Better questions

Divining the primordial soup of the soul charms the ancients forth in a kaleidoscope of shade, releasing imagination from the bonded twins of mind and matter. Yet, common culture’s constraint serves us, calming the promise that allows Man’s trials on a borrowed land.

Destiny unattained riles the calmest beast. What instinctual imagery must be evoked to both exercise and unchain, to fulfill the personal prophesy that makes us human, each so utterly different yet eerily the same?

Maybe there are no lasting answers. Perhaps the best that can be expected are better questions to help in our navigation through life.

Surreal bookends

Within a one-month period, I was both carded to prove of age to sit at a restaurant bar and charged the senior citizen rate, unsolicited, for a haircut. At 57, the irony had me rolling in laughter for days.

After a bit of reflection, I realized that this sort of thing shouldn’t really surprise me, given the dramatic changes in physical state that are a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. All the same, to have these two societal bookends of responsible adulthood illustrated in such a short space of time was surreal.

When I’m “off” and fighting a sleep attack, my face goes slack, eyes dull, with all movement grinding forward painfully slow. And then, thirty minutes later, I might be racing the lawn mower around the yard while laughing loudly at the memory of a particular juvenile prank from decades earlier, my face bearing the toothy grin of a five-year-old child.

And I’m pretty damned pleased that they are both the confused, the hell with society, genuine me. I’m into my 15thyear since Parkinson’s diagnosis, and I honestly like who I am.

I suppose this is why I collect AARP cards (If you refuse to join, they just keep on sending ‘em). I don’t appreciate labels, especially in a culture that minimizes our humanness to the inner bracket of two arbitrary numbers, absent curiosity or insight.

My stack of un-activated AARP cards represents the silly labels we all use. Society pressures us to conform to a “proper” life, and then, at 65, we are expected to be a good little dodder and die quietly out of sight.

Never fond of moderation, if one AARP card hanging on the wall is good, then—well, you get the picture.

Words

Words unspoken reel the puerile fancy in delight and delusion, flinging the heart in a slam-dance of reason, a confused ecstasy beneath wit’s veil.

Words, branded by insufficiency and soiled with adjective purity, also define a truncated existence barren of nagging truth.

Words shrewdly mark the serpentine trail to the grave at your feet. Self-fulfilling prophesy or selfish pride of heresy? Verbalization demands an either or.

A path to the soul

In man’s hurried chase for advancement, a world has been fashioned of despondent gloom, a mechanical land of literalism and materialism that rebuffs life’s essential spark. An enchanted dominion of numbers, where that which cannot be measured does not exist, consigns creativity and imagination to roles of leisure and sloth, suffocating in judgement.

Our deliberate prison is of binary design, tolerating but a two-dimensional reality when even the most jaded of eyes can see a third perspective, albeit of shadowy origin. Black and white, light and dark, right and wrong: it is not just the shading that is lost.  Man’s third element enjoins such mysteries as love to frolic in the realm of mind and body. It speaks to the core of our humanity.

It is nothing less than a path to the soul.

Falling deeply

Transcending mediocrity, sloughing off discontent’s turbid waters through discovery of weighty sincerity, is a pursuit of silence. No fanfare of audience or finish line trumpets the vitality of arrival.

To feel deeply is to fall deeply, not to stumble back to sunlight’s superficiality, but to evolve in curious darkness, learning to shiver in the fullness of the moon.

Life’s opposites sling us in awkward cycles, irregular circles that must be viewed from afar to recognize the patterned disorder. It is not pit or pendulum; it is both.

Honoring society while laughing at absurdity takes practice, but what could be more fun?

Ego’s indifference

Experience’s implication that the world is indifferent to our fate shakes the core, loosening forever the foundations of trust in fate’s reason.

Meaning and purpose do not remain empty, non-personal words, but evolve, eventually filling a canvas with spattering pastels of belief. But between the bright droppings of color lies the interconnected darkness of indifference. The black patches grow until all that is seen is vacuum, a nothingness. This is nature’s indifference.

The cool sword thrust of man’s is far more disturbing. To be told by a person of respect, of trust, simply of power, that they are indifferent to your situation evokes in the spirit nothing but a black hole, devoid of sufficient compassion to even care. No spell or curse bites the soul like invisibility.

To lack meaning is one level of cosmic uncertainty. To lack the tug on the soul to acknowledge existence is surely mankind’s cruelest vice. Human indifference to humans requires cunning and calculation deep in the ego’s realm.

Indifference sings perhaps mankind’s single fleeting truth, the simple message: “Friend, go to hell.”

On your own

Sovereign emptiness glides into place, dragging the soul into dread darkness as the universe’s dismal fate slithers into each crevasse of the mind with the promise of perpetually lingering eternity. Yet, to avoid entry into this glorious wasteland is to ignore life’s gift with the pretention of knowledge and the posturing of ego. It is to beg at the altar of materialism for scraps of human tribute.

Humans demand oversimplification with the audacity of a school yard bully, zealously struggling to elude suffering. Perhaps this is our normal state, nature’s gift of consciousness in constant battle with infinity’s loneliness.

Descent to the stark undertones of despair is inevitable, but to allow gravity’s sling shot to arch the soul back to the light’s true course, and then to the dark pit once again, hints at a final frontier present from the beginning.

The comforting brightness illuminates in deceptive shades of neon, while frightening oblivion lays claim to veracity’s hand. Traveling in both is inevitable, and the light always fades; get used to it, you’re on your own.

Shadow of doubt

To recognize the purposelessness of life is an odyssey, a sail to nowhere with the winds of ego shifting aimlessly, offering no headway as gale and doldrums threaten with equal urgency. There are no new revelations, only universal truths recycled by the emotions of personal experience.

And even as Odysseus learns to appreciate and honor his lonely quest, the solitary sojourn that brings meaning to life’s void, the course he steer’s is one of anguished trials, each seeking to usher in defeat to battles twice won.

Perhaps this is the real devil; doubt and isolation, beckoning the helmsman ever closer to the rocky shoal, a mere shadow of what had once been.

Exploring exploring

Twenty-one years ago, I began a quest of self-discovery that is only becoming clear to me now. I was flying for United Airlines at the time, well before my Parkinson’s diagnosis, and had grown unsatisfied with a life of going through the motions without a greater purpose or goal.

Most of the usual culprits of modern distraction did not interest me greatly: money and power held no special significance, and although fame intrigued, and eventually infecting me with an unrealistic – at least for me – definition of success, my reality stomped that out decisively when my first book did okay but was not distributed in a second edition by Ballantine.

I had looked to increased knowledge as a remedy for a dormant soul, devouring non-fiction histories and political books, scouring several newspapers daily, and often found myself entrenched in arguments that mattered little, if at all, and left me ill at ease and unfulfilled. My ego was firmly running the show, and I was no closer to happiness or a sense of peace.

Fortunately, Parkinson’s intervened, introducing irrevocable truths that could not be ignored. It has taken fourteen years, but I am beginning to now see the path that has always been there but is disguised by a society that places little value on the only life habits that lead to joy. I have written about much of this in The Lost Intruder, which describes the process of my growth up through about 2016.

The past two years have been difficult as I slowly sort out often conflicting inputs of body, mind, and soul, but I believe that I have learned several things that inspire promise for the journey. Here they are.

Embrace your personal challenge. We all have struggles. Hold yours close, learning, living, and loving with this integral part of you.

Try not to get caught up with meaning. It is unlikely to hold any answers and may be beyond our ken, if it exists at all. Be satisfied that compassion and kindness can provide the same warm contentment as unequivocal purpose.

Press on. Don’t quit exploring yourself; every experience is valuable, especially depression. Melancholy was the term used by the ancients to describe this transformative, albeit often excruciating, process of personal reflection. Not all pain was meant to be “cured,” which in today’s world usually means masking discomfort with a series of drugs. The examined life is the only one worth living (apologies to Socrates).

Trust in the process of life. Know in your heart, through faith, meditation, or a feeling of unknown origin that on the deepest level, it is all okay; it really is.