Friday, December 18, 2015

The Ballet


Our lives are a choreography through the abrasion of time. We maneuver about the stage of existence, each experience adding to our spiritual core while simultaneously eroding its container.

Just as a pencil shortens with every expressive stroke, a ballerina grinds herself down a little more to stick the next inspiring landing. A marathoner crosses the finish line with a smaller body and a bigger soul. The same goes for rock climbing, mosh pits, work, loveany act at all.

The most significant choice we make each day is how to use ourselves up, on what to spend our fleeting life force. Fully living means dancing toward death with purpose, passion, and style...

 To stick that ultimate landing.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stinko Pig Bartender



Where would desperate servitude be without greasy middle management to facilitate it?

The world's two oldest professions.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Adaptation



That which is alive evades and adapts to remain so.  Survival is a dynamic drama of hustle and variation. 

When the Nazis came to Amsterdam, Anne Frank hid quietly in the dark for two years. For generations, the destitute Zabbaleen along the outskirts of Cairo have resorted to sorting trash and burrowing into literal garbage towns like inhabitants of a rotting ant farm.  

Nature is equally resourceful. When a creature becomes vulnerable, it develops camouflage, agility, and/or weaponry. Leaf-tailed geckos resemble the tree bark where they bask, fresh meals in broad daylight except for their disguise. With large hind feet and scaly toe fringes, basilisks run on water to escape predators (thus the nickname, "Jesus Lizard").  If that's not ingenuity, horned toads shoot eye blood at their attackers. Even rocks reposition and erode to fit into the evolving puzzle of the landscape.

In the theater of being, every cell is a saga, each entity an actor toward another fantastical plot twist.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

The Party of Tomorrow


A brain is as fragile as it is powerful. When the signal is altered dramatically, our mental GPS might not be strong enough to guide us home.

Some celebrations last forever.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Spectra



Color is potent and duplicitous.

Red wine. Orange sunsets. Yellow radiance from polished gold. An emerald rainforest.  Blue eyes.  Lavender fields...

Purple bruises from treacherous, blue ice. Green mold. (Green money.) A swarm of agitated yellow jackets! The orange explosions and spilled blood of war. 

The world turning colors as color turns on us.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

The Mainframe





Harmless beginnings hide deadly endings.

Like a baby pet alligator that outgrows the bathtub and eats the entire family. Or a ridiculed nerd who takes up karate. A friendly game of poker.

Computer technology had such a clunky, clumsy start, and so far remains enough under our command, that we forget it's going to wake up one day.

Meanwhile, it's already started putting us to sleep...

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Friday, August 7, 2015

St. Abstract's Home for the Aged



When something is far away, the distance obscures its differentiating details, blurs meaningful variation into flat, oversimplified uniformity.  Old age is like that.  Until you reach it yourself, it's an abstraction.

When I was very little, I was almost afraid of the elderly.  When a great-aunt would move to embrace me at a holiday reunion, I could feel my entire body stiffen like I was about to kiss Death itself. This is because our society vehemently promotes youth over age.  We've been encouraged to regard aging as a disease and to put off acknowledging it for as long as possible, lest we peer into our own liver-spotted future.

In ever-up-to-date Silicon Valley, thirty is considered old. Thirty. So they're getting plastic surgery to look younger and feel more competitive. At thirty. I suppose next they'll reattach their umbilical cords and submerge themselves in dark tanks of canned peach syrup.

Growing old is inescapable. Our cells will continue to divide no matter how many antioxidants we consume, regardless of how much Lubriderm we slather on.  Moreover, we pay a cultural price when we devalue our eldest citizens and push them to the periphery to gather dust and stereotypes.  In terms the hipster crowd can appreciate, what’s left once you pour all the vintage wine down the drain?

I’m fortunate now to have close relatives and friends who are much older than I. They remind me of the rich insight a seasoned veteran can offer. If nothing else, an older person has proceeded further through the maze and knows where more of its dead ends are.  They‘re mentors who help me appreciate each new ring that time adds to my trunk. I had fewer white beard hairs years ago, fewer random ear hairs certainly, but would I really want to return to the assertive ignorance of my twenties?  Of my thirties?  (I'll be saying the same about my forties when I'm fifty.)

True, lots of old folks become incapacitated, lonely, confused... deceased.  But so do many of the young.  Grow up, already.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Unreachable



When adults carry on like children, it's the children who are forced to grow up 
too fast.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hatched into Hunger



We're all born with an appetite.

Fewer of us will fill it.

Let the games begin...

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Twinkles in the Sea


When I was five, I choked on a lemon drop. It happened in summer on the front porch of our house in Ocean City, New Jersey. I breathed in too hard while running around, and that little yellow cap turned into a death pebble. The front door had latched shut from the inside, and by then my parents were around back on the beach. I banged and rang the bell, but no one heard against the loud wash of the ocean. The drop lodged in, and me locked out. I grew desperately faint and began seeing electric white dots floating around...

At the last minute, the gods intervened. Earlier, our neighbor had dropped a sock outside while taking down wash from the clothesline. Had she not come back to retrieve it, she wouldn’t have seen to administer the Heimlich maneuver, and you wouldn’t be reading this. (If I publish a memoir, it’ll be titled The Sock that Saved Me.)

Seriously shaken, I had my first nightmare that evening. In my dream, I was in the basement of the house. A thin but opaque fog obscured the ground. It seemed like walking on wet sand, though, and I could feel gritty saltwater coursing around my bare, reluctant feet. When I reached the center of the room, an area of fog cleared and a faceless pair of eyes opened in the floor: androgynous, intense, unstable. For a moment they regarded me favorably and relaxed into a smiling, reassuring expression. Then, as starkly as my afternoon play had turned to peril, those grinning eyes turned on me and squinted into a threatening, sinister taunt as if to say, "How'd ya like that candy, Marty pants?"

I awoke like an exclamation point. I’d been sleeping in a bunk on the third floor, so there were two sets of stairs between me and my parents on the ground level. In that state of wired fear, running down each step felt too slow to escape the disturbing afterimage pursuing me, so I jumped down both flights one after the other, my anxiety covering the pain. At last, I found Barb and Bob Graff in the living room watching a horror movie about killer ants, a consolation compared to the trailer that had played in my mind.

*          *          *

To this day, the ocean remains a positive, spiritual place for me. The age, size, and grand rhythms of the open water inspire me like no other setting.  Immense and healing.  On multiple coasts and continents, I’ve long stood breathing it in, tuning in to its ancient white noise, inviting the busy choreography of its sun-speckled surface to trigger vast, healing daydreams, feeling the full potential of my existence. But under the magic there’s a threat, a lethal undertow swirling with pincers, stingers, carnivorous appetites, toxic industrial detritus...

And that aquatic, psychotic whatever-it-is that haunts my brittle confections.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Incident in Nevada



The nature of government is to be opaque, to underinform its public.  Baseless conspiracy theories aside, there's been more than enough scandal uncovered to extrapolate that, generally, the fix is in. The more that average citizens stand to lose, the thicker the smokescreen.

Once in a while, a disturbing truth is so conspicuous that hiding it is as futile as covering a Christmas tree with a sheet.  Unfortunately, sensitive facts usually pan out in hard-to-connect fragments, if at all, which is why justice needs vigilance.  Hunting fraud is like suppressing an insect colony. When you spot that first kitchen bug, it alerts you to the many others in the walls and you take steps to drive them away. Conversely, each cover-up that remains so sets precedent for the next dangerous secret, just as an unseen roach is free to lay more eggs. 

So get curious, raise questions, and learn from every lie brought to light.

Because corruption grows best in the dark.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Moose of the Future



Affecting the future is one thingwe've done enough of that alreadybut predicting it with certainty can be as futile as changing the past.

Just ask the limping jaywalker who thought he had enough time to make it across. Or the movie studios that turned down Star Wars. The women married to serial killers.

Remarkably, we spend most of our time and energy in relentless anticipation: making plans; generating to-do lists; buying insurance; calling elections years ahead of the vote; reading palms; placing bets; checking the weather; parenting and teaching to shape next generations...

The essential truth about things to come is that they will be familiar and different. The fortuneteller senses the love, not the lover. Though snow falls as forecasted, schools open on time. Surely your child will inherit your eyes, but what will she see with them?  

In aspects large and small, consequential and neutral, tomorrow... next year... next century... the path holds as many surprise ricochets as calculated trajectories.

And weird moose.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Cheerleader Eater



Horror fiction loves to pulverize beauty.

Not so different from nonfiction, really.

Less perilous to be putrid than pretty.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Scumbox


A conversation overheard between two grumpy, elderly figures:

Old Shape 1: I tell ya. Those dirtball cubes are taking over the neighborhood.  No respect for anything. Their angles don't even add up!

Old Shape 2: Tell me about it. But what can ya do? At least they ain't as bad as 'em triangle delinquents out by the park!  Isosceles punks...

Each generation hypocritically resents the next, like circles blaming squares for ruining geometry.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Sinners


Religion strives for ethical cohesion through prescriptive morality and the threat or reward of eternal consequence.

Rightly, the price of free will is a conscience.

But as with anything potent, deity attracts its share of self-perpetuating ego, spirituality descends into Holiness, and the harshest judges become the worst offenders.

Deliver us from hypocrisy, amen.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Longest Rest


Have you ever dozed off during a movie, woken up during the credits, and been surprised to find you missed the entire film?  Sleep sneaks up on you like that.

Or a seldom opened desk drawer reveals an outdated driver's license and you marvel at how much more... taut you looked back then.  Age creeps up on you like that.

Maybe instead of an ID, that old photo is in a high-school yearbook surrounded by signatures, inside jokes, and references to future plans you no longer recognize. Life gets away from you like that.

Unless you pay attention.  

Cherish time.  

Follow through. 

So that, when you lay your head down the very last night, there's nothing left to dream.

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