Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Shields Up

With influences from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...
I meet new humans all of the time. It's an occupational hazard, if you will, considering my tendency for invasion of their territory while trundling along doing my J.O.B. My job, while posing as a city employee, is to update the page in the Galactic Visitors Guide on the third planet from a nondescript sun at the far reaches of the Milky Way.
Generally speaking, conversations with humans aren't all that bad... unless they're carrying a nine iron, a sodden dishrag or a scowl. My ability with human humour tends to get me out of most binds. Afterwards, I simply move on whistling the theme to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest all the while glancing over my shoulder alert for a goalie mask wearing, machete wielding, cover-all clad, shadowy figures named Jason (a rather bizarre series of self destructive videos designed to awaken something long hidden in the human psyche).
How many of those movies have been made, anyway?
I do understand people coming out of their domestic hidy-holes to see what I'm up to. Despite wearing blinding orange with a yellow “shoot here” X across my chest, I am, after all, skulking around the nether regions of their abodes. That most persons of ill repute would unlikely be wearing brain-numbing fluorescent while casing a stranger's home seems of little consequence. That the city installers have a habit of placing water remotes in areas where, despite intent, it appears as if I'm peeking in windows or checking out goodies in backyards. Part of my job, therefore, is being bold.
Another part of the job is being aware of hazards. Things like snow covered holes, snarling dogs, slippery concrete, malcontent cats, threatening goldfish, menageries of child playthings, garden skewering implements and overly aggressive neighbourhood watches. Keeping my guard up while traipsing around someone's property looking for a water-thingy on the outside of a house specifically placed in the most inconvenient position possible by overwhelmingly vapid city installers is a full time occupation in itself. Under the stairs behind the rose bush where the pet wolf has it's daily unload? Really!?
I'm far too far from home for this crap.
It occurs to me, though, there are certain hazards which occur in human's daily lives which carry as much risk of damage to their malleable neurons as there might be to their physical being. There is a strikingly odd behaviour among ape descendants to behave somewhat... ape-ish, though the leaving of the trees occurred, in the local vernacular, many moons ago. Humans have an innate ability to “raise shields” whenever they encounter a situation in which they are unfamiliar. In instances where humans are familiar with the degree of ape-ish-ness, shields are usually raised before the encounter... often several days before, thus shutting down their ability to function on a high level for days at a time. And thus the need for emotional awakening at films.
Generally speaking, “shields up” occurs just about any time a human is in a state of wakened consciousness, though that generally accepted “conscious” state is subject to debate in and of itself.
Interestingly, the shields don't offer physical protection. More often than not, this state can be described as a mental state... an involuntary, systematic shutdown of high level functioning areas of the brain most prone to emotional attack while creating a semi-comatose state which the bipedal, carbon based unit labels as “normal”. “Normal” itself, as with consciousness, is a subjective state from human to human and therefore has no real intrinsic value to the whole. Nor is “normal” a continuous state among individuals. Rather, it seems to be a moving target based on some irrational emotional state combined with internal chemical reaction liberally mixed with external chemical reactions and whether or not bananas or peaches are available at the local grocery.
All this to say humans have no true state of normal except the obvious that individual normal is not normal at all.
The whole of society, as it were, tends to be afflicted with a general malaise as individual carbon based units migrate from place to place doing whatever it is they deem important. In most instances, this important activity includes some form of low level communication, shuffling papers from one side of a desk to another, drinking caffeinated beverages and staring fascinated at a cat cleaning itself. The “shields up” state is a constant, particularly when watching a cat clean itself, lest the human be caught staring by said cat and the human receiving a blank stare from the feline telepathically communicating the thought, “Don't you wish you could do the same”.
Humans are in a constant state of self protection, all the while yearning for connection. So ingrained is this yen for connection that they will often find ways of attracting attention to themselves without regard to personal safety, physically or emotionally, through activities which require them to wear protective clothing and shut off their conscious brain. Since the subconscious seems to run the show in the human mind, it is this subconscious which determines whether now is a good time for attention getting or not, often through means unbecoming of their ancestral apes.
This, then, is the great human dichotomy which permeates through their inept, directionless, self-defeating social structure; the unconscious need to be connected while having emotional shields up thus preventing said connection in the first place and searching out activities which give them those emotional boosts much to the detriment of their physical being.
Yeah... I don't get it either.
In summary, humans are most likely not a threat to anything accept themselves, their environment and any hapless traveller wandering into their midst trying to communicate on virtually any level of rational thought. Beyond that, Earth is a decent place to watch the goings on from a distance. While somewhat affable, becoming engaged in the activities of humans comes with its own perils, inclusive of any attempts to define pretty much anything about them, and should be considered mentally hazardous.
Any attempt to understand the reasoning behind human activity will most likely result in paralysis and a yearning to dine on dirt.

I wonder if I should remove the yellow X. You know... just as a protective measure.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Zombie Apocalypse

It could have been worse, I suppose. 
I could have heard myself singing.
I was listening to some music on my iPod and sort of dancing around the apartment. I say sort of because I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror; an older white guy trying to shake his booty and get down with some soul tunes... Stevie Wonder. Umm... I looked kinda drunk and was debunked that I might have any crunk-funk in the trunk. So much for feeling hunky.
Dude... is that REALLY the best move you have? Don't ever, ever, EVER do that in public.
I tend to listen to a lot of different music. I sometimes listen to the tunes of my generation and sometimes I go looking for something fresh and new. I like world music. I like some of the intricacies of indie music (as I'm listening to Far Away by JUNIP). Sometimes I'm in a classical mood and other times I'll funk out to some arse-shaking soul melody.
~Stand in front of a runaway train,
Just to feel alive again~
from JUNIP's Far Away
I watched as the woman stepped off the curb, staring intently at her cell phone and not noticing the light was red for her and green for me. At no point did she seem to notice she had stopped four lanes of traffic with her blithe, incoherent meander across the white-lined tarmac.
A young man skateboards across three lanes of traffic without so much as a glance either way, headphones strapped to his toque clad head. I see red taillights ahead of me and the tell-tale dive of the front of cars under heavy braking.
One needn't see a B-grade horror flick to understand the zombie apocalypse is upon us. We've stopped paying attention and many of those among us are pretty mindless in our daily pursuits.
I suspect there are several reasons for this affliction. I could easily point at technology and blame our irrepressible fascination with what is happening on a small screen rather than what is occurring in the real world around us. I'm not sure technology is the issue though. Technology is technology and nothing more. We vilify technical devices when how we engage with said tech is a choice. If we, as human beings, weren't seeking some form of refuge, electronic or otherwise, cell phones, tablets, flashing big screen billboards and computers wouldn't have any fascination at all.
We are looking for something, yes?
Of course we are and that thing is distraction. We want to be distracted from our bland lives. We want to be distracted from whatever unimaginably gargantuan problem is dangling from a stick in front of our faces today (even though next week that trial will be forgotten altogether). We seek refuge from anxiety and heartache and broken down cars and money issues and death and taxes and dreadful bosses and eroding relationships by diving into whatever convenience is at hand to divert our mind away.
We are avoiding what we believe are the low points of our daily existence. The real issue with avoiding feeling the low points at all costs is overall numbness. We begin to avoid all feeling, even the good stuff.
And then, to get that joyous burst of energy we seek to feel alive again, we subconsciously stand in front of a runaway train.
Though technology isn't intrinsically a bad thing, (insert booze, drugs, internet, needy relationships, workaholics, surfing 198 nonsensical channels, etc), the use of it for escapism rather than dealing with the issue is the problem. It is, in my experience, far, far better to deal with an issue up front and resolve it, or let it go, than it ever is to attempt to sweep it under the Persian Avoidance Carpet and spend the rest of life walking on lumpy floor covering.
I tend to trip too easily to have lumpy floor coverings.
That we have become a society of zombies isn't really a surprise, is it? We have numbed ourselves to the “bad” feelings by using outside influences to avoid. By doing so, we have also numbed ourselves to the “good” feelings. We have become a society of avoiders and in that avoiding have become a collective of bland, middle of the road , boring skin suits.
The solution to the problem is not turning our backs on technology. The real solution is teaching humans the only way to deal with issues is to face them... and themselves. By facing (and feeling) the low points and dealing with them head on, we also open ourselves up to notice the exciting high points life sends our way every day.
If you want to feel again, forget the zombie movies and the text from your BFF and the depressing television news. All you need to know is none of the solution is outside yourself. It is all contained within... and it is a conscious decision to feel... everything.
Of course, there's always that funky, painful looking dancing thing-a-ma-hooey I seem to have a proclivity for. I'm not all that concerned about looking like a goof. After all, I can dance like no-one is watching... because they're not... because they're zombies.
I wonder what would happen if I sang.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Getting Drilled

I was accosted by two women.
I used to think I would love the sensation of opening my gaping maw while simultaneously getting drilled. Let's face it... there’'s nothing like lying on my back and having the undivided attention of two woman sticking their fingers in my mouth. Add the yanking and prodding and my life becomes electric intoxication... sort of.

I was visiting my dentist. 
I like the idea of laying back in a lounge type chair with two good looking masked women paying undivided attention... without me having to beg and other groveling shit. Let's be honest... cleavage didn't hurt.
An extraction? Dandy.
The freezing was slow to take effect. When dentist lady tested the freezing with her six foot stainless steel cattle prod, she realized the freezing wasn't working quite the way she hoped. I realised it too. I suspect her first indicator was the Apollo-like missile launch of fecal matter straight out the leg of my Wrangler relax-fit pant leg onto the opposite wall. Umm, yeah Doc. I can still feel it.
The freezing only took four harpoon sized, orca-numbing needles.
The wiggling of the harpoon tip perforating my jaw bone inducing an involuntary butt clench was exquisite. Digging into the bone was my fault, really. I shouldn'’t have had that uncontrollable body spasm. You know, the spasm caused when the needle goes into the cheek, the dentist wiggles the cattle prod around trying to find the vein she missed on the five previous failures and you're back arches like you're getting your hair pulled by Andre the Giant and a Brahma bull is riding your ass? Yeah... that spasm.
Mental note... DO NOT share Brahma bull story.
It was all good once they told me that should be the last needle and the two of them managed to persuade me to calm down, decompress and slowly unravel myself from the overhead light thingy.
Who says white men can't jump?
The extraction was a blast. It was an improperly installed wisdom tooth cap that had broken off near the gum line. The one at the very back where invading hands make the gag reflex uncomfortably high and the breathing index non-existent. Naturally, the dentist thinks this is a good time to find out what you think about hydro-dynamics and it's effect on the quantum flu.
I'bd wen ayakink a ikink. Really? Now is a good time for conversation?
It was likely a bit difficult for the cute dentist and her just-as-cute assistant to finish up; the room now filled with the wonderful ambiance from the recently flushed brown emission due to an unadvertised, rocket-launched, involuntary barium enema blast.
The tooth extracted, I spit voluminous amounts of DNA evidence into the porcelain, gnome mini-toilet beside the hospital green lounge chair. They packed the dental equivalent of six fits-all, self expanding rolled arm slings into my mouth and pleaded with me to get the hell out. As I left, I could hear aerosol cans and a fire hose.
What I don’'t understand is how dentist's can let you loose on the world looking for all the world like a Picasso print when three quarters of your face is sliding off and everything you say sounds like an overly-indulged bacchanalian sailor at the local pub trying to pick up an equally overly-indulged college sorority sweatheart. I think they should have an unfreezing room somewhere so, like the querulous preschool sniveller that I am, I can lie down until I have enough control to speak some version of any Earth language and my arse has stopped surreptitiously draining poop.
I think they should provide a washer and dryer too.
Instead, they cut bait and run. On the way home, I had the inane idea of ordering a coffee to go (take out). It was an undertaking in drool laden, mental pause heaven “I’bid woulbd libik a largeb cobbee wibbit creabm abnd sugber.” Of course, that didn'’t fly as half my face was still hanging at my navel. I thought holding my lip with my index finger might help since it had long since refused to stop floundering where it doesn't belong. As if it would help them understand better, I start talking more loudly, “I’BID WOULBD LIBIK A LARGEB COBBEE WIBBIT CREABM ABND SUGBER!” People turned away and sniggered. The pretty woman in the next line stared wide-eyed and giggled. Why is it always the case that a pretty woman is around when your face is falling off and you smell like rottweiler turd?
I did made six bucks in pity donations and got a number for a decent shrink.
Finally, I gave up speaking and pointed at a pen and paper. Next time engage brain and use the drive-through with written instructions, Dude.
Eventually, I made it home despite my drooping, perma-wink, eye lid and left brain gelatinous mental incapacitation. The dentist warned me there would likely be a little bit of pain. When the freezing started coming out, I scrambled for my Pez dispenser loaded with 4000 mg tablets of Tylenol, a few muscle relaxers mixed in for good measure and started firing away like a inebriated, run amok Laura Croft.
I’m doing fine, though it's a bit difficult typing with only one eye sort of functioning, half my face laying on the keyboard and the extra treat of hallucinogenic induced crawling things. It's a bit distracting. Probably the 'ludes.
Did I mention the 'ludes?
I wonder if I learned anything from this experience. Nah. Probably not. I am male, after all. And they were pretty ladies. What is it with pretty ladies and guys doing stupid, he-man shit?
I think it's nap time. This is Spaceman Spiff signing out from the outermost edges of the rings of Saturn... or the middle of Sherwood Forest... I'm really not sure.

Are those fairies? I like fairies.

Monday, 26 October 2015

One O One

This is my one hundred first post on this blog... best make it a good one, no?
As blogs go, this is the fourth incarnation of the fluttering inner workings of the mind of Ed. In truth, I've written more than seven hundred posts of various form from incredibly inane to some form of vanity fuelled attempt at the cerebral. A good lot of those early works aren't fit for consumption by the general public due in part to language usage and also in part to content best left for the Universe to deal with. After I die, someone can break into my electronic files and read it all. The odds are pretty good I won't give a shit at that point.
Of course, if I'm being brutally honest with myself, some of those early posts are unmitigated crap anyway.
As incarnations developed, I managed to dip my foot into the pool of many genres, my voice seemingly shifting with the tides. While this may seem odd and somewhat wasteful, each attempt was necessary until I found my writing voice. It was then I understood I needed to re-member five things:
-I had to be honest with who I am.
-I had to bring that honesty to my audience.
-I had to write from my heart and not my head.
-I had to refrain from chasing the idea of what my audience might like.
-I had to be vulnerable and willing to voice my beliefs.
-Swearing is healthy (that's six but... fuck it... they're my rules).
As I'm writing this, it occurs to me those rules may well be keys to living. At the very least, they're a guide for me. Whether they ring true for each of you is open to discussion.
My friend Joyce and I were talking about tribes the other day; those people who think and feel similarly about a lot of stuff. Specifically, we were discussing our tribe and how cool it was to be around our people. I thought about it afterwards and realized my tribe doesn't have to agree with everything I agree with and, the underlying principals of how we, as a group, approach life does need to be very similar.
Don't the five ideas above apply to a tribe as much as they apply to writing? I think so. That makes my tribe a safe place.
So... I'm thinking about love. Not the “in love” kind, though that Dopamine inducing state is certainly rolled into the big, bright warm fuzziness called love. There are all kinds of love and it seems to me they all follow the same basic rules. And, like writing, it can be a trial and error deal at times. I know I didn't get it right all of the time. I also know I put forth my best effort... every time.
So how do the rules apply to love (whether friends, family, chosen family or lovers)? 
The first one is easy, no? If I'm not being honest with myself, in time that will show up in relationships. Not knowing who I am brings confusion and inconsistency to my actions. If I'm inconsistent, how do you suppose that affects the person I'm relating with. Confused, right? Putting forth my best effort means being consistent regardless of how they react... and I can only be consistent if I know myself and am being honest with myself.
The second rule is more difficult. Sometimes being honest with someone is painful. Brutal honesty isn't always the best path. That doesn't mean I have permission to wander through the door of dishonesty. At times, I think, it's important to not say anything. It's not about keeping the peace. It's about not going out of my way to hurt someone else. Having said all of that, even though the truth can hurt, it's better to be honest than to construct a house in quicksand.
It isn't real love if it's not coming from my heart. So, the third principal is pretty easy. If I operate from my heart, everything I say and do will have a loving intent.
I remember when I was younger I spent an awful lot of time trying to convince other people I was lovable. I would chase them for attention and, ultimately, do things that weren't who I was. Where is the sense in chasing people who continuously run away? There isn't any, really. I was trying too hard with people who wouldn't stop running. Eventually, I did two things. I came to the realization I am lovable and then, naturally, I stopped chasing approval. Real love isn't a race or a chase or a convincing argument.  
Vulnerability is a buzz word these days. The reason there is such a buzz about it is because it's true. Unless I am willing to open the vault without fear of reprisal and let out those things from my past I think are ugly, then it's not love. That doesn't mean I spontaneously spew all my crap on the Persian rug. It does mean I am brave enough to show it when appropriate. Love is whole. It's two whole people showing up for the dance. It's tough to dance with both partners having one leg tied behind their back. Vulnerability means feeling safe enough to hold your heart in your hand and say to someone, “Take care of this for me, will you?”
I started this out writing about writing. Then I went on about tribes. Finally I managed a discourse on love. My brain kind of wanders like that. I could just as easily written about cooking or hiking or skydiving or marriage counselling or my job. It's the same principal I've mentioned more than once... how I do one thing is how I do everything.
All I know is this, if I follow these rules, something else follows along I don't even have to put any effort into; respect. Respect for my audience. Respect for my tribe. Respect for those I love. And, respect for myself.
Ed's Respectful Living - One O One.
Be well, ya'll.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Two Tribes

If you think you see division in the world, you would be right. And the chasm is becoming larger. So large, in fact, the language used by either side is becoming unintelligible to the other and the echoes down the canyon walls becoming fainter.
I have a friend who believes there is a widening split in the psychological make-up of the planet. I agree. Long before we ever talked about the split I felt it looming in the distance. Every issue is becoming an antagonistic issue. If you think this is a Right/Left issue, think again. Both Left and Right can be as alienating and hostile as the other. If one looks closely enough, there is little difference in either modus operendi.
They are part and parcel of the same tribe.
One needn't look far for evidence.
Look at election campaigns here in Canada and in the States. The antagonistic division has become so wide I, personally, have difficulty relating completely with either Left or Right.
Look at gun issues which, for some idiotic reason, Canadians have taken up as their own, even though it's a U.S. problem. We, in Canada, are one of the top ten safest nations in the world (seventh). The U.S. Is ninety-fourth safest. We want to emulate them? Should be the other way around.
Look at immigration. We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Look at the environment. The next hundred years are going to be... interesting... since we haven't felt the full effect of Global Warming. Think there's no Global Warming? Good. I have some beach property you might like.
Look at the gap between the wealthy and the poor. You think that's a healthy society? Really?
What you generally see in mass media and on the internet with regard to the above issues (and many, many others) is one tribe.
There are three tribes forming in the world; the Antagonists, the Evaluators and the Uninterested (who aren't really a tribe at all). And this isn't simply an economic thing, though economies of scale are affected. This is a psychological thing. It's a state of mind.
It all comes down to beliefs.
The Antagonists are easy to pick out. They battle over everything. There is not one issue they don't believe they not an expert about or at least deserves their opinion. Not one. And, Antagonists can be found on both the Right, the Left or the Centre of any issue. Despite opposing views, they are wrapped in the same ball of yarn. It's their way or the highway. They have a rear-view point of view. they tend to draw on history as their guide for the future. 
Antagonists tend to be exclusive and believe everyone is separate.
The Evaluators are the opposite side of the coin. They will stand up for what they believe all while accepting other people have a differing opinion. They tend to be more accepting of other points of view and cherish the right for each persons freedom of thought and expression. They know what they want the world to look like and they lead by example, not by force. They have a forward thinking point of view and they pick their battles. They believe history does not have to dictate the future. 
Evaluators tend to be inclusive and believe we are all one.
Between these two tribes is where the chasm lies. This is the split the world is seeing.
The Uninterested are those who amble through life with blinders on believing:
a) there's nothing they can do about it so why try,
b) if they think only "good" thoughts and play by the "rules" then their world will be okay (good people get hit by disease, cars, bullets and tornadoes... just saying)
c) if they ignore it or hide from from it, it will go away, or
d) they'll wait to see which side is winning then lean that way.
It's not difficult to decipher who resides in which tribe. How we do one thing is how we do everything. All one need do is follow the actions of folks and it will become pretty apparent where they stand. Social Media is a wonderful tool for such comparison. It's pretty easy to discern who is in which tribe simply by seeing what is posted or what they do or don't click “like” on.
Division has always existed. It's not something new. There have always been differing opinions about issues and there always will be so long as there are at least two humans occupying the planet. There have been and always will be differing views regarding life and how to handle issues as they arise. What has changed is the vision for the future. In that vision, the two sides are diametrically opposed. One group is inclined to set the rules while the other searches for common ground.
The Uninterested wait for someone else to make the decisions for them. The Uninterested are not a tribe simply because they lack clear direction.
The two tribes then, are the Antagonists and the Evaluators... and the gap between the Antagonist tribe and the Evaluator tribe is growing larger. I don't see that trend changing any time soon. The internal language of the two are diametrically opposed and largely incomprehensible to the other.
What does this mean in the grand schema? Not much really. It's only humanity and the planet which hang in the balance.

No big deal.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

From the Journals of Oz...

It's a propaganda war.
Somehow the vast majority of people have been led along a path of mundane feudalism to a land of unremarkable, workaday nonexistence. They are sold the idea they can win if only they work harder, work smarter and work longer. All the shepherds require is for the sheep-like masses to continue working for the benefit of the few. It's as if those who have false wealth or stand in a self-imposed, self-regulated position of authority are to be catered to without opposition.
Obedience is the real scourge of modern society.
In the past, common men and women were forced, through fear and lack of education, to obey the inane misgivings of those who would lead. In the past, men like Amin or Hitler or the leaders of the industrial revolution and the Dark Ages and the Roman Empire and industrialized nations used brute force to keep human sheep from wandering off a broken-glass strewn path, citing the pain inflicted as the price of their salvation. It was those leaders who founded the idea that those with few resources were worth less and mere pawns in the fabric which they, the leaders, created in their own best interest... all the while dangling a carrot of false hope and imaginary enlightenment to the beleaguered.
Over time, the masses have become more intelligent; better read, more culturally diverse, more accepting of various viewpoints, more able to solve problems in unconventional ways, more knowledgeable of the workings of our world. Yet by and large they follow the same self-indulgent, self-propagating rules of those who believe they are kings without any thought of stepping outside an imaginary electric fence. The imagined foot of self-indulgent kings pushed at the throats of the many and the many feeling the force of the foot without that foot actually existing.
Despite increasing knowledge, the same demented, feudal mindset still proliferates from the Dark Ages and the Egyptian Empire and beyond.
We have been sold that he who has the hammer hits the nails without considering who made the hammer.
Without thought, many follow along the well trod trail with a propaganda nose ring tugged fervently from time to time by hand selected mass media. They are left believing their only goal in life is to outlast the person next to them. My insularism from the world was a choice to remove the ring and step off the path. Free of the propaganda, I am left to watch in rapt horror as the remarkably unremarkable are lauded while the rest are tugged past by nonexistent strings. I watch as extraordinary people lead a quotidian life where the only goal, it seems, is avoiding adversity or cultural banishment and to simply survive the longest.
Civil disobedience is the antidote for the common man.
There are far too many among the throng who have cast aside their wands and given up their power for the effortless road; the road of complacency and mindlessness and ultimate un-celebrated death. Millions have been slaughtered by blind obedience in wars. Millions have died of poverty while the fortunate few look on citing "if they would only become good citizens and play by the rules, this wouldn't happen." Millions more have died living in complacency and giving in to the puppeteers.
We are sold a blasphemous monologue of hope. Things mean more than people.
I have become an army of one, stepping off the path away from the herd to reclaim my identity. I search for those who have also escaped, though they seem to be few. I have left those who would follow along blindly. I have left the deepening, mostly inescapable rut and the nostril clogging dust of a billion chained, dragging feet to smell the invitation offered by life away from the captive herd.
I have chosen to resist simply by no longer following and to do what I know in my heart is right and just and honest. My chosen path is no path at all... to exist among those who choose to walk beside me for whatever time they choose... and to no longer be dragged by the nose.
I understand the enormity of my task; to whisper into the ears of those who pass in the unending line with wistful hope a few will hear and understand... and join me.
I have a hope that perhaps, one day, I will bear witness a rebirth... to critical mass.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Biggest Baddest Tree

James saw himself pick up the chainsaw from the damp grassy meadow at his feet.
It was almost as if he were having an out of body experience yet he knew this was as real as what he had for breakfast. Four eggs, half a pound of bacon, three pieces of toast, a grilled tomato and two glasses of orange juice. Damn! Focus, Dude. From where he stood in the field overlooking the forest, it was still safe. He peered into the woods not one hundred feet away. It was dark and damp within the trees and there were heavy clouds hanging overhead as if grasping the top of the forest with soft, damp hands.
It's not as if I've never been in there before, he thought.
James took his first steps with slight trepidation. He glanced suspiciously at the orange-yellow saw in his hand as if it might have suddenly taken leave of him. It was still there. He double checked the extra can of gasoline strapped to his back. With more purpose, he strode toward the woods. He knew there were allies in there. He also knew of the defenders of the tree. Oh, they wouldn't kill him and their trickery and magic and conniving would certainly set him off his task if he didn't concentrate.
The ogres were the worst, he mused. They smelled like raw sewage mixed with skunk. And their breath would kill... well... an ogre. Once I was past the ogres, the ghosts and the field of poison ivy, I would be fine... I think. At least I had the wolves, hawks and rabbits on my side.
The forest engulfed him almost immediately. Clouds, seemingly sensing something was afoot, moved lower creating a damp haze close to the ground. The path to the gnarled old tree was never a question; head straight for the heart. It was where it all began. James had seen the tree on a few occasions when he was removing other diseased trees. The bark was grey and scarred, it was flat along the top as if it were pushed down by the hand of God though he knew it was simply the illness afflicting it. It spread far and wide. There were more than a dozen large branches emanating from the twisted, stubby trunk. The patchy clusters of leaves were a coppery, green but they didn't really shimmer. The light they appeared to have was stolen from the energy of the forest.
The tree was the disease.
It was how the tree managed to survive. It drew energy from every corner of the forest stunting the growth of otherwise healthy trees. It seemed to reach everywhere like a black hole eating light.
As James stepped through the forest, damp leaves whispering at his feet, he recognized trees he had passed before. Near the edge were saplings he had planted recently and as he drew deeper into the woods, he saw trees he had planted months and years before. There colour and energy invigorated him... inspiring him to push on.
The forest became darker... wetter... sadder.
As the fog grew thick closer to the ground, he could hear the ogres echoed grunts in the distance. Did they know he was here? He pushed on single minded in his task. What will be, will be.
The abruptness of shapes passing silently through the woods around him took him by surprise. It wasn't the ogres. They were never quiet. More often than not they simply waited until a hapless victim wandered by. They were often lazy that way unless they became agitated. James expected agitated today. They wouldn't be quiet.
A moment after he noticed the shapes, the wolves morphed from the fog. James stopped for a moment and watched as the entire pack appeared. They were all varying shades of grey from almost white to almost pitch black. The largest of the pack came up to him, nuzzled his free hand and started ahead of him through the forest. The wolves would handle the ogres if it came to it. They were fleet of foot, quiet and worked as a team.
Wolves knew the meaning of family.
James followed the alpha male. The alpha female circled around behind him to make sure nothing came from the rear. The rag-tag team moved into the forest. James could feel the mist dampening his clothing and his hair. I hope the saw starts, he thought.
James heard the grunt before he saw the massive outline.
The ogre was on James and the wolves in the blink of an eye. It's grey-brown, pock marked skin glistening with droplets of mist. It let out a roar akin to a tormented elephant or buffalo. James skin crawled with the vibration of the bellowing beast. Somewhere in the distance James heard answering roars.
Yup. They're agitated. Crap! Time to go!
The wolves leaped in front of the ogre. James took off running, the alpha female and three other wolves at his side. The saw banged awkwardly against his thigh yet he managed to keep moving forward. The wolves kept his pace.
Branches whipping around him caught his bare skin yet James continued to scramble through the bush. He ignored the painful welts appearing across his face. The struggle behind him filled the forest with snarls from the wolves and bellows from the ogres. All the wolves had to do was keep the ogres away from him until the tree was down. After that, it was over. Easier said than done. Even as he ran he could feel his trembling heart. The ogre had taken him by surprise. What other surprises was he in for?
The forest was alive now. Everything here knew he was coming for the tree.
Even the tree knew.
It wasn't long before the clearing began to emerge ahead. James broke into the meadow. It was a field of mostly dead grasses and flowers with the life sucked out of them. The ground became soggier. The mist cleared then closed then cleared again. He could see the ring of poison ivy surrounding the massive tree at the centre. And he could hear the low moan of the ghosts. Three hawks landed on dead tree branches on the opposite side of the clearing; waiting. The hawks would handle the ghosts.
The rabbits hadn't appeared. Where were they?
As if on cue, the rabbits came out of the forest from behind him. They went straight for the poison ivy. This wasn't regular poison ivy. It was the spawn of the diseased tree. This ivy didn't just make a person itch. It burned like a hot poker. Unless, that is, you were a rabbit. Who knew rabbits ate poison ivy? James knew he wouldn't make it through the ivy on his own. The pain would be excruciating.
An ogre burst through the trees a hundred feet away. Eight long, thunderous strides with three wolves snarling at his heels and he was almost on top of James. James ducked as a wooden club swished over his head. The breeze of the club swing ruffled the hair raised on the back of his neck. He scrambled past the ogre and the wolves, the cacophony of snarling and bellowing ringing his ears. He glanced at the rabbits as he ran. Eat faster!
The ogre tried to turn as James rushed past. It slipped to the ground and the wolves were on it in an instant. The wolves couldn't kill an ogre. What they could do was inflict enough wounds to make the ogre back off.
As he ran, turning away from the scene of ogre and wolves, the first ghost flew through James. He recognized the ghost from his past just before it passed through him. In an instant a feeling of deep regret overcame him and he went to his knees. Damn it! He bowed his head in a sudden onslaught of shame. He glanced around and could see more ghosts. He recognized all of them. Self doubt filled him, shaking him to the core. I haven't even reached the damned tree yet! How can I do this? I don't know if I have it in me. I simply haven't... One of the hawks flew by, turned and landed on his shoulder with a whisper of wind from its wings. James turned toward the hawk who cocked his head to one side. It's yellow-orange eyes stared at him unblinking. Okay, he thought.
James looked around. The wolves were snarling and snapping at the ogre. Another ogre had appeared and was already down on the ground. The hawks were corralling the ghosts one by one. He saw the poltergeist. The one who had started all of this. The one who had planted the tree. If that one got to James, this fight was over. The hawks flew over his head in a protective shield. The rabbits were already half way through the ivy. The war raged around him. From somewhere deep inside, he drew the strength to get back to his feet. His clothes muddy and sodden, he took one step. Then another. And another. He looked at the ghosts, his face growing stern. This is the last time you take me down.
Another ogre appeared nearby. James started running again. The rabbits were almost through the ivy and James followed their trail. There was little fear in him now. Only determination. It was time. James made it to the tree moments after the rabbits had cleared a path through the ivy.
He heard the tree moan ominously. The first part of the war was happening behind him. This was his battle and his alone. The wind began to pick up whistling through the branches. Leaves swirled in the wind around him in dust devils that grew in intensity. The sky darkened further as more cloud settled in around the tree. The sun was almost completely blocked now. Dusk had settled over James and the massive tree.
You need me, the tree seemed to say.
I don't, James replied having a conversation in his mind.
The tree whispered back, I have been here for you all of your life. I have protected you. You hid in my branches and leaned on me when you were hurt. You cannot let me go.
I needed you long ago, James thought. Now... NOW... you are in my way. I have grown beyond you. I now have my own strength to lean on.
But I protected you!, The tree's whispers became a quiet plea.
James started the saw.
The wind whistled louder in the branches of the tree. The tree groaned angrily and its branches flailed, often narrowly missing James. The saw roared in his hands and ignoring everything happening around him, he cut off one of the massive branches. Sap began pouring out of the wound. It was blood red. A second branch swung violently in the wind catching James in the ribs. He was flung to the ground, pain shooting through his chest. He ignored the pain. Today was the day.
That branch was the next he cut off.
James continued to cut the branches off the tree. It wasn't long before he was covered in blood red sap, sawdust and blown leaves. The tree still struggled, the ogres and wolves still fought, the hawks kept the ghosts at bay and he focused on the trunk. It was massive. Over the years it had disfigured and twisted itself into a massive knot. Piece by piece he hacked at the trunk.
It seemed like hours before the tree began to sway. James kept hacking pieces out until finally the tree tumbled with a massive thud to the ground emitting one last mournful, gasping groan. He looked at the fallen tree. It wasn't over; not quite yet.
James stumbled over to the extra gasoline. It had separated itself from him when the branches caught him in the ribs. He was breathing heavily, bruised, lacerated and covered in the filth from a monumental struggle. As he poured gasoline over the downed branches and the massive trunk, his strength slowly came back. He carved several deep notches in the huge stump and poured gas as deeply in as possible. The roots have to die, he thought.
James stood back for a moment, thought a silent prayer, took an orange lighter from his pocket and lit each piece of the tree. The smoke whisked into the sky; gold, grey, brown and auburn. As each branch burned, the ghosts began to disappear. As the trunk burned, the ivy began to wilt. As the roots burned, the ogres fell to their knees.
James watched fire consume the tree. Both delight and fear filled him. The centrepiece was gone. That which he had lived with, breathed with, hidden behind and lamented over was gone.
After an indescribable amount of time, James backed away from the inferno. The tree no longer made any sound. The sap was no longer flowing. The forest around him was silent; peaceful. The wolves joined him at his side. All were battle worn; bruised and cut from the conflict. He turned and walked away when he was sure the tree was completely consumed in flame.
James walked from the darkness. The sky overhead was clearing and the trees of the forest whispered in a light breeze. The wolves accompanied him toward the edge of the woods where they would stay as his protectors. The hawks flew overhead, diving and soaring on the breeze. The rabbits had retreated back into the forest. They didn't find battles appealing. Only one remained behind; Walter. James smiled at Walter and he swore he got a smile back.
At the edge of the woods, James hesitated for a moment. Two tears rolled down his cheeks; one for the loss of something he had carried all of his life and a second for newly found freedom.

With one last glance over his shoulder and a contented smile, James stepped purposefully out of the woods.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Getting Engaged

I knew that would get your attention.
No, I am not shoving an errant-sized ring on anyone's finger. Nor am I seeking a finger attached to a curvy homo-sapiens to do so. I'm pretty happy where I'm at. Thanks for your thoughts and concerns though. They are duly noted.
For the record, I'm currently in advanced ninja type training to be a dirty old man with a permanent, lecherous grin anyway and that's an endeavour best done alone.
Vaguely along that line of rationale, I've been to two beautiful weddings this year. Neither one was what one might call traditional. The first was done in a manner which was reversed from the usual order of things and an officiant who might do well in stand-up. But then, my friend J has never been much for doing things by societal rote which is why we get along as well as we do. The second wedding was outdoors surrounded by burgeoning farmers fields with a friend of the bride and groom officiating. My friend V isn't much for strict tradition either. (I sense a pattern here.) The vows at both weddings were intimate love letters spoken aloud for all to hear.
Yup... a tear came to my eye. Anyone who knows me well enough wouldn't see that as a surprise.
I was talking with a friend the other night... on the phone. Can you imagine such an antiquated thing? Actually talking and hearing a voice? Wonder of wonders, neither of us died from the experience. During the call, they said, “Isn't it odd we talk so easily to one another about anything?”
Personally, I don't find it odd we can become engaged with another person. It's what we seek because it's in our DNA. In today's world of impersonal communication, is it any wonder we cling to a rare real voice? When we find someone who has a lot in common with us, whether they are next door or across the planet, our psyche will latch on somehow knowing we have unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly) found a member of our tribe. It doesn't matter what gender or race or creed or sexual orientation. It matters if they think and feel about the world and people and the universe the same way we do.
For the record, I choose to believe our tribe will find us... or vice versa... if we're open to it. Just sayin'.
Here's where I can only speak from personal experience. When I become engaged in conversation with another person at a fundamental level, it doesn't matter what we talk about. It could be a discussion about fixing the car or if the planet really is going to hell in a hand-basket. I hear and feel what they are saying. It's called empathy.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm thinking about my next response without hearing what they are saying.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm babbling just to hear my own voice.
I know I'm not connecting if I'm surfing channels or the net while the conversation is going on.
I know I'm not connecting if the other person is doing the surfing.
I know I'm not connecting if all we have is a few notes back and forth on social media.
Engaging with another person is personal. A voice at the end of a phone is always better than a text message... and a lot less misunderstood. At the same time, texting or e-mailing or a note through social media isn't a bad thing when starting off a conversation. It's a great way to send a grocery list or schedule a time to pick up the kids. It's a great way to reconnect after long absences before a phone call.
Personal conversation where the topic is important and voice inflection means something should always be done by phone or face to face.
It seems to me society as a whole has become so disengaged we can't see the trail back. It also seems to me the trail might start with a text message or an email... and end by hearing a voice and seeing a face.
The love letters at the weddings read face to face were probably the most meaningful engagement I have seen in a long while. I can't imagine how dispassionate the ceremonies would be if those love letters were sent by text.
Perhaps that's the secret to re-engaging... writing a letter and reading our heartfelt feelings aloud... face to face.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Phone Calls From the Edge

I was on my own.
I was hiking along the Niagara Escarpment the other day. I'm a pretty capable hiker and comfortable in the woods. While I'm no adrenaline junky, there isn't much that gives me the willies. Just don't ask me to jump off a bridge with an oversized rubber band hog-tied to my ankles. A few photos I wished to snap were best taken along the rim. I stood at the edge looking downward along cold grey cliffs, shattered boulders strewn along the jagged base five hundred feet below from millenniums of erosion carving away unfortunate pieces of bluff, wind rustling the trees around me and a light rain dampening my footing and thought, “Huh. Bet that could hurt.”
I got the photos.
Risky, yes. Unconscionable, no. I trust myself and my ability to know where to draw the risk line; that place where calculated risk turns into asinine.
That same night I was on the phone with a friend. My conversations tend to wander all over the place, close to the cliff, if you will, as they found out soon enough. Like my life in general, there seldom seems to be a straight line to anywhere. People who can stick with me and my esoteric mind are treasured. My friend is one such person. They seem to be able to wait me out knowing, somehow, I'll circle around to the previous topic in due course. That takes trust on their part understanding I haven't lost sight of the subject... or them for that matter.
It also takes trust on my part that the person I'm talking with isn't going to get lost somewhere along my roundabout journey. The way I communicate, wandering around like a verbal drunkard spilling mixed metaphors along a quiet midnight street, is not an easy trail to follow. I seldom leave bread crumbs. Finding someone who communicates in the same abstruse manner I do... priceless. (And, I'm told, funny as hell to sit back and watch from a safe distance.)
It seems I write in a similar style to how I speak... or vise versa. I'm not sure which acme first... the chicken or the barbecue. Trust, and not becoming frustrated, is a big deal in such a conversation, largely due to what seems a lack of direction.
It occurred to me as the back and forth went on if I wish to understand my trust level with someone a few of things may occur. Firstly, when I'm asked a difficult question (the ones that make me glance around for a ticking nuclear device), how do I react. If I tense up getting ready for an explosion or retaliation, I'm probably getting defensive and not trusting. If I'm all loosey goosey and not too worried about what might be coming back, odds are pretty good I trust them.
Secondly, if I feel comfortable talking about virtually anything without feeling there may be retribution, then my trust level is high. When I start measuring my responses, it's the first indication I'm not trusting the other person to be able to handle what I really want to say (or how I wish to say it). I'm afraid of hurting them, waiting for the other shoe to drop or having them freak out... so I temper my responses.
It seems to me many intimate couple's relationships disappear into the vast, echo-less void this way... trust eroding piece by piece tinkling onto the ceramic kitchen floor.
Trust slips away slowly, chipped away by tiny comments, overly amplified responses, misinterpretation or trying to “fix” something undesirable in the other person. When the trust slips away, intimacy fritters away with it. Intimacy, (not physical intimacy, though that can be a victim as well) is only meted out when there is trust. Plain and simple. Oddly enough, the only way to gain trust back is... you guessed it... to become vulnerable which requires intimacy. It's the human paradox we call relationship.
Life is so much easier when trust isn't lost in the first place. Particularly self trust. If I don't trust myself to do what is best for me, I'll never fully trust anyone else... and intimacy will remain floating away just beyond the tips of my outstretched fingers.
Self trust is measured by the conversations I have with myself.
For me, it seems trust is grown by stepping to the edge, looking over the cliff and knowing there is someone there who will catch me if I slip... even if that slip is some random line of thought during a phone call.
How's that for a metaphor?


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Between a Rock...

We're stuck
Inside our own machine
from Apparitions by the Mathew Goode Band

Warning... weird shit... just sayin'.
Have you ever wondered how much of this is real?
I often wonder about things like reality, relationships, world events and why bacon tastes better crispy. But then I'm a pathological wonderer anyway. And I invent words like “wonderer” while contemplating the meaning of Quantum Mechanics, distance, versions of reality and why I'm here and not there because I secretly think I'm some Byzantine, pureed version of Shakespeare, Einstein, George Carlin and burnt toast rolled into an electrified vat of luminescent green goo.
Sometimes I just wake up mentally messy.
So... I'm out minding my own business doing my work thing on a weekday afternoon surrounded by Hugo Boss, Ann Taylor and squeaking patent leather in the downtown area when I happen across a man about my age talking to a rock. Not just any rock, mind you. A big, honkin' boulder. Kind of a cute, greyish sweetheart as boulders go, if you're into that kind of thing. What do I know from rocks? This one could have been a real hottie. Who am I to judge, ya know?
And the conversation, though one sided, was quite lucid and passionate.
It occurred to me our brains are capable of almost anything. I know not why this man's brain has morphed itself into it's own internalized world. Somewhere, the circuits crossed and a world of his own making began creating itself. Or... are they crossed at all? Clinically, this man would likely be diagnosed, in simple terms, as insane though, in his brain, he is not insane at all.
Which begs the question, who's reality is real?
Insane people don't know they're insane. They have their own reality and that experience is as concrete to them as ours is to us.
Which brings me to me. How do I know my reality is the real reality? How do I know I'm not making this all up and what I think is real is simply an internalized movie running incessantly on a loop through alternately misfiring synapses while I'm wearing a lovely white coat with leather straps, buckles, extra long sleeves and arms bow-tied neatly in back? For all I know I, myself, could very well be talking to a padded wall in a brightly lit room while believing I'm watching some dude talk to a slightly balding rock and thinking he's insane.
Perhaps that person I met a while ago or that place I was or that feeling I experienced is no more than a figment of my overly fertile imagination. ~shrug~
I think I can be certain I am in “reality” because I have questions. Those who have created a world of their own likely have few questions. For any problem which may arise in their self-created world, the brain simply creates a solution. Done.
Somewhere along this exploration, Quantum Physics popped into my head.
If our brains are capable of inventing entire internalized world's of our own, why can we not do the same externally? Science has proven we can manipulate particles simply by observing them. Science has also proven particles can be in two places at once. When we dream (or daydream) it's our way of our psyche taking us places we are not but want to be. If Quantum Physics Theory is capable of putting one particle in two places and I am capable of manipulating the result, then I can be in two places at once. Further, if you happen to be dreaming the same thing at the same moment, then we could conceivably be hanging out together. Add in an emotional connection and all hell can break loose!
Which means, in some dual conceived dream, I could very well be sitting on the sofa next to you watching Big Bang Theory reruns. Pass the Doritos, will ya?
As weird as all this seems, there is quite a lot of empirical evidence we can create our own reality. Have you chosen happiness? Have you chosen someone to be with (even if only in your mind)? Have you chosen serenity? Have you chosen your life or simply hoped it would work out? Have you chosen to stay in reality?
Are you where you want to be or are you daydreaming of being somewhere else... with someone else... doing something else? Have you chosen ordinary... or extraordinary?
I suspect those questions may well be between you and a slightly balding rock.

Gotta ask yourself the question, 
where are you now?

from Wiseman by James Blunt