Walking down the street I usually think I know what I see. The houses are namable, their shingles their porches, their piles of junk and designer cars. But there are moments when the world lets you sink. A mile down from my house, near University, a central vein of Berkeley, a woman crosses my path to pass through a wooden gate to ascend the wooden stairs to cross through an anonymous door. The yard is a shadowed cavern with yawning oaks. And just like that the houses begin to speak. I feel their weight surround my body, like flashes of color through a thicket of leaves, all you know is something else must reside beyond. I pass each one, sitting mysteries lined up, meager hints of deep lives, intricate webs of relation that exist through each shingle, each porch, each lexus, each manicured lawn or forgotten patch of grass and dirt. They fall past me, rain drops I will never touch, each full and far away. I cross pavement, the sidewalk continues, and then here is mine. Yes there are shingles, peeling yellow paint, the oldsmobile, but overwhelmingly is the invitation, the opening, the knowledge of vastness, of the whole flower that exists beyond the color in the dark. This is a mystery I have begun to penetrate, whose edges exist beyond the façade, in the lines of faces, the gestures of friends, in countertops and crumpled towels, a mystery that tumbles, that I build and consume. I hop over the locked gate, walk the stone path to the kitchen and remove my shoes. I sing out loud to Sarah McLaughlan’s Building a Mystery as I fry eggs.
sábado, 5 de marzo de 2011
Music lives everywhere.
On a deck above
the silver-haired neighbor sings,
soulful and melodious,
as she sweeps beneath cloudy skies.
From behind the other fence
a piano concerto dances
whimsical and proud
up and down and around the trees.
Birds tweet and chirp and caw and chipper,
while the dogs engage each other
in a gruff and abrupt rap.
Walk these streets and
hip-hop bolts from car windows and
mingles with Tracy Chapman
hiding behind blinds.
Around every corner,
within every backyard
and through every window
a song lives
and declares itself to the afternoon.
This is the new earth,
where we proliferate
like leaves, like petals,
everywhere differentiation mingling in rhapsody.
An absurd conglomeration, an impossible harmony.
Once our bodies moved to a single beat.
Now rhythms collide,
we weave around them,
and through each other,
jumping, prancing, shaking,
knotting ourselves into eternity.
A long shrill voice jingles on Stuart street.
The ice cream truck vibratoes out front.
A blue jay picks through leaves.
An absurd conglomeration,
The speckled face
an impossible harmony.
sábado, 29 de enero de 2011
I sit in front of a windowpane and listen to the rain. Its full thumping and intermittent splotches appearing on an old wooden bench tell me of its presence. But the atmosphere is only a grey mist interrupted by falling leaves.
A voice inside of me used to whisper, “how dare you sit and watch the rain.” Watching the rain is not productive, they have told this voice. Why watch the rain when I could be drawing, cooking, reading, working, running, learning physics, why watch the rain?
The rain knows. She knows how to sit in puddles, to collect, to allow the wind to move her and a vine to carry her down his spine.
Two weeks ago the skies over Miami opened and I stepped outside. I twirled and jumped and splashed and soaked, and full of waiting rain and running rain I screamed to an old tree, “WHY? WHY? WHY CAN’T I WATCH THE RAIN WHY IS IT GOING GOING NEVER STOP HOW DARE YOU FUCKING TWIRL WHY ARE YOU OUTSIDE AND SO CLOTHED AND FUCKING WET SIT STRAIGHT RUN FORWARD LEARN GO AND GO AND NEVER STOP? WHY?”
The rain kept falling. She just watched. But then I knew that she knew and I knew that I knew that it’s okay to watch to rain, going and going, falling and falling,
jueves, 6 de enero de 2011
We have all heard about the importance of non-judgment. Being inclined towards spiritual teachings, this tenet has haunted me throughout my life. When I hear someone speaking judgmentally my stomach tightens and anger courses through me. I immediately decide there is something wrong with the judger. Recently, while washing my hands, I found myself thinking that a friend who had just been speaking judgmentally was insane, she had to be in order to sometimes spout moral beliefs and at other times speak so vitriolically. But then as I looked up into my angry face in the mirror a little voice whispered, “maybe you are insane..”
And I considered. It is true that in many of my relationships I find myself oscillating between love and hatred. A person is funny or kind so I love them, they are angry or bitter or judgmental so I hate them. In addition to human relationships, the notion that we live in a bad world is buried deep within me. Sometimes I feel everything I use comes from blood money because we had to rape the earth to obtain it. At other times I feel people are essentially good so “something must have happened” to allow us to act bad at all. Chocolate chip cookies are often the epitome of evil when I consider the affects too much sugar has on the body. I had come to live in a world where a baked good was at times equitable with the devil. Maybe the little voice in my head was right. Was I not a wee bit judgmental? Perhaps completely mental?
Then, (probably because I had recently read Alan Watts on overcoming opposites), the source of this insanity hit me like a train: my tendency to see good and bad as two incompatible realities that cannot coexist. We have been taught that certain things are bad and others are good. I picked up somewhere along the way that judgment was bad but each person has her or her own ideas of what is bad: weakness, failure, stupidity, crying, dirtiness, shellfish, whites, blacks, whatever. Yet if good and bad are incompatible then if someone possesses one bad trait they must be completely bad because it is impossible to be simultaneously bad and good. Right?
But what if something can be “bad” and “good.” If a person does a “bad” thing they aren’t completely bad, and if they do a “good” thing they aren’t completely good. People just do things. Cookies can be good if you are starving and bad if you are trying to lose weight. Good and bad are actually very compatible. The realization led me to wander stupidly around my house, utterly confused by how blind I had been, aware that I was excessively judgmental, sensing the long chain of split thinking that had been perpetuated by people to lead me to consider the world in such a way. Victims of a way of thought, of action, blindly become its perpetrators.
So what are good and bad if not separate realities, if not weighty moral judgments? Upon further thinking it seems to me good and bad are directional agents. When we say something is bad it means move away from it, don’t explore it, when we say something is good it means to delve into it. A bad neighborhood is one that we should move away from for safety reasons, a bad person for us is one to whom we shouldn’t relate. Another person will be at home in a “bad” neighborhood or find love with the bad person.
Yet as I write I feel empty upon explaining good and bad as simply ideas, their power reaches into our emotions and bodies. Good and bad are the two edges of the blunt knife we subconsciously use to sculpt our worlds. I see a rat crawling up an areca tree in my back yard and nausea crawls up my throat. A friend is snotty and a certain haughtiness, a cold superiority becomes my being. I worry about food and upon realizing this I slump and become irritable for I am being bad again. The same is true for good. We do not react to what lies in front of us but rather to a thin mental overlay we have subconsciously attached to every action.
When good and bad are absolute categories the world becomes a gross exaggeration of evil and good with our emotions flip flopping uncontrollably between annoyance and excitement. And we lose our power, we sacrifice our ability to understand the world by judging it before we even receive it. This veil is our armor, deflecting what we have the possibility of seeing. And I’ll admit, sometimes our judgments are less painful than the world that is really there. If I actually listen to a friend or myself speaking hatefully about another without simply screaming “they’re crazy!,” I’ll have to feel the hate and the pain that usually accompanies our words, that sits within us just below the surface. The pain is the reality of the situation no matter what, it is something we’ll have to face within the world. But if I say it is wrong and back away I can pretend it doesn’t belong in this world and close the curtains around my fantasyland of pure goodness.
The more personal effect of my tendency to see good and bad as incompatible is my fear of becoming a bad person if I admit any of my less shining qualities to myself. I won’t explore my judgmentalism because if I truly own up to it I’m afraid it would make me “bad” which is incompatible with the “good” persona I have created in my mind. Yet for me, allowing myself to feel the hatred and judgment that I engage in no matter what is good, in other words I should move towards feeling it. The things we hide from are the places we have to heal and thus the places we can grow the most. Judgment is something that is truly within me, that is often useful, and labeling or ignoring our less desirable parts only turn them into our Jungian shadow, subconsciously driving many of our actions. We fear looking into the things we label as bad because we think becoming them will make all the good things we want to be invalid. But my hateful judgments have always lived alongside my caring. By realizing that good and bad coexist many of my fears dissipate, I won’t be bad by facing my scary parts I’ll still just be me, wonderful as well as insane. And the world with its flaws wont be bad, it will just be the world, alive churning, messy, mysterious, and fascinating.
That said, opposing forces such as good and bad are of the world, we simply have a very distorted use of them. In a world with movement there will always be things we are moving away from (“bad” things) and things we are moving towards (“good” things). As we become wise judges, capable of seeing what lies in front of us rather than the veil, it is imperative that we make decisions about relating to our surroundings. Even though we might recognize the good parts of a person, if he often hurts us we must be able to say he is, on a whole, bad for us and move away. Similarly, it is normally wise to avoid dangerous places although they certainly may contain joys. At this point our feelings are not just mere reactions but along with our rationality become fabulous guides, directing us moment by moment towards our greatest good.