Thank you for “The Path”

•December 17, 2014 • 3 Comments

There is a line in the center of your hand that runs from your wrist toward your fingers—it’s called the Path of Destiny (if you adhere to the palmistry sort of thing or happen to know Chiero.)

In my twenties, I frequently pondered my “Path of Destiny”.

I studied all manner of mystic divination, scientific explanations, philosophical perspectives, and folk lore to help me plan a well informed journey down this path.

In my thirties, the path began to narrow. I found myself walking down the center of the path, focused on the end of the road like it was the ultimate goal.

Presently, the path is covered with dried leaves that have fallen from the tree of opportunity and I am shuffling through in a zigzag pattern, making a lot of rustling noises while I look for fertile soil under the mulch.

Some folks choose their path, some inherit it from their parents or their culture, some just  come upon their path via a wrong turn or a right turn.

The great poet, Robert Frost, hung out on some farmer’s path. He is probably still sitting there, watching the woods fill up with snow while his horse gets confused. That’s what happens when you take the road less traveled, you end up in the woods on a snowy evening.

For some of us (the lucky ones) there are a lot of metaphoric paths to choose from in this life.

Some of them are not so much a choice as an inevitability due to our innate temperaments and fated birth environments but none the less, we like to explore them anyway.

GARDEN PATH: For the idealistic sort of person

NEURON PATH: For one who is easily over stimulated

BEATEN PATH: For those who fall from the grace of the garden path

SOCIO PATH:   For wannabe social beings that don’t play well with others

BIKE PATH:     For peddlers of work out videos

MISSILE PATH: For those who are direct and frequently miss the point

PATH OLOGY: For students and obsessive observers of their own path

NATURO PATH: These folks generally end up in Oregon growing cannabis and crazy mushrooms

PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE: Martial artists and couch potatoes prefer this one

Thank You for the Woman With Talking Eyes

•November 26, 2014 • 8 Comments

When I was nine years old, a woman came to our door with a large box of food the day before Thanksgiving.

She was a petite, kind looking woman in a navy blue coat. She had no idea what she was in for when she traipsed through the Michigan snow to knock on our door.

My mother, a paranoid schizophrenic, just happened to be having one of her episodes when this gentle woman came to our door on her mission to contribute to Humanity.

“What the Hell do you want?” My mother was not used to people knocking on our door.

Nor were her four children who stood in the background, peering through the doorway at the woman carrying a much needed box of food that appeared bigger than her.

“Mrs. Kelley, we were told by the school that your family might enjoy this Thanksgiving box and I’d like to leave it for you and your children.” The woman stepped back from the door a couple inches.

My mother yelled at the woman, “Who the Hell told you we needed charity? I don’t want anybody’s Goddamn charity! You can take that back where you got it and go piss up a rope!”

My three younger brothers and I remained quiet in the back ground as we had learned better than to contradict anything my mother said when she was like this. Our hearts sank as we had no food in the house for three days and this beautiful woman was being admonished for being our hero.

I stared at the woman’s face peeking through the space between the door jamb and my mother’s shoulder. She was trying to make eye contact with me.

She looked down at the box of food and then at me as my mother continued her threatening posture and paranoid rant a couple feet away from the woman’s bravery.

“You can all go to Hell! I don’t want anything from any of you! You just want me to kiss your ass! I’m not going to do it! Get the hell outta here!”

I sensed the woman was trying to tell me something as she responded to my mother’s paranoid accusations.

“Okay, Mrs. Kelley, I understand. There was probably a mistake. I’ll just take this to a family who might need it. I am so sorry to have bothered you. This is a lovely porch.”

She looked at me directly in the eyes and again at the food box and then to the porch next to the door.

I got it.

She said good bye. My mother slammed the door and went to her room mumbling about charity.

My younger brothers looked confused when I waited for a few minutes to make sure my mother was going to stay in her room and then went back to the door.

“She’s already gone, Lea. It’s too late.” one of them whispered.

I quietly opened the door and looked at the place on the porch next to it.

The box was there!

I made the best Thanksgiving dinner a nine year old can make out of canned goods and my mother came out to eat with us as though she had no idea how the food got there.

To that lovely woman in Midland, Michigan:

Who ever you are, where ever you are now, I will always remember your talking eyes.

Thank you.

and…


Thank you for Eating Crow with Humble Pie for dessert (but I’m full)

•November 20, 2014 • 5 Comments

Dignity is defined as “the state of being worthy of honor or respect”.

Human Dignity is used to signify that all human beings possess inherent worth and deserve unconditional respect, regardless of differences among us.

We, as Americans seem to bounce from indignity to indignity.

We try, but we just can’t seem to get it right.

There is always some kind of victim in the wake of our historical and social development.

It is becoming embarrassing that we live with, and tolerate injustices toward each other and accept as authorities those who would humiliate us and strangle our sense of fairness and what we know is right as human beings.

Even as we are still eating (Jim) Crow over the travesties we have committed in our brief history by enslaving one people (African Americans) while usurping the land of another people (Native Americans), we now prepare our dessert.

“Humble pie” was considered inferior food, in medieval times.

The pie was often served to lower-class people and was originally called “Umbal” pie. It consisted of liver, heart and otherwise undesirable cast offs from any beast eaten by the wealthier class.

Evidently, Poverty is the new Black.

We continue to treat the poor (of all races) as though they were separate from us, as though they should somehow rise above their station and join those who do not sit in waiting rooms, submitting to scrutiny of their lives to feed their children.

We keep them standing in lines at low income housing, food banks, and the few overcrowded medical clinics that will accept them.

We segregate them from blatant view by insulating ourselves with the ridiculous notion that they have every opportunity to alleviate their own plight.

It is apparent that humiliating one another has woven it’s way into acceptability as a permanent attribute of our culture.

Not only have we oppressed and humiliated ourselves, our own, but now we have been so numbed by the prevalence of a lack of dignity, that we don’t even balk when we are required to strip to our underwear at an airport or submit to searches, surveillance, inspection, and  herding of humans into the slaughterhouse of our dignity.

We have expanded our menu.

Evidently, acquiescence is the new Patriotism.

Patriotism:  A pride in one’s culture or nation.

The implication of such devotion to a “fatherland” that one is willing to even sacrifice one’s life for the ideals that it stands for.

Sacrificing our humanity by humiliating others, naming them the lessor, the other, the enemy, the evil, or any other term that inches us toward idiocy so we can build a selective economic empire on their suffering and loss of dignity is just too much to swallow anymore.

I am full up to here with Crow and I would like to skip dessert, if you don’t mind.

Thank you for Freedumb

•November 20, 2014 • 2 Comments

 The credit for this made up word goes to Mr. E. Riley who was a most clever wordsmith and delightfully creative poet for his life of almost twenty one years.

I have been pondering the word freedom for almost four days, seeking the common usage, the appropriate referent, the true definition by finding it’s antitheses, and trying to use it in a sentence that captures the essence of it’s meaning.   The imagery that the word freedom conjures for me does not come in red, white, and blue. Freedom does not look like the wings of a bird that is compelled by nature to fly. Nor does it seem to be a choice in the fork of the proverbial road.  Freedom is not a liberation from a prison, an exile, foot binding, hand cuffs, poverty, oppression, or a dictator.

 One does not become free by merely being liberated.

There are those that would say Knowledge is freedom. There are those that say Democracy is freedom. Some find “freedom” in the “right” to worship invisible entities or promulgate religious concepts. I don’t think freedom is always right, nor is it a right.

I do believe it may be an innate power that is difficult to comprehend without attempting to guide or direct it. And once that attempt is applied, freedom dissipates. I believe a freedom can be usurped by another freedom when it is limited or misinterpreted.

I think maybe freedom is the cry that babies make fresh out of the womb. I think maybe freedom is the soft, dark cloak of death opening to release us to the unknown, or a complete lack of fear when facing one’s self in others. Maybe freedom is unknowable until it is gone and peered at in retrospect.

For all the uses of the word freedom, for all the misuses of the word freedom, and all the justifications applied to the word freedom in our culture, I thank Mr. E. Riley in his attempt to define our limited perspective on the subject.

 

Thank You for Bourgeois Banality with Proletariat Personae

•October 6, 2014 • 1 Comment

Those folks who talk about relating to the struggle of others whom they have never met, let alone hung out with, seem to need a haven of acceptance among those they consider less fortunate than themselves.

Perhaps this is some guilt alleviating mechanism for over indulgence.

Or maybe it is an exercise to activate gratitude for having so much.

Or perhaps they have no reason to be creative so they are relegated to observation (and even imitation) of those who are forced to create.

I can’t know.

Slumming it, has some kind of attraction to folks who know they can go home when they are done participating in an uncomfortable environment from which others may not have the option to escape.

Historically, many of the most creative people among us have lived in conditions which forced them to be resourceful and creative.

Jazz musicians, artists, poets, and most recently, urban hip hop artists,

have used their internal creativity to communicate harsh external realities in their surroundings.

Perhaps, like Plato said “…the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.”

Creativity does seem to rise out of necessity or struggle.

Does that mean that those who have no obvious struggles are incapable of creativity?

Again, I can’t know.

But there seems to be a social need to struggle to justify one’s existence.

We do all manner of things to prove we can struggle.

We invent trials for ourselves, mountains to climb, conflicts to resolve.

We challenge ourselves to conquer adversity—even if we have to invent the adversity.

Evidently, struggling has value in defining our selves.

Romantic notions about struggling artists, or those rising above deemed unfavorable stations, generates something within us that wants to relate.

Struggling is heroic.

It is ironic that those who struggle try to become one of the non struggling.

The struggling dream of winning the lottery or getting rich so they can be one of the folks who don’t have to be creative anymore.

The Proletariat wishes to be included in the Bourgeois.

While the Bourgeois seem to be thrilled to be included in the Proletariat’s inspiration to create.

socialism

Image: From a previous Post

Thank You for Sacrifices You Never See

•July 12, 2014 • 4 Comments

When I was in Nepal I went to a religious festival in the Himalayas. It was a combination of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other rituals that were unfamiliar to me.

There were lines of people stretching up a winding road all the way to the altar where animals were sacrificed to Siva (or Kali, I can’t remember). These animals had been groomed all year for this occasion and people  (most living in poverty) only brought the best of their live stock. I saw roosters, rabbits, goats, and other animals, all perfectly quiet, being lead and carried to the altar to be slaughtered and then handed to the “untouchables” to be prepared for the feast by the side of the dirt road.

I took many photos but not one single picture of the actual sacrifice of an animal showed up on my film. Every photo of the alter where the throats of animals were cut turned out blank. I found this mysterious.

rooster-to-offer

Today I am inspired to think of all the sacrifices people make that we never see or hear about, sacrifices that do not show up on the film.

How many mothers have gone without something so a child can have something special?

How many people have left secret gifts for others without claiming credit?

How many strangers have done the right thing in a given moment where nobody noticed and then went on their way?

I have had friends sneak money into my purse when I went through hard times. I have watched people give away things they needed to someone who needed them more.

I have experienced generosity and unrequited kindness in so many ways and I am thankful for all the people and the acts of sacrifice that never showed up in the pictures.

Thank You for Common Language

•May 25, 2014 • 3 Comments

I met a refuge from the Ukraine once in San Francisco. His name was Mehrab. He learned to speak perfect English by singing Billy Joel songs for years while he was a brain surgeon back in his homeland.

Here, in the land of opportunity, he worked as a security guard for a department store.

Mehrab was a lovely, polite person with impeccable manners. I met him on the bus on his way to work.

We chatted the whole ride and decided to have coffee the next day. After coffee we wandered to the Presidio where he sang some of his perfect impersonations of Billy Joel and chatted about being a refuge.

Merhab said he had a friend with 2 children that was desperately in need of work. The man (also from the Ukraine) was a cabinet maker who did not speak English but his 8 year old daughter was a great translator.

I met the man and his precious daughter, Marianna, a week later after asking my landlord to give him a job in the building where I lived with my struggling, brilliant designer boyfriend.

Marianna spoke for her father and translated every question we asked with enthusiasm.  “Oh yes!! We do any work job!”

Finally after about twenty minutes, the Father seemed uncomfortable with Marianna doing all the talking and spoke in broken English to the child, “Marianna, you …sit… little.”

She sat down and listened carefully as her father continued in Ukrainian with instructions. Then Marianna turned to us with a giant smile and said. “Show job. Show tools. Will be done “.

The man did amazing work while Marianna sat with her hands in her lap like a word angel waiting for someone to ask a question in English so she could be of assistance.

I never saw Mehrab again but the cabinet maker’s family invited me to dinner in appreciation for the job referral.

A friend, Margaret, came with me.

It was a wonderful dinner in a tiny, immaculate apartment where we were greeted by Marianna and her 5 year old sister with a cookbook that had recipes in English and Russian.

While the cabinet maker’s wife finished making dinner (including pie), Margaret and I sat with the girls, giggling at funny words in the cook book.

After the splendid dinner and much nodding and smiling in the only mutual language we all under stood (appreciation), my friend, Margaret attempted to say thank you in their language.

The cabinet maker’s wife was placing the pie on the table with little plates and forks when Margaret attempted the foreign language.

Margaret was as sincere as she could be and wondered why everyone looked so confused at her genuine attempt at “Thank You”.

After a minute of befuddled looks, Marianna burst out laughing.

“Why you say good bye? You not eat  pie yet!”

By the way, if someone serves you dessert in another language, you may want to say one of these phrases instead of Good bye

Terima kasih
Grazie
Arigato
Salamat
Ahsante
Gratiam habeo
Danke
Merci
Toa chie
Ahéhee’
Mercé
Thuchi che
Khawp khun kha
Go raibh maith agaibh
Néá’eshe

 
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