Friday, February 16, 2018

When the Time Comes


He knew he had to leave. How that would happen or what the steps were that he had to take were not clear to him. It was just the end game, the lure of something down the road, that called. It was a rainy November night when he finally loaded up his hundred-dollar pick-up truck and hit highway 151 toward Dubuque that it hit him: he was one of those who would wander. The risks inherent in that fact were lost on him that first night on the road. He drove through the night, west, through Iowa and Nebraska. The cold of the stretch of interstate along the Platte River rushed in through the rusted gaps in the floorboards. The truck was under siege by the frozen air. He turned up the heat, put on his warmest gloves, and tried to stay awake. As the sun rose behind him, he saw the first light on the peaks of mountains as they rose above the horizon. He had left comfort for a different kind of home, the home of those who know the truth of cold and sun and having to carry your own load.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Going Public


I carry them with me now as I make my way across campus to a modest afterthought of a structure called the Transitional Office Building. It is so plain and dumpy that no one knows where it is until something like a conference is scheduled there. My conference is on the prison writing workshops, and I am due to present in a little over an hour. My steps are deliberate, and I have to avoid puddles on this rainy Thursday. The men I carry with me are depending on me to bear witness to the magic of the writing workshops. I feel the weight and ask them for help in carrying the load. They say stay true to the course. Don't lapse or hide or take an easy path. Tell it like it is. Bring our words with you. This is it, the moment, the one you have been waiting for. Deliver the word. Stand in the truth of what you have seen, the urgency to offer that to a listening body. Trust that the words will find a way, they say.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I Didn't Sign Up For This


Coming into this life, I just wanted friendly community and a modest living: people and work I liked, connections and livelihood that paid well-enough, work that I was good at, more or less, friends that tolerated my jokes and desire to sing to them. That seemed fair to me. I'd show up, do my job, have a simple, peaceful life with some love, and space to be and grow. I did not think that elected policy makers would work at undermining affordable, quality education, make healthcare unobtainable, make my wages stagnant for decades on end, take my tax dollars to inflate an already bloated defense budget that will dig a deficit hole so deep we might become insolvent as a nation, and on and on. As a student of language and communication, I have witnessed the death of dialogue, the rise of fanaticism, and seen the face of my fellow Americans twist in grotesque rage at immigrants, or any change that requires an open mind to embrace. I have seen beauty replaced by ugliness. I see a growing isolation as people build a bubble of belief that fosters a dangerous solipsism. As I slide into the final chapters of my life, I hoped I would find peace and time to write. Instead I find discord and the need to act and respond to the poisons of fear, greed, and possible violence. I am disturbed by what I see, unsure how to respond. The work aint over yet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Make It Better


Running has been your MO. You thought new places would make it all better, soften the blow, assuage the gnawing truth that the only way out was to turn around and face the dragon that was hot on your heels. That was the truth of it, but the truth of is always the hardest thing to face. Medicating was easier. Moving, altered states, people -- all of it just pain-killer. It wasn't until you stopped and dug in, made your stand, that you began to feel the energy flow, the time too short to get it right. No matter. Even one drop into an ocean is better than hiding out, knowing that all you love is being devoured by the fear you let tie your hands, bind your feet, silence your voice.

Monday, February 12, 2018

So Much Blather


"You can find anything on the internet," she said -- chirpy, happy, full of internet optimism, confident that her take on digital paradise was true.

"Well, actually, you can't," I replied.

Might as well have spit in her espresso for how well that helped the conversation.

But I stand by my reply.

The internet is mostly blather that greases the wheels of the corporate state, keeps money changing hands, keeps people distracted from the real work of trying the wrest wealth, power, and the health of the planet from the greedy few who seem only to want more and more of what they already have. It sells an illusion that life can be consumed from the safety of your seat overlooking a 3-D fabrication designed to seduce and arrest your attention.

Reality is that a growing number of people are lonely, complacent, frustrated, disengaged (mostly), addicted even. The internet tries to fix that with five point plans to get better organized or form a chat room about your favorite TV show. You can't de-tox by taking more poison.

(I'm not going to touch how the internet answers the need for love and contact... You know that already.)

So, no. You can't find some things on the internet.

You're going to have to stand up, push away your screen, go out into what Morpheus of The Matrix called "the desert of the real" and take up some kind of actual challenge, that may or may not go according to some tidy, safe, digitally-mastered plan, in order to find that part of yourself that is waiting for you, to not only locate it, but bring it into the light of real, tangible, scary, maybe even dangerous action to achieve what you know to be right.

Part of growing up is taking a cold, sober, clear, hard look at what is, even when that is not such a pretty picture, and then doing something about it.

Now that is a real find.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Flesh On the Bone


The cold morning wind finds its way under my jacket. It floods in between the teeth of the zipper, the open end of the cuff. I shiver but like the touch of morning. She is not always kind. But always honest. She is having her way with my reluctance to face the hard facts of the day. She tells me to wake up, to taste possibility on the brisk air. Such a small imagination she says. You have no idea what you have she says. I know I say. It's just that... What? she says. Just what? Excuses. That's what you bring into this fresh, open, treasure of time? I don't know why I waste my time she says. You are right I say. I'm working at getting over bad habits I say. It's not about what you want anymore she says. It's about what is needed she says. You thought it would be easy. That was your other mistake. This is where the measure is taken she says. When you have no more to give but give anyway she says. That's the way you build what lasts. You have what you need to build a body of joy. When you move beyond what you thought possible you will begin to understand.

Exit


In your final act, the one only you know is final, the stage is brightly lit. Characters have all taken their places, and the blocking is perfect, just as it should be. Your role, the one you might have played, has been written into the script, but it's time to improvise. You should have spoken up a while ago. No matter. You do what you have to do, stand, bow to your fellow performers, and exit stage left. There is a figure there in the wings. You don't yet know who he is, but he will take your place, do some of the job you have been doing. It's okay you say to yourself as the tears come down. They come down in a flood that washes away all you have left undone, unsaid; they carry gratitude for all you have been given, the small parts, the supporting role. It was lovely, you whisper. The play goes on, with only a slight pause, without you.