Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Fartsack Parachute

When I was about 9 years old, I found a discarded cloth mattress cover on an old mattress that had been tossed out with the garbage, along with a large plastic bag that, I assume, the new mattress for whoever had discarded the old one had come packaged in.

I struggled and pulled and finally got the mattress cover off of the old mattress, then, triumphantly carrying my find, went in search of some other items... I had a plan, you see...

I scavenged a bale of old clothesline, and a few other scrap items, and fashioned what I believed to be a fairly functional parachute out of the fartsack, with the plastic bag nested inside of it, held to the cloth with a few judiciously placed stitches that I sewed in with quilting thread. I cut a hole in the apex, just as I had learned from books that I had recently read on the subject, fashioned some suspension lines and risers, and even a rudimentary harness, and, feeling satisfied with my creation, anxiously went in search of a venue in which to test it out!

I decided that the fire escape of the apartment building that I lived in would be just the test platform that I required for the experiment.

I took the elevator to the top floor of the apartment building, which happened to be the sixth floor, and snuck out onto the roof of the building (Where, I might add, I was unmistakably prohibited to be, for any reason at all.. the interests of modern experimental science not withstanding!). Looking down the six stories to the ground over the edge of the parapet, I quickly assessed that six floors might just be a little high for a first run, so I began to quietly and sneakily descend the fire escape, all the while judging my relative distance to the ground.

When I arrived at the fourth floor fire escape, I felt that this height would be just about high enough to give my 'parachute' time to open, while not necessarily killing me if it should fail, even though the landing surface below was a less than optimal asphalt parking area.

I strapped on my newly created contraption, and climbed up onto the rail of the fire escape, balancing precariously there like a cat, and just happened to catch a glimpse of the horrifed occupant of the apartment of whose fire escape I had just hurled myself off of as I jumped up and out, in an attempt to put some distance between me and the rather unforgiving metal surfaces of the fire escape, on my leap to fame and stardom. I could already imagine, quite vividly, how impressed everyone was going to be with my ingenuity and workmanship!

Much to my satisfaction, the fartsack parachute opened perfectly with a very satisfying 'pop'! Much to my dismay and horror, however, was the distinctive ripping sound that immediately followed the pop.... (oh..... shit!)

A huge tear had ripped my parachute open so that it was nothing more than a sort of cloth streamer trailing behind me as I fell, resembling nothing so much as a Kamikaze comet on a collision course with the parking lot far below!

I plummeted the four stories to the ground in somewhat less than a second, slamming into the ground at what felt like about 120 miles an hour. I had an indistinct plan to roll upon impact, much as I had been learning in my judo classes. What actually happened, instead, was that my legs, unable to hold my weight at such a velocity, collapsed underneath me, and I gave myself a rather substantial 'root in the stones' with the heel of one or both of my feet as my body slammed down onto them! I then flopped to one side or the other, removing much of the skin on my body on that side in the process, and giving my head a good thunk on the asphalt for good measure.

This all happened almost instantaneously, and I laid there, curled into a fetal position, attempting to breathe, and being somewhat startled at the intensity of the pain that was washing through my tortured body at the time.

To add to my relative discomfort, the fartsack was fluttering in the breeze, in what I considered to be a distinctly obnoxious, vindictive, and mocking fashion.

After what seemed like about an hour, a number of tenants rushed up to ask me whether I was killed as a result of my fall, and to helpfully make suggestions as to my future behaviour, my relative level of intellect and psychological stability, and my suitability as a member of society specifically, and as a member of the human race at large. While I was certainly grateful for their input, I nevertheless decided that a graceful exit was called for after a few seconds of this (well... maybe not that graceful... but an exit nonetheless...)

I limped off, oozing blood picking asphalt sprinkles out of the worst road-rashy bits, my body aching and stinging in places where I never even knew I had places, and found someplace that only a kid would know about and did the best I could to tend to my wounds.. both the physical injuries, and those to my pride.

When I finally went home later on that day, I was somewhat caught off-guard by my mothers seemingly psychic knowledge of my activities earlier in the day. Surprisingly, she raised many of the same issues as the other tenents in the building concerning my intelligence, judgement, and level of sanity, which, naturally, I found to be somewhat noteworthy and surprising! This was all very interesting to me, until the beatings commenced...

As I lay in my bed, the innocent victim of parental brutality and societal misunderstanding, I resolved to find myself a stronger fartsack the next time I attempted to leap from a tall building!!...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"You're 'Something', Right?"

A few minutes after I got home from work last night, my wife's tenant knocked on the door to tell me that there was no heat in the front house.

To make a long story short, she had two separate technicians here till late last night, but neither could figure out what the problem was.. never mind fix it!

I ended up calling in to work and staying home in order to call yet another repairman and to be here so that I could explain what the problem was, show him where the furnace was, etc. Needless to say, I was stressing out over what this was going to cost, since we don't have any money to spend... period!

When the guy showed up, we went down into the basement of the front house, and began to converse while he worked on the problem. It took a great deal of time, and he finally thought that he had it figured out. He thought that it was the transformer that is mounted on the ceiling down there... It was my thought that the transformer had been working since long before I was born, and that it seemed strange that it would suddenly go bad... I asked if there were another transformer anywhere, and he replied that he didn't think so.

I took a look at a schematic diagram on the face plate of the unit that he was working on, and pointed out a symbol for a transformer and asked whether this was the one on the ceiling, or a different one. He stared at it for a minute or so, and then asked me if I had a flashlight... lo and behold, there was a transformer hidden back in there, and after he pulled everything out and tested it, he determined that this was where the problem was! This was good news, because had it been the other one, it would have involved about two hours or more of driving in order to get the part, and the part was expensive.

After he got everything working, we came over to the cottage to settle the bill, as we were sitting on the couch chatting while he filled out the invoice, he suddenly looked over at me and asked me, "Um... Ah.... You're, like.... something, right??"

I said, "Excuse me?" (!)

He looked around the room for a few seconds, coughed, cleared his throat, resettled himself and repeated his question, asking me if I were 'something'. He looked very earnest, and I sort of had a sense that this was important.

I cautiously pointed out that everything is something, and that I wasn't trying to be flippant or obtuse, but that I didn't exactly know what he meant by 'something'.

He shrugged and sort of tossed his head, casting about for a better way to phrase his question... then he said, "You are, or were, like a priest, or a monk... some kind of holy-man or something... aren't you?"

At this his eyes grew huge, and he looked to be about nine years old. Something was bothering him....

I replied, "Well... not exactly, but sort of.... what's on your mind?? I would be happy to help you, if I am able to... even if it's only to listen...."

He took a deep breath, sighed audibly, turned to face me full on, and announced that today was exactly one year and eight months since his mother died.


He explained that she died of congestive heart failure at the age of 41, and that he had had to make the decision whether or not to unplug her from the life support system.

This choice had been, and still was, burdening him greatly...

We talked for a good while, and I told him about when my grandmother died, and how it affected me, and how, over the ensuing years, I have tried to come to terms with her loss...

I explained to him what my views were on death, and life, and how I try to approach these issues, and I told him that I had absolutely no answers.

I told him ways that he was carrying his mother in his heart, and that, from where I stood, it appeared to me that she did a fine job in the raising of her son.

Lastly, I told him that when he made his decision, he made the best decision that he could make at the time, and that no matter what, that this was the very most that anybody could ever do. Make the best decision that they can make under the circumstance, and with the information that they have at hand at the time.

I told him that I was certain that his mother would not want him to carry this sort of burden with him each and every day... and that if he could leave it behind, that it would leave more room to carry her in his heart.

His eyes welled up with tears, and he asked me whether I thought he had done the right thing.

I told him that just by virtue of the fact that he was as concerned about the decision this long afterwards that I was absolutely certain that he did the best that he could have done, and that that is all that is humanly possible.

I told him that this being so, that yes, I thought he had done the right thing.

He nodded, and thanked me, and turned to go. I told him that I hoped that if anyone ever had to make such a decision as this concerning me, that I hoped they would take it is seriously as he had, and that if I ever had to make such a decision that I could do at least half as good of a job of it as he had.

His face lit up in a huge smile, and he took my hand and shook it, thanking me. He held on to it for a few seconds, looked me square in the eye and said, "I knew you were something... I mean, a holy man!!, I just knew it!!"

"Really?" I asked.


"How did you know?? What on earth made you think this?", I asked.

He indicated me, with a sweep of his hand, and explained with a shrug, "You just look like one!", then, turning, he left.

I stood there, in the doorway, and watched him go, trying to decide just what a holy-man looks like, or if, at least, there was a single common characteristic that identified such a person from the rest of humanity. I can't really single anything out in my mind, though I can definitely look at someone and know that they are a holy-man. It sort of irks me that I can't figure out precisely what it is that clues me in. Since that time, I have been wondering, specifically, what he ever could have seen in me that would lead him to this conclusion...I am not, in the strict sense of the world, a holy-man of any type. I have not attended a seminary, or any other meaningful, organized course of instruction. I am, however, a holy-man in a broad respect, meaning in the way that I live my life, the way that I think, the way that I feel, and the way that I view the world, deity, and my relationship with them. Even so, though, I have to say that I am completely dumfounded at this, even though this has happened to me many times in the past.

When I look in the mirror, what I see is me, nothing special, nothing sacred, nothing holy... just me; A somewhat burly forty six year old, six foot tall, 250 pound guy, with a high and tight military crew cut, two days of beard stubble, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, sleeves pushed up to reveal arms almost covered in tattoos...

I'm not holy looking at all.

If anything, I look a little rough around the edges....I have been told that I have a rather direct, or intense gaze that some folks actually find a bit unsettling, which is sort of what I would think is the opposite to what I would expect to see in anyone that I would consider to be a holy-man.

It's extremely confusing to me, and runs absolutely against the grain, in my opinion. I'm not gentle looking, I'm not particularly handsome, and I don't exactly exude charisma.... I have a mouth like a sailor, and my hands make me look like I am a manual laborer. I can't figure this out.

I am glad that the people who need to see whatever it is can see it. I only wish that I could see whatever it is that they are looking at. I tend to think that I would take comfort in it somehow.

Well... now that I am thinking about it, I suppose the only thing that really does matter is that if I am capable of helping somebody in some way, so long as they see whatever it is that they see, whether or not there is actually anything there for them to see, or whether they are simply projecting whatever it is they need to see onto me, then it is working out the way it should and I can definitely take comfort in that!

It's still weird though... but in a good way...


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pinpoint Planning, Material Girl, Between the Worlds

My son is scheduled to come to visit while on leave from the Air Force this weekend. He is planning on leaving the military, and is going to be taking some civil service tests and that sort of stuff in order to prepare for his eventual separation from active duty. I would have said that he was coming to visit today, but that would have represented a gross inaccuracy on my part. I originally thought that he was arriving today, for some random, inarticulateable reason.. to the extent that I got Elysia up out of a warm, snuggly bed and dragged her tired ass to the airport where we stood around while I looked stupid for about 20 minutes before leaving and returning home, where I proceeded to ACTUALLY READ the damned itinerary that he had sent me via email, whereupon I learned that he will actually be arriving tommorrow morning at the same time... that being 8:57AM. So we will be getting up early on both weekend days that we would have otherwise been able to sleep in on.... (well... at least one of them...) because I am, it would seem... a complete dick. (sigh)

This appears to be a genetic deficiency that I inherited from him somehow, which seems to be in direct conflict with any and all natural laws and scientific principles, but I assure you that it is so;.... You see, the last time he came to visit, he advised us that he would be arriving at 09:00AM, when in fact he was arriving at 21:00 hrs, (which is 9:00PM). The confusion arose due to the fact that when in the military, all times are written or otherwise communicated utilizing a 24 hour time format. When he read his ticket, it said 09:00 which he understood to mean 0900hours, or nine hours after midnight... in direct contradiction to the particularly visible "AM" that followed the time. Had it said 2100 instead, the entire calamity would have been avoided.... in that instance, we went to the airport twice in order to pick him up once, and, so it would seem, we haven't yet found any reason to break this pattern of behavior.

I don't have any such convenient excuse, so I have to simply admit to being a complete dunce and leave off of it.

(Herendeth the daily gauntlet of humiliation)

I have noticed, as a point of interest, although not as a point of concern, that I completely lack a particular quality of thought, or character, or personality that just about everyone with whom I work, and with whom we do business seems to exhibit.

They all have a great deal of interest in the newest, most well-equipped, up-to-date, state of the art, bleeding edge, technologically advanced whatever that happens to be the focus of attention at any given point in time.

What the HELL am I on about (??!) you must be wondering?.... well, quit your wondering, read on... and I will tell you;

It seems to me that everyone else with whom I share my daily existence, excepting myself (and my wife), appears to know instinctively what the most sought-after faddish consumer item is at any given moment. Whether it be a game console, satellite radio, snowmobile, portable mp3 player, watch, television, cd player, cell phone, or what have you. They all know what it is, what its features are, how much it costs, and where, or whether or not it is currently available, what accessories are, or will, become available for it, and when, and just about every other obscure detail that can possibly exist regarding what, at least to me, is simply an inanimate object.

I have watched this process repeat itself over and over, and it sort of goes like this; A new doohickey is announced, and everybody simply must have one, or they will be miserable. They all rush out and purchase one, and everybody is thrilled! For a time. Eventually, they tire of it, and you don't really see or hear about it any more. THEN!, a new doohickey!, or an improved one comes out, and they all need that one! Same deal; they pine away for it until they get thier hands on it, and after some relatively short period of time, the object loses its value, and they want something else, something newer, something cooler, something that has more features,... whatever!... it is, apparently, an unending process of consumerism. I want, I want, I want... because I am entitled to HAVE! To me.. this is a mistaken and ill way of thinking that requires healing.

Strangely to other people, but not at all strage to me is the fact that I don't really have this going on inside my head... this isn't a pronouncement of my superiority or some arrogant statement... It can't be, because I'm not describing an achievement, I am describing an inherent quality.. It isn't something that I have any right to feel superior about, it is just something that is. I am left handed. I have brown eyes. I don't feel a need to continuously add to my collection of stuff. It is what it is.

I don't really want to participate in the whole consumerism thing.. I have, basically, what I need, and I don't go about attempting to continuously acquire more, and more, and more... I just don't. And I'm glad for it.

I am happy with what small amount of stuff that I own, although, admittedly, I do go out and buy the occasional book. Other than that, I don't really buy 'stuff' unless it is something that I need, (and I mean actually need). This isn't because I am a cheap bastard, and it isn't because of my crappy financial situation (I am emphatically not cheap or miserly, and my financial status is crappy, but neither really has anything to do with the situation...) it has pretty much always been that way. I just don't crave stuff. On one hand, it is somewhat obscene to me to continuously want more and more and more with no end in sight. Particularly when most of that stuff will simply sit unused in a garage, attic, on a shelf, or someplace else.

I am very much aware of what so many people do not have... and I am talking about basic necessities, here, folks. And I am also even more aware of what all of this amassing of things does to us as a people. From an ecological standpoint, from a cultural standpoint, and from a spiritual standpoint. I don't like what I see... so I have taken a deliberate step away from it, in truth... but this goes deeper in me, in the sense that I never really had this particular bent. I have always been essentially happy with the stuff that I already had, and I take care of it. I don't need the newest, shiniest, most up to date gadget in existence in order to be happy, or in order to feel a part of 'the club'.

It just isn't on my radar. And I don't want it to be. Honestly, its kind of creepy to watch from the outside looking in. I feel as though these folks really won't be happy unless they acquire whatever the 'flavor of the month' happens to be. Its sad, to me, in a way. They don't appear to be able to just enjoy life 'as it is' without having or using these adjuncts in order to do so... what does that say about us as a society, I wonder?

This situation can be awkward for me when someone says something like, "So, what do you think of the new Sirrius?(sp?), they're really hard to come by, eh?"

When this question was posed to me yesterday, I tried like hell to determine from the context just what a Sirrius (Serious? Zirrius?) was... finally, I was forced to admit that I had no idea what the person was talking about. This, strangely, affronted the individual who more or less stormed off in righteous indignation, apparently because he felt that I was being deliberately obtuse. I was not. I have since learned that the item in question is some type of satellite radio for the vehicle, and is difficult to find... But I don't care. I don't NEED a satellite radio. I don't care about them... I don't read about them... I don't think about them...I don't seek out information regarding them, and, since I have no plans to obtain one, I have no need to know about them.

I'm confused as to why other folks get insulted when I explain that I don't really buy stuff, as a general rule, and that I honestly don't understand very much about what they are talking about, since I have no frame of reference, and because of the fact that this subject matter holds absolutely no relevance to my life, such as it is, and, furthermore, (Wow! that's a lot of 'ands'!) that I am happy for them for the fact they are getting the thing that they seem to think is so important, but that I'm not sure why they need it or what they are going to do with it, since the last twenty things that were going to be the source of happiness didn't seem to last all that long....

This is where I am generally accused of being a weird fuck and dismissed. Angrily.

My question is this.. WHY do I have to want material shit for which I have no need and no desire in order to fit in and be viewed as socially acceptable?? I find enjoyment in other things... I read, I learn, I love the world around me; the sky, sunsets, plants, the weather, my village, the ocean, lakes, rivers, meadows... that sort of stuff... it is FREE. It is always there... and it is much more valuable to me than a television the size of a dumpster! I cannot find a single thing wrong with this view. It is a completely articulateable and more or less self-evident fact, as far as I am concerned, that this fixation on buying things, more things, and yet more things is nothing more than an artificial substitution for some quality that is obviously missing in each of these person's lives. If they were generally happy, and went and purchased something.. it wouldn't even catch my attention, most likely.. This is not the situation that I am trying to describe here. I am talking about a person who has verbally or otherwise communicated in a clearly understandable fashion that they will not or feel that they cannot be happy without the object in question. There has got to be something wrong with this.... there just has to be!

I enjoy being with people and sharing the now. I don't feel a need to focus on a piece of property. I take enjoyment out of the process of living my life with my fellow creatures.. whatever they happen to be. I like to participate in my life. To take part, and BE a part. I don't need things in order to do that.

If other folks want things, that's fine by me... buy 'em! I don't need them, and I don't see why I should be judged because of this. The things that I generally do want or need are almost never the new high-tech consumer items. I may purchase art or craft supplies, or books, or perhaps a music CD, now and again. I HAVE a cd player... I don't need to constantly replace what I have with the newest version. What I have serves me well, and I am satisfied with that. Grateful for it, actually. If and when I perceive a need to acquire something, I usually think it over and wait until I can clearly see a need for this new item. It just seems sensible to me to live my life in this fashion.

It sort of goes up my ass that I have to get badgered and berated over this unimportant shit. I would like to tell these folks to go fuck themselves sometimes, but I know that this isn't the right way to handle it, so instead, I just explain that I don't want to take part in the cyle of amassing material objects for the sake of having them without any clearly definable need. When I do purchase something, particularly something that isn't an outright necessity.. it is just about always something that better enables me to engage my world, rather than to close myself off from it....

I am a custodian of this world... I don't own it. I am keeping it safe and sound for the children and grandchildren be they mine or other people's, who will follow in my stead. If I take careless actions that harm the environment, or destroy life, or damage the earth, then I am, in effect, screwing the future inhabitants of this world... human or otherwise. Its a selfish act, and it is morally repugnant to me.

I am not the only custodian of this earth. You are one, too. Each and every one of you. Don't for a second believe that your actions, or mine, don't have an effect. However small, they absolutely do.

I cannot say that the living of my life has never caused damage to the environment... I know that I produce waste, and that I consume resources... I do. This doesn't give me carte blanche to simply go on a rampage and use and destroy everything and anything around me! I may not be able to live transparently, but the least I can do is to be mindful enough to try to keep whatever negative impact that I, as a living, breathing person, have on my surroundings and on the earth at large.

No earth. No life. Period. Case closed.

There is some skewed view that many people hold that we (humans) are somehow superior to other life forms and that we have some right or entitlement to take whatever we want, no matter what it is, and to destroy anything that gets in our path. I don't think that we do.

I would love to be able to live in a fashion that would leave no footprints whatsoever behind me. Because I live in a society, I am forced (or I choose) to follow its mores to a great degree. On the other hand, I must also consider that somebody has to set the precedents for these mores, and that each person has to take responsibility for the impact that they have.

I suppose in some small way, I am trying to accomplish this by doing all of the small things that I do. One of these things is to not to start being drawn in by consumerism... I haven't been sucked in by it yet, so I see no reason to start now.

For whatever reason, the group of folks at my place of employment are overly concerned with amassing property, wealth, or whatever the hell that is... the level of greed is disturbing to me. I hear people who live a comfortable life do nothing but complain about the things that they don't have. Its sort of sad, in a way. Infuriating in others.

I am glad that I am me, in this case... I don't want to ever be like that. I would be terribly disappointed in myself if I ever realized that I had turned out that way.

On to the next topic...

On a spiritual level, I have been turning my focus more and more in this direction. This makes me happy, helps me to feel much more satisfied with my life, even though I was extremely satisfied to begin with, and has caused me to see things from a different perspective and to think about things in on different terms than ever before.

I am not a clergyman, and yet, I don't think I am entirely secular, either.... I am currently walking between the worlds.... part of me in this world, and part of me in the otherworld... while simultaneously being entirely present in both. This is turning out to be much more difficult to explain in words than I had thought...

I have been set on a course... or have set myself on a course, depending upon how one looks at it, I suppose...

I don't know where it will take me, or if 'where' is even an appropriate word in this instance. In any case, I am happy to be on this course, whether or not it ever goes anywhere... things are just.... better!! So, good for me, I guess. If this is too much of an introspective or intensely personal topic and has no relevence for you, the reader, my apologies. It does, however, hold great significance for me, and for my life... so I feel compelled to share it to some degree. I just want to make it clear that I am not trying to coerce anyone into sharing my beliefs or to change thier own in any way. I am simply sharing my own personal experience with you. That is, more or less, what this whole blog is about, after all!

I am looking forward to seeing my son. He has turned out to be better, in so many ways, than I ever could have hoped or expected. There were a great many difficulties in our relationship, and in raising him.... they seem to have all worked themselves out. He is doing remarkably well, and I am exceedingly proud of him. The only thing I ever wanted of him was for him to grow and find his way in the world, and to be happy. It seems to me that he is doing just that. What more can I ask?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

To Hell With That Noise!! - And What is That All About?

A few days back, it occurred to me that it might not be practicable for me to have Valentine's Day flowers delivered to Elysia at her workplace. I didn't want her to be disappointed, after waiting all day for a flower delivery man to come... or worse, have one show and deliver flowers to someone else, which would suck! So, one evening, while we were farting around at home, I mentioned that I would most likely not be able to send flowers to her at work... She gave this some thought, then, apparently accepting the point, nodded, and agreed that it was most likely a bad idea, flowers being wasteful, and all that... I mentally raised my eyebrows at this, and went on...

"I was going to get you some candies, but, since we are concerned with fitness and all, I figured it would probably be a bad idea...."

I let the sentence sort of trail off, and Elysia, taking the bait, jumped right in for me;

"Definitely don't get candies. They wont get eaten, and will be a total waste..."

I continued, "We should just agree to save money this year, and maybe exchange cards or something...."

"Good idea! Maybe we can pick out a movie that we both like, or something, and it'll be a Valentine's present for both of us!"

[this did actually sound like a pretty good idea to me!]

"Great! Its settled, then! That's what we'll do! No silly flowers... no silly candies... none of that nonsense! We'll get a movie or a CD or something!"

Having settled that, I promptly went out and got her a boquet of flowers, the largest box of candy that I could find, and some cards.

When she walked in from work, she stopped short when she saw the flowers, and her face lit up in a smile that could dazzle the world!! And, when she spotted the candy, it got even brighter!!

Those candies, that wouldn't get eaten, were immediately ripped open and we both tested a couple... you know, for public health reasons... wouldn't want to leave any spoiled candies lying about... might cause an epidemic or something!!

Shortly, we will go out to pick out a movie - (I don't care what she says... I'm still going to get her a movie that I know she likes... she's the girl, and she's special, and she is getting a present... period) and then we are going to our local Thai restaurant for some yummy dinner!!

Yesterday was exactly 17 years that we have known each other... I fell in love with her the first time I ever laid eyes on her...

We are participating in a marriage study at the local university. The questions don't really apply to us... its sort of weird, but its a lot of fun. After it is all over, I will write a post about it. I don't want to talk too much about it, because we aren't really supposed to discuss it until after its over. I'm having a blast, plus I will learn stuff about our relationship, PLUS, I get to help a guy earn his Doctorate!!

When I was getting the flowers, I went to the counter and placed my order, then paid, and moved back to wait for them to make up the arrangement (after being a pain in the A-hole and 'helping' to pick out the flowers!). While I was standing there, among maybe thirty other guys, I noticed them all craning their necks and staring towards the register, then all simultaneously looking away, and then doing it again!

(What the Fuck?!)

I started to watch, and it was creepy... every guy would crane his neck, then look away... all at the exact same time!!

I looked to see what they were looking at.

Ah-HA! The girl behind the counter happened to be wearing a loose blouse, and when she would bend over to write... all the guys were staring at her boobs!! When she would look up, they all looked away!

I thought about this for a moment... and almost busted out laughing! Here were all these guys, in a florist to purchase flowers for their wives, mothers, girlfriends, or what-have-you, and they are gawking down this woman's blouse at her boobs!

Man... guys are strange. I'm a guy, and I'm strange, too... but still.

It was harmless, and it was damned funny, if you ask me!!

Well... I'm off to have some Valentine's Day fun with my gorgeous wife!! See ya!!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hey! Today is My First Blognniversary!

Well. It has been one full turn of the wheel for Bear Tracks! Sort of hard to believe for me in two opposite ways at the same time; It is hard for me to believe that a year has gone by already, and at the same time, I can't quite get my brain around the fact that it has only been one measly year...

So much has changed in this past year, and so much has remained exactly the same. I can't decide which is more difficult to come to terms with, really.

I have made a bunch of friends amongst you, and I'm glad for that. In all honesty, this came a great surprise to me. I didn't honestly expect anyone to ever come wandering over to my silly little blog, tucked away as it is in this lonely little corner of the ("He's NOT going to say it!" -- "OH NO!! I think he IS!! AAARGGH!!") Blogosphere. But, slowly at first, and then with more and more regularity, you all started popping by and actually reading this stuff that I write. I am pleasantly surprised, sometimes baffled, but overall, I have come to love my blog, and the effect that it has had on my way of thinking, my way of viewing the world around me, and the way that it has helped me to organize and articulate my thoughts. I am constantly 'the observer' now, always looking at things with my full attentiveness. Whereas, in the past I would be alert and aware when it suited me and simply a passive observer when that suited me; I find that now I am always taking part in the world with the knowledge that at some point in the near future, I will be sitting in front of the keyboard, with a blank 'Create Post' screen in front of me, wondering just what it is that I would like to share today... This has nudged me into a much more.... emmm... present frame of mine. I engage my world, I think in a much more critical fashion, while simultaneously thinking in a far more poetic way than I ever have.. (at least to my conscious knowledge).

There have been other benefits, as well, to keeping this blog. Since I am so much more present and participatory in the world, rather than living in my own head, I have changed my way of looking at things to the extent that it has spurred me to expand my knowledge and to explore more spiritual avenues in my life. This can only be a good thing, I think. In more mundane areas of life, it has helped me to either avoid conflicts or to resolve them, because not only am I very observant, and thus better equipped to gather my thoughts and articulate them concisely and accurately, but I am also much more cognizant of the underlying threads of these conflicts, and therefore able to see how they connect to me, and elsewhere, and thereby follow them to the source of the conflict and resolve it from that point... often without the conflict ever manifesting itself in the apparent world.

(What the fuck is he talking about?!)

I look back to how I was feeling and how I was dealing with issues that were complicating my life this time last year, and compare that to how I deal with issues now, and can see a remarkable difference in my personality and in my character.

Of course, the question remains; Did the blog cause these changes?? Or was the blog simply an effect of the changes that were already taking place?? Well. Simply put, I have no idea. What I know is that it (this blog), and all of you folks, have been an immensely positive force in my life. I have met folks that I would never have otherwise met, and I am glad to have come to know each and every one of you, even in the small way that our paths have crossed. I have wondered what some of you are like, what your day might be like, whether we may have crossed paths in the real world without knowing it, and whether we would be driven to choke each other's necks if we ever actually met even though we get along in this medium. I have wondered why each of you started blogging in turn, and whether it was a similar experience to my own. My guess is that there are as many reasons as there are blogs.

In any case, this whole blogging thing is pretty cool. I look forward jealously to the times when I can sit my ass down, with nothing else pressing that simply has to be done, clear my mind, and begin to write. It is cathartic, relaxing, and a great deal of fun!

Lately, I haven't had a great deal of time to sit and write, and for that I apologize, though I hope you will understand that life sometimes asserts itself, and Bear has to respond accordingly. I would rather leave off and not write than to simply sit and write drivel of the "I don't have time to write so I'm not writing" variety. I leave it to you to work out that Bear isn't posting by the clear evidence that there are, in fact, no posts. Each one of you has struck me as being particularly sharp, on the ball, and otherwise 'with it', so I prefer not to insult your intelligence by attempting to explain to you what is patently evident. When I post, I put everything I have into it. Some of my posts fall flat, and some are better than others, but from my standpoint, so long as I have done my very best at putting my thoughts and feelings into words, it is a good post.

As I sit here, listening to 'Sunday Baroque' on NPR, snow is falling in heaps outside my window. I went out this morning to shovel the vehicles out and to try to create a path to the front house, but as fast as I shovelled, the paths were being filled in. Nature is much better, it would seem, at dropping snow than I am at removing it. I therefore (wisely, in my studied opinion!) decided to come back inside and curl up in my computer chair and just write till I'm done. Elysia (who is Marcheline) made up a wonderful pot of choclatey (choclatie?) coffee, and we both sat down at our respective desks and began to think and to write. So, I have Baroque music floating at me from one side, and the sound of her keyboard tapping wafting from the other... this is great!

At work, I have been busting my ass, and getting a lot of things done. Apparently, the bosses have taken notice, and have let me know. This is pretty cool, I think, and certainly beats the hell out being crapped on or getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick or slapped in the belly with a wet sea bass!!

I have noticed a somewhat curious trend of late; People that I don't know very well, or who I don't really know very much at all, for that matter, have been approaching me with rather metaphysical or philosophical questions.. maybe some examples are in order; One of our customers had been diagnosed with cancer. They found a mass in his pancreas and gave him a few months to live. He approached me, and asked me whether I would walk with him for a few minutes, so I walked with him. He wanted to know whether I could tell him what would happen to him after he died. I knew for a fact that he didn't share my religious beliefs, (few people do...), so I was a little bit uncomfortable answering his question. I figured that honesty was the best policy in this case, so I told him exactly that; that I was fairly sure we didn't share religious beliefs or philosophies, and that I wasn't sure that my answer to him would be very much of a comfort. He explained that he would very much like to hear my answers, or my opinions to be more accurate, since I don't actually have any answers... and so we talked. He began to cry and he hugged me (which is passing strange in and of itself.. this guy, and most of my customers for that matter, are contractors; construction workers - they don't cry, and they certainly don't hug! But, there it is... in the end, we are all simply human, and have to face one of the most difficult realities of all; that we must all die completely alone.. nobody can die for us, or with us. In the end, we are, each and every one of us, completely and utterly cut off from the rest of humanity in this respect. The fact that each and every one of us will similarly share this experience in our own time, is, I think, not a great comfort in such times... I don't quite know what is. Other than to say that others have gone through this change, and that it is simply that... a change...) and thanked me and went home. That was the last time I ever saw him in this world, and I still don't know whether my answers were of any help to him whatsoever.

The next time this happened, the querant also happened to be a customer, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer. He had a tracheotomy, and it was difficult for him to speak. He was still working at the time, because he didn't really see any reason to not try to continue his life as best as he could. He basically pulled me aside, and explained that he had three kids and a wife, and that he had three months to live and didn't know what would happen to him. I told him, truthfully, that I really had no idea either... he said that I must have some idea, and I asked him why he felt that this would be so... His response startled me. He said, "Well, you used to be a monk or a priest, or something like that, weren't you?!" I gaped at him for a few seconds, spluttered for a few more, and finally asked him where on earth he had heard that I had been a monk! He said he hadn't actually heard it anywhere, but that he had just assumed that I was because of the way I was (curiously, I have heard various versions of this from too many different people for me to completely dismiss it as nonsense. They are perceiving something that is fostering this belief, though I can't say that I have any idea what, specifically, it could be. For those of you who have met me, you can understand why I find this to be baffling. For those of you who have not, I lean towards a grab-ass, irreverant type of humor, and have been told that I am somewhat direct, if not entirely blunt, in my contact with others. This is not to say that I am insensitive, I am not. I am just, in my own opinion, much more worldly than, say, a priest or a monk. I speak from experience on this, having spent a great deal of time around both during my lifetime. Monks, priests, imams, abbots, ministers, and other religious adherents and leaders, actually... perhaps it has 'rub off' on me in some visible way.. I don't know). This actually made me laugh, and I asked whether it was use of the word 'Shit' or the word 'Fuck' that mostly clued him in... at this point, he laughed at my joke, then sobered a bit, and said that none of that had anything to do with it... he explained that he didn't really go to church, and that he wasn't really a religious person, but that he knew that he could die at any moment, and that he just wanted to talk to someone about it. I told him that I wasn't a priest and that I didn't really have any answers, but that I did happen to be a human being, and, as such, most likely shared a great deal in common with him, and that I would be happy to listen to him, and to talk with him. He told me about his kids, and how he felt when they were born, and how much he would miss them. He told me that he loved his wife, and how it was hard for him to imagine that he would never swing a hammer, or see the sunshine, or feel a breeze again. He wanted to know what came next, if anything... or if this was it for him. He began to cry, and I simply stood there with him, sharing the moment with him, sharing the grief with him, and let it take its course. He told me that it wasn't fair, and I agreed, but pointed out that we all get the same thing: a lifetime. We are born, we live, and we die. How much time this takes is anybody's guess. I told him that at that moment, he was still alive, and that until he actually did die, that he would remain so, unless he chose to be, or to act otherwise. I pointed out that since he seemed to be most concerned with missing his family, that perhaps the wisest course would be to spend some quality time with them and to make the most of whatever time he did have. At this he looked at me quizzically for a moment, then he stopped crying, nodding to himself as though he had accepted my point. I spoke with him, we walked, and he hugged me and went on his way. I was a little shaken, but I felt that I had done my best, and that I had certainly done what he had asked of me... I listened, and I shared my beliefs and opinions. What I did not do, was to provide any answers. I haven't seen him in a few months, now... and I can only wonder whether he has changed and moved on from this world. I don't know what, specifically, made him feel that he could talk to me about such weighty matters, but I am both glad and not glad about it at the same time. Glad that he felt that he could talk to me, and not glad because it is more of a responsibility than I really think I can handle. But, I was the person that he approached, so the responsibility was mine whether I asked for it or no... Of course, it may be that the dying approach everyone with these questions, in hopes of hearing an answer that will ease their passing... much as a child who is late for dinner will ask every passerby what time it is, in hopes of receiving an answer that will lessen the amount of trouble they get into with their folks ("I asked someone what time it was, and they told me it was only......!").

It has happened over and over again with other people, not always regarding death, but sometimes regarding other issues... often very personal issues, and I am at a loss to come up with any explanation as to why they choose me. I suppose it is what it is.

I can feel and see that there have been some rather drastic changes in me on an internal level over the past year or so. I see things differently, and I feel things differently. I am much calmer, which says a great deal because I have always been a relatively calm person. I am much more at peace with situations as they are. I tend to accept whatever difficulties present themselves to me with some degree of equanimity. Well, with a great deal of equanimity, actually. I don't think that this would be an answer to this conundrum, however, as most folks aren't around when I am responding to these sorts of things, and in any case I don't think it is a visible response.

There is either something about me of late that has beckoned to these folks who are in need, or, this is a common human experience that has finally found its way to my doorstep. So, on the one hand, there is something soothing and pleasant about me that people seek out, which would make me happy, and on the other hand, I have finally found a way to stop being completely fucked up and others are taking notice... which, I guess, should also make me happy......... or something.

In any case, It is what it is. The point of this long, drawn out soliloquy is that, for whatever the reason, people are seeking me out of late with some rather difficult questions regarding life, death, existence, relationships, lonliness, purpose and god knows what else. Since they are asking, it has pushed me and encouraged me to think about these things... and in all honesty, the more I think about it, the less I really know. I used to think I was pretty settled on these areas of thought, but now the pot has gotten all stirred up and I have been turning these things over in my mind. It is chiefly because I have been preoccupied with these thoughts that I have neglected writing, I think... more so than because I have been overly busy, though that is certainly true as well.

Where I am going with this, is that I am starting to feel a definite calling towards this vocation. Not that I want to run off and enter a monastery or anything... I don't. I am very, very happy in my present life. But I do feel a need to pursue certain avenues that would better equip me to consider these questions... these very human questions, regarding life, death, the mysteries of our existence, and our apprehension of the divine. Since I am not a follower of a faith of either Abrahamic or Dharmic origin, however, this makes my path a difficult one, since I do not know of an existent seminary or similar institution. I have, however, found a small number of religious orders who provide a meaningful course of instruction which ultimately leads to ordination. I have begun a process of applying to one of these religious orders in hopes of pursuing this goal. This is not a cult, nor would it significantly change my current lifestyle or, honestly, make any visible outward change in my demeanor, personality, or way of dealing or engaging with other people. It would be an entirely internal path that I would be following, which would, I believe, both assist me in defining some clear cut spiritual goals for myself, and would give me both an added spiritual resource, as an oath-bound ordained member of this particular religious order - specifically to the minds and writings of other members of the order who have preceeeded me on a similar path, and who, presumably, have also contemplated these same difficult questions, and it would also, in some small way, validate my qualifications to counsel others in such questions. On a personal level, this accords with me in a great way, and even though it is, as any outward manifestation of the mystical or spiritual must be, of human invention and thusly, at least in part, artificial or delusory in some part. Nevertheless, it is an outward affirmation of what has been going on inwardly for quite some time. After all, a religious experience is something that is an intensely personal experience, and which cannot, in any quantifiable way, at least, be communicated to others accurately and faithfully. At best, it can only be approximated.

In any case, I am at the earliest stages of my application and petition for membership, and am currently being investigated by the order to determine whether or not I am an appropriate and acceptable candidate for membership. It is a long and rather difficult path, should I be accepted, and will take a great deal of work on my part before I would ever be prepared to be ordained, or, for that matter, before I could ever hope to meet the strict requirements for ordination. I don't pray to either be accepted or denied entry, as I trust that the proper course of action will reveal itself in its own way and in its own good time.

I will most likely only speak of this this one time. Just to share in this one instance something that is very close to my heart, and, I believe, to be a wonderful turn in my life.

This doesn't mean that I will suddenly start to preach or to proselytize in any way. This is not a part of my religious belief, and I don't do it.

You will have noticed that I have assiduously avoided naming or identifying precisely what the order, or my particular religious belief happens to be. I have done this deliberately, because, on one hand, it doesn't, or shouldn't, matter. And on the other, I would prefer to simply leave it as it is and let you fill in the blank spots in whichever fashion you feel most comfortable doing so.

If I were pressed to define my belief system here, I suppose the best definition would be that I am "A professional invigilator of living spiritual mysteries as expressed by Celtic cultural forms". That is the best that I can do under the circumstances, I think.

On the word 'invigilator or invigilate':

Pronunciation: in-'vi-j&-"lAt
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -lat·ed; -lat·ing
Etymology: Latin invigilatus, past participle of invigilare to stay awake, be watchful, from in- + vigilare to stay awake -- see VIGILANT

Suffice it to say that there is nothing in the scope of my beliefs that would cause me to harm any other creature, or any object, for that matter.. nor to attempt to slant, or to change anybody else's set of beliefs, or to do anything that would be viewed as anything but compassionate, helpful, loving, accepting, life-affirming, and otherwise enriching. That, I think, is what is most important. For those of you who follow other pathways, I can tell you that I am comfortable with your chosen pathway, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Sikh, Native American, Indiginous to some other part of the world, Dharmic, Agnostic, or just about anything else, insofar as you are not causing harm to yourselves or to anyone else, or to the earth in the pursuit of those beliefs, and insofar as you are not judgmental of me and my chosen spritual pathway. I hope that those of you who do follow a particular religious or spiritual pathway can find it in your heart to be as non-judgemental in your views of me and mine.

In any case, I hope you will wish me well on my quest, whichever way it happens to take me. I am looking forward to it, am slightly apprehensive of it because I know it will take a great deal of work and brutal honesty and introspection, but mostly, I am gnashing at the bit in readiness to embark and let it take me wheresoever it will. It is my thought that in the end, I will be a better person for having done so, and that is a good thing, whichever way one looks at it. Whatever our reason for being put here, doing something worthwhile with the time that we have been afforded has simply got to be a wonderful thing!!

My last post was entitled 'My Brain'. Had it not been my first blognniversary, I suppose this post would have been necessarily entitled 'My Spirit', but, as it turns out, it IS my first blognniversary, and I am happy to be celebrating it, and hope to have many more!! I hope also that those of you who regularly read my blog, or, for that matter, those of you who pop by infrequently, will continue to read and comment and visit and that my writings will entertain you, cause you to laugh, or otherwise provoke you to think or consider things that perhaps you wouldn't have otherwise thought about or considered had you not stopped by. For the rest of you who do not read my blog, what the hell's the matter with ya! Get with the program!

Should anyone feel compelled, by what I have related here today, to now discuss with me some issue that is plaguing you, I can only tell you that I do not have any hard and fast answers, but that I would be happy to listen to whatever you would have to say, and that I will answer you honestly and bring to bear whatever small degree of wisdom my life experience has afforded me in an attempt to be of whatever assistance I can be. Who knows, perhaps I have once been where you are now standing...

So. I start my next year of Bear Tracks right here and now!! I am looking forward to lots and lots of Blognniversaries in the future, and I hope that you will all be there to share them with me!