When the windows go dark

When the windows go dark and transmissions cease; when questions meet silence and walls increase; this is how the trouble started; this is the end of knowledge imparted; it is the rise of paranoia and suspician; it is the increase of absence and ommission…

We have all seen the signs in our lives. A family endures tragedy, a business changes hands, a community or country sees new leadership rise.

Then slowly, in the wake of these changes small things begin to happen. The blinds are lowered a little each day. The doors are locked more often than unlocked. Eventually the windows go dark, communication stops and lights remain off more than they remain on. The door stops getting answered, the mail piles up and the message is clear – “GO AWAY! Leave us to our isolation, our small duma, our tight circle that gets ever tighter.

Even the best of us, when we scorn community and the team, begin to corrode. When left to the thunderous echo of our own thoughts boucing around inside our ever suspicious skulls, perhaps amplified by poisonous whispers escaping the odd Iago from time to time, we begin to fall into ourselves like a black hole from which nothing escapes.

When people look at us they see absence and darkness and a thing they wish to avoid.

Eventually even our staunchest allies lose hope and wander off to which we reply “good riddance! I can work better alone and in silence” which is the terrible myth we often fall prey to.

The antidote to such dis-ease is trust. Trust not earned but freely given. Trust borne out of need and hope that reaching out and allowing others in is not a weakness but the greatest of strengths.

When we lose trust we lose everything.

dirty old cottonwood

the dirty old cottonwood

across my sun-scorched street

sheds branches like a snake sheds skin

in the fattened unhinged heat

of summer’s storm-warning wind

never diminishing its grandiose girth

as though sprouting arms in the eve

like hell-bent hydra regrows heads

to threaten unwary cars

and careless landscapers

who wander into its siren shade

under the apple tree

under the apple tree

this man is seen,

under the apple tree

where countless number

the men and women who had been,

while the wind caresses every leave

and small fruit grow slow but steady

and one can hear the breath of the world

sighing as though in brief respite

given by a rare and perfect summer day.

under the apple tree

this man is seen

reading, writing and contemplating

how ever he came to a good life

where anger and shame was released,

replaced with a sense of fortune

in the midst of a l fortuneless world.

under the apple tree

where it its not unheard of

that on occasion

knowledge and wisdom will fall as one

and rest ripening in a willing heart

An Angry Woman

When a woman has been unjustly treated and decides to fight back, she is dismissed as emotional, vengeful and bitter. When a man responds the same way he is righteous, angry, a warrior.

An angry woman is deemed hysterical and ignored or gotten rid of; she is told to be quiet and be pretty – to calm down. An angry man is feared and taken seriously.

Growing up I watched my mum dismissed again and again and again. She was dismissed by her doctors, dismissed by the police, dismissed by family services, and dismissed by the men in her life.

As young teenage girl she was placed in a foster home after being kicked out of the house by her mother to make room for her new stepfather’s three boys. Message – you are less valuable than men.

She bounced around foster homes for a while until there were none available for her.

As a practice in the 1950s if there were not enough foster homes you would be placed in the care of a mental asylum because they often had spare beds.

While in such an institution in Whitby, Ontario the staff decided a young, depressed teenage girl who was angry at what had happened to her needed one thing – electroshock treatment.

Mum struggled with memory issues and headaches the rest of her life after that.

When I was being bullied by a group of teen boys once, she stormed over and let loose on them and they stood there and laughed at her. She stood her ground and took it and eventually they left.

When she was being threatened with a beating by my stepfather and called the police, they told her they couldn’t do anything until he beat her up. When he left her face a purple, bruised mass, they took him away joking with him asking “what did you do now Pete?” while she wept and eventually went to the hospital.

Mum had to fight with all her energy her entire life to be taken seriously about things men take for granted. Again, and again and again she screamed to be heard, many times literally, and her voice was swept under the carpet and ignored.

These memories are burned into me forever.

Even today in our enlightened era people make fun of women who present as strong and angry – they are called “Karens” and consigned to the category of joke. The relegation of angry women to a special category for mocking is stupid, demeaning and horrible.

As my daughter leaves childhood and is growing into the strong, young woman she is becoming I do not want a world that dismisses her or that deems her emotional and hysterical simply for standing up for herself. I want a world that takes her seriously and listens to her voice.

If she is in a meeting with peers and management, I want her voice to count as much as the next person’s.

A world that does not take women seriously, a world that devalues, mocks, and ignores them, is a garbage world and the people who do this are garbage people.

It needs to stop.

loss

i am as an astronaut
unexpectedly untethered,
and set adrift from my ship
now lost in the fearful distance
growing ever smaller.

mother is gone,
father is gone,
and i –
i am a satellite
on my own.

loss is a watery abyss
we must navigate
without our north star
to save us from drowning.

and so i find my gemini twin
while i break off
small pieces of myself
like a shattered asteroid,
that we might journey together
and dance in one-another’s pull
until i fall in blazing, fiery glory

away, away, away

Good & Evil

There is no such thing as a wholly good person and, I do not believe, there is such a thing as a wholly evil person.

Of course these are such subjective, existential and ontological categories that I must admit I cannot be certain I am correct in my own assertions but I make them nonetheless if only to stir thought.

What is good? Often good is defined at its most base level as that which contributes to the ongoing life and well-being of the individual and, by extention the community.

Personally good is that which does not injure, restrain or otherwise contrain my life.

Does this include freedom and free will. Is unconstrained free will good for me? Well perhaps you might think so but that might lead me to my unconstrained consumption of candy and chips and dip and cola etc. In this sense my unconstrained freedom is not, ultimately, good for me. So then can one call it truly a good thing?

To rescue ourselves from such dilemmas we appealed to outside arbiters and definitions of good and evil. God or the Gods depending upon who you are.

We were told that which was good – “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” and evil – “thou shalt not murder”.

Of course the problem with this method is that, religious or not, people were imposing their own interpretations on these rules. In fact, even if you believe in the divine the content of these moral codes passed through the flawed human filter into flawed human language to be read and (mis)understood by flawed human beings and then, after all of this, implemented in flawed human systems.

Hopeless.

In some ways we find evil easier to understand. Evil hurts. Evil diminishes and destroys.

Still, we find ways of compartmentalizing these things. What is good for you is not necessarily good for me. It may be evil to kill but I think it is still more evil to be killed and therefore my evil is less evil than yours and thus my evil becomes good.

What is evil? A man takes another human being and makes them his slave.

“But I am bringing them the light of civilization?”

Rationalization.

A country finds and possesses a land filled with millions of already indigenous peooples without regard for their claim.

“But this is the way of conquest and they lost. They had no writs of ownership, no system of parceling the land and owning it – therefore it was ours for the taking.”

Brutality.

Good and Evil have always been subjective – Subject to beliefs; Subject to cultures; Subject to appetites and whims.

If we follow the biological imperative to live and continued existence of the species than good is that which continues these things but not just for you or me or our unique cults and countries…it is good for all or none.

Further to this and by extention we can converse about rights and who has them. If it is good for a species to exist it is good for all species to exist and if this is the case, our rights are equal, for once our rights exist as a result of our power to enforce them they are no longer rights – they are bounty, stolen at another’s expense.

I have a right to exist because I exist. With this then I have a right to all that extends from this. You do as well as does all within the living order.

What about when these rights conflict? Does a mosquito have a right to exist and inflict malaria upon me or an entire nation? Do I have the right to eradicate a species whose very survival techniques could eradicate me? This is the classic might vs. right discussion and suddenly we’re back to the relativity of good vs. evil.

In the instance of conflicting rights does not the species with the greater faculty for reasoning, and the most abundance of resources, bear the responsibility of resolving the conflict in favour of both species survival? To apply that wonderfully evolved wit to the problem at hand and not simply gas species into non-existance?

I believe they do.

Leaving aside how we might measure the varying capacities for reasoning between mosquitos and humans we assume it is our role to “make it work” on behalf of both parties and apply ourselves with vigour.

But what if we are equally resourced in both intellect and resources but at odds regarding one-another’s survival? How then are we to proceed?

The immediate gut reaction is that war is inevitable in such circumstances, either cold or hot.

I would suggest that arriving at this point in the first place is an expression of our failure to be. Failure to be in harmony with one-another.

The pragmatist points out at this stage that it is all good and well to philosophise on these matters but in reality there is conflict. There are victors and vanquished. Move along. Try words and than, when they fail, warfare. Back to the might equals right solution.

In the end conflict, warfare…evil if you will…may have to occur but when they do the are surely a sign that we are no further along than hyenas and lions (and perhaps less so given our ability to ponder existence in the first place).

We dream of good and evil but still act out of animal self-interest which always leads to destruction.

Good and evil are shadows at play on the wall of our cave. They represent a truth beyond our reach but perhaps achievable with effort and luck one day.

before

before the broken wood and stone
before the buriel of flesh and bone
this gilded earth drifted in the empty black

alone

lost in a heaving convulsion
of constant creation

before the buzz, this constant drone
before the neverending groan
this empty, unremarkable earth
was light and shadow falling
untouched by the hot winds
that knew nothing of the life to come

Thrice knocks the herald

Thrice knocks the empty one
upon the grieving door;
Thrice sobs the lonely one
having lost whom they adore

a sign for sure to tell you true
that love has passed to light;
a salve to heal through and through
to hold your dearest tight

ne’er move to answer hollow call
stay put, resist the beckoning;
or cursed you’ll be and held in thrall
as herald becomes your reckoning