Archive for the ‘Essay’ Category

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       It is common knowledge that death is a topic of discomfort and distress for most people. Often we are expected as adults to not bring up this subject in front of children or at social gatherings, as if the reality of our connected morality is a truth not yet invited to play and ponder at any party. What a strange world we live in where such an undeniable truth is rarely given breath. It is only, if we are lucky enough to have such connections, to be discussed infrequently with close friends and family–mostly acceptable in the days and weeks after the loss of a loved one. But for these conversations to take shape outside of these acceptable environments it is often perceived with unease or spurious subtlety, reactions wide ranging from offense to avoidance. Why is this? Are we simply a product of our youth crazed, beautified, go-forever-society or have we always been like this–stiff armed and shaky with anxiety in the face our own truths? We will all die. This is truth. Why can’t this be okay? Or better yet, why can’t we learn to love it? 

        It has been over a year since my father passed. I often find myself replaying moments of his passing in my mind, images of him smiling and the smell of his scent, the color of his skin as he faded away and the last time we gazed into one another’s eyes. These thoughts flood my heart and break the levee of my emotions nearly every time. Simply put, I cry. And I do it often. It is always in this place that I connect with him most dearly and most deeply. Perhaps I feel it all so strongly because deep down I know this is all I have left of him. Perhaps, in some way it is him. All I know is, it is something.

       After going to this place, I always want to reach out to others, particularly those that knew him best. Not to find comfort for my pain but to connect together as I did by myself in my own tears–to feel the love. This, unfortunately, rarely happens. Instead, I find places and people that are so shaken by the topic and simultaneously the pain from having lost our shared loved one that walls and distances are put in place to help them feel safe. I don’t blame them for this and I don’t judge them either. I know in their own way they are only trying to keep their love for my father safe and to protect themselves from their own pain. This has little to do with conscious choices and more to do with these societal circumstances throughout their lives that have led them to close off in these moments as opposed to leaning in. If they only knew of the abundance that was waiting for them to be met in these moments with open hearted vulnerability they would make another choice. They would lean into their feelings and together, the intimacy present only for a funeral, could be something exercised willfully and often. To clarify, I don’t mean shedding tears and sobbing for those men easily disregarding my words, although perhaps that is what it looks like for some. I mean connecting to your heart and your loving during the topic of death as opposed to clinging to your fears, phobias, and familiarity.

       I imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi reminding me of the power of the force, but instead it is my father telling me to be open. There is a force that surrounds us, that penetrates us, that binds us with the galaxy, it comes from making a choice in the moments to do things differently. To unlearn what we have been taught and what we have seen. To rise above our fears and face the moment with unabashed authenticity. I know this because I have done both since he passed. I have made the choice to do it differently and lean into my feelings. And when I have, I have been rewarded with a connection not to my pain but to the love I have for him. A love that strangely connects me with something universally beyond, something bizarre and beautiful. I have also leaned out and not made the choice in moments where my openness was met with unease or judgement. In these times it was done with unconsciousness and in these times I have felt the depths of my pain and my sadness. I have felt isolated and I have felt alone.

       The past year, I have watched myself wildly change. In some ways I wish my father could see who I am now, in other ways I wish no one did, especially my fiancee who has patiently loved and silently participated in my pain of leaning out as well as the power from leaning in. I have done and said things I couldn’t have expected, I have put myself first in moments where I always went last. I have put others before me in moments I had always put myself first. I hurt and pushed people away, I leaned into and got closer with others. I closed myself off to the world and hid, I opened myself up to the universe and shined. I felt more alive and alone than ever before, more loved and lonely than I ever could have imagined. I laughed. I cried. I loved. And I tried. I tried my best to experience it all and even still, I know there is a lifetime of lessons awaiting me. An endless tapestry of colors yet to be experienced and expressed. And while some of it scares the shit out of me, I know it is all there to help me grow and to become a better human being.

       To accept death, to experience grief, to express your pain with presence is the most powerful way I have seen to live a life more full and more free. It seems like the perfect joke. Paradoxical and laughable, that we would have to remember what it is that we forget. Death is only a door and on the other side is not the unknown but a life worth living. The key is leaning into love in those moments where everything is telling you not to–everything except your own heart. Just listen and you will feel the force.



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bill-the-butcherAmerica is changing, and it’s changing fast. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum and your relationship with the ever constant of change, opportunities now exist only as invisibilities to the naked eye. The physics of our philosophy has evaporated into thin air and left us with a new found form, no longer solid in structure, shape, or size. The power of the present is being shuffled to the past for rewiring and revision, whole chunks of our history are being discarded and disavowed. The right here and right now mentality is being sold and suppressed, diverted and deluded while we are all trying to hold on and do our best each and every day. All too well I understand that at times it has seemed hard to maintain eye contact or to give attention to these rapid changes and the reality of our nation’s current standing. At other times we have all downright avoided it entirely, in a sense to save ourselves. Neither are wrong, and at the core of who we all are I truly believe that we are all doing our best–each of us.

The time for a revolution has long since past but to only hold this as a past discretion of such would be to deny the power of the present moment and what we have the ability to do as a people that have come together and risen above tyranny and turmoil throughout our history. Less than two hundred years ago we fought against our own brothers in the Civil War. This war was a tragedy for any nation to endure but in such a short time, such division and loss of life nearly broke us entirely. It too was a victory in the face of evolving ideas and with the passing of time a healer to more wholeness and unity. Less than a hundred years later we fought to protect freedom from tyranny twice in World War I and World War II. These wars too had great repercussions among millions dead and the trust between nations shattered. But once again we pushed the baton past the point of permission in the face of intolerance and injustice. We once again stood up for our ideals and prevailed.

This is the simple nature of history. Our lines of morality and beliefs remain, at most, invisible until they are trampled under foot. Then they become emboldened. We don’t as a nation philosophize about our morality, but we know at our core what we believe and when it has been breached.  We don’t know what we are willing to fight for until someone or something crosses over our beliefs and we feel violated. For example we didn’t know we despised the ruling by a monarchy until we were strong armed by the tariffs and taxed without representation. The nature of history is to highlight the lines crossed and the lines created. Through the identification and recreation of these lines we get a sense of our center, not individually, but collectively as a nation. We all help to make up that collective center. We have seen our center move toward equality for everyone with each passing decade, perhaps slower than most would prefer. America though, in its relatively short history has been bruised and beaten by this fundamental law of history, and all the while it is better because of it and stronger too. Well, mostly.

Since the beginning of our nation’s history, people in power have been playing with our politics. Behind the closed curtains, players have been pivoting pawns and pieces, helping to create an ideal environments for each of them to secure their place amongst the great game of government. They have done this. And we have let this happen. Either because the disillusionment, diversion, apathy, or avoidance. Frankly, it doesn’t much matter. We are all at some level angry, ashamed, and divided with each other and ourselves because of it. The broken system. These are the feelings that help us to identify that a belief has been breached, that a line has been crossed.

For the past thirty years or more we have taken on a different, more modern approach to our core relationship with history. We have not let the violation of our moral lines lead us to righteousness and redemption to the collective levels we have seen in the past. We have not been, en masse, at odds with the forces that continue to falsify the fabric of our nation’s design. We have somehow gotten lazy in the face of our liberties. We have gotten comfortable with believing that change is something we all have to deal with, not something we can help to shape. Whether it be because of the Internet and mass information or for whatever reasons, that is for another day.

We are now past the point of a revolution in the classic sense because any revolt would require and entice violence on a scale we would all prefer to not experience, let alone imagine. In whatever way you look at this, we would lose. Our government is too strong and too intolerant in the face of opposition to make space for new ideas. Example, they are violently opposing peaceful protests happening right now in the mid-west. But socially we have the ability to move the line wherever we see fit. Our power as people doesn’t not rest in the threat of our brutality but in the light of our brilliance. The powers that now control politics and most of the institutions we rely on cannot and will not ever be able to control the nature of social evolution. Every time, social evolution has won in the face of opposing forces. Women’s Rights, Segregation, Civil Rights, LGBT Equality, Union Workers, etc. All of these examples are by no means perfect as of today, and in their own rights, each has been pushing the boundaries still and each stands as pillar of social change.

Millions of people support Donald Trump. Millions of people support Hillary Clinton. Millions of others support neither. Of those that support Trump, most of them are living in a place of fear. They are fearful of an overpowering government controlling their constitutional liberties, of elected officials not representing their voices but instead being swayed by corporations and lobbyists, of their hard work getting exploited, of foreign hate groups wreaking havoc on their people and of their personal values not being recognized. We can quickly label them as radical, racially intolerant, conservatively close-minded individuals if we want, but this not that type of article. I am not interested in sides and division but instead I am interested in discussing solutions. Of those that support Clinton, most of them too are living in a place of fear. They are afraid of residing in a nation where all people are not treated equal by the constitutional liberties that stand as our nation’s foundation, they are fearful of conservative values infiltrating their branches of government and disregarding the separation of church and state, they are fearful of politically incorrect and intellectually unintelligible individuals representing their country and the relationships we have with the international community suffering because of it, they are fearful of radical hate groups, they are fearful of our nation’s youth dying at the hands of gun violence. And, everyone is worried about taxes, abortion, education, and the economy. At our core, we are all scared. And, we are not so different.

And, we can change this. We can take back this broken system and breathe new life into its dying body. We can revive the rotten roots of the tree of liberty by all participating in a social revolution that takes advantage of our digital age. Not to subversively suggest but deliberately debate, to not dismiss and denigrate but permit and persuade, to not hate and hold but to love and let be.

If instead of creating a political environment that served on behalf of us, we participated in a social revolution that served a political environment that represented all of us, we would be better off. All of our lines and all of our centers would be clearer, as would the direction of our future to follow them. We are losing the understanding of our politics and our government because we have unknowingly allowed experiments to evaporate the foundation of our nation. A foundation that is built on progress and collective change. It is the fear that comes out as racist, it is the anger that comes out as intolerant, it is the pain that expresses itself with apathy and disregard. We may be some of these things separately, but we are none of them together. Our center is far from hate and fear and we get to decide where it goes from here.

We are all scientists, we are all experimenters, and we are all capable of creating meaningful change in our lives and as a nation. A good scientist doesn’t have to break a barrier, but he must be vigilant, persistent, purposeful, and objective. There are experiments worth testing and lines just waiting to be identified. Don’t expect it to be easy, history is here to remind us that it won’t be. But it is also here for us to look back on and be proud that we pushed it in the right direction, whatever the pace.

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Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

Ten years ago, I remember giving up on keeping up with American politics. At least in the conventional sense. I stopped watching CNN, 60 Minutes, and NPR to get basis of my political updates. I scarcely read the newspapers for anything other than sports reports and movie times. The only way I could bear the burdens of staying informed about the daily news in Washington was to watch Will Ferrell on SNL impersonating George W. Bush. Or Jon Stewart embracing the suck of the current stigma by proverbially sticking a ten inch satirical dick up its ass and hoping that through some kind of laughter revolution we might change or improve, or better yet, evolve. Unfortunately, satire wasn’t the savior. At best, it only created a new camp for the elites and their followers to put them into. The classic American way of dealing with a self-created dilemma, give them 40 acres and a mule and hope that they shut up. In other words, they all got a one way ticket back to where they came from with some new found pseudo-sense of community that others felt the same way they did. This wasn’t a win or a draw but once again an escape. The elite had wiggled out of a wormhole and found themselves on the other side. The only problem was that acknowledgement was never what the people were after.
It was always about change, and it still is. Change to the American landscape and the bullheaded patriotic idiocracy that blinds us for bettering ourselves because we can’t stand feeling any sort of shame towards our past. We have compartmentalized our successes and our failures, as opposed to realizing the culmination of the both of them is what truly makes us stronger, and is who we really are. We have even tried to re-write history with our own pens and if not for the digital age of mass information we would probably continue this behavior with some success. The slaughtering of natives upon colonization, the oppression and malicious treatment of Africans forced over from their homeland, the deeply rooted realities of tension towards any foreign face, the dismissive and callous treatment of women, the consistent exploitation of the poor and the working class, the avoidance and lack of compassion towards the homeless, the persistent challenges of small businesses and working class families, corporations buying politicians, the media being sold to the highest bidder, and so much more. We haven’t owned any of this yet. Yes, some have. But we haven’t. The same “We,” that starts the greatest document in our country’s history. The “We,” that stands as the pinnacle of modern democracy and freedom. The same “We,” when at it best and brightest units us all and lifts us to live amongst the heavens of our ideals. That “We”.

There is a healing that happens in the aftermath of expression, it is both simultaneously a feeling of letting go and a feeling of integration. Both are equally as important in healing whatever it is that is being revealed or expressed. America, collectively, has only ever given credence to the prior. And this is no one person’s fault. This the culture that we have be born into, the culture that we have learned to embrace. And either unknowingly or haphazardly we have continued to deny the power of change and our abilities to emerge. Shame and regret are not feelings that we should simply let go of after we have acknowledged them. They are feelings that should help to create a new sense of “center” in each of us, feelings that should guide us closer to being more fully-realized, more wholly ourselves with less veils of our own judgments and insecurities. There is nothing more powerful than a human being embracing their mistakes and living in the light of their truth. The recovered alcoholic that mentors the lost and lonely youth, or the once homeless man that now helps to service the shelters of the city. These stories serve as an example of redemption, but before redemption one must accept and appreciate the road behind them. If change was molded only by hands that held the wisdom of their entire experience, what would the world look like?

So, what is the greatest shortcoming of the American people? It’s our inability to love the parts of ourselves that we hate. Historically, there is no denying this truth. Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is a part of ourselves and if we disagree–great, but that isn’t enough. I’m not esoterically trying to preach the message of love. If you aren’t aware of its power, then there isn’t much for us to talk about and I wish you luck. But if are someone that believes in change, you must first embrace who you are. Spend a moment sharing something vulnerable with a stranger, take that opportunity to tell that embarrassing thing you did so someone else can learn from it. We are all each other’s teachers, and Donald Trump is truly teaching us a lot about ourselves as Americans. He is teaching us about our stifled relationship with the shameful and the uncomfortable. If you truly disagree with him, wear your mistakes with pride, your shortcomings with satisfaction, and carry your heart with humble compassion.
Someday, if enough of us live this way, the “We” will change and it will be, in part, because of you. Music always starts and ends the same way, in silence. Change is no different. It has always begun and ended with you.

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A writer is someone who hears voices-

someone who is honest about his soul on paper and pen

because there is guilt from deceit he’s dragged in a world of dread.

A painter is someone who locks away dreams-

streets can be nothing but benign and bleak,

anger burns until the next lock of devotion is given a key.

A musician is someone lost in space-

swimming through reason and rational thought,

but uncovering, glowing, and knowing through the spirits’ soft majesty.

A carpenter is someone of finite withholdings,

with a pledge of continuance whether right or wrong,

to rip away old sorrows and find feeling in an executed end.

A farmer is someone who envisions all times-
an isolated future and the secluded past beneath his boots,

Dirt, like Blood, is both of history and persistence.

A sailor is a man of many moons,

his oddity and the ocean-an ensemble cast,

a multitude of magic from the mind, forlorn from conventions of the dying land.

A traveler is someone longing for resolve,

a ravenous hunger from his gut raids in pain,

until the lamented locus is echoed in reminisce and he’s not sure if he want to forgive.

A lover is someone who feels first with their eyes,

they’re soon rushed by harsh, heavy winds to happiness and ownership,

they fleet feelings assail before they are warned, as fate strikes the hearts to halve, and hurting is born.

A dreamer is someone who time travels reality, in and out of his mind,

he can change the meaning of a word with the inflexion of his diction,

dreams can be made reality with simply believing and aspiring.

A believer is someone manifested from a dreamer.

it was lose and confusion that had the believe in a clasp of control, but as if a

wake up call alarmed and triggered the soul to ecstatic emotions of ideas.

with more resistance is the final dream, a shot and a blow and gone too soon.

A teacher is someone with a seed to the memory,

Someone that can shape and nurture with knowledge to grow,

and when gone and understood, even if it late, make that seed show.

A warrior is someone who lived and died, and has since been forgotten.

His soul was right and whether his heart wrong, is only of option,

For he was whole of his honor and not just an image, but a man with a moral compass.

A hero is someone who may have never been but now lives again in pretension,

The tales accepted as common as convention, but never held to the light or questioned,

And it manifests like yeast and grow and feds off a lie that began small in origin.

A legend is a folklore or fable, and claims nothing of it to be true,
Unlike Hero it is known as fiction and messages reveal contradictions

Worst part be it still is relevant, even though it was written ages ago and exposed to human convention

A man is someone, like a maze through the mind, a mystery of no conclusion,

He is a physical reality of a sensible one where we define these things and as all agree,

But it’s only an aspect of a greater existence of our souls, this will only happen when we wish and want and work to set our souls free.

A soul is my entire entity and is not the I or ego,

It’s not the physical depiction of me either, this is simply a body.

The soul can change and stay and such, for it’s always in a state of searching,

It’s looking and longing for something, and never is settling for an answer

Experiences can be vast and vivid, intense and interactive,

But the misconception of our souls is, is that control is the best reaction

And in such powerless states, fear and doubt will be the plague of this people because they’d rather just stay in the limbo state of ignorance as opposed to awakening.

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