Tag Archives: Life

Assaulted by Memory

This morning, driving home from errands, I rounded a corner on the road.

I saw drenching April rains, grey skies, newly awakened bright green trees and grass, and the dark black asphalt cutting across and into the bright green.

In a moment, out of nowhere, I was assaulted by a memory from this same road.

Driving home at lunchtime to walk my new dog.

Same rains, same skies, same bright green tress and grass, and same dark black asphalt cutting across and into the bright green.

Pinned down and overwhelmed by the memory, I am unstuck in time.

Is it 2002? Is she waiting for me at home with her brother?

Or is it 2013? And she’s nearly two years gone, leaving just me and her brother?

As a youth, I wrote once of “Memora constantly encroaching upon reality”.

I’ve lost the pretentious words of youth, but the experience remains the same.

Sometimes, we are assaulted by memory.

The past overwhelms and overlays before we know what’s happening.

And as we reorient, reground and come back to present, we feel all we felt in between then and now in an instant.

All the joy, all the sorrow.

All the things that happened that you didn’t know was coming at the time.

I continued on the road, riding it to home.

I greeted her brother, remembered her and missed her.

I thought about how much longer he and I have together.

And then I walked him, because I refuse to let memory or fear of loss keep me from living now and building new memories.

Even if one day those same memories may assault me as well.

24 Views of Squak Mountain: Third Week of February

The time of the warring seasons is here.

Spring battles Winter in a long, drawn out fight.

The conclusion is inevitable. We know who the winner will be.

Perhaps that’s what makes the Winter seem harsher now: the desperation in its fight.

Spring days and Winter nights.

Clear, glorious sun giving warmth.

Drenching, dreary rain chilling to the bone.

Hardest of all is the sense of dislocation in this all. Am I in Winter or am I in Spring? Should my body be hibernating and hunkering down, or going out and expansively exploring?

Do I feel the joy of new life? Or mourn the death and destruction I still see?

It is a time that forces onto us a hard practice: to be present with the unresolvable conflict. To feel joy and sorrow at once, equally. To switch from Winter to Spring and back again with as much ease as we can muster.

I walk with my dog in the woods under the bright sun and hear the chirping of newly born birds.

I walk with my dog in the woods in the drenching rain and see the fallen trees and washed out trails.

Life within Death within Life within Death.

The season of infinity: the snake that eats its tail.

Warrior Poet

With the change of the new year, I find my work circumstances changing and that I’m more fully returned to some of the work I used to do before making changes over two years ago. I’ll put emphasis on “some” and further emphasize that some critical pieces are different (for the better).

But one thing that is back is me being in charge of people and responding to crisis situations. Again, not as dangerous to me as before (at least not yet), but like a warrior putting the arms and armor on again for the first time I am feeling some of the familiar energy and movements.

And so it seems a good time to pause and think about things I’ve learned over the past couple of years being away from this all. During that time, in conjunction with other changes in my life, I’ve reconnected with artistic and creative endeavors and likes that had been dormant (in some cases over twenty years). My military history magazine subscriptions traded for Buddhist and Poetry ones. My library has undergone a major purge and rebalancing with a lot of history books gone and literature, poetry and spirituality books added.

As I feel that old energy come back though, I do know that it too is a part of me. Indeed, it is as central a part of me as these other interests are. And so I am feeling rebalanced myself as I’m getting some of that flowing again.

It of course raises the question of if I’m going to flip back and start restocking history and military history and purging literature, poetry and spirituality. But I think the answer here is no, I’m not. Indeed, I think the answer here is  no, I can’t. And, no, I shouldn’t.

We hear about more refined times when warriors also practiced arts. Japan is most notable with samurai cultivating the Haiku with the same dedication as the sword. In our rougher, shallower, more rational time, we look on that as an anomaly, a cute inconsistency. After all, what could be more in stark contrast than someone using perhaps the most advanced sword ever made (the Katana) and a calligraphy brush.

But I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately and realizing that not only is it not a cute inconsistency, it’s a necessity. It is a critical balancing element that keeps the warrior from becoming just a soldier, from losing their humanity and becoming a killing machine.

When I look at times when I’ve gone deep into that warrior side, I’ve seen myself increasingly lose touch with the rest of the world, with the people I did this for. I see myself inhabiting a world of dark complexity that others simply cannot understand. I’ve seen and felt myself feel like the dayworld everyone else inhabits is built on ignorance and illusion that I can’t share. Innocence, once lost, can never be regained after all. I would be lying if I didn’t say that over time, you start to resent people in the dayworld for their blithe ignorance, naivete and ingratitude. In particular, you resent dayworlders second guessing or judging your actions when they have no idea what it’s like. It’s for this reason that while I may lament situations gone wrong, I will almost never criticize or judge because you don’t know what was happening when it happened. If you ever get to see NYPD Blue Season 1, Episode 21 “Guns ‘n Rosaries” you can see an excellent examination of how hard these situations are.

When I made changes two plus years ago, in fact, I told my colleagues that I needed to make a change because I’d been living so deeply in a world of fighting and negativity that it was all I could see. I was, I said, at risk of becoming one of those cops who’s been on the job too long and comes to hate the people they originally signed up to protect.

While my work has not put a gun in my hand or had one pointed at me, it has put the burden of great responsibility for people’s safety on me in dealing with those who mean harm. And in that way I share the experiences and burdens that others in more physical safety roles have. For all of us, to fight the bad people you have to understand them and think like them. And there is a contamination quality here: you don’t want to bring that darkness back to the people you’re protecting. Indeed, your goal is to hold the line and keep that darkness outside. You sacrifice your comfort and light so that others can have it.

I used to think that meant that we who did this had to accept a burden of exile from those we love and do this for, so as to not stain them. But I’ve come to realize that’s not realistic. We live in the same world and unless we who do this are willing to live alone and separated from what we love and are protecting, we have to find a way to be in the darkness, hold it, manipulate it, battle it, but also leave it behind and come back and spend time with those in the dayworld.

Indeed, if we were to cut ourselves off entirely the question would eventually arise of why bother doing it at all? Or, worse yet, why fight the darkness, why not relax and succumb and join it? It is, after all, a very thin line that separates the cop from the criminal. And if there is no benefit to be had for all that effort, why not cross over: the pay is better after all. This is how people go to the “dark side”.

But there is a logic to living only in the darkness. Indeed, our culture favors specialization in all areas such that we don’t question the wisdom of that in its own right. But specialization for warriors is particularly dangerous for the reasons I outlined. It turns us from warriors into soldiers. It turns us from humans fighting of necessity for something we love into killing machines that know nothing else. And it leads to some of the most horrible and tragic situations that involve people who fight. It leads to massacres like My Lai, the Kandahar massacre and Abu Ghraib. And more commonly, it leads to self-slaughter. There’s a reason we are facing a suicide crisis in our armed forces after eleven years of unrelenting warfare. When all you know is killing, living in the darkness, you lose your humanity.

So how do we prevent this? By cultivating warriors and not soliders. By working towards balance. By returning to the dayworld and living in it and experiencing and remembering what it is we fight for in the first place. For me, it’s holding on to those things I’ve recovered over the past couple of years while reentering some of the fight. It is also, honestly, choosing to not be right on the most front lines of the fight like I once was. Most of all it is recognizing the dangers and making an effort to maintain balance as much as possible.

Sadly, it would seem this realization of mine runs contrary to broader trends. In this post 9/11 world we are seeing more and more militarization in the interest of safety. Our police today are better equipped than soldiers were in the 1980s. Not only do we ask those looking out for our safety to specialize more and more, we’ve asked our entire society to specialize in safety. This is worrisome to me for many of the reasons I’ve outlined (and some I haven’t). That is, I think, a topic for another post.

For now, though, I think its important to close by saying I understand now the importance of the warrior poet. And the importance of cultivating that as my ideal. All the more so because of my father.

My father was a Marine who served in Viet Nam. And while I was totally estranged from him, when I fell into security work I realized that I had in some ways inherited that calling from him. Police and military service are often family callings and his family was no exception: he and his brother and several generations before them were in the military. And though I had no contact with him since I was 12, I realized that this work suited me in a way that did feel like a calling and so I felt that was something I inherited from him. It was the one and only way I felt any connection to him.

Like so many soldiers, my father was unable to cope with life beyond the uniform. And so I found out in 2002 that he had succumbed to self-slaughter in 1995. We were so estranged that I had to find out by getting his death certificate and autopsy.

After two years separated from that warrior side, I find it’s not good or realistic to suppress or cut that side out. But if I embrace parts of that and want to avoid my father’s (and so many others’) fate that comes from losing their humanity, I need the balance that comes with the warrior poet rather than the soldier.

That’s the big lesson for the new year as I embark on new endeavors.

Rejection

It has been a while since I’ve done a word meditation. For a variety of reasons, the word I’m focusing on today is “rejection”

Rejection” combines “Reject” with “-ion“: the latter is a standard suffix used in English to make verb, adjectives and past participles into nouns, specifically to show action or condition.

“Reject” is the key though. “Reject” comes to us from Latin and is formed with the Latin prefix “Re” added to “ject”.

“Re” is a heavy-lifting prefix in English. Even though it comes from Latin originally, it’s well ensconced in English such that it may as well be considered a native (kind of like me and the Pacific Northwest). “Re” conveys a sense of “return” or doing again.

“ject” comes to us from the Latin past participle “iactus”. In classical Latin, there was no “j”: an initial “i” before a vowel was pronounced like a “y” in “yes”. By the middle ages, the convention of indicating that “y” sound by adding a tail to the “i” created our letter “j”. Over time the “j” transformed from a “y” sound to the “j” (as in “jack”) sound we’re familiar with today and so what was once pronounced “yact” became “ject”. Frankly, I’m not sure about the transformation of the “a” to an “e”, but it is a consistent transformation.

In Latin, “iactus” is a particle of the verb “iacio” which means to throw. That verb is used in one of my favorite classical Latin sayings: “Alea iacta est”, which means “the die is cast” and was uttered by Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon and irrevocably set in motion the Civil War. Iacio as a verb conveys a sense of throwing and hurling and the many words in English that have “ject” in them convey that sense of propulsion (project, deject, inject). So motion and propulsion are important elements in any word that is constructed with “ject”.

Bringing this back to “reject”, then, we have a word that has a very clear sense of “throwing back” and that’s key to this word’s power. When you reject something, you are throwing back something that was given to you. You show that it’s not wanted in your act of throwing it back. Rejection adds in the “-ion” suffix to describe that act as a state.

Rejection is a very powerful, negative action and emotion because it almost always inherently points to an imbalance between the giver and the receiver. The giver wants to give. But the receiver doesn’t want receive. In its most powerful and painful uses, “rejection” is a word associated with love and emotion and describes what goes on within unrequited love. Perhaps the most powerful visual illustration of rejection is this short scene from The Simpsons where Bart experiences the rejection of unrequited love and in a dream sequence shows what he feels is is happening.

In some ways, “rejection” is one of the most painful and horrible things to experience. When you are in a state of rejection, you’re not wanted, thrown back, thrown away. What you have to offer is refused (sometimes very cruelly). The imbalance inherent in rejection also has an inherent vulnerability on the part of the giver and a hurting on the part of the reluctant receiver. Rejection is such a painful experience that the fear of it is codified in our language as a stock phrase: “fear of rejection”.

Sadly, rejection is something I’ve known a lot of. I’ve talked about abandonment issues and rejection is buried in there as part of that. For myself, the greatest rejection was my father who I never saw in person after age six and never spoke with after age 12. He made no efforts to see me and so I felt that a very deep, thorough rejection. It made me believe that there was something wrong with me because why else would he want nothing to do with me. Rejection poured over me like acid, burning and scaring me on the outside, and seeping in and destroying and corroding my stability and structure on the inside.

There have been other rejections in my life and one reason I’m writing this is I’m processing another one (as is someone very close to me even more so). No matter how familiar you are with rejection, it still hurts. It’s one of those things that it seems no amount of exposure or experience will dull or lessen.

And yet, if we would give, if we would love, if we would do anything other than sit behind our walls and be safe, we have to risk rejection. We have to go out there, put ourselves out there, open ourselves up….and get the living shit beat out of us on a regular basis for doing so.

What else can we do if we would truly live? For just as we experience rejection there is also acceptance. And so perhaps one of those paradoxical things about being alive is that to be alive, we have to accept rejection rather than reject rejection. In a way, this acceptance strikes me as inline with some of what Buddhism talks about in regards to the role of suffering in life. Specifically, that suffering is inherent and just part of the price you pay for being alive. Part of the Buddhist path is accepting that reality rather than rejecting it.

Profile in Courage: Winston Churchill

Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep admiration of Winston Churchill.

Not for the obvious reason that he led Britain against Germany in the darkest times of World War II (though that is definitely admirable).

Rather, it’s because I feel a lot of affinity for the man. He battled moods that would cripple lesser people (he referred to it as his “black dog”). Indeed, prior to returning to lead Britain in World War II, he’d spent a decade in what he would call “the wilderness”: rejected and on outs because no one wanted to hear the unpleasant, inconvenient truths he was speaking. This was a time of great depression and difficulty for him.

He also was a gifted writer and speaker. Indeed, he won the Nobel Prize for literature for his history of World War II, which he wrote after once again being unceremoniously dumped out of office by the very people whom he saved.

Churchill understood the need to struggle and fight and never give up. As a master of the turn of phrase, he described the sort of daily struggle I sometimes feel very eloquently. “When you’re in Hell,” he said, “you might as well keep moving”. He also would describe the importance of forward motion in hard times with the phrase “KBO” for “Keep Buggering On”. Again, meaning that you keep moving forward.

When I was in graduate school, I had a classmate who was older than me and British. He talked about a conversation he has with his mother who had been in Britain during the war. He asked her about the speeches from Churchill on the radio, asking if they were as inspiring then as they are now. No, she said, they weren’t inspiring: they scared the hell out of her. Because they didn’t know how it was going to end, unlike us.

That is a telling thing: it underscores the strength and courage he had: to look into the abyss where there is rightly no hope and to continue onward. I myself believe that ultimately that strength was honed first and foremost in the crucible of himself and his struggles with mood.

My wife got me a bust of Churchill many years ago. Actually had it shipped from Britain. It sits on my desk. It’s the only statue I have. And it’s a reminder to me that strength and courage come from not giving up, from geting up every day and battling onward. And it reminds me that writers can be warriors too. Indeed, some of the best writers are warriors of a kind.

In writing this, I happend on a lovely homage to Churchill as a role model for leadership and life courage. It’s a nice article but most of all, it’s about the importance of having the courage to look square on at the scary things and not flinch, but instead to move forward. Much like I wrote before, the importance of moving towards your fears.

In closing, it seems most appropriate to let the man speak for himself. This is the famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.

But before you listen, try to put yourself in the place of my classmate’s mother. Pretend that you hear this not knowing how this will all end. Understand that this speech was to tell the people of Britain of the disaster of Dunkirk and the ejection of all British forces from the European continent. Realize that the next step everyone thought was coming was the German invasion of Britain. And so, when he says”we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills” you hear the real possibility that within six months time, you and your loved ones will be seeing German soldiers marching through London, York, Manchester. And there will be fighting and blood and death in those streets. And all you know and hold dear may be at risk of loss and death.

Paint that picture and then listen. And see if it doesn’t scare the hell out of you. And see too if you can better appreciate what what strength it took to look at that, speak truth to it, and yet end on a note of hope and defiance by saying “we shall never surrender”.

Running Towards Your Fears

I had just poured water into the heating filter for a Captain Country Chicken MRE, and was preparing to remove some layers of clothing beneath my flak vest (the weather had turned hot after the freezing night), when RPG and small-arms fire rattled the scrap iron that formed the roof of the filthy garage headquarters.

The fire directed at us did not let up. Over the ICOM, Smith learned that it was coming from a mosque on Michigan about 300 yards away. The mosque was promptly targeted for a possible air strike, and everyone began a fast march toward it.

Smith did not have to order his Marines straight into the direction of the fire; it was a collective impulse—a phenomenon I would see again and again over the coming days. The idea that Marines are trained to break down doors, to seize beachheads and other territory, was an abstraction until I was there to experience it. Running into fire rather than seeking cover from it goes counter to every human survival instinct—trust me. I was sweating as much from fear as from the layers of clothing I still had on from the night before, to the degree that it felt as if pure salt were running into my eyes from my forehead. As the weeks had rolled on, and I had gotten to know the 1/5 Marines as the individuals they were, I had started deluding myself that they weren’t much different from me. They had soft spots, they got sick, they complained. But in one flash, as we charged across Michigan amid whistling incoming shots, I realized that they were not like me; they were Marines.

“Five Days in Fallujah” by Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic July/August 2004

This is an essay that I read years ago out of my interest in history and military history. It’s by the journalist Robert D. Kaplan and details his experiences as an “embedded” journalist, accompanying the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 as they worked to take the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The battle for Fallujah in 2004 was some of the hardest fighting in the Iraq war, and Kaplan’s article gives a good feel for what it was like on the ground.

While my interest in military history has waned some lately, I find that this excerpt has a lot of value outside of its military context. For while it’s talking about how Marines are trained to respond instinctively under fire in combat, it’s more about how human beings respond to fear and danger. And in that vein, it’s actually an important lesson and example for everyone and how we approach life and the fears and anxieties we face every day.

The simple fact is that fear is a part of being human, like I outlined in my word meditation on fear. We don’t get to choose whether we will experience fear or not. We get to choose what we do with our fear when it comes upon us.

Our reaction to fear is instinctive. Our body and mind urge us to either run away from our fear, or to hide and wait for it to pass us by. Both of those are natural responses and they have their place and purpose.

But we have another option, one that is not natural but can be learned. We can run towards our fears and face them. Unlike this example, when we run to meet our fears we’re not necessarily looking to fight them or overcome them. Rather, we’re looking to dispel them somehow. Oftentimes, once we are face to face with our fears, dispelling them is simply a matter of listening to them and understanding what they have to say. After all, fear ultimately isn’t an adversary; it’s a part of us that’s doing a job that’s meant to benefit us. But to do that, to engage with fear, we first have to run towards it, not away. And that’s no easy thing: many times we can feel that what we’re afraid of and have to run towards is something that could well destroy us.

That’s what these Marines did under fire, run towards something that could destroy them. And it’s instructive to look at how they came to be able to do it. They trained for it, they practiced it, over and over again. Through drills, exercises, and real-life experiences, they slowly developed new instincts, new responses and new habits. Until finally, the first, immediate response, without having to think about it, is to run towards rather than away.

I used to be a very fearful person. Then, I spent ten years working in crisis management. And over time, I learned to run towards things that I was afraid of, because running away only made it worse.

Over time, I learned to apply those lessons from work more broadly in life. And now, as I’m more focused once again on questions of spirituality and growth, I find that this is an important lesson for all of us. All of us can stand to learn how to run towards our fears rather than away from them.

It’s not easy. It’s not safe. Sometimes you get hurt. But it’s the right thing to do, the right way to approach life. And the lesson from this particular episode is that it can be done successfully and the key to that success is through practice.

Fortunately, being humans, we have a chance to practice running towards our fears every day.

Fear: A Meditation

In my continuing word meditation series, the word today is: fear.

Such a small word. Even its etymology is short and simple.

No complex conceptual evolution. No transitions or transformations across time and cultures.

It’s just fear.

Perhaps this word is simple because the thing itself is so simple. Perhaps it is unchanged because it doesn’t need to change: fear is now as it was and shall always be.

I don’t have to describe it to you, you know it well. And you recognize it in others easily, even beyond humans. Fear is the most recognizable emotion most broadly among living creatures.

Fear is one of the most important things in keeping us alive. Fear is one of the things that most hampers our ability to thrive.

We would die without fear, but we cannot live with too much fear. They say a real hero isn’t one who feels no fear; a hero is one who feels fear and still acts. And so we spend all our lives learning how to manage it, how to face it, how to accept its lifetime companionship.

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to rally a terrified nation against fear and accurately described its effects: So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ) asserted his overcoming of fear and the fear of death especially by having written as his epigraph: Δεν ελπίζω τίποτε. Δεν φοβούμαι τίποτε. Είμαι λεύτερος (I don’t fear anything, I do not hope for anything, I am free).

The Buddha also spoke about the role of fear in one’s life: The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.

Frank Herbert in his novel Dune coined his famous Litany Against Fear. Even if it was for a work of fiction, it has true power and usefulness:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Roshi Joan Halifax in Being with Dying quotes Rainer Maria Rilke saying “Love and Death are the great gifts that are given to us; mostly they are passed on unopened.” Why are they mostly passed on unopened? I think it’s because of fear: we’re afraid to open them. And that is a shame.

If I’ve learned one thing as I’ve gotten older and learned how to make my relationship with fear more a true partnership, it’s that the more I feel brave enough to open those presents, the more rich, fulfilled and previously unimaginably wonderful my life has become.

It’s not a perfect relationship: fear and I still have rough patches like any lifetime partnership does. But we’re not fighting like we used to. Fear keeps me alive so that I can then do what I need to thrive.

So, to my fear, I say: thank you. I look forward to many more years of working with you.

8400 Days

On this day and date, Thursday April 21, in 1988, I lost a friend to suicide.

I think it’s important to remember those who have gone: we who carry their memory ensure a part of them is still alive.

So, I always try to mark the date of her passing (as I do all those I have lost). Being a bit superstitious about days and dates, I consider anniversaries that fall on the same day to be particularly special. This year, the day and date coincide with that day twenty three years ago.

In reflecting on this, I realize that she’s been gone now longer than she lived. And I find, interestingly, that it has been exactly 8400 days that have passed since she passed.

I note this here not out of sadness, really. As I get older I am more and more reconciled with death as a reality. My readings in Buddhism over the past year, my experiences of multiple hard losses in the space of a year: all of these have made me find a new accommodation with death. I take very seriously the idea in Tibetan Buddhism that at the end of each day we die when we go to sleep, and at the beginning of each day we are born anew when we wake.

And so today I reflect not just on Kathy’s passing twenty three years ago: I reflect on the 8400 times I have died and been reborn since that day. I reflect on the unknown numbers of deaths and rebirths that await me yet in this form. I work to look forward rather than backward, for I have lived my life in a melancholy past for much of my life and want instead to live in a joyful present and a hopeful future.

I am listening to Arvo Pärt’s work for organ, Trivium I – III. Its sparseness has the proper reverent tone for a reflection like this. But, too, it has a delicate beauty that mirrors life. Beautiful, fleeting, passing in the blink of an eye.

In addition to keeping alive the memory of those who have gone, perhaps the greatest honor we can do them is to simply live and feel all that beauty that life has.

Perhaps the most poignant statement to that effect is made by Kevin Spacey at the end of American Beauty.

So today, I honor the memory of Kathy: I think back to her dark and blasphemous sense of humor, her beautiful dark eyes, the skirts and the hat she always wore, and I celebrate it all. And I celebrate the joy of my life, all the good in it, all the joy and pain and aliveness I have been gifted with these 8400 days.

Magister Ludens Irae

or: Master of the Game of Wrath (with tip of the hat to Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game)

I have been thinking rather a bit about my posting talking about how angry and resentful my work has made me.

It was one of those posts that was written quickly, driven by the energy of realization and the power of the underlying emotion realized.

It is in some ways one of the most open postings I’ve ever made. Unlike other postings about myself, it’s me showing something I’m not proud of or happy about. It’s me showing how my circumstances have made me other than I want to be. And that’s a very vulnerable thing. It’s natural after sharing something like that to have worry and regret: should I not have posted it, will people like me less now that they see this side of me.

But as I thought about that all, I realized that my feelings about this post is misdirected. The post only shows what’s already there. If I’m going to feel worry and regret about this at all, I should feel it for those feeling being there in the first place and not for talking about it.

And so it was that I found myself feeling worry and regret about the anger and resentment that I find in myself from work after the post.

But then I started to think about the post before that, The Game where I closed by saying:

So, yes, I do desire this all once more and innumerable times more. Yes, thank you, for all of it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, I can’t wait to do it all again, and again, and again, and….

How can I say “yes” to what I had been thinking about in that earlier post and yet feel worry and regret about my work. Shouldn’t I be saying “yes” to what I’ve been through? Am I being a hypocrite?

Well, to a degree, yes, I was. Though more accurately, I would say that when I wrote Dies Irae I was still focused on the acknowledgement stage in coping. But having taken the thesis of Dies Irae and had it collide with the antithesis of The Game, I realize now there is a synthesis of the two pending. And I realize that synthesis is of critical importance for draining off the poison and the venom. For the synthesis is going and looking at this whole painful, damaging experience and learning how I am better for it, how the me that is emerging from it is so much more than I was before, for the better.

It’s not yet time for that. I need to close this chapter. But there will come a reckoning of what I’ve been through and out of that will, eventually, come the realizations of why I’m better for all that’s good and why I will say “yes” to that all again and again and again.

The Game

About all things, the question can and should be asked:

Is it worth playing the game?

No matter how much we win, by equal measure we will lose. The greater winner becomes the greater loser.

Is it worth playing the game? If you are looking at the game for payoffs, then the answer is no. There is no payoff, really. You walk out with what you walked in with: nothing.

But, what if you look at the game not for the payoff but for the experience itself? No one can take that away from you. The highs and lows you experience as you win it all and lose it all: those are yours and always will be until you are no more.

It is worth playing the game? I can say yes it is, because I’m learning to love the game and not worry about the payoff.

Today is one of those days I thank the Universe for all the pain, suffering and loss in my life. Because without them, I would fail to recognize and appreciate all the pleasure, joy and richness.

It is a day that reminds me of the powerful courage it takes to say “Yes” to Life, to look at at it all and say “Yes, thank you, for all of it, I wouldn’t change a thing”. This is what Nietzsche tries to evoke in his talk about “eternal return“. As he says in The Gay Science, Aphorism 341:

The greatest weight

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

So, yes, I do desire this all once more and innumerable times more. Yes, thank you, for all of it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, I can’t wait to do it all again, and again, and again, and….