In The Company Of Chaos

Chaos JH

In The Company Of Chaos

Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.

As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day.  Why?  Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?

Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil?  To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity.  Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.

Balance is ancient.  Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts.  A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive.  Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end.  ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise.  Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen.  We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.

Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species?  Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis.  Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause?  One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?

It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose.  Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom.  Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit.  I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility?  Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.

Do we look, or look away?  Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe.  If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath.  What then?  What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance.  What sacrifices will we wish we had made.  What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Last Day On Earth

earth

Last Day On Earth

What would I do if I learned that today was my last day on earth?  Hmmm, if we asked a random group of people that question we’ed get a spectrum of answers.  Would the spectrum be narrow, the answers similar, or would they be divergent, deeply personal and unlikely to overlap?  Some might say; “I’d want to be with my family.” Others might choose to find a pound of cocaine and dance naked in a rainstorm of hookers.  Might some go skydiving?  Or Google the one love that got away and purchase a plane ticket, or find a church and pray until their tongue cramped?  Perhaps some would hide in bed, crying away their last hours.

I imagine the answers might share some commonalities if the interviewees found themselves in a similar place on the arcs of their lives.  If not, the answers could be strewn all over the mental universe.  I, for example, am a parent, and so would hope that some part of that ‘last day’ could be spent with the children whom I love and cherish more than anything in this world.  What if that weren’t possible.  What if I learned at 6am that my life would end at midnight and both of my sons were nowhere to be found?  Maybe they’d be hiking some distant mountain range, or off on a hitchhiking adventure across Canada…whatever.  The point here being, the desired spend of my last few hours would not be attainable.  Were that the case I would have to find another way to make the most of my last hours as an earthling.   I could spend my last day lamenting this misfortune, or?  What would you do?

Perhaps there’s a better question to ask.  Maybe we’ed be better served by taking a less conventional approach, asking a different question than “What would I do if it was my last day on earth?”  The query, “what I’d do” is powerful, yet impractical.  If I’m asking to learn anything other than how I’d choose to use a minuscule number of hours that, statistically speaking, I’m unlikely to be presented with, it has little value.  This is because the probability of finding ourselves in such a situation is infinitesimally low.

Having a plan is excellent.  Carrying jumper cables in the trunk for example, or hiding a key to the front door under a rock in the yard are precautions likely to at some point take center stage under the “usefulness spotlight.”  These are premeditated solutions to scenarios we are likely to face.  I was not a Boy Scout, but I have borrowed, and benefitted from the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”

It dawned on me today while out mountain biking in the color-rich Autumn woods, that I’d be better served if I knew the answer not to “What would I do if this was my last day on earth,”  But HOW I would do it!  How would I approach it…living my last day?  What attitude would I take?  The “how“ can be controlled, focused, owned.  The “what” cannot.  Perhaps you’ve already been down this philosophical road.  For me, it’s a new perspective.  I hadn’t spent time comparing the value of the endless passing days of my long-ass life to the single day that I knew would be my last.  “How” would I approach it?  Suddenly I felt in complete control of my last day on earth!  That, I could choose without the need for permission or the hope of right timing.

In my case pondering this ‘How’ made the lingering color of the late Autumn woods brighter to my eye.  The definition of things sharpened.  If I knew this was my last look at the majesty of life, I would look closer, deeper.  This perspective caused my energy to swell dramatically.  I took the jumps higher, the hills faster.  The strength, love, the gratitude within me grew noticeably, all because of a thought.  I dare say I had a bit of a Grinch-like moment of realization, and everything in the world was better, more meaningful and more of a gift than it had been in the moments before.

The expression “live every day as though it were you last” therefore may be commonly misconstrued, or at least in my case misapplied.  It tends to call up the ‘What’ when in fact it’s the ‘How to accept/approach it’ that may be the true gift hidden in that cat-poster quote.  On any day leading up to my last the answer to the question “How” I would choose to live my last day on earth is a gift, a revelation, a tool that can be used to make every day more than it otherwise might have been.  So Namaste friends, Nama-f’ing-ste.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Free Fall

Free Fall JH 2

“What do you mean ‘bad’?” I asked.

“I think it’s self-explanatory.” He said.

“Nice bedside manner doc!”

He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”

“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.

“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend.  I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life.  The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”

I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”

Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life.  Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us.  This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet.  He had supported me every step of the way.  He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive.  He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.

“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.

He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.

“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured.  May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you.  May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.”  He held his glass and my gaze.

Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up.  I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.

“How long?” I asked.

“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random.  Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live.  I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this?  I’m just a doctor.”  James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.

“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said.  “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”

“Are you coming on to me?”  My super thin, false bravado wavering.

“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.”  Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.

“Thanks?”  I had to laugh.  Hiking would be good!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aren’t You Too Old To Wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?

Fireball T

Oh millennials, how you see things for what they appear to be…to you!  The exact exchange went something like this.

Millennial: “Aren’t your too old to wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?  As they say, If you’re old enough to buy Fireball, you’re too old to drink Fireball.”

Me: “Whatever.”

Good point though in some respects.  That cinnamon-laced antifreeze is probably not a good nutritional choice at any age.  What struck me as funny was that until that moment ageism had gone missing in my world.  I, no longer being concerned with “fitting in” in the same way that most of us were so obsessed with in high school, didn’t register the ‘age issue’ as it related to “the shirt.”  Whatever…really, again with the “whatever?”  Joking aside, the reality of the conversation ran deeper than cotton.  People divide the value of another individual’s input into categories.  If you’re too old, or too young, too Red or too Blue, to this ethnic background or too that, male or female, you may not be able to connect with an alternate demographic.  To that, I say…maybe.

Seems to me that we as humans have the option to transcend all manner of barriers; be they related to race, socio-economic status, age, gender, etc.  The question is, will we?  If we are willing to open our minds to the circumstances of others can we not then remain pertinent and more importantly in ‘learning mode’ until the day we clock out?  Even if those with whom we attempt to connect are as yet unable to open their minds to our way of thinking?  I’d like to think so.

Pre-industrial revolution cultures valued the accumulation of wisdom.  Hence the term “wise men…and women.”  That wisdom was acquired most commonly by those who had lived long enough, and processed enough life experience to know more than the average sixteen-year-old.  Nowadays said sixteen-year-old can web surf their way to information over the course of a summer that would have formerly taken a lifetime to gather.  Knowledge is power…but is it wisdom?

Back to the ‘Fireball Whiskey T-shirt.”  Yes, I get that the shirt is a marketing tool used by the creators of said elixir, but I really liked the art on the “T” so I bought it.  A fire-breathing lion-ish creature in a majestic, upright pose appealed to me at the moment.  Art, be its simple, or rich in complexity is just that…art.  All art is timeless if we, the viewers allow ourselves to join in the concept of timelessness.  We don’t have to love it.  We can even hate it.  Either way, we can choose to allow it.  We can choose to coexist with it without feeling threatened.

I started going grey around the time of my fortieth birthday.  As a lifetime wannabe rock star that did not sit well.  Enter my hair salon phase.  As a fortieth birthday self-gifting experiment I saloned up and had my hair dyed.  I liked it!  So much so that I continued the practice for over a decade.  I didn’t want to be judged by my age; not by peers, not by clients, not by me.  Of course, I realize that my reaction is unique and that everyone else wants to become and, more importantly, look older…ha!  Age is wisdom after all so who doesn’t want to look wise right?

Nowadays I have let nature take its course with my physical being.  Long silver hair spills over my shoulders and as a result, I garner an equal dose of both disapproving looks, and comments along the lines of “I love your hair, do you hear that a lot?”  I do.  But I’ve also heard from colleagues, “Hey, have you ever thought about cutting your hair man” and/or aren’t you too old to be wearing that shirt?”  Whatever, part three!

With any luck, you find being yourself fun.  I know I do.  With the end game in mind, I no longer concern myself with being accessed from afar.  I know that within a few minutes of conversation, value can be transmitted, established, and solidified.  It’s conversation, honest interaction, that allows a person’s value to be understood.  It is connection, human, face to face, that creates the opportunity for transcendence.  It’s the combined powers of wisdom and patience that allow any ‘shirt’ to bear no weight in the outcome of one’s ability to bring gifts to the world.  Going softly into that dark night… in my opinion is a “no.”  “Roar till the end like the lion guy on my T-shirt,” say I.

So I’ll wear that dumb shirt, not cut the hair, give at every opportunity and smile on my way out!  Oh millennials, how our conversations will be different a decade or two from now; when life has had it’s way with you.  And so, with a grin, I raise a shot of fireball to you all while wishing you the absolute best of times!

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!