Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sinking Into the Serendipitous Slouch of the Island

The other day as I was rinsing my dinner dishes in the sea I found myself hunting treasures (something I can’t help but do when in close proximity to the jigsaw motif of the rocky shore).  As I was gathering broken shells, calloused crab claws, and polished stones I began finding quarters, dimes, and nickels.  They kept coming and coming, their silver glinting playfully in the setting sun.  It was slightly surreal, I had found an endless supply of true modern day treasure, and suddenly it dawned on me: this has happened before.  I had a dream about ten years ago that I was treasure hunting on a magical island when I began finding dimes and quarters.  And now that dream was being materialized.  In the dream I felt as if the coins symbolized abundance and prosperity. I hoped it was the same in this waking dream, and decided maybe I would read the colorful shore like the I-ching.  Whatever I found on a particular day telling my fortune, in this case, literal fortune coming to me.

A few nights later I decided to sleep on my favorite grassy knoll.  I braved the no-tent insect barrage to experience sleeping without a cloak of trees between me and the sky.  That night I left behind banal dreams and was given a vision.  The buzzing of the mosquitoes rang like prophetic gossip in my ears.  In this dream, it was shown, after an extended waiting period, that I was the teacher we had all been waiting for (we all being all the different aspects of myself).  This role as teacher was heralded and confirmed by a bald eagle.  One dream character was attached to comfort and eating yams and peanuts.  But I enthusiastically informed him of the synchronistic news: that was my teaching—that comfort and the base survival aspects of life are just as profound as the more lofty “spiritual” notions.  I was waking everyone out of their sleep, taking them out of their comfort, to inform them that comfort was included—divine domesticity.  The totality, the circle, high and low, nothing being excluded from the perfection that is.  That morning I awoke to a bald eagle swooping down ten feet above me, the first bald eagle I had seen this trip on the Island.

The Commodification of Being

I came up to Orcas Island with goals in mind: heal, write, gain clarity on my path and mission, apply for grants, visualize, create, etc, only to be met with large amounts of emptiness, moments where all I could do is sit and stare at the sea.  This may be thought of as a positive thing, a natural fall into meditation, a stilling of my mind, a resting.  But what I observed in these moments was a subterranean agitation, a concept that I should be “doing” something, accomplishing one of the myriad of goals I brought like luggage.   I also noticed that when I did just allow myself to do nothing that I had to somehow commodify it as “something,” be it “meditation” “rest” “Zen practice.”  I couldn’t just let these moments be spartan as they were.  And they were quite unadorned.  I had no clarity about my path, no sparks of inspiration, no rushes of revelation, my mind was clear and expansive.
     I finally surrendered to this organic quietness, I admitted the internal resistance and I succumbed.  Interestingly, once I did poetry arose.  Sparse and elegant: fish leaping like skipping stones across a glass ocean.
   The first days of being here, my body and being collapsed into a lethargic stupor.  I couldn’t believe it as I never tire, but here I was feeling as if I could sleep all day, feeling as if my muscles were cold syrup, my heart a swollen stone.  This tiredness was transient, and transformed into the soft stillness that I am describing, and now as I allow this bareness to be, I feel flickers of creativity begin to lick the crevices of my mind.
     A lesson was powerfully given to me at the Rainbow gathering.  It was a lesson of trust.  Trust my intuition, trust the perfection of where I am and what is happening, ultimately I developed a deeper trust in all of life and the divine mathematics of all that is occurring.  I was given the opportunity to apply this lesson up here.  And a lesson is not a true lesson unless it is challenged, the challenge usually coming from within (there is actually no within or without, see Einstein’s theories).  These challenges arise like tricksters, begging to be believed.  And in the integration of the lesson in face of the challenge, comes a deepening of the lesson and true wisdom.  So as I felt exhausted when I expected to feel energized, and as I felt empty when I expected to feel inspired, I was able to apply this lesson of trust, compassionately and consciously embracing what is, despite what I think it should be.  And then as I embrace, things transform, walls are collapsed, resistance melted, caverns of my soul discovered.
     Now when I can only sit and stare at the ocean, my emptiness feels full, welcome, perfect.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For the Love of Bees: A Life of Abstractions

As a teenager I had a romance with honeybees.  The promise of their delicate amrita emphasized by the threat of their salient sting.  To me they were summer: sweaty and golden.  Their yellow and black suits zipped tight as they sliced through a topaz dome.  I decided to raise a hive in my backyard and so purchased a colony.  I had the euphemistic notion that bees, like dogs, were acutely aware of fear and would not sting if I were emanating “good vibes.”  So I always performed the necessary tasks of beekeeping without any tranquilizing smoke, or protective gear.  My armor was the trust I had for the bees. 
     Until one day they swarmed me. 
     In the deep center of summer, when their activity was prolific and their defenses spiky, they surrounded my bare flesh with the potential of pain.  My mother was freaking out from the second story deck.  I called up to her as calmly as possible while getting stung in the face, “Mom! Get the hose!”

I recently saw a news clip on facebook declaring that two species of honeybees are now extinct.  These particular species are crucial to the world’s agricultural superstructure.  In light of their dwindling populations, the role of these fierce mini laborers is becoming potently pronounced.  Human’s entire network of nourishment relies on their miniature fluttering and zippy to and fro.  Albert Einstein made the statement “If honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.”  If the bees die, we die.
     Do these bees grok their profound effect on the entire world?  Do they realize that their frantic gathering of fragile flower gold is feeding the silver urban centers that harbor humans like a hive?  We too, like the bees, zip here and there performing our daily gathering and dispersing.  And do we realize that, like the bees, we are affecting the entire earth with our most mundane movements?  Our morning latte in its disposable container, our superfluously blazing interior lights, the barbaric wrappers encapsulating every single object we use or consume, the coal burned with a tedious Google search, and another Google search, and the next, and then back to facebook, then email, then maybe someone messaged me, or maybe now, or now, or now… each frivolous Google scorching coal in some isolated data center in the Midwest.  Isolated until its lethal fumes waft downwind to the nearest toddler pushing his Tonka truck under the mask of innocuous blue sky.
     It is not only these flippant atrocities that accumulate, out of sight.  Diminutive acts of beauty that seem ensnared by small bubbles of space and time actually ripple out infinitely.  The genuine smile, the authentic artistic expression, the truth speaking, the bike ride, the reuse of a container.  Like the bees, our smallest actions are shaping the entire mandala of life that kaleidoscopes in living color on this absurdly spinning planet.  
     The safety gear needed now is not to protect us from the bees, but to protect our world from the loss of the bees. And this safety gear is not heavyweight canvas suits or narcotizing smoke, but daily awareness, and daily choices that nurture life.
     Life is one great interconnected whole, but the absurd thing is that we don’t know it, as Einstein pithily expressed: “We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness.”  We are cognitively disconnected from the actuality of coexistence, interconnectedness, of our influence on the planet, of the planet’s influence on us.  We are living in a fragmented world—a world of abstractions.
     As humans, our intellectual capacity and manifestation is increasing exponentially.  Still, we are wired for survival.  But now there are countless ways to meet our survival needs: the store stocked with alien concoctions, the internet to order our specific brand of adornment, the television to nurture our social hunger, the car to get us to the office, to make calls for a company, that produces machines for a factory, that constructs bulldozers, that make roads, so other people can get to work, for some other corporation, ad infinitum, and somehow this brings the food to the table for the multitudes.     
     It is no longer, chop wood, make fire, get warmth.  No longer, whittle bow, hunt buck, get food.  We are aware to some degree where our food comes from: we can conjecture that most things stem back to soil and sun.  But most of us no longer feel the grime of mineral rich dirt between rough pads of finger skin.  We no longer look in the cow’s eyes before we take her life.  Our fire is a push of an upward arrow on the heat box.  Our social network has become a hologram on a flat screen.  Fundamental information regarding our subsistence now comes to us in abstracted form, as disconnected data.  It has become intellectual, rather than corporeal.  We are largely disconnected from tangible impact and immediacy.    
     For example I got a bit of info about the honeybees—they are going extinct.  I know that this is crucial to my survival, but yet, I am able to compartmentalize that knowledge and forget about it.  If I still cultivated my own hive of bees, and those little workers pollinated my farm that fed my family, and they began to die, I would surely know the severity of the situation.  And I would be forced into action.  It is more disjointed when after I receive this info I can visit the well-stocked grocery store and, like usual, purchase my organic apples and broccoli.
     Bees are a symbol of communication.  They rely on intricate exchanges to relay info that is crucial to their epic daily work.  Like the bees, humanity’s communication is dying, or at least reconfiguring in drastic ways.  This is the crux of the conundrum of abstraction.  We no longer have direct interaction with the resources, life forms, and people who allow for our survival.  We have compressed contact to a rapid firing of the finger digits and we have lost the tactile proximity that breeds awareness and connectivity.
    I am not concretizing this as a negative thing—the fact we live in a fragmented, abstracted world.  But it needs to be addressed if we are able to progress with the rapid rate of technological evolution.  We need to find a way to navigate the shape shifting nature of survival on our modern Earth.
     How do we, like the bees, live in a way that supports the fundamental infrastructure of the earth?  How do we perform our perfect part, rather than, like the immense threat of invading plant species, suck the very life out of the planet that sustains us?  Every little action has an effect, a ramification.   Not that we should live like a Jain, zealously tiptoeing so not to squash a bug.  Death is an inevitable, and beautiful, part of life.  But if we continue in our current trajectory we will soon be on the long list of extinct species we are amassing.  
     It is not about living in fear, but it is about living in awareness, realizing our autonomy, realizing our capacity to choose, to steer away from the swift currents of consensual society’s downward spiral.  If we don’t consider our actions, we will go with the lowest common denominator, which at this point is supporting a mass human suicide.   It is the small actions that add up to big consequences.  Everyday we make choices, or choices make us.
     We can peer lucidly into the habit of the everyday.  What drives us?  What do we live for? It is possible to purport lofty ideals that in actuality never once penetrate the daily humdrum.  The simple turn of awareness onto our selves and our lives is the key that begins to unlock the mystery of living in an abstracted world.  We have too many choices.  And in some regards we are bound by choicelessness.  It is a delicate navigation of these paradoxically coexistent states that helps us to fabricate an authentic existence, an existence that, like the bees, supports the health of the planet and its creatures.

     2 A.M.  MLK day, 2011.  The wind invites me out into its wild whispers.  In an oversized duffle coat and my pajamas, I step into its fervor.  Tree limbs wrinkle against an indigo backdrop.  I am pulled to the river 8 blocks west. 
     The robust wind presses through wires and a crackle of branches.  Chimes ignite fragile melodies.  The neighborhood sleeps and I walk through their dreams.  I am so domesticated that as I walk into the wooded mystery of a neighborhood park, I feel lurking and company.  My heart ablaze, adrenaline a vein shot and concept.  I pass vacant tennis courts, wet with the fate of winter.
     At the river, the surreal scene spreads open before my eyes.  The wind has whipped through this river valley for eons and it wails now with archaic mystery.  This night the wind speaks to me.  As the world rests I am tutored by revelation.  It presses its force into my chest.  It splits me open.  It instructs: “Allow.  Trust.” It cries: “Allow the bigness that is beyond you to move through you, to provoke action, effortless action.”  It begs: “Stay alert, stay awake, though the world may sleep.  Allow the flight of the bees to animate your daily dance.  Be yourself fully, and you support the world.  Heal your inner fractures and you will mend the world.  Open your eyes and the world opens before you.  Live for this awareness, this perpetual opening of your eyes.  Live in commitment to process, to holding a delicate equilibrium of paradoxical forces.  Live for your miniscule thread that perfects the pattern. Live for your perfect part.  Live for the love of bees.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Drive or Not to Drive?

June 17, 2011, my first bog entry.  As of now, no one is following my blog so I am in my own clandestine cybercave.  I created this blog on the coattails of being a “loser,” i.e. runner up for a writing award at school.  After the awards ceremony with the ridiculously uninspiring keynote speech on rhetoric and St. Paul the apostle, I ran to the bathroom to escape the congratulations and croissants.  In the foyer of the ladies room, in front of the full-length wall-long mirror, I encountered the proud winner of not one, but two awards.  She was tall and gangly, a perfectly awkward recipient of English department accolades.  I, juxtaposed next to her, medium height, blonde and Californianesqe.  She brushed by me, awards in hand.  “Congratulations,” I forced through my self-deprecation.  Flushed pink with the afterglow of winnasm, she modestly thanked me and replied, “How ostentatious of me, carrying my awards like a trophy.” I laughed, inwardly noting that winners of writing awards use words like ostentatious in random restroom interactions.
     The next day a superhero surge of loser energy drove me to invent a one-woman theatrical production, write an essay on jogging as an anthropological excursion, and to create this blog.   I didn’t know how long the losing tsunami would last, but I decided to surf it till its murky and flooded end.  It died down the next day, but hey, I got this blog out of it. 
     So here I am now, weeks later, with another year of college behind me and the infinite potential of summer in front of me.  My relationship of six and a half years has ended, and I decided, given my newfound freedom and the difficulty of finding affordable housing that I would travel for the summer.  My plan was to find a cheap car and run it to the ground.  So I proceeded amidst the chaos of moving to look for a vehicle. 
     Ok, so here it is, I am impulsive, I live by whit and whim.  So it goes with buying a car.  First one up, a 94’ Dodge Caravan. The ex and I drive all the way out to Boring, OR to take a look-see.  After taking the clunker out for a spin, I agree to buy it, talking the seller down from $1000 to $700.  The van has issues. Any euphemism about my “buyer’s savvy” dissipated as I drove the chugging, wet-dog-wreaking, gas-guzzling van down highway.  My stomach sank with the weight of my mistake.  The next day, after further inspection, I realized the van was infested from ceiling to floor with mold, some of it ominously black.  I just wasted $700 on a piece of moldy metal.  I decided to try to sell it and to my chagrin, when the first potential buyers arrived the car would not even start, not a revving peep.  So I looked into my options and after using my best legal jargon talked the seller into a full refund, which was an amazing relief and blessing. 

     The moral of this scenario is that I don’t want to drive.  It is not as simple as getting from A to B, or the idyllic freedom of the open-road that car commercials propagate.   It is a doorway into another universe, a universe that I do not want to inhabit.  While driving we miss a myriad of everyday miracles. Covered in a metal shield we easily collapse into an internal bubble reinforcing the delusion that Einstein so eloquently pointed out: the false belief that we are individual organisms, separate from the whole. 
Poignancies I miss when I drive:
  • A Victorian atmosphere—cool and delicate as the dawn.  In the fragile attics of NW Portland it rocks in wooden repose, it arches flamboyant through springtime awakenings, gilded with the pale pink of the April Cherry. 
  • The subtle sweep of autumn.  Leaves tangling with knotted roots—the sun gloating in isolation.
  • Zipping on my bike through the Springwater Corridor trail, Portland’s bike freeway, i.e. heaven
  • Winter’s lethargy hiding corners of delight.  Colors whisper rather than shout.  Branches take precedence.  One can see without the fancy adornment of leaves that trees blush naked in a variety of hues.  Mustard dogwood, fuchsia apple, mauve maple, crackling colors across a slate sky.
  • The Willamette, bloated with mountain perspiration, meandering brown and placid.
  • The nooks and crannies where the gentle nuance of nature meets the outrage and ingenuity of humanity: broken asphalt with the patient press of the dandelion sprouting through.
  • The potent promise of lavender, its dry scent wafting arid through wet murk.
  • Chimes tingling against my vertebrae.
  • January’s leftover Christmas ornaments strewn like nostalgic litter
  • That light! shattered across the river, sharpening my vision, illuminating the seagulls, glinting off the silver raised platform of the Hawthorne Bridge, touching each angular sail of each nautical vessel down in the harbor below, tricking me into elation.

I have chosen not to delve into the atrocities of driving and its cancerous effect on the planet. I don't want to succumb to a cliche binary exhortation on the evils of the road.  I am not staunchly opposed to driving, but at this time in my life I prefer not to drive.  I prefer a more dynamic way of life, one where I engage the path, not just the destination.