you and I always knew the sun would rise again.

 

All of our time together flashes before me.

I can’t control how fast I am breathing.

Our children and grandchildren fill the room and the little one holds my hand.

“Grandpa,” she says to me.

A smile flashes in my eyes and fades.

Then my darling comes to my side and touches my face.

I am seen by her.

I have been known by her.

“I am so grateful – your love was the world I longed for my entire life,” I whisper.

“I love you very much.”

The moment is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

My Mistaken Mind

Life has taught me just how little I actually ‘know’ to be true.

My greatest intuitions and insights often lead to humbling and jaw-dropping disillusionment.

Like the hero who slays the dragon for the princess only to find that the princess was the dragon the whole time.

What do I slay when I make such grievous strides to comprehend the world with precision?

Truth?

Is not my own scope of understanding but a single perspective in a world of understandings and higher truths?

One thing is certain: we are always learning, about ourselves & about others.

Any relationship with anyone requires that every time you see them you wipe the slate of your expectations and assumptions clean and remain open to the possibility of who they are becoming in that very moment before you.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Love thyself enough to allow for mistakes to be made. The past is the substrate of today. Draw strength from it. Draw understanding from it. But don’t let it draw you in – don’t let it convince you how things are. Because it’s only your perspective.

Uncle Edward

My uncle Edward was technically my great uncle. He was my grandmother’s brother.

The man was by all accounts an artist. He was a man driven by passion but he also possessed a lethal intellect. He was a man who would tear up in his apartment listening to Beethoven. He was a man who wrote a poem about heaven on earth.

When I was younger, probably nineteen, I sat across from him at a family gathering at my aunt and uncles’ and we conversed about music.

He told me about how he learned Clair de Lune in order to win the attention of someone he loved. We spoke about the depths that music reaches. His words burst with color. I listened with a mind like an open canvas.

Last year he passed away and I was blessed by his immediate family with many of his things. The complete works of Shakespeare. Music. Paintings. Statues of David and a Chimp holding a human skull in the “Thinker’s” pose with “Darwin” written on its side.

He was in a very true sense, a reflection of the man that I know myself to be. And that is why I think I found my learning about his genuine struggles from conversations with my grandma so fruitful.

The downfall of the artist resides in their passions.

Edward loved more deeply than words can convey. His love reached the bottom of the ocean, it broke into the darkest places the mind can touch. He loved like a man who had seen the face of God loves.

But because of this vision, his passions blinded him of the nature of reality. His passions blinded him about how others might feel about certain things. His passions, armed with his intellect, were a battalion of truth seekers ready to slaughter any contradictions regardless of their validity.

That call for perfection, that drive to reach the mountain’s top – the eye seeking beauty and inspiration – it is a burden to a man who has to face disillusionment, isolation, and heartache.

Edward’s funeral cards were dated 2010. He had prepared them years before. His love had died and he had been told by the doctor that his pacemaker battery was going out and that he would die shortly after it did. Instead, he lived for seven more years.

I can imagine the hell of that situation. The hell of losing the one you love, the one who inspires you a sense of divine beauty – the one who reflects love itself to you in their smiling eyes. I can imagine the hell of them going away, and then being promised that you would be soon delivered and the disillusionment of suffering without them every single day for seven years despite what the doctor had promised you.

But without those extra years those behaviors in him, that battalion, it would have gone unchecked; unreconciled.

I think of him every once and awhile. When I’m stuck with a composition, or when I don’t know the right approach to take in a relationship I talk to him. I rest my mugs on his cup holders. I read the lines of the books he purchased and had found beauty in. I drive around listening to Beethoven.

My only regret is that I never had the chance to walk with him as who I am now. That I wasn’t able to convey my respect for his character to him.

I once posted a picture of a tree that I drew onto facebook and he commented, “As an art major this truly is a wonderful tree.”

Uncle Ed, as an artist, a musician, a lover of beauty and a feeler of the deeper things of this life – you really were a wonderful human being.

Here is a recording of my Uncle John reading Edward’s poem about heaven on earth at his funeral: poem.

 

 

The Vulture

Benjamin walked toward the podium to the applause of the crowd, one hand raised out of appreciation.

He paused for a moment, lifting the microphone to meet his stature, and calmly looked out until we quieted.

I was a boy then and recall my eagerness and anticipation for his words still today.

 

He began, “The Island of Fate was for a long time hidden from us. As you all now know, this is no longer the case. I was fortunate enough to partake in the expedition that led to its discovery and, subsequently, was the one to discover the body of the vulture and the scroll.”

Clearing his throat, he gave some details that bored me as a child. Details regarding the integrity of the paper, estimates of its age and antiquity, a hypothesis about the plants used as ink, and finally he began to talk about how he came to discover the enormous bird that they had found and of the scroll itself.

“With my pistol drawn I entered into a narrow passageway carved into the rock. I only discovered it because I went to tie my shoe and saw it behind the vines.”

He chuckled and continued, “At the end of the passage there was a circular room with seven stars engraved in the stone. There, in the center, was the corpse of the vulture lurched over and decayed on the floor. I almost shot it honestly.  At a glance, the bird’s corpse looked like it was some sort of living horror, especially in the torchlight. As you surely know from the pictures, it is an oddly shaped specimen, massive, and cloaked in black feathers. Clutched in its talons was the scroll.”

We applauded then.

 

Graciously he raised his hand, “It is an absolute honor to read to you, today, the translation of the scroll.”

I recall the look in my mother’s eyes as she watched Benjamin, my father, deliver the speech. They were filled with the kind of light that only a love of immeasurable depth can begin to reflect. All of the years of him away had amounted to this moment.

 

We stopped applauding and he began to read,

“On this island of warring nations life and death battle one another. Every year each nation offers a warrior to the clearing. It is there that they fight.

One year, an elk was chased into the clearing by wolves at the time of war. There, it was slaughtered in front of the eyes of the two warriors.

Wolves are sacred to the tribe of death and elk are sacred to the tribe of life.

The warrior of death shouted, “Don’t you see, our god is stronger than your god! Death always wins. Give up your foolish ways and embrace us once and for all.

The warrior of life shouted back, “Don’t you see – our god has given your god life in the sacrifice of itself. Lay down your weapons and honor us in gratitude”.

We are the judges of their contradiction.”

 

When he finished reading the translation, the hall was silent. I looked at my mother and recall the look of confusion on her face.

I too was confused and recall thinking, ‘All of those years away for that?’

 

 

 

 

 

The garden of our mind

Today I looked out my window to find that the willow tree I had planted about oh, six months ago, had fallen over and was atop the grass at a deadly 90 degree angle.

My awareness of the situation was followed with a few expletives of surprise and an immediate departure outside to rescue it.

The garden in my backyard is finally taking shape and Willy the Willow is my pride and joy. He’s the first thing that I planted, lasted all winter, and I’ll be damned if the bastard quits on me now simply because he lacks the spinal resilience to go on.

Gently I pulled it upright, grabbed a rope, tied it to the bamboo stick that was bracing it, and drove off to work.

 

In life, we surround ourselves with psychological familiarities that reflect pieces of ourselves. They reflect the underpinnings of our personalities. The hoarder’s house is full of clutter, as is their mind. The preacher’s house is full of religious symbols and paintings. My garden is full of things that can either flourish or wither – things that are beautiful.

I didn’t get a hearty maple tree. I got a weeping willow, a drooping, sad, beautiful bastard of a tree that requires constant support and rescuing while it grows in my windy yard. I love it the most for those reasons.

Constantly I sip on my coffee and look out my window at my tree. When I go into the garden, I look at my tree first.

It is the potential within it in spite of the its current state of weakness that I love to reinforce.

 

Gardening is one of the most rewarding things we can do with life. Why? Because it it requires leaving the things we wish to tend to; it requires the releasing of that which we care for and the faith that they will continue to grow without our observation.

I had a pumpkin seedling that was withered so I put it in new soil, watered it and went to bed. When I got back up and returned from work the next day I found that it was completely fine. It’s stronger than I would have expected. The realization gave me a bit of joy. It surprised me. This surprise is what life is all about.

 

How does the garden of your mind look?

Do you let things go overnight in acceptance? Do you allow that which you have cared for to die so that it might flourish and surprise you?

Often, we tend to forget about the things we plant, the memories that exist, the fallen things of old expectations – but they are still growing even when we drive away from them.

 

Be vigilant in regards to what is growing in your own mind, and never restrain yourself from rescuing beautiful thoughts.

-Noah