The Dance Begins

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I bow and extend my hand.
You place your hand in mine.
We walk slowly to a clearing,
Never looking away.
I’m drifting, sailing, floating, dreaming.
Slow motion blends with my astonishment.

I pull away to see your face.
The moment is fleeting.
It probably doesn’t even last sixty seconds.
But in those precious seconds,
The world stands still; my heart rises;
It seems to last an hour.

I begin to move and yield, move and yield.
You don’t understand at first,
Then suddenly you see that I move,
Then yield to you, for you to move.
Not simply moving, not simply yielding.
All at once, we are moving together.

Your eyes send messages to mine.
The universe stops, turns, and waits–
A moment frozen in time that I will never forget.
Could I hold you close?
You say yes, and smile broadly.
I fear I may fall down.

A few awkward moments pass.
The blood rushes from my head.
The world disappears.
The movement is no longer conscious.
We swirl and flow.
All I see is you.

We ascend as our hearts meet and melt.
I cannot think; I cannot breathe.
It’s probably only fractions of a second,
But the entire history of the world,
Is summed up in those fractions of a second.
My mind slowly rolls back into the room.

At first there is only a fog–
A blur of light and shadow.
I turn, but I am in pain.
I must turn away. I must.
But I want to stay.
I barely escape with my life.

I must keep going.
Though I am miles away,
I’m still holding you close.
I must find you again and tell you.
Do not turn away.
Share with me–if you can.

© February 2016 by JJHIII24

Christmas at the Lake House

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Christmas at the Lake House

By JJHIII24

Tumbling memories spill out along the uncertain path before me;
The surrounding forest whispers its morning message,
As I trudge my way through dew-ladened grass;
Cooler air nips at my fingertips and toes
As the fog envelopes me in a vague embrace.

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The early morning exhales a silent breath,
Disturbing my tangled thoughts as the wind stirs my silver locks,
Draped like burdens on my weary shoulders,
Though they somehow feel lighter in view of the relentless placid ripples on the water’s edge.

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Inhaling deeply and looking skyward,
I am reminded of the mountain air in decades past;
Memories of youthful duty in alpine states resurface
Like the diving ducks retrieving their hidden treasures,
Swirling below the gentle water at dawn.

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For a moment, I am no longer alone;
A small gathering of deer arrive in front of me.
Unconcerned at my presence, though clearly curious, they turn to face me;
I giggle with surprise as they cross my path;
Content in that moment just to observe each other,
We share in the delight without comment.

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A subtle mist descends upon my weary shoulders now;
It’s time to walk home and dream again,
Of mountain fog and joy unencumbered.

Copyright December 2015 by JJHIII24

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Crossroads

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In my previous post, I wrote about author Richard Brautigan, whose success in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s brought him great notoriety and financial rewards for a time. His tendency to engage in a variety of self-destructive behaviors, and a degree of recklessness in attending to his own well-being, over time, ultimately led to his gradual decline into near obscurity, and to tragically choosing to end his own life at age 49. While my life has been much different in a number of ways, the lessons contained in his all-too-brief life, as well as in the lives of others with similar outcomes, have challenged and complicated my own journey in ways that have forced me to re-examine my path–to stop here at the crossroads–and to take a long, deep, breath.

Naturally, I have all the usual concerns about the future and planning for retirement that most people do. All of my children are grown and have started having their own children, but the opportunities presented by an “empty nest,” have actually unsettled me a bit. For a handful of years now I have been attempting to formalize my research and writing into a more coherent stream in this blog, and it has been both illuminating and challenging to direct and sustain my energies in the process. It seems that I am quickly approaching a point where I must consider my choice of direction for the time I have left to act in this life. Looking ahead and looking back, as well as looking at the divergent roads that may lead in one direction or another can be daunting, especially when measured against the responsibilities and demands of sustaining oneself in the 21st century. The crossroads can represent an approach to the culmination of everything that came before reaching them, but it can also bring to bear the memories of all the uncertainty and mystery that one had to face in order to arrive there in the first place. As always, not all choices are equally viable, but now there is far less time to redirect them, should it become clear that alternative choices may have provided an opportunity for a better outcome.

Throughout most of my life, trying to discern in which direction I should turn when I’ve arrived at crossroads has always been a bit problematical, but these days it seems heavy-laden with considerations that reflect the uncertainty and mystery even more than before, as well as a heightened awareness of them, brought about by a number of harsh life lessons in recent years. A post by a fellow blogger and creative writer, David Cain, speaks to the central dilemma:

“I will never see the world quite like anyone else, which means I will never live in quite the same world as anyone else — and therefore I mustn’t let outside observers be the authority on who I am or what life is really like for me. Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds, privately, in order to explain it all. This truth has world-shattering implications for the roles of religion and science in the lives of those who grasp it.”

http://www.raptitude.com/2010/10/9-mind-bending-epiphanies-that-turned-my-world-upside-down/?awesm=fbshare.me_AV3k9

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Clearly, I have been in the torrent of the world this past month. October managed to escape me with my attention focused elsewhere, even though I have been struggling to hobble together an important blog post which I hope to be posting this week. The quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is actually from a play he completed in 1790 after a trip through Italy entitled, “Torquato Tasso.” I was able to locate an English translation from the original German by Charles Des Voeux which is available online thanks to the Harvard College Library Dexter Fund. In that play, the character Leonora reassures Alphonso:

“A talent doth in stillness form itself–A character on life’s unquiet stream.”

I have been swimming in “life’s unquiet stream,” and in moments of stillness, perhaps I have been developing a degree of character in the process. One can only hope! I also revisited a musical recording from my youthful days in the military by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer:

The Sage
——–

I carry the dust of a journey
that cannot be shaken away
It lives deep within me
For I breathe it every day.

You and I are yesterday’s answers;
The earth of the past came to flesh,
Eroded by Time’s rivers
To the shapes we now possess.

Come share of my breath and my substance,
and mingle our stream and our times.
In bright, infinite moments,
Our reasons are lost in our eyes.

–Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition Lyrics

Signpost.

Reviewing the events of my life these days, I’ve begun to see the role that the expectations of others has played in many of my choices. Beginning with my experiences in the formal education portion, not only was I constantly concerned about not meeting the expectations of my parents and teachers, but I often suffered the consequences when some performance I gave fell short of those expectations. All of my efforts were inevitably scrutinized to the point where it seemed I was only just barely surviving that scrutiny, until eventually it all came to a breaking point–a crossroad–when I turned in one particularly awful performance in my sophomore year at college, which resulted in re-directing my life away from the university for a time, and propelled me toward the events which took place in each of the far-flung locations I have been describing this past year as a young soldier, winding his way through the labyrinth of spiritual awakening.

There are challenges for me these days, but I have been seeking guidance and support and remain hopeful that November will be a first step in a positive direction. Thanks to all my readers and friends for your patience and comments!

The Flow of Destiny

“I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfill our destiny, but our fate is sealed.”–Paulo Coelho

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”–Carl Sandburg

“Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided…a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.”–Dag Hammarskjold

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Sometimes, I worry about my destiny, as though I may be sitting on the sidelines and might somehow miss my opportunity to pursue it. Some might say if you just calmly accept your destiny it will come. I’m not entirely certain that I desire it, but sometimes, I can’t seem to push myself to the place where my destiny seems to be waiting. It’s not that I’m avoiding it necessarily, but I’m concerned that some crisis may precipitate it or that a crisis may result from going toward it. I can’t seem to clearly envision a future that will result in some equitable resolution of whatever destiny holds in that future. One of the main stumbling blocks for me is when I examine the lives of others whom I admire–authors, poets, philosophers, scientists–people who embraced their destiny and who suffered greatly as a result.

Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan 1935-1984

One example of such a life which brought this idea to the point for me was a recent reading of biographical research regarding author Richard Brautigan, who became internationally famous for his novels, poems, short stories, and nonfictional pieces written in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. In one account by Claude Hayward, an early printer of Richard’s poems who worked with him in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, he described him in this way:

“Richard was an imposing figure, tall in stature with long, straw-blond hair and a walrus mustache, and always dressed in that heavy range coat, and worn boots that had seen the prairies…Richard was an observer, an acute, bemused one with a keen eye for the absurd and the surreal.”

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My recent investigation of his life in San Francisco and elsewhere brought out revelations that were quite surprising. His early success as a writer brought him international fame and, for a time, great fortune. He published his first truly successful novel, “Trout Fishing in America,” in 1967 and it became an instant sensation, selling over four million copies worldwide. He was a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, and along with his other poems and articles, brought him to the forefront of the writers of his day.

Unfortunately, along with his success came a number of difficult struggles in his personal life. He was married several times, and had a fair number of difficulties maintaining relationships with those who knew him well also. In a 1985 tribute to Brautigan by Lawrence Wright in Rolling Stone, Wright describes Brautigan’s harrowing descent into a host of personal problems that made it difficult for anyone to handle being around him:

“He had a difficult habit of testing his friends, but he was even more demanding of his lovers. He pushed them away, he was abominable, he wanted unconditional love and forgiveness. They put up with it, some of them, because he genuinely valued a woman’s intelligence. ‘That appealed to women,’ one of his girlfriends recalled. ‘It was a trade-off.’ It became a liability to be seen with Richard.”

He struggled for years with alcohol which eventually hampered his writing efforts, led to a lessening of his fame as an author, and contributed to his decline into near obscurity toward the end of his life. He continued to write up until his excesses and deeply personal challenges that he created, led him to take his own life in 1984 at age 49.

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In a very strange and unusual coincidence, of which I only recently became aware, I happened to be in San Francisco in 1974 when Richard Brautigan actually lived there. Come to think of it, I could have easily passed him on the street without realizing it. I had been walking the streets of that great city many times, spending a fair amount of my spare time on weekends exploring and visiting many different parts of the city by the bay. In one of my earliest visits there, while casually walking along the streets I happened by a photography shop window with a sign that read, “Make a poster of yourself!” Posters were very popular in early seventies and I couldn’t resist the invitation to try it.

At the time, I was attending the Defense Language Institute, a federally funded language school in Monterey, so I had with me one of the current textbooks from the course, as well as a copy of a book by Brautigan called, “On Watermelon Sugar.” I was already well into the reading of it and wanted to continue reading it on my trip, so when I walked into the studio and spoke to the photographer, I expressed to him that I was at a truly pivotal moment in my life, and how I wanted the image to reflect just how important it was to me. I insisted on holding the two books since they were representative of where I was in a broad sense, both psychologically and geographically at that moment. Also at this time, like many of my fellow members of the U.S.military, I was a casual smoker, and as a young man I thought holding a cigarette would make me look “cool,” so I included that also. I sat for about a half dozen photos and then had to go away for about an hour or so while the processing took place. When I returned, I was handed six small prints of the images to look at and I selected the one that appears above.

As an impressionable young man of twenty-one years, Brautigan’s writings seemed to speak directly to my experiences and the chaos of my life as a soldier in training. Looking back at those times now, some forty plus years later, I have to admit that I never once thought of them in any other way than as simply a part of my experience, and only within the context of the actual events themselves. It was quite a surprise to discover, after all this time, that an author for whom I had great admiration, and whose work resonated so well with me in those days, was very likely somewhere nearby as I traveled the path of my own destiny.

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Destiny, it seems, may lead us inexorably on a path to fulfillment of some purpose of which we may or may not be fully aware. It also may take all our strength to sustain ourselves along that path, but we all must discover that strength within us if we are to succeed.

Passion drives the winds of fate
To uncertain shores and fatal flaws;
True love brings us forward and home,
Into the gentle comfort of destiny’s flow.

–from my poem, “Uncharted Hearts,” 2014

July…She Will Fly…

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“July, she will fly,
And give no warning to her flight.”

–from the Simon and Garfunkel song, “April, Come She Will,” 1966, “Sounds of Silence”

July did fly past for me in important ways.  It seems I wasn’t able to post anything last month, and there was no warning for me that it would be so challenging to arrive at the writing desk with enough energy and a mind clear enough to write with clarity.  This was the first month in a very long time that I wasn’t able to attend to writing here, and it happened mostly because life got in the way.  There are still some difficulties to resolve in this regard, but I am hopeful that with some additional time and effort, I will be able to resume this month.

One of the main issues at the heart of the problem seems to be that my subject generally requires that I prepare a fair amount of material in advance of the writing, and then distill it down to something resembling a comprehensible whole that fits into something less than maybe a few thousand words.  Most of my main entries here hover around that mark, and it’s often the case that I have to break the writing down into sections which I can post at different intervals.  All this requires a degree of attention and persistence that simply wasn’t available to me in July.  August isn’t looking especially great either, but I am hopeful that as we approach the end of the summer months, it will ease up enough to allow for some time to share with you all.  I have been trying to keep up with the blogs I follow here as well, and have managed to comment periodically on several of the amazing blogs on my list.  I could easily spend a lot more time doing so, but it just hasn’t been possible lately.

In consideration of the struggles I have been experiencing recently, I thought I would post this poem which speaks to both the promise and the uncertainty that sometimes manifest in our lives.  Thanks to all my readers for their support and patience.

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Tomorrow’s Promise
By JJHIII24

On the horizon, where darkness meets light,
My soul floats away into endless night.

The sharp edge of day, it frequently seems,
Releases the power found in our dreams.

Wonder that deepens to love would I seek,
A glimpse of eternal life, just a peek.

For there we may see our life’s meaning unbound,
Emerging as something grand that we’ve found.

Time passes in moments, some rushing by,
We don’t often stop to ask ourselves why.

Hope I uncover and try to hold fast,
Against the lonely despair from the past.

On the rim of despair is where we fail.
On the brink of our joy is where we sail.

Standing together, our hearts side by side,
Helps us to feel what our love wants to hide.

Contained in reflections, words, thoughts, and deeds,
Are every last one of life’s hopeful seeds.

In mystery wonder, in science truths,
Cruel hearts diminish, an open mind soothes.

With yesterday’s joys our hearts we can lift,
Tomorrow’s promise, an uncertain gift.

© August 2015 by JJHIII24

From Morning Light To The Next Liquid Night

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As the morning light bestows its first sweet caress,
It stirs my waking dream to life,
Loosening the reluctant grasp of
Yesterday’s liquid night;
The stillness of the dark water,
In the wee hours before dawn,
Slowly yields to the tides within me.

They ripple gently in steady, rhythmic response,
As my heart reclaims its rightful place,
Among the hidden pillars of my spiritual center;
Tender thoughts of affection newly-born,
Cascade like a waterfall of epic delight,
Propagating along networks of neural pathways,
Bursting now with skittish ions,
Jumping to each new tendril that reaches out,
As they await the sparks
Of their measured and anticipated embrace,
With invisible and mysterious arms
Of infinite possibility.

How delicately we step into the light of each new day;
How faithfully we sow the seeds of our delight;
How often we strive to open our hearts and minds to its potential,
Only to discover the ever-changing distance,
From morning light to the next liquid night.

January 2015

Our Human Powers

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“Finally we must make use of all the aids which intellect, imagination, sense-perception, and memory afford in order, firstly, to intuit simple propositions distinctly; secondly, to combine correctly (compare) the matters under investigation with what we already know, so that they too may be known; and thirdly, to find out what things should be compared with each other so that we may make the most thorough use of all our human powers.” — Rene Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, circa 1628

Throughout each of my personal investigations of the subjects related to my experiences in the early seventies, especially those which catapulted me into the most astonishing, chaotic, and emotional period of my life, I have been compelled to attempt to penetrate their mysteries and implications, based on both the intellectual and metaphysical foundations of human endeavors. At first, as an uninitiated and rudderless spirit in the world, I could only take stabs in the dark–disoriented in the extreme as I was–and while it took some time to decipher and organize these efforts, I gradually progressed beyond the chaotic stage and began to comprehend the experiences more broadly.

After applying years of persistent and determined mental effort, it seems to me, that we may only be said to truly comprehend our lives experientially, while still requiring and receiving much benefit from research and expansion of our knowledge generally. Our perceptions of the world, through an array of sensory faculties and cognitive skills, assist us as we construct and try to make sense of our daily reality, and although there are characteristics of our sensory systems which are subject to potentially erroneous interpretation of their input, as is the case with optical illusions, there are adequate safeguards available to nominally functionally brains and sense organs to feel confident in making judgements regarding the true nature of what we perceive, and to determine with reasonable certainty that we exist in the physical universe, as a substantial living entity. There have been a variety of accomplished thinkers throughout human history who have written at length regarding the range of what we might express with confidence in this regard, and I am not so enamored of the conclusions drawn from my own experiences to suppose that they represent some sort of comprehensive explanation. I present my ideas and thoughts here more as an explanation of what has brought me to suggest them as a beginning to unravel it all.

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With basic functionality of all our perceptual and intellectual systems intact, we are able to propose judgements regarding our perceptions. Quite independent from the actual quality or accuracy of those judgements, we have good cause to feel at least reasonably confident that as conscious cognitive creatures, that we are HAVING experiences based on our ability to perceive. Acute perceptual disabilities caused by disease or injury to the brain, and heightened perceptual capacities such as the many varieties of synesthesia, represent the low and high range of quality possible in our experiences, and to some degree, we generally rely on the agreement of our fellow sentient beings to assist us in gauging the reliability of our interpretations, along with whatever previous experiences we might have available to us in memory. It is clear that we each enjoy a unique perspective as an independent observer of our own experiences, and that we interpret them from a relatively narrow subjective viewpoint most of the time. Not surprisingly, we may occasionally find ourselves as the lone possessor of a solitary interpretation of a particular subjective experience, as with personal trauma, as well as sharing what might ultimately turn out to be a mistaken view of the ideas and experiences of thousands of other confident perceivers, as with those who believed that the earth was flat, or that the earth was the center of the universe.

Numerous considerations including social, cultural, biological, and specific neurological components can contribute to the general run of experience for most of us, but our individual interpretations of our unique experience of existence, while clearly difficult to verify subjectively for those who are NOT us, even when they are standing right next to us, rely on what can constitute a remarkably different perspective, and in spite of possessing a similar range of shared experiences and education, may seem quite out-of-the-ordinary to other sentient beings.

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“Just as the imagination employs figures in order to conceive of bodies, so, in order to frame ideas of spiritual things, the intellect makes use of certain bodies which are perceived through the senses, such as wind and light…The wind signifies spirit; movement with the passage of time signifies life; light signifies knowledge; heat signifies love; and instantaneous activity signifies creation…It may seem surprising to find weighty judgements in the writings of the poets rather than the philosophers. The reason is that the poets were driven to write by enthusiasm and the force of imagination. We have within us the sparks of knowledge, as in a flint: philosophers extract them through reason, but poets force them out through the sharp blows of the imagination, so that they shine more brightly.” — Olympian Matters, Rene Descartes, 1619

Think of the varying degrees of culture shock when an individual is transplanted from a previously narrow or isolated environment of a rural character to a big city or urban center. The individual, having developed keen instincts in the previous realm of experience may find themselves virtually without adequate resources to make sense of the altered environment. Likewise, a sophisticated city dweller who handles the intricacies of city life and who may have a fine command of the urban environment, might find a remote rural landscape equally challenging. In each case, the perceptual and cognitive apparatus are fully functional, but require an additional number of experiences before comprehension can catch up. Imagine now how my own limited experience of the world thwarted my early attempts at comprehending the “eruption of unconscious contents,” (Jung) in 1973. Is it any wonder that I turned to philosophy, poetry, and investigation of the whole range of human thought and experience through the ages in order to come to terms with what happened?

If it is true, as my research and contemplation of the subject of the subjective experience of the human version of consciousness suggests, that consciousness is a manifestation and an expression of a non-physical reality which is the source of all life in the universe, and if we are able to affirm consciousness as a means through which we are able to gain access to the transcendent source of our awareness, aside from the many intellectual and spiritual benefits such knowledge might provide, it may provide, among other things, a source of genuine solace for all sentient beings who might be facing their own mortality or that of another. Reviewing my ideas on the spiritual aspects of existence generally and of consciousness particularly, it seems more urgent than ever to attend to the conclusions they infer for me, based on these ideas.

In the next few weeks, I will be posting some of the foundational ideas and conclusions drawn from the years of developing myself as a philosopher, poet, and serious student of the science of consciousness, and hope to expand the conversation throughout the new year here at WordPress.com.