stolen from deviant art: elrisha

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Bothers Me About New-Age-ism

Or: Why I Hate Going to Yoga Classes, Besides That They Kick My Ass.

I have spent most of my time in cities that pride themselves on being “weird.” Consistently, my general impression is one of mistakenly walking in on a secret society orgy for hippie and New Age exhibitionists and voyeurs. Unfortunately, instead of taking place in the rightful location of a dark, mysterious underground compound of marble and gargoyle stonework amid the fragrant stench of money and shame, it instead is a public event, skipping down the street with the latest in bamboo fashion for themselves, their children and the family dog.

The “Keep __________ Weird” movement is patronized by those who partake in flagrant, unbridled acceptance of any counterculture movement or abstract Eastern religion in order to breathe life energy and universal oneness into each and every patchouli and mango chip exhalation of each day (you manifest awareness with every single one, right?) Like the occult societies, there still is money and shame, only in this case it’s just upper middle class (the poor rich people?), not all those soulless Wall Street bankers. And the shame? The masks in these sunlit, solar-paneled eco-friendly homes are to hide the cellulite on Mom’s thighs and the crows feet sprouting too early from her eyes, despite the several hundred dollar regiment of magic skin crèmes cultivated from natural plants found only in the Amazon and a three-times a week bikram yoga. And Dad? He hides from Mom’s ballooning (ahem) unhappiness and ultimately, from himself and all the hopes and dreams that were killed by an IT job, video games and internet porn.

Now before I pigeonhole myself as a closed-minded American (read: Republican) dismissing the value of any culture other than my own, I highly value the exploration of our rich history as a species and do feel like our culture would and does really benefit from other traditions and worldviews. I would probably have killed myself by now if I was not regularly reminded that things have not always been named what they are named and not always understood as we now understand them and I firmly believe this realization has a valuable, if not absolutely essential place in everyday life. The rise of yoga, as well as the greater Eastern theology movement into our culture as a whole has gone great lengths to retard the damage our highly individualist, imperialistic and destructive cultural mentality wreaks upon our environment and upon each other. Access to ancient traditions and practices such as meditation classes, acupuncture, chakra and energy healings can resurrect the perception of the human body from its cut and dried dissection, rendered in two-tone on flashcards. All natural products, whether they be food or goods, reintroduce us to the crazy idea that maybe we should care for our environment and possibly even preserve it. God knows the trifecta McDonald’s (convenience), Walmart (consumerism) and high fructose corn syrup (chemicals) have inflated our (ahem) egos to unprecedented proportions.

So why won’t going to yoga class three times a week even accidentally lead you to enlightenment (just well-toned thighs and a possible neck injury)? When did The Secret™ stop making people fabulously wealthy (oh wait, that was a marketing ploy)?
We (the people) are the bastard love child of Scientific Inquiry and Steve Jobs (which one was the catcher?) and are currently having one of many regularly scheduled identity crises. All over America, people are reaching inward to find their inner faerie/spiritual animal/shaman and professing to understand the great secrets of the Universe. TV Tourists are watching Discovery Channel presentations on Macchu Picchu and Stonehenge and, at the local, all natural Starbucks alternative, proclaiming to each other that they understand why it was built and how to manifest the special destiny that is just for them. And every middle-aged woman, rich or poor (read: middle class), attends a yoga class at the local strip mall gym and connect with an Easternized gym teacher in natural spandex to follow her spiritual instruction and ‘revelations’ while taking her 5 week yoga certification course in Costa Rica. Is that the sound of one hand clapping?

However, when I look up at the night sky, I can only see about 25% of the sky that was visible to my ancestors due to light and air pollution. When I go out and attune myself with nature, I hear, mingled with the songs of the birds, an engine idling and can’t help notice the cigarette butts and piles of dog shit- there always one somewhere. When I consider my astrology chart, I realize I can’t differentiate a planet from a star and can’t name more than three constellations despite three astronomy classes and the help of my Google Star Chart on my phone that actually names any constellation I point it at. And I know that my experience is not all that different than Upper Middle Class Jane Blow-Hard.

Let’s face it- this consumerism-counterculture hybrid is a gremlin bastard child. It’s kind of hard to bow to the god in you when we’re sweating in Old Navy yoga pants and that ill-fitted name brand yoga workout bra I found at a discount store. Although I love the principles and perspective of yoga, and wish that I could resurrect some old sage to tell me my purpose and how to reach enlightenment in this god-forsaken universe (hell, I’d settle for a warm-fuzzy feeling at least once a week), all I see is sad, lost children dressed up in Gap Body’s take on Indian work-out garb and pronouncing words they don’t understand for an hour and a half, three times a week in hopes that something magical will happen.

I feel lost too, horribly lost at that, but I think it may be time to give up Weekend at Guru Bernie’s and find my own way to sow magic and hope back into the ground we have turned to dust and trash. That is, if I’m still able to tell the difference between earth that can sustain life and the parts that can’t anymore.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And the Gods Will Laugh

When I was 19, the oldest I could ever imagine myself was 23. Just graduating college, with the whole world in front of me: just imagine the things I would know. The experiences I would have had. The obstacles I would have overcome.
It was unimaginable. The "adult" world beckoned with its face partially hidden, promising secret pleasures and stringent expectations and responsibilities, whispering the promise that I would be able to handle it, that everything would be hard but worthwhile. I put in on a pedestal, like a prepubescent boy with his Sears lingerie magazine, and gazed at it as the ending point to my journey- knowing I had "made it." It would be in my hands one day, and I would know what to do and my movements would be sure and strong.

When I turned 23, nothing was revealed, and my unimagined future stretched out in front of me like an unfinished phrase, empty and abysmal in its black, blank stare. At 24, no light was cast in any direction, yet around me piled the things that I knew I didn't want. Although knowing what I didn't want was something, it meant turning away from the small island I had labored for, back towards the abyss and its impersonal embrace, a giant throat waiting to swallow me whole. At 24, I decided that something was better than nothing. Patience then, and fortitude, and strength and self-control, those were the things I must exhibit, but at this age, I knew I did not possess these things naturally, and everything became a fight. I would fight for the future that evaded me then. If nothing else, passion. Passion, steel-headed belief, the ability to rise from pain again and again, to grit my teeth and bear the tearing of seams and reaming of my daily return to the cultivation of all the things I lacked.

At 25, under the strain of the uncertain, toppling structure of my island, I cracked up. Far too young, according to Fitzgerald, who anointed his crack-up at 40 as premature. What then, at 25, could I hope to gain from the remaining years of blankness? A surrender to marriage? A crucifixion to children? Everything I had worked for, the self-actualization, the self-awareness, the cultivation of those all-important virtues I had been born without, it was all in vain. The yawn of the abyss became preferable to the rafters crashing in, to being trapped beneath my hopes and dreams and most of all, my faith in the future. It was all a lie, a sham, Maya, and the truth was in nothingness and I hurled myself into it, out onto it, and ate the emptiness with both hands and filled my belly until it bloated and my sides ached with the nothingness. Of course, I was not sated, but the sadistic burning of all the objects of my faith lit my eyes with the fire that had gone out, if only in reflection, and I breathed in the smoke as it burned my lungs and the pain made me feel alive again. Destruction, death, the passing of time to put everything I had dreamt into the ground to be eaten by worms, maggots, the crawling eyeless of the underworld. Decay then. Die.

In free fall, before the ground grows its dimensions and gathers inertia, weight and speed, there is a silent peace that passes all understanding. Movement, the passage of time without space, or space without time, one can think, or not think, live, or not live, one can be anything or not anything as they so choose, slipping into the cracks and slipping through fingers like sand. The dullard, the glazed eyes, the drunk and pleasure-addled, there is no right or wrong, there is only passage without meaning. There is nothing to strive for in nothingness, no goal or direction or purpose or design, it is wildly free, wonderfully free, ecstatically free of the yokes and harnesses of the daily space-time continuum. Life without meaning is still life.

At 26, I'd like to say that I regained some lost sense of myself, that I went through myself, corner by corner and dug out the nothingness I had swallowed, retched it out of me with purposed hands and a keen eye, but I don't believe that once you have swallowed the nothingness, that it ever comes out. But I did begin building again, with a practiced, jaded eye and a careful optimism that barely sufficed as purpose. But the buildings I erected were replicas of the old world I had left and I found I was still the creature I had tried to kill, still with the same weaknesses and shortcomings and still with an empty blank stretching out in front of me. Something, still living deep in the bowels, twisted into a menacing grin and I began sewing the ripped seams with hatred, anger, and pounded them into place, into twisted shapes, menacing arcs and towering arches and challenging domes- who are you to say that this is not art? that this is not architecture? that this is not worthwhile? And in a smaller, more honest voice, asked why this was not ok too?

And I am 5 again, and I am doing everything wrong. I am impatient and angry and everything is unfair and no one is listening and I am ashamed of this tantrum I am throwing. I see the horror in my mother's eyes as I bang the grocery store floor with my heels and the check-out lady's rolling eyes and rows and rows of disdain in every direction, boredom, disgust. I am 16 and I am fighting with my father and I am full of venom and insults and wily, ugly words and he is reeling with every spit and bite, reeling farther away from me and I hate him for it. I am running from the house and into my car and into the night, away, away, and I breathe in the night and the darkness until I feel nothing, the cool, humid nothing that smells of damp wildflowers and trees and pulses with my radio and I am alone and I am ok. And I am ashamed.

I am me is me is me is always me is never not me is always exactly what I always have been and always will be forever and ever amen.

I am 27 and this is all I know. Sapped of any hope or dream to become a better person, I am surrendered to the specter of my self-awareness in all of its unholy glory. I am not humble, nor willing, but beaten, lying on the floor in abject surrender and exhausted obedience. I have won the battle over myself. My culture, my environment, my influences and battles have won the battle for my persona and the infinite compassion of Christ, Buddha, monks, priests, prayer wheels and candles retreats into the blackness and I am alone again, myself, me, always and eternal.

Knowing this now, I can see a little into the future. I imagine I will chase relationships and closeness with my fellow humans, with boys and men of common understanding and sow the seeds of shared experience until we reap the rotten fruit of failed expectations, unfulfilled needs and cutting selfishness. And I will repeat this cycle until I cannot any more, and if my body allows, I with birth children and hopefully understand myself well enough not to abuse them, to try in all the little ways not to become my mother and focus on the differences and not the similarities until such a time comes that I have given everything I am away and I will leave and cultivate a place of true aloneness, true abandon and social exile where I can knit my shabby clothes with my brittle bones and hum out of key with the clickity-clack of my joints. And I can live in peace of finally and completely failing, the peace of no longer caring, as all the care will have been scrubbed from every corner of my soul and I will sink into obscurity and speak in tongues until I die in a cold, tiled floor of a green hospital room.

I do not like these prophecies. I consider mustering the effort to fight, to rise up from the floor, but a rod would fall from the sky and strike me down again, against the floor into my position of subservience and I will live out my days gnashing my teeth and taking large bites of the abyss as it is all around me, woven into the curtains and bed sheets and the clothes of my lovers and children. The very intimacy I crave will turn to ash in my mouth until I no longer open myself up to it and the process of starvation and decay will begin, the systematic shutting down of organs and systems until finally the lights blink out behind wrinkled eyes.

These are the stuff of visions, the eventual evolution of failed dreams visiting late into the night, wide-awake visions of insomnia and stubbornness, of honesty and disappointment, of unsatisfied hunger and car-wrecked memories. The sound of shattering glass is all around and I will lie here in spite of it, in all the shining glory of my vices and the gods will laugh and be satisfied.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fill in the Blanks

I’m _________ than I want to be.

I’m _________ than I want to be.

I’m _________than I want to be.

I’m not as good a _________ as I want to be.

I don’t _________ enough with the people that I love as much as I think I should.

I don’t ______________________ as much as I think I should when I make decisions.

I like to _____________________, especially _____________________________, more than I think is warranted by my actual qualities.

I value ______________________ more than I think is healthy for my emotional well-being.

I sometimes feel that _____________________ are burdens that I would like nothing else but to be rid of.

I am not _________ as I say I am.

I have been accused of being _________.

I have been accused of being _________.

I have been accused of being _________.

Of __________________.

Of ____________________.

I have been accused of being _________.

I have been _________.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Old Joy

Midnight dims the light to a cool meridian blue and even the gray rocks glow like blue aquarium rocks in the twilight. The sky is white like the mountain tops and gray cobwebs of spent clouds drape themselves along the black dunes of exposed rock. The trees rise black and dark green against the glow but leave no shadows, even the corn yellow patio lights don’t cast far enough to disturb the ripple-less calm blue. The cold air is reassuring and the silence is watchful.

Gravity pools between the trees in the forest; the absence of blue issues a leaden beckoning toward its unnatural blackness. The hollows drink up the blue like a black hole, a yawning abyss lined with moss and softened trees. In the sunlight, moss hangs from leafless branches and ferns unfurl from their bed of lichen and mushroom covered tree stumps, and there are still no shadows.

Cold sunlight on a black beach. The absent tide shaped the sandbar we name god’s tongue and on it we cut cheese with a pocket knife for lunch. We pass through the fairy tale forest to get here; any echo muffled, a silent, tolerant response to our soft-pawed sparring. Surrounded by a family of mountains, Benson, Alice, Marathon, we pass wine bottles by the campfire, always a guitar grounding the gale of voices against the ceaseless movement of water from mountaintop to ocean. I imagine they’re amused, those cousin mountains. We must be a colorful smudge against their endless gaze.

To come to the land without shadows is to leave wherever you are for a reason. We face each other in circles and betray our guarded selves in sideways glances, moments of beauty, surprise connections and challenged estimations. The shadows are on the inside. We share meals, pipes, 9x11 sheds commonly referred to as cabins, sunny afternoons and beautiful stray huskies with striking blue eyes. Words are light and easily spent or absent altogether. An ocean of shadows lies just beneath the surface, a calm and wearied tragedy, weighed and measured and finally abandoned like Mayan pyramids in the jungle.

Sorrow is just old joy.

Sorrow is old, spent joy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We Are the Disillusionment

We’re adults now, you and I.

Going into the world, doing real things, though it really doesn’t feel like it, does it? I suppose I thought that by this point we would be on some road leading to some realistic but difficult to attain goal, one that would offer us fulfillment and purpose. Instead we seem to be mucking about in the details as there is nothing bigger than ourselves to join.

Not to say that the world doesn’t need us, that it doesn’t have thousands upon thousands of problems that need to be addressed. And that’s just it; it’s such a momentous goal that would require unfathomable amounts of energy, dedication and ambition, and I don’t know about you, but I really don’t have the stamina or expertise to even consider taking on even one aspect. Who are we but a collection of exceptional, intelligent, thinking individuals who dedicate our time to paying our bills and finding connection and release in whatever drug or addiction that is easily justified and proportionally acceptable to our sense of responsibility? It is the most reasonable thing to do; we are working for a realistic goal that is attainable with dedication and a bit of good luck, but what does it achieve other than the basic necessities of life? The struggle to maintain good standing in the eyes of the credit bureau, the gas company, the banks and student loan lenders.

If it is that for which we strive, to which we devote our energy, how does this not cause at least a modicum of existential despair? For eight hours a day, five days a week, we turn the wheels of the machine that both supports and binds us with checks and balances in innumerable sections, chapters, and amendments. How should it be different, you ask me, and I tell you, it doesn’t matter, what a pointless question. The point of interest here is that it simply is and we must learn how to pursue our purpose within this paradigm.

Would it be out of place to say that everyone’s goal is to change the world? A blanket statement is always dangerous, but who does not want to change the things around them, their world, to make it more comfortable and fulfilling? The cliché of ‘changing the world’ applying to the overlapping stable elements of each’s experience and understanding of their world, it has nearly lost any other connotation thanks to commercials and slogans. Because even your car choice can change your world. Since I cannot solve world hunger and don’t have the time or energy to address the homeless/elderly/healthcare/government/environmental issues I see going on around me, at least I can buy this car and have changed something. Substitutes piled upon substitutes until we can only glimpse the original in moments unguarded and infrequent. Otherwise purpose lies in putting your head to the grindstone until you can only feel the uneven surface grating away at layer after layer, grinding you down to your brainstem and setting you afloat for the retirement years of solitude and isolation. The art of gleaning what one can from the surrounding habitat and being satisfied with the luck of the draw is the measure of success and those endowed with powers of patience, perspective or self-delusion fair better than the rest of us.

We are adults now, we are coming into our own right, we are the daughters and sons of failed visionaries and revolutionists. We have inherited the sins of our fathers, the embedded thorn of disillusionment: the world is too big to change. We should busy ourselves with the things with realistic goals, use ten-step plans to plot our journey and have quarterly reviews to measure our progress.
We are adults now and the luxury of existential despair is not afforded us. This is how the world works, we tell each other, we tell ourselves, and these things are important.

I’ve been so busy; schedules, payments, responsibilities, I’m sorry we haven’t talked. I’m sorry we’ve grown apart, how are you? We should go out more often, meet up for lunch, have coffee and brunch.

I feel like I’m fighting an unending battle, that I’m isolated and those around me don’t understand, but we get shit-faced every week and check facebook at work when our boss isn’t looking and smile in our insulated self-delusion with our guarded eyes and hardened hearts.

O children of Isreal, I will send you into the desert for forty years, until everyone who remembers what it is like to be slaves of the Pharaoh will have died, and I will give you a nation unto yourself.

Forgive my paraphrase, as I only know a little about a lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Luxury by Lamplight, a Child’s Story (A Writing Exercise)

The sunlight never looks right at this latitude; it’s too bright and the blue from the sky weaves itself into all the colors of the spectrum. A white hot light, that early summer light, brushed from the shoulders by the late spring breeze.
Pepper runs with her nose inches from the ground, following the yellow-green scents through the forest of dark green blades and still damp twigs. Woody and musky, the dampness evaporates up from the ground underneath the woolen blanket, banded with bright neons and pinks. The colors send up their own scents, both chemical and sheepish at the same time. Patricia blinks in the bright light, noting the subdued input of her senses.

It’s Pepper’s favorite spot, so many other dogs to meet, and the quiet breathing of the conscious world winds its way in Patrcia’s thoughts, the penetrating peace drawing her back again and again to this spot. Her book lies abandoned on the far corner of the blanket as the trees’ individual leaves wink green and pink and blue.
She searches people’s faces instead of chasing the letters across the page, though the desired insight is still the same for both activities. Her face and eyes open to her peers, her comrades in park, she is looking for something beyond the leisure and luxury afforded by the environment. Like attending church, she and Pepper are regulars at this dog park, her striped blanket displaying as a gas station sign in the night; a familiarity for those individual travelers transversing their orbits.
Tell me, tell me what you are thinking, what you see, why you are swinging your arms like that, tell me about the world as you see it. Her eyes scan the passersby. Tell me that you are the same as me, tell me that you are here to find that sense of togetherness, just like me, that you have a need that you can satisfy here. Her eyes dart from face to face, from knee to shoe to hands touching dogs faces, tennis balls, books, other hands. She is looking for that small smile of understanding, that sideways glance of disapproval (why can’t that lady control her dog?), and on those few lucky days, the meeting of eyes that’s held just a little too long.
A childish decadence, really, her whimsical hopes for love and affection, but one she has been unable to shed since her father mixed her morning milk with chocolate syrup before the morning car ride of alphabet games to preschool. She carries it around like a dirty book in her purse, sure that everyone can see it and knows that it’s there, ashamed at the smudgy little thrill of curiosity and rebellion that quivers in her chest.

They say that eyes are windows to the soul, which makes the pupils the gatekeepers, the aperture gods over the intake of reality.

And of course, he’s come around the corner. The triangles made by his stride flash in her peripheral vision and the long lines of his legs lead her eyes to the shade of his jaw, the sharp nose, the symmetrical sharp eyes with the discerning gleam. The balls of his feet feel the crushed granite beneath him, ascertain the depth of the pebbles. The crunching of the gravel acts like sonar reflections of sound, detailing the minute details and spaces between the ever smaller, shifting sands of the path. His easy gait sails over the shifting tides of pink granite, adjusting ever so slightly to walking on water.

It’s his eyes, as she follows her glance to his face, that answer her question. His knowing gait comes from experienced eyes and a necessarily understanding heart; he would sweep her hair behind her ear when they sat face to face, eye to eye, with dialating pupils, velvety tenuous forays and connections having appeased gatekeepers, accepting the bribe and stepping away from their charge. She would look at her like that when he looked at her, when he broke his stride and turned his head those thirty or so degrees in response to his peripheral apprehension of her stare. He’s starting to feel it, she’s sure, her eyes following his movement. He will see the sun reflecting from her open face, she knows.

As if she had called his name, he turned his head and looked directly at her and she could see he was not very attractive. He held the gaze full moments too long and a frantic pressure built in her temples, his expectation burrowed into her pupils. Such shame washed over her as she met the gaze with her guilty acceptance of what she had asked for, though it fell so short of what she hoped. Shame, then stubbornness, then an angry challenging washed through the light around his head; who was she to hope or to judge? Such a child, such a child… She broke the gaze and stared down at her hands, called for Pepper, grasped for some distraction until she saw the pale moon of his face turn away and face the other faces.

He comes every week wearing a different face, wearing different clothes, walking a different dog or with a water bottle and armband iPod, he always showed up one way or another. And then he is gone, each and every time with a small gesture, with that lazy, dead stare, with one sideways glance of insecurity toward that girl’s chest. And like that, he’s gone.