Of Love (& War)

Love is a big topic so I am pretty sure I will have more to say on the subject.

This blog is supposed to be about Apolitical Blues. Perhaps this old poem by Lescelles Abercrombie, drawing on his experiences during WWI, seems very political, but when I was an impressionable 12 year old and I heard this recitation as the last song on the second side of a favorite album, it also helped me see how I, being a child/man, should be treated and how I should view kids as an adult.

It stuck out because it was a poem on an album, not a song (and frankly I didn’t much like poetry but I liked this). The Vietnam War was a hopeless mess that had been going on my entire life. It stuck out because my brother was approaching draft age. I saw anti-war protests and collected rubber bullets and tear gas canisters for Show-and-Tell. I had seen for years the black & white images of blood and death from Kent State, The Mekong Delta and elsewhere on the TV news and in Life magazine.

There are a lot of politics to talk about in that poem, but I will leave that be. Instead I am recalling that I took a message from this poem about the importance of children. I took a message about the importance of being accountable for the well-being of children, even if they are not your own. Maybe there isn’t anything MORE important. Children know only goodness until the grown-ups get involved (or fail to get properly involved, depending on your POV).

Continue reading Of Love (& War)

A Possible Path from the Blues – Part Four

My many errors and defects of character can show up any time. My own experience tells me I can’t always be in control. I blink. I can get lazy. I get selfish. I get afraid and angry. Most of all, I am regularly confounded by situations and things I apparently am powerless to change.

Does that mean I am doomed? I don’t believe so. Will I ever live each day in perfection? I’m not betting on it. But since some days are surely better than others, it logically follows that any day could be better and, from that, I could have more good days in the future than in the past. I might even have nearly every day be nearly perfect. I suspect that would take time and Master Kan/Joe Montana practice, but it seems possible.

If I decide that if I want to be more peaceful than I am now, 24/7/365, then I need to turn everything over to something (anything) more powerful than myself for help. Nothing can be exempt because how would I know what to turn over what not to? My own experience tells me I don’t always get this right.

What power and help should I seek? How will I know I haven’t picked a loser or impostor who will eventually be trumped and leave me just as defeated? I want trump. I need something to strengthen my ch’i, but also keep me from being defeated when it is not strong enough. But if I strive to be the “Badass of Broad Street”, or hitch my wagon to him, isn’t it possible or even probable that someone or something will choose to challenge him and knock him off his perch? Caine had some words on this:

How can they find safety in a fortress whose walls will burn; whose windows cannot stop a bullet; whose doors will yield to anyone with the strength to force them? How will you hide, when the more you remain unseen, the more they will feel free to seek you out? — Caine

Master Kan also had a thought on this:

Perceive the way of nature and no force of man can harm you. Do not meet a wave head on: avoid it. You do not have to stop force: it is easier to redirect it. Learn more ways to preserve rather than destroy. Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill. For all life is precious nor can any be replaced. — Master Kan

Continue reading A Possible Path from the Blues – Part Four

A Possible Path from the Blues – Part Three

What do I need to do to correct the errors of my past? Master Kan and Joe Montana practiced their craft to the point that there were not many errors to correct, but that practice involved coming to know their defects and correcting them.

It would not be enough for Joe Montana to simply apologize to the coaches, teammates and fans for his mistakes, If that was the case, the worst player on the team could become the starting quarterback because he made the most mistakes and had the most opportunities to make apologies. No, here action is required to reverse the damage from my actions and make the people I have harmed as whole as possible.

To feel shame for no cause is a waste. To feel shame for cause is also a waste; for you must rather spend time correcting that of which you are ashamed. — Master Po

Continue reading A Possible Path from the Blues – Part Three

A Possible Path From the Blues — Part Two

So, if I want in my life to see all the rich details, to better guide me on a path of lasting inner strength and peace, what should I do? Crap crashes in constantly. Jobs are lost or suck out our soul. Kids disobey. Courts, cops and legal problems can be relentless. Spouses can frustrate, disappoint and betray. Even in success we can feel worthless (Why Highly Successful People Seek Therapy). Financial pressures sometimes seem to be a fact of life. Politics and the world act as if insane. Even the hope of an occasional blissful strawberry cupcake seems so, well, La-Dee-Da. Where will I focus my attention and actions to recover my insanity?

Do I leave it to chance? Do I rely on my tendencies? Do I wait to see what the overnight news or favorite internet bloggings bring? Do I wait to see what I bump into and react then? Do I just do what I did yesterday? Yesterday might have been a great day. Do I just do what I’m told? In all likelihood, no.

Especially, if my path is one I want to stay on 24/7/365. Anything that leaves it to chance also takes away almost any chance of staying on the path every moment of my life. Why would I want that? Why would I want to spend any more time and energy on things that make me less happy than I might be?

Continue reading A Possible Path From the Blues — Part Two

A Possible Path from the Blues – Part One

Ray LaMontagna in the song Empty does a masterful job of seizing on the smallest details that sum up the enveloping sense of detachment and emptiness he feels. I, for one, would love to experience the moments of my life in such rich detail.

I think I am like most people, too often passing the day on autopilot completely habituated to my surroundings. The little sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings are too often pushed outside of my range of consciousness. I miss the little victories and pains in myself and others, as well as the broader patterns they may form.

I am sure this is in large part of necessity. I can’t possibly, for example, take in and fully process all the signs, cars, intersections, turns, pedestrians, trees, crosswalks, lights, stores, houses, etc. in my path during my morning commute. My brain would need a better class of RAM, hard drive and processor (so to speak) to make much use of that much data.

I am equally sure that I ignore so much because it can be very efficient. My daily drive only requires me to repeat the previous days navigation and note and respond to any differences or obstacles when compared to my expectations. That frees up a lot of space for listening to my favorite tune, dexterously balancing a beverage, mentally re-battling yesterday’s conflicts, or playing out in my head an upcoming event of the day.

And I am sure that I, and likely everyone, ignores so much simply because I choose to. I can be lazy. I can get a story in my head that it is going to be a bad day, or that I am hopeless, or that I made an irreversible mistake, or that the guy in the left lane is simply the greatest ass-hat among many drivers on the road this and every day — at least when compared to my own incomparable skills. The usual result is I am willfully oblivious to any evidence that contradicts the story in my head and obsessed with finding the tiniest morsel that will make my pre-fab story more compelling.

Perhaps much more importantly, if I am interested in ending the “emptiness and estrangement” it would seem to make sense to start with the end in mind. I assume that end would be the opposite, at least it is for me . Fear and loathing can have it’s moments, but it isn’t much of a life plan.

Continue reading A Possible Path from the Blues – Part One

Empty

This song touched me recently. I relate to it wholly. I guess a lot of people do, so much so that it was part of the sound track in two recent excellent movies:

Robert Redford’s The Conspirator (2010)

And Detachment starring Adrien Brody (2011)

Detachment especially could, in a way, be a soundtrack to so many adrift lives, but The Conspirator also dwells on maintaining a complex moral compass which is a constant and sometimes lonely battle.

In the song he wonders if his life will always feel empty, small and disconnected because it always has been that way. He’s battled his demons to hell and back and is now simply bored with the conflict. He sees the spiritually dead walking beside him (No, not the flesh eating zombies). He can experience simple joyous love in a confined emotional space and that feels/is wonderful, but he wonders if that’s all there is.

I believe people will relate who have experienced loss, trauma, profound disappointment, addiction, unrequited love, wear from the windchill of life, or just about anything that throws a person inward with a belief they are alone with their problems, solutions and being. The converse is someone who is continually directed towards relationships with others and outside things and to things greater than themselves. I know that for me, a lifetime of concern over personal and political battles, especially recent ridiculously needless battles, has too often left me weary, hopeless and bored.

I also believe that feeling is not necessary.

Coming up, I will be posting thoughts which may describe a simpler path for staying awake in every moment in an easier state; more pliable but unyielding to life’s hard-edged conflicts. I think I can safely say I have spent many, many of my adult waking hours developing awareness and skills around it. I have in no way been always successful. In fact, I have failed beyond my wildest imagination, tempting total ruin. But having learned and applied a few lessons from my failures, I also have experienced some serene success. Your mileage may vary.

About the Apolitical Blues

They are “the meanest blues of all”, or so it has been said.

If politics are a natural and necessary consequence of social human beings, and if politics ultimately serve the needs of the people (or at least those with the most power), then turning your back on politics can be a pretty bad time, especially if hopelessness is driving you away.

Or not. People do it all the time, either because they are too busy just surviving or because they have made peace with what they can and cannot change. They don’t care if it is The Unholy Four, John Wayne or Dorothy Lamour (or Chairman Mao), they jus’ don’ wan’ to talk to them now. They are onto other things. Matters of the soul and love, mindfulness, mind alteration or mindless fun, serious fun, or whatever floats their boat.

This blog is dedicated to the moments, strategies, tools, and stories around just making it happily through today.

I will draw on my own experience and the experience of others who have a hard enough time making it through life (or maybe just the next few hours) without worrying about the latest manufactured crisis, government shutdown, indictment, non-indicted banker, melting glacier, willfully ignorant columnist or immoral billionaire campaign contributor.

In other words this blog is about what happens once the bozos who have made politics no better than a spectator sport go home and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves.