prisoner

I have not sinned
against a god nor man
nor woman
harmed no beast
—cared for Mother

why do I suffer
these sins of others
the revenge of Man
sins against me
—why am I prisoner here

admit they say and
confess – to what
I did no wrong
I harmed no one
—and yet I’m here

yet I am punished
forced – I sit alone, told to
feel some shame and
remorse and
—guilt for my breath

my dignity
my humanity
they took all from me and
I suffer – I do – I am alone in
—my pain without sympathy

why am I punished
made less than
human – no son of god
son of man
—fuck it all – fuck them all

try harder they say
love this god they pray
why must I see their way
It’s their way I’ll suffer
—the goodness of Death

prisoner by bill reynolds. 5/31/17

Look around. Mind what you see.

S – Sonnet “Seeking the Truth” (NaPoWriMo #22)

This, my first sonnet, was difficult. It was also fun and I learned more about the challenges of writing poetic. I want to work more with meter and rhyme, but now’s not the time.

I attempted to write in the Shakespearean tradition of a sonnet, with 14 lines of 10 syllables each, with a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg; and the iambic pentameter. Like we all know what that is, right? My humble apologies to the Bard for attempting such a sacred task. 

***

Seeking the Truth
by Bill Reynolds

In seeking the truth, I require some proof,
My goal to touch some real conclusion.
A quest to discover both reason and truth,
The turning of pages led to confusion.
Noble the search for answers not pallid,
From myth; if I am, then god must be too.
From science we ask, a source that is valid,
From faith of past, must it be now so true?
These are the chains of unfounded mystique.
None of this means any absence of love,
Admit to the truth, there’s no god to seek.
My freedom is not a power above.

I found this truth after seventy years,
Loving all others is more happy cheers.

***

Look both ways and you’ll see them coming.
Minding the gaps will keep your heart running.

A – Abilene and NaPoWriMo #1

Abilene, Texas is a city of over 120,000 residents. It has a plethora of churches, several religious-based universities, is quite conservative, and a buckle of the southern USA bible belt. It also features a dry, hot, and in my opinion, an extremely unpleasant climate. It’s also the subject of The Abilene Paradox.

This poem expresses my feelings about the area. I’m not sure how many friends I have around Abilene, but after this I’ll assume fewer.

 

ABILENE

See the circling vultures waiting,
To claim their carrion, ready for plating.

Watch heat rise from the desert collage,
Shimmering around some distant mirage.

Feel the sun’s brutal and forceful heat,
Touch melting road tar beneath burnt feet.

A Pumpjack

Smell the black gold under rock and stone,
Hear pumpjacks mock with their painful groan.

Satan’s throne room would surely be here,
‘cept for the churches, so many so dear.

God’s centers of learning are in control,
No secular center may present you a scroll.

Shudder against winter’s north winds, so cold,
Survival’s unlikely for the sick and the old.

Tumble brush and briar, lowly mesquite trees,
Prickly pear cactus among the parched weeds.

Too hot or too cold, too dry and too bold,
On Abilene, Texas, I could never be sold.

~ by Bill Reynolds

Look both ways and mind the gaps.
Also, mind the heat, the cold, the snakes, the scorpions, the fire ants, the prickly cactus,
the sticky briars, and the annoying thumpers.

 

Words: Synchronicity

synchronicity-3

I like words – some more than others, but I enjoy all words. I may not use some words often because we communicate with other people using words. When someone doesn’t know the meaning, or has a misunderstanding, stuff can get weird. I also wouldn’t want to be thought of as being too hoity-toity.

I confess to owning and reading dictionaries while hidden in the closet. Books about troublesome words written by Bill Bryson entertain my curiosity, as has everything else he’s written.

I blame my aunt Lorry for the freaky word-love thing. She’d send me the word of the day from the Washington, D.C. newspaper, along with cutouts of Dennis The Menace cartoons. When I was nine or ten, I didn’t care as much as I do now. Thanks, Lorry.

synchronicity-1

Synchronicity is polite. While I much prefer saying shit happens or it is what it is, those are not accurate definitions or even quite synonymous. My online dictionary says it’s “a simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” We can use the word like that, but it’s an even deeper theory proposed by Carl Jung in the 1920s. One of Jung’s definitions was “the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events.” Over the years, his definition moved around a bit. I suppose his theory clarified with time.

synchronicity-2Sue’s excellent blog (An Artist’s Path) on this topic back in April can be seen here. She gives a good personal example similar to the experience of having someone calling you just as you are thinking about them. “That’s weird, I was just thinking about you.” It’s not weird, it’s synchronicity. It happens and always has. Sue tied synchronicity to a conspiracy of the universe. That works for me.

 

Serendipity is a similar and related word: it refers to events happening by chance in a happy or beneficial way. The key word that we would often use in casual conversation is coincidence. That works okay with serendipity, but not as well with synchronicity because the latter invokes elements of spirituality.

synchronicity-4

Jung seemed to think there was a relationship to ESP, while others associate synchronicity with deities, universal forces, or some other intelligent spiritual forces or entities.

Remember, there must be no identifiable earthly cause to the event. I don’t assign human events to spiritual entities, but I’m willing to listen to reasonable, albeit unfounded, theories. The two events must also be meaningfully related, or at least appear to be. If there is a cause or reason for something to happen, it also will not fit the definition.

Synchronicity happens often enough so that many of us have experienced several such events. Usually, we charge it to coincidence, then we move on with our lives. But many of us, especially spiritual searchers and people who enjoy unexplained magical events, will focus on the event and may label it synchronicity.

One article I read that discusses both synchronicity and serendipity, posted by Dr. Joe Dispenze, can be found here. I neither agree nor disagree with anything that he said in that piece, but it is longer than what I write.

I’m grateful for the words we have available to define our human experiences and our nature, what we have in common, and how we differ. They enable us to share everything about our brief existence, to understand each other, and to make our lives better.

As things happen in life, we must pay attention,
learn, look both ways, and mind the gaps.

Morality, Sin, and I over E (I/E)

Disclosure: I’m of the there are no gods variety of atheist. Consequently, there’s no sin. Since we can’t have one without the other, sin is a word I use only because the majority use the word, even if they’re agnostic. But, there is some general agreement about what is or isn’t moral behavior.

 

morality-1

The past few weeks, I’ve posted about the seven deadly, and predominantly Christian, sins of greed, pride, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I also provided a brief contrast with an opposite word. My approach was based on the source of our behavior, our human mind and emotions. Each of the seven begins with an emotion that may later be manifest in behavior – we act based on how we feel.

Writers have a phrase: show me, don’t tell me. In movies, the words and actions of the actors are used to portray thoughts and feelings. In my opinion, we cannot choose each emotion. Happiness is a little different. We can be happy people and still experience dark-side emotions. Furthermore, we can usually choose our behavior. Some comments have implied that we’re in total control over emotions, and then control our actions, as well. While I don’t share that opinion, my behavior is based upon my emotional state has led to more apologies from me than I care to admit – slow learner.

As a society, a nation, or arguably, within a religion, we subjectively decide what’s moral. It changes over time, and we routinely disagree about what’s unacceptable (political-type disagreements). While we don’t always agree, often we do.

In the title equation, I = intellect, and E = emotion. When we experience emotions, we follow that feeling with behavior. To the degree that we can, ideally, we choose the behavior we morally and intellectually we want to display. For example, if someone elicits our anger, jealousy, or some other feeling from our complex emotional spectrum, we then pick our next move. I over E implies that we select our words or actions based on our intellect (good judgment, wisdom), rather than the emotion we feel. It’s not easy to behave contrary to how we feel. Nor is it always necessary. Going with our emotions (following our heart) is very often our best and most sincere option. We love with not only our personal emotions, but often those of others. How others tug at our emotions makes life magical. Life is wondrous, but not simple.

The common thread that I’ve stitched through each of the seven is that emotions are not sins. Feelings are legitimate. Be they good or bad feelings, it’s our behavior that determines anything about moral standards. And it doesn’t make a tinker’s-dam if one believes in a god, gods, or none. Each of the seven have opposite virtues. Every good person has a dark side. Every saint has a past; every sinner a future.

Humans are very much part of nature. We are where we belong. Our greatest need is for each other. Our greatest challenge is in dealing with each other.

Our lives are full of stepping stones to make life better and with stumbling blocks that bring us incredible amounts of pain and suffering – and valuable lessons.

morality-2

Let’s be accepting and understanding of ourselves and others to the degree that we’re able. We are not static beings. We’re who and what we are, but we have opportunities and futures. We come into this world as we are – a combination of physical and mental paradoxes and mysteries. A lot happens between the average birth and death. This includes running the bases of virtuous and bad behavior, and the personal experience of staring into the abyss that is us.

Look both ways, and mind the gap.

Morality Series: Wrath (Anger)

wrath-1

This one’s mine. Other than talking about the illogical wrath of a deity, or when humorously speaking of enduring the anger of someone else, we don’t use this word. We prefer rage, resentment, fierce anger, vengeance, or a few other synonym-like words (pissed off). I will use the word anger because wrath is archaic. We get angry, not wrathful. I also dislike typing the silent “w,” and a rath is something else.

I could easily write a book about my own anger. If I included the whole enchilada of human nature, it would probably expand to three fat volumes, and be boring. Anger is an emotion. One foolishly considered bad or sinful. While it’s neither, it is dangerous. Anger is a legitimate and real emotion that we may each experience differently. Some people seem to be incredibly patient and tolerant, seemingly never experiencing anger. Others seem explosive, and are sent to (drum roll) Anger Management classes to learn how to behave. I like to call it Charm School.

art-memoir-analogy2An old friend of mine had to do that with his work later in life. We grew up together, and as I recall, my friend was exceptionally demonstrative when angry. It didn’t take much before he felt slighted, irritated, or offended. When we were teenagers, I either ignored him or put distance between us until he calmed down. Even later in life, I was still surprised that he could come unglued about things that I considered little more than a trivial nuisance. However, I also had my share of temper tantrums throughout life.

For most of my life, I had a sexist view of anger. I thought men experienced anger more frequently than women, and that acting out our anger was not only what men did, but it was semi-acceptable. I’ve since learned that my view was wrong (read this).

The point of view I had learned was that all other male emotions were unacceptable, and any emotional display was a sign of weakness. What this wrong opinion did for me was to allow me to exhibit angry behaviors regardless of what emotion I may have been feeling. I later learned that I not only had to get in touch with my emotions, I had to start identifying them: fear, shame, sadness, disgust, anxiety, guilt, and many more. I don’t blame society or culture. I take responsibility for my behavior, as should we all.

Another problem with anger is the difficulty of properly identifying it in either ourselves or others. Depression, anxiety, fear, and other emotions may manifest themselves, both inside and out, through behavior that could be considered anger. It’s confusing and figuring this out may take the help of a friend or counselor.

People lash out for a variety of reasons, and it may have little or nothing to do with being angry. I’ll leave it to the experts to follow this rabbit trail, but I suggest we try to pick out the different emotions we feel and deal with them for what they are. I posted about jealousy on Tuesday. Certainly, we feel some anger when we’re jealous. We need to recognize when more than one emotional thing is happening to us at a time. When I was beginning to work on this for myself, I would try to reflect on my feeling and not be pinging off the walls so much.

wrath-3

Then, a close family member accused me of being an “emotionless automoton” who had no feelings and didn’t care about others. I love the memes of a light switch for turning emotions on and off. She was confusing my trying to remain calm with lack of emotion. No such luck.

Politics, religion, sports, and money are four topics that can lead to anger during many seemingly innocuous discussions. If we have not experienced the feelings ourselves, we have certainly seen them acted out by others.

wrath-4We are social (sociable or not) beings walking around in bodies transporting minds packed with emotional potential. We’re not Vulcans, like Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) in the Star Trek series. Spock was of a mixed human-Vulcan heritage race that had mostly conquered his emotions and made them subject to his control. We are simply humans.

Ironically, the death of Spock occurs in the movie The Wrath of Khan, and some think that it’s the best scene in the movie. Forgive my digression; I’m a long time Star Trek, Spock, and Leonard Nimoy fan.

This concludes my series on The Seven Deadly Sins, or Morality. I plan a summation for next Tuesday’s post that may explain my take on this from a broader perspective.

Have a wonderful weekend.
Look both ways and mind the gaps – every day.

Morality Series: Envy

envy-3

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not achieve peace.” ~ Buddha

Let’s say that you and your close friend try out or compete for the same thing. It could be making the team, getting either a promotion or an award, or winning the lottery. You learn that your friend makes the team, got the promotion, or won the prize. You did not. How do you feel?

First, if you are an adult, you’re happy for your friend. If you’re a teenager (or you need to read The Untethered Soul), you may get out the voodoo doll and some pins, or begin some plot against your former friend.

envy-4We may begin to feel something else. It’s an emotion that we don’t want to feel, but it’s there. It’s a twinge we feel on the inside that is directly related to our disappointment and that other person. We feel envy. We do! It’s normal, and it’s okay as long as we don’t act-out on that negative emotion. I’ve never received recognition or a promotion (that others also wanted) without someone letting me know of their displeasure.

One time, I asked this guy, “Did you want me to turn it down so you can have it? I know you think you deserved or wanted it more than I did. Don’t you feel just a little petty right now?” I have been on the losing end enough times to recognize his emotion. Myself and I have had talks about that. I don’t like feeling envious. It makes me feel worse. Envy is not unusual. I often admit to the feeling.

So, if this is normal, why is it considered another breach of all that is good and holy within us? The reason is simple: this is not a good thing about our human nature. We know that envy is normal, and that it will pass, but it’s also dangerous. Loving friendships have ended. Businesses have suffered. Shame and embarrassment have been coopted by envy because the accompanying behavior make us feel worse. Envy is part of us, a dark corner of who and what we are. We must acknowledge that part of our dark side.

There is a shallow envy that is part of daily life. When I see men of my age with huge locks of thick, beautiful hair (usually gray), I feel mild envy. I admit it. I want what they have. That guy did nothing to deserve to have more than his share of hair follicles so late in life. I did nothing to promote my loss of the same. I’m almost proud of my envy. It’s true. I own up to it. I get it: envy is the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation.

In Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas said, “Envy, according to the aspect of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life… Charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.” Why do we do this? Because other people are so much luckier, smarter, more attractive, and better than we are. Lucky bastards.

envy-2But there’s good news. If you go to Hell, your punishment awaits: you’ll be put in freezing water. I looked it up. Think about that. Hell, fire and all that; and you and I are hanging out at the ice bar. Now, it’s their turn to be envious, right?

I don’t know why, but envy is associated with the dog and the color green. Oh, right, the green-eyed monster. Not so fast. I use envy and jealousy as two different words that apply to different kinds of situations.

Envy and jealousy are not the same emotions. Envy, as unpleasant as it can be, usually doesn’t contain a sense of betrayal and outrage. Jealousy needn’t contain a sense of inferiority. The difference is in the numbers.

Envy is a two-person situation, jealousy is a three-person situation. Envy is a reaction to lacking something. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something or someone. Of course, when we feel jealous, we often feel envious as well.

envy-1

The opposite of envy is supposed to be charity. I think the more accurate word is love. Some experts say kindness. I say love, not because love will prevent envy, but because our love will help us overcome that part of our dark, selfish selves and we’ll find peace and happiness sooner. Love is the primary emotion. Envy and jealousy are both subordinate to fear, which is also primary. Both fall under the heading of wasted time and emotions since neither accomplish anything.

But, as long we are normal humans, we must deal with our feelings and emotions. It’s all about how we feel. The actions we choose to follow our emotions are up to us. Can we at least balance some light with our dark side?

Envy is real and normal. So is jealousy.
We generally see them as bad, weakness of the spirit, and damaging to life and our relationships. Consider both to be among life’s gaps.
Mind those gaps and look both ways. We need to see our own human darkness and weaknesses and deal with them.