Hubris of meaning

While walking along the beach, I noticed a large stump that appeared to have been yanked from the ground before drifting for a lengthy indeterminate period as judged by the smooth veneer of its chain-sawed limbs.

The stump’s roots had circled in flowing adaptation around four large rocks, entangling them firmly in smooth wooden cavities, snuggly ornate in artistic simplicity.

I had never seen this before, such an obvious encirclement of a tree over stones. What could it mean?

I considered either the predicament or good fortune of the embedded rocks, depending on perspective, occasionally for several days, eventually concluding nothing. Still, the unusual arrangement was mesmerizing in its transformative beauty, an inlay of ordinary rock in the center of a nondescript tree that, when viewed in entirety, was fascinating beyond that of an oddity of occurrence.

Recently, I’ve questioned my naiveté silently. Evolving habit demands investigating meaning in every act of observation, a course I still regard as proper if I am ever to understand the actual workings of the world. But it does not follow that a particular interpretation will be revealed “correctly” (whatever that is) or will be evident to me or to anybody else.

Assuming meaning is adaptable to the inherent rigidities of the human form and thought, it would seem likely to be undetected by all, including the most perceptive of observers. Meaning appears to arise nuanced in expression, oblique in its attack of a salient point, absent the usual fanfare modern doctrine demands in description.

It might be wise to temper our focus, entertaining kindness and compassion as a guide for the hidden. Beauty can be grounded in brilliant obscuration, a gateway to understanding a buried code long forgotten in a hubris-driven oversight of consequence.

Clever grace

When I was nine, the family hit the road after work one Friday, searching for a place to park our VW to enjoy the outdoors. Almost all coastal Greece is beautiful, making finding a campsite in 1971 easy.

After helping my father raise the tent, I walked along the craggy shore until finding a perch to sit quietly for the sunset. Gazing into the Aegean with unfocused attention, I stared at the rugged rock wall that descended into eventual darkness.

There was something about one outcropping in particular that held my attention. Five minutes of visual fixation found reward when the rock began to move.

Stunned and unable to register what was happening, I watched the rock deliberately unfold with the clever grace of intelligence, gradually differentiating rough tentacles thorny and colorful in texture until the label “octopus” registered in my mind.

The creature, tired of disguise, ambled with fluid acumen into the depths, tentacles miraculously transmuting into willowy feet. I kept sight of the shifting shape as it blended to nothingness in the lower visibility of depth.

The octopus survives by varying its form in both shape and color. I doubt many people could handle this fast a personal metamorphosis in themselves.

Change, impermanence, is inevitable and is neither good nor bad; it is how we react to a transforming world that affects us by creating judgment’s dualistic framework. Editing a written work is a small example of a commonly understood positive in change, at least when it applies to my writing. Reactions to Parkinson’s disease generally reflect an interpretation of bad.

PD has taught me many things, some still not understood cognitively, but one conclusion approaching certainty is to accept change as it happens. I consider PD a “good” thing when life’s confusion of meaning demands labeling.

Is this the remedy, the cure to illusory ailment, wrapped and hidden carefully in the comfort of unity, the soothing salve of vibrant energy, to surrender?

Loverly

Part of my recent routine is tackling select morning chores as the day’s first medications wear off and the second batch of drugs ramps up to take over, a sixty-or-so-minute process that begins about 8:15 am. The challenge is to maximize the golden hours of medication equilibrium, freeing me to write, exercise, and drive for limited times, mainly in the mornings.

While making the bed—a painfully slow evolution, but one I can usually accomplish regardless of physical state—I started humming a song learned in 3rd grade while living in Athens, Greece, that highlighted the refrain “Wouldn’t it be loverly.”

I strived to sing passably with pitiful success as a boy, and elementary school witnessed my last moments of sufficient bravery or stupidity to belt out a few choruses publicly. All the same, silent memories of these moments of liberating creativity reside comfortably in my heart. These days, I engage creativity through the safer medium of writing.

Creativity frees the child’s heart to play regardless of age. Tapping into the imagination transports the individual away from the world of the senses, freeing the soul to wander in ethereal exploration.

Whether simply curious or actively attempting to brighten perspective of an intolerable situation, creativity and imagination help to engage perhaps a more genuine reality. Activating one’s creative juices, regardless of the form they take, is critical to living a whole life.

As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” That’s the thing about being way-smart; I bet he could sing too. Wouldn’t that be loverly?

Humility’s gentle grace

My life—until recent years—mimics a pendulum’s widening arc of extremity, hinting only the slightest hesitation as the center oscillates past quiet with confounding predictability.

Recognizing prior patterns of hollow value does not magically charm foibles into fables, and perception alone only summons the rigid reward of hardened belief. Authentic humility’s hushed wisdom is what opens the door.

Tutoring conviction elicits the mind-as-tool prison, lending it unbalanced weight while ignoring the heart’s treasure of softening judgment. Humility’s charity balances both, vanquishing neither.

The metaphor is incomplete, as are all portraits of the soul, an entity aching to be seen, patiently awaiting the pendulum to swing toward humility’s gentle grace.

Returning to port

My hobbies and ten years in the navy reflect my attraction to the sea, an evolving self-discovery of conflicting visions.

Watching the sea’s delicate orchestra of peaceful violence fascinates and thrills, luring, tempting to risk venturing a stroke too far. Sensually appealing, the ocean seduces its prey with vast expanses of barren surface while creatures dare depth’s darkness in a flirt of imagination.

Accustomed to the push-pull delights of mimicking tide, the ocean’s stinging salt air fashions crashing waves of human indifference, pledging nothing more than a rough ride home. And we must all eventually go home.

Fortunate for many reasons, I was blessed to have grown up on the East Coast while living most of my life in the West. Imagining the sun’s arc as it tracks with life’s natural progression lends ordained splendor to the sequence: my life began with the sun erupting from the water. So, it will end setting over western seas, left and right brains finally harmonized in balance.

Appreciating that alignment will come, at least with death, eases nothing. On the contrary, it assures constant struggle until that first sip of hemlock from the trophy cup, perhaps finally content with the journey’s progress. Not that it matters, but I would have it no other way.

Courageous kindness

While The Lost Intruder was certainly about deep diving, Naval Aviation, and underwater exploration, these perspectives merely provided the framework for the book’s genuine aspiration: describing the re-discovery of my soul. Despite countless hours of reflection, however, the mechanisms at play behind the scenes during the 18-month search remain, for the most part, a comforting mystery to me. 

Intuitively, I knew to avoid gleaning from the experience inevitably incomplete, although important, interpretations of meaning—The Lost Intruder was only one segment of a very long journey. Instead, I relied on the calming conclusion that, without knowing exactly why, I could trust in the process of life.

Despite a frequently circuitous path forward since then, I still honestly believe that regardless of individual struggles, life really will turn out okay. Just writing that makes me smile. What, do you want to live forever?

While it’s taken years and may take many more to fully comprehend the ultimate value of The Lost Intruder’s chapter of my life, thorny insinuations of higher purpose have mostly been put to rest by a realization of practical magnitude. There is no higher meaning than to love without judgment or reservation in recognition of collective beauty, life’s sincerest identity. It’s that simple.

A gentle humility lies within us all, ready to be put into everyday service by an individual’s courageous kindness. Maybe deep down, that will make you smile; I hope so.

Strength happens

Flying home after a visit with my son in South Carolina last week, I pondered how life had changed in just the past year. In addition to a longtime grounding from flying, there was now no more diving, severely limited driving, no more talks or presentations, and even negotiating the doldrums of air travel solo had become problematic. Parkinson’s previously gradual backsliding has noticeably accelerated, leading me to question the viability of an unvital life.

My primary reason for continuing to endure life’s now often tediously boring bell jar is my children. As long as they remain solidly in my identity, then, perhaps, I might fashion a degree of guidance for them. Besides, even though I will never witness how things turn out—no one ever does, as the “end” tends to usher in the “new” just as quickly—my curiosity remains strong. I do enjoy watching the impermanence of life’s stage.

Two sayings come to mind. I’ve always appreciated Frederick Nietzsche’s writing but had considered one of his most famous pieces trite. “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” reverberates with careless meaning, a strength-for-strength’s sake, might-makes-right dead-end deal.

“Shit happens” (author unknown) was more my style with its shared blessing of tacit acceptance.

The mind’s realization that “life is as life is” offers little comfort to depleting animation. To recognize the same from the heart, however, is to surrender to agape’s warm embrace, to welcome the falling tears of gentle reserve. Departing the bastion of reason for environs of infinite universality, the distance between the two perspectives, it seems, is only to be bridged—at least by me—through patient persistence, and then only temporarily.

My goal? Fortitude through patience and unflappable calm in the face of shit happening: what could go wrong? Surely nothing that the occasional smile can’t remedy…😊

A tired man’s dream

Courage without reward, no emerging rainbow sharpens life’s cloud, seeking peace while guts roil in the tempestuous agony of forgotten. Bereft banality of belief or transparency of purpose, the surrounding sin feeds greed’s eager deity by crying out for the impossibility of elusive satiation. The Stoic advances, tramping silently, shielded by veiled surrender, sculpting a vision of anima creo.

On parenting: the rare mercy of vague memory

There are no perfect parents. Parenting is an impossible task lasting as long as you breathe life completed on someone else’s timeline; a thankless job with all the world acting as critics. How you were raised is your only practical guide, comparing decisions made thirty, forty, fifty years ago that were so different in context that any similarities undoubtedly reside as coincidences of a vivid imagination.

There are few consistencies, zero really, although the exhausted parent’s mind desperately searches for warm corroboration even as the heart screams out in warning. “Yes” is almost always the wrong answer.

Saying “no” to your child is impossibly difficult. The parent enters the compact—whether made with a two or a twenty-year-old—trusting only intuition and meager experience to lead to an answer that might be understood in time but will more likely be used to lash out in an outgrown tantrum of protest.

Saying yes, particularly as money is concerned, is the easiest chore imaginable, ironically leaving the parent stewing in an unresolved doubt that will likely require future intervention to correct.

The only simple part of being a parent is expressing the unconditional love that comes with the job: honest and authentic, life-long love that transcends the most-thorny of conflicts or hate-filled words.

As parents age, life displays rare mercy through vague memory: the happy times are remembered while far more difficult ones slowly recede from reality. At least if one is fortunate enough to live that long.

Above all, parenting is about living your own life with all the mistakes and heartache that this world brings. To watch an adult son or daughter make a questionable decision is right up there with saying “no,” the awful nexus of dream versus nightmare for all involved.

There is no greater hardship than watching a child suffer. There is no greater parental responsibility than letting a grown child go. The enlightened freedom from this strongest of life’s attachments can be unbearably painful, an acute act of overlooked love dancing amid drama’s lengthening shadows into perpetuity.