Tag Archives: mortality

The Experience of Exclusion: Incorporeal Embodiment

I am a ghost, but have not died
I walk among the living unseen
Apart from the occasional, startled stare
Everyone else looks quickly away

I am a ghost, but have not died
I speak, though I’ve rarely been allowed a voice
It is easier to dismiss some body different from yours
More comfortable to cut me out of conversation than to answer me

I am a ghost, but have not died
My presence alone has sometimes invoked fear
In the mirror of my sightless eyes, you see your vulnerability reflected
And the truth about mortality, long rejected, haunts you

I am a ghost who has not died
The undead vampire taking resources from the able and the strong
A zombie who cannot belong, with whom you need not empathize
I shoulder shadows, bear the burdens outcast from the light

I am a ghost, though I have yet to die
Invisible to most, but not to some
My heartbeat the same in everyone
I long, I love, I ache, I cry

I am a ghost, a human born to die
And in that we aren’t much different, you and I

The Enormity of Our Selves

For a second, I turn my eyes inside away from the glare of noise and lights and sirens and crying babies and dire news blaring into eyes and ears. I listen to something other than the clatter of a world begging for attention from every direction, every time and space, every joy and need. There are sunrises and sunsets, trees, pets, opportunities and friends, all for which to run about, to notice, and to heed.

Yet, somewhere beneath the surface of the self I present outwardly, is a wild, fearless, determined, patient unwavering light. It glows blue and green and violet. There is still, peaceful, expectant water in a pool just below the rocks. There are places for sun and shade. There are places to be overcome with joy. There are places to lay my sorrow and watch it seep away, slowly transforming into what will grow into new life. This is a place for me, all for me.

I don’t know what tomorrow, or next year, or the year after will bring or why I persist in the things I do, or where my path will lead, or what being of this time and not another has fixed about the perspective I will either share or not share with other people. But in that space beyond the ordered chaos of the comings and goings of the calamity of living, I am collected like tears out of disparate rivers and there unknown destinations, and coalesce that way transparent and clear, whole regardless of how many signals pulse out from that one, centered bead, and fragment into the broken information that travels trembling and unsure of itself to the outside where others might listen and receive.

If only we had ears to hear the songs of each others’ beginnings, we might not respond to love with fear. Being close would not be a burden, a burst of concessions: “I am vulnerable and just as human as you are.” Instead, everything would testify to life.

Awful and awesome once shared similar meanings. The sublime is not just in nature outside us, but our own nature as well. We are mysterious and mesmerizing, the kind of being that inspires wonder and terror, joy and caution. To understand ourselves, we cross a threshold out of which nothing exits tamed. I think this is what captures us, captivates us. The enormity of ourselves. The wildness at the heart of us. Strong and intricately woven like spider’s thread.

We scream and cry and flail and judge and give and take and try and fail and soar and fall and act and sleep and love and push away and build and tear apart and fear and long and hurt and heal. We are none of these things.

We are the streams of blues and greens, we are the songs throughout the woven sky sung through the stars and the silent seeds that spring from moonlit nights and soaring things. We are the stillness that contains the wild cry, we are knotted so inextricably into the weaving, and when we cast aside our needing to keep grasping what we mistake for what we are, no longer fear its loss and leaving: then we arrive at the threshold of being, part of a strange and endless dreaming, where tides will shift without receding. We are the light by which we’re seeing, our shining radiance is spirit singing.

How many dive beneath the waves that crash relentlessly upon fragile, fragmented lives, to find that glow so deep inside, enfold them in silence, until they recognize who they really are for the first time. I am the light in every world. I’ve let go of what gets left behind. I have heard that wild song, belonging to everyone, yours, and mine.

I will love and fear and do and plan and strive and wonder if I’ll ever fly. Still, the enormity of ourselves dares and calls and cries to us to look into each others’ eyes and stand with nothing left to hide, together in the mystery that shines, and shines. In each of us the mystery: flesh and bone but made of light, vast and small within us all, finite and ephemeral, but so alive, ever alive.

The Sojourner’s Lament

“We have to give up the life we have planned, in order to have the one that is waiting for us.”
–Joseph Campbell

Ah my friend, what plans have been well-made that have then been undone, what visions of freedom are never born into the world for no reason but that of fear, what successes have never occurred because of the slight possibility of failure, what loneliness was never quelled since the distress of rejection proved stronger, what hopes have been shattered by the begrudging jealous voices of our previous generations, how many people stay in the nest as they’ve been told that there is no reason to look beyond how they were brought up, how many shouts are never heard because mouths have never opened to make them, how many fallen tears, whether of joy or of sorrow, have been lost in the cycles of clouds and rain, how many of us go hungry out of ignorance of what might nourish us, how very few of us take a leap into the unknown and discover we have found all that we are looking for?  How do you ground yourself where you cannot take root? 

 

Ah my friend, how much sadness has already made the face of the world swollen and bloodshot?  Is it sadness or the constant companion of mortality that subdues us into silent murmurings by the sides of the roads?  For life and death are faces of the same coin and the coin can be tossed purposefully or with abandon, all the same.  Do we not wonder while we breathe why we are here?  Do we not stop to marvel at the goings-on of life that persist among and around us regardless of the most violent moments human beings have ever seen?  Perhaps we can learn from our wordless brothers and sisters who survey the world on wing through sky, or consult the ones who put four paws to the ground.  Perhaps we might learn from our own brothers and sisters, gone to rest in the world beyond this world.

 

Oh, will we ever learn, indeed?  We will not ask the flowers, you agree, what they have seen, for even they wish not to recall.  How many dreams lay untouched at the end of lifetimes?  Who will dare to carry out what they long for to come to terms only later with whether they have done right?  You may travel thousands of miles, and still the inner space in which you keep your most hidden thoughts is the largest uncharted ground you will ever find. 

 

You could weep at the enormity of it.  But it is better, you know, to put on some sunglasses and a big funny hat and strike out through the undergrowth:  the unruly branches of unkempt trees, the marshes of memory, the fog of the forgotten.  View it as a great adventure, one you will never chance to make again, and learn to confront all the wild creatures that might cross your path, for they are all parts of you that you have left in shadow.  What dream could you realize once you are this strong?  I think, as it is, you could manage anything you ever thought to be worthwhile doing in this world.  And are you the kind of person who can manage it, regardless of what happens or how many eyes roll in your direction?

 

In this particularly forlorn and unfortunate pop culture, “live life to its fullest,” has become cliche. Life is so fragile.  What can we make of ourselves if we do not know what we, who we are?  Not just what kind of success we can achieve, but what song still sings just beneath the rushing of blood, what landscape is imprinted on our skin, what hard-won determination defines us intricately like the labyrinth of bone that allows us to stand at all. 

 

Ah my friend, if only there were answers.   Anyone who tells you they have the right one is not worth listening to.  Anyone who stares at the sky wistfully and longs for something she cannot speak, treat her like your own relation, , for you surely have seen the same bewildered longing haunting the unfathomable eyes staring back at you from your own mirrored reflection.  Do what is needed for you, then, for there is nothing else, nothing more you could ever ask of yourself.

 

What is waiting for me, my friend, if I close my eyes and let go of this straight and narrow existence I chose for myself so so long ago, thinking then it was all I would ever need?  Do needs change with age, with experience, with growing?  I am here: perhaps this is strength enough to turn my hopes into something real.  Then I will no longer be dreaming of what could be, but find myself being all I could ever dream.