To fear or not fear the homeless

I was running an errand this morning, thinking that I was going to the public library. It turned out to be much more of a visit to see my own thoughts and patterns.

I noticed the line between the subconscious and conscious minds and how I was making choices about which side of the street I walk on, and whether I make eye contact with someone or cast my eyes elsewhere.

I gave the silent head nod to a man squatting at the edge of the parking lot on the backside of the library. There was no visual response, and I continued on with my affairs. After walking out of the library doors, I noticed a pair of people sitting on a doorstep, sitting in the sun. The young man was in a t-shirt soaking up the rays of sunshine despite the brisk morning air.

I noticed my own split-second pause as I debated whether to cross the street onto the sidewalk that would take me within four feet of those two. If I had opted to stay on the far sidewalk, twenty five feet removed, I could have kept my eyes from peering across the tarmac chasm at the two human beings sitting in the New Mexico sun. Whether I recognize someone else’s humanity is that sudden and subtle. I can live in mini-moments that dignify the life and essence or others, or I could have stayed far away on the other side of street pretending that my non-seeing was the result of which sidewalk I was on rather than my choice to see or not see. To fear or not fear. More precisely, to be bound by the fears of my own narratives or not be bound by the fears of my own narratives.

These are a few of the choices that blur my conscious and subconscious.

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the failure of “I’m busy”

Note: an old post (circa 2012) that never uploaded to the cloud from my local network. So today, I try again.
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Choice is a powerful thing. As I find ways to slow down, I am amazed each time that I hear someone state: I’m so busy. So stressed, exhausted.

It is easy to fall into a state of hyper-activity. It is the norm in this day and age. An addiction that cuts across classes, generations, nations. There is a strong gale force wind at our backs bombarding the seemingly few hours in a day, a wind that feels unwelcome and stress-inducing. A wind that causes people to feel that 24 hours is just not enough. Such a feeling and attitude makes inadequacy inevitable.

Yet, we can live big lives. Honor the enormity of our souls. Grant ourselves the grace, the benefit of the doubt of what it is to be imperfect. Thus, embrace the bigness of our lives where so much happens in a 24 hour period.

At this time, I live in such a way that I have the time to write. As I write, I am making the time to observe the use of language. The quirks of what arises and what is repeated and common by people around me. Growing up with a father who I referred to as “a walking dictionary” I placed value on correct spelling; though I have been less concerned with correct definitions for certain words.

One recent list has been my list of words that I refrain from using, scratching from my vocabulary. Among the first to make this list with the accompanying feeling and reasoning why it is on my vocab non grata was:

I’m busy | being busy is a choice. a choice to mirror the hyperactive, over-committed, lacking sleep cultural dominance of these times. there’s no time like now to drop some old burdensome, time-consuming deadweight in your life.

I used to feel like my days were frantic. Where all of the phone calls, emails or things to do tomorrow corroded my ability to sleep the night before. I would wake up exhausted because I had tossed around between 3 and 5 a.m. Where it would be 6:00 pm, and I hadn’t known what happened to my day. Where I was squeezing text messages in at red lights or as I walked down the street. I once ran into the car in front of me, at a red light, by texting wiht my fingers while removing my right foot from the brake pedal. I had multiple too-close-for-comfort shoulder brushes with other pedestrians unable to avoid me because they were tapping out a text, too.

Now, I find a red light a welcome respite. Most times that I hear a horn honking, I note how urgent, speedy or rushed the person is who must be late. Who feels late, even though they may not be. At least, not from where I stand.

So much of what has changed has been my perspective and my own views of myself, which has altered my views of others. My perspectives about past/present/future are less pressurized because I spend much less time trapped in the past or preoccupied about the future. As a result, I get to feel and sense what it is like to think about the present. The present that is this moment-by-moment. Doing so has offered me a way to feel how each moment is different from the previous and the next. Where I am not struggling, attempting to keep things as they were just a moment ago, because living organisms are forever changing.

I am not responsible for keeping something just as it was.

Just like the ‘river that flows by itself,’ the cells in my eyes, capillaries, toes and throughout my body are constantly in flux.
Our bodies as people. Our bodies of water. Our bodies of dogs, chameleons and amoeba.
I spend more time outside. This requires and results in me spending less time in front of a computer screen.
I make fewer phone calls, trusting that I will call upon friends when the timing is just right.

There are a few phrases that we use at home. That we choose at home:

  • – In the nick of time.
  • – Just at the right time.
  • – Moment-by-moment.

I began to say “moment-by-moment” two years ago, when I realized that I was feeling a moment-by-moment sort of love. Where I had no idea of what love would be or feel like in a few weeks, but that was irrelevant. In that very instance, I had the power of love emanating from deep in my chest.

The most recent addition to this list of the fluidity of time and timing is:

  • – Before/After.

When exactly something occurred is less significant. Rather than getting consumed with the specificity of it, just acknowledging that it was some time before. Similarly, that something else happened or will happen after.

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This talk of time, and the perceived impacts of the pressure and constraints that it places upon us reminds me of a reprinted book of a 1920s era book by Florence Schovel Schinn (sp?). The moral of that story was captured in a single line of prose:

God provides all the time that we need.

walking along a revolutionary road

I am watching the epic and tragic and brilliant story of Revolutionary Road again this weekend. I have a great appreciation for the intensity of the movie (as I have been told that I am an intense being) as it touches upon fundamental issues of life, purpose, and meaning. Each of these have profound reverberations on the people around us, too. This is where there is beauty in life when acted upon, or loss and dismay as is the case for Kate Winslet’s and Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters in the movie.

On the surface it is a love tragedy. Yet, wrapped in layers and layers, the movie is an illustration of walking the road less traveled (as M. Scott Peck calls it. A book that I would like to revisit this year, after more than a decade of being untouched). It is when stories of love, family, work, career, art, travel, journeys, passion arise. So many factors that they can cause a lump in a throat because they are too much to comprehend. Yet, it is not about the comprehension but the ability to act or decisively choose (in such a way that choosing sometimes feels like plunging) in spite of all the unknowns. In our hyper-intellectualized time and the delusion of logic, we attempt to know everything before acting. This set up is an impossibility. As we cannot know all that we need to know (nor can we know all that there is to know). To wait until all information is adequately known results in paralysis.

This delay of choosing, or inaction, at pivotal moments in life is what resonates for me in Revolutionary Road. Contrary to the revulsion or sadness that many others felt about the movie, I was drawn to it. I appreciated the darkness. It is a stark telling of what is far more common than I believe is acknowledged. Furthermore, it is an indictment of what happens when the pursuit of professional success trumps personal relationship.

***

The road less traveled requires walking through a doorway of choices, of choosing the less common, less appreciated and less understood choice(s) especially when these lesser knowns are frowned up or objected to by society, writ large or one’s inner circle. Every day there are moments when we have to choose (what are called choice points). Even when we decide to not act, we still make a choice. Life is chock full of possible choices and our choices impact not only other people and circumstances around us, but impact the remainder of our life.

Too often, we cower to the pressures of what is normal, what is acceptable or tolerable to family, friends, coworkers or to other people we perceive as being in our same social order. Perception is a dicey thing because it is our individual ideas of who we consider as being like us and being with us. Yet these we can trap ourselves and deny life-giving choices because of what the very same people want. Sometimes it is that we accurately see others as they are, and correctly understand what choice they want us to make; there are other times where our perception is mistaken and the very people we care about and care about us wish for us to make decisions that are more freeing. However, we may not because we cannot see (or hear or understand)) that that is what they, too, want for us. These are some of the ways of how we can trip ourselves up and become trapped. A paradox about being social beings is that we defer to others even when that is not in alignment with our inner self. When we repeatedly do so, we establish a pattern that can make it harder and harder to listen to the inner wisdom of intuition because we seek the counsel of others’ voices, even when it drowns our own voice.

For six years of the last decade, I waited for others’ permission to make choices that were mine alone to make. I come from two strands of families, where masculinity was defined as fitting within certain social structures and social orders. The lives of both of my grandfathers looked very different, yet each created families and built professions that placed them in contexts where their choices affected others — at work, in their home, in their extended families. While I cannot know what it was like to be fathers in their time, I reflect upon what their lives were and how they have profound reverberations two generations later.

***

Part of my attraction to this movie is that I was on a path that mimicked the path/s of the primary protagonists. For five years, I had limped along my path, stumbling. My feelings of being unseen and unheard were reaching a peak when I watched this movie. I could see a version of the movie’s storyline playing out in facets of friends’ lives and relationships more easily than in my own life. Yet, it was a story that resonated with me because it was foreboding — even when placed in an entirely different time and place than my own life.

I remember not being able to situate the movie setting the first time I watched the movie. The clothes and cars offered some glimpses, but it was not until I was far into the movie that I understood that this resonated deeply with me even though it was placed some 50 years earlier.

By placing Revolutionary Road in (what I believe is) the 1950s, I am reminded that the midcentury American Dream was not working for plenty of people at that time. Even for the people purportedly benefitting from that Dream, according to the dominant social narratives, which in this story is a white, middle-class, suburban family. The challenges shown in the movie — of responsibility, success, love — are timeless. The pressures to conform span generations; some conditions change with time yet the existential nature of life transcends decades.

At the time, I could not see the parallels to my life (circa 2008 or 2009) when I first saw it. In hindsight, i believe that I could feel a resonance, though. Years later, I now suppose that there will repeatedly be phases in life that can mimic this storyline. We may forever be on a path where forks in the path require that I choose one or the other. There are innumerable instances where I could choose something contrary to my inner self because of collapsing to social (or familial, professional, cultural) pressures. Grappling with the path that I am on and the choices to make may cease only when becoming free.

***

Despite the patterns and shaping that comes with repeating the same action over and over again, I have a delight that a different choice can be made.

One definition of what it means to be human: to suddenly choose something contrary to all the things that one has been prior to now.

For years, I have been astounded by attempts to simplify and therefore deaden what it means to be human. There have been formidable professional and economic pressures that choose systematization over spontaneity. It is core to the economic tenet of specialization, that long term partner of the endless growth demanded by capitalism. This growth is also a reckless growth as it prizes growth over wellbeing. In other terms, it chooses quantity over quality. Such brutal force is not nurturing to countries (pushed to focus on a few cash crops or a few products for export) nor individuals (pushed to repeat the same motion in manufacturing, or to do a segmented piece of work in services of white collar industries). The end result of a forced, narrow focus is the opposite of fulfillment and meaning.

Such brutal force, when seen through an economic lens, would be better described as abuse than specialization. It depletes life, denies flavor, substance and diversity. It trumpets homogeneity in a world that depends on heterogeneity. It squashes life when confining humans to repeated action even though evolving relationships and learning are fundamental to who we are.

Similar pressures and delusions have consumed educational institutions by placing greater value on testing than on learning. This, too, chokes the life out of students, out of learning, and pedagogy. Rather than investing in what gives life and causes us to flourish as humans, policy and budgets are correlated to metrics even though we are not machines. In our attempts to understand and to prove progress, certain elements have chosen false proxies as a way to define who we are and our experience.

Choices are the doorway to liberty.

Moment-by-moment rules

In this busying, dizzying era of this civilization, choosing differently is essential to have days be spacious, patient, serene, promising.

Moment-by-moment living equates to a life full of possibilities. Each day is chock-full of possibility. Moment by moment allows me to quiet the volume of anxiety in my soul’s voice, my heart’s voice and brain’s voice.

Drop the same ol, same ol. It doesn’t provide despite all of its promises and pleading to stay still, stagnate and stick with it.