Stomping the World Off

That Kind of Day.

I could break free from the
Wood of a coffin
If I need
But nothin’s hard as
Gettin’ free from places
I’ve already been

— Jakob Dylan (The Wallflowers), “I’ve Been Delivered”

It doesn’t take much – a song, a name in a headline, a smell – it all takes me back to different places, different times, different parts of the winding journey around the planet that brought me to where I am and made me who I am. As free as that was, the links to the past are their own chains, the places you’ve been forever opening eyes to things you can never be blind to again.

Nothing’s harder than getting free of places you’ve already been, and the dust off the worn boots settles on myriad versions of Plato’s Cave.  A movie to me, they’re snapshots to others who haven’t walked my path. In being free of caves, you end up sitting around waiting to see who makes it out.

If they ever wanted to, if even they could.


A Stitch In Time Saves Mind.

A Heart Sewn Back TogetherWe are bits and pieces, sewn together across time all the while unraveling. Life is a calculus, a rate of change where we are sewn together faster than we unravel.

It’s odd that we pull our own threads just as we pick at scabs. We know not to do it, but it’s as if we want to see what’s inside. We’re uncomfortable with healing, the fresh stitches itch.

Maybe we worry about infection, and in doing so sometimes we cause it.

However it ends up, we’re constantly fixing ourselves as we unravel. Time always wins, in the backs of our minds we know this. No amount of new medical advances take that away, and can we possibly live longer than we’re supposed to? But, we’ll say, we can’t possibly live longer than we’re supposed to – a circular logic. An attempt at perpetual motion with logic.

I’m stitched together across time. Across geography. Across worlds that people isolate themselves in with their groups, their cultures, and I watch those worlds and wonder how long they can exist – and when I think that these worlds will converge. There is leakage here and there, but the bubbled worlds remain – their surface tension defying everything.

“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquiring of knowledge, and that much happier than man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”  – Mary Shelly, Frankenstein (1918).

And these worlds, stitched together, form my world, which, stitched to other worlds… and at some point, the calculus of Life will unravel them too.

And there are days when I’m not sure whether I should pull on a thread or man the needle.

Today has been such a day.

Outlier Dilemma

OutlierAmid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to the fearful risk of losing his place forever.

– Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Wakefield“, Twice-Told Tales(1837).

There is truth in that, and for those of us who have been uprooted from places place and dropped in others, the comfort of having a place and belonging didn’t go where we did. It got left behind, losing it’s place forever as well.

I caught myself thinking about that today, throughout the day. I have something I’m writing for another site that, when I paused to think about it, I realized that by saying some things about what others have done, I would be putting them on the defensive without intending to. So I’ve been trying to reconcile that in my mind, to find a way to get them past that hurdle in what I will be writing, an annoying by-product of knowing the audience.

In doing that, I ended up thinking about why I look at the data that has been collected so differently and see things that, apparently, the great cogs of an ‘academic bureaucracy meets government bureaucracy’  do not see in their love child, ‘dysfunctional data’. Truth be told, the data was collected for a purpose, but without a plan for the future.

And so, here I’ll be, the outsider – a role I know well – explaining why the work done over a 10 year period sucks. Of course, I’ll need to couch it better, but the reality is that with a little more planning and thought, it wouldn’t.

But as I thought about all of this, I knew it was deeper, and it’s something that as an individual who has dealt with it my whole life and I’m comfortable with, it’s something I’ve constantly had to wrestle with when communicating just so that people don’t stop reading, or listening. It’s amazingly easy to come across as a jerk, even unintentionally.

Granted, there are times when being a jerk has benefits and is a wonderful thing to be – really – it’s more of a sledgehammer in the toolbox of a communicator, and if it’s a default tool, people won’t listen – which defeats the reason for communicating.

So you get back to the basics and you muddle along writing for a deadline you announced to someone so that you would actually do it in time. And that’s that.

But even as I made my rounds on my land today, reconnecting with people, I knew that given different circumstances, I could have been any one of these people just as given different circumstances and opportunities I could be so well entrenched in academia I’d have the same thoughts as everyone else there. Or so well entrenched in other things that I would have the relatively mundane thoughts on things that they do – something I touched on in The Gentle Art of Self Deception.

I didn’t have those circumstances or opportunities. Later, I would make decisions so that I could retain that. I am an individual, but not like in the video, and that has value.

Being an individual is dangerous, because it’s easy to think you’re right and everyone else is wrong. It’s dangerous because it’s easy to go off of metaphorical cliffs that the crowd doesn’t, and yet it has it’s own value as well in that if the crowd is heading for the metaphorical cliff, you can shout at them from the side and get absolutely no satisfaction if people don’t listen to you.

I suppose it would be easier to just fall into the crowd and lose one’s self, if only I could do that. If only I could have done that. There was a time in my life when I wanted that, but it was not to be.

And further, how could the status quo be properly challenged from within it?

Losing one’s place forever, as Hawthorne wrote, can be initially frightful – I don’t remember if I was frightened, to be honest – but it is most certainly not the end of the individual.

It’s the beginning of a dance with crowds, of the art of appearing to belong while not actually belonging, of being the chameleon, and figuring out how to use it in a way that adds value.

A Stranger

Enigma IIPeople who have known me for years have made it here and at least one liked how I write.

What they don’t know is that I’ve been writing for over 30 years, that it was my escape, and that there was plenty of writing I burned rather than have it read.

But then, few people truly know my inner life, my life experiences – it’s not their fault. It’s circumstance; I have been a tumbleweed and few people get to be around me very long. And when people do get to know what rattles around in my head and why, I’m not sure how they will react. Will someone misunderstand what I wrote? Will they understand it and run away screaming?

I suppose I’ve gotten too old to care too much about what people think in that regard. My life has been and continues to be stranger than fiction, and to explain it to people is difficult. How does one convey things beyond their own caves? And what of those that even the allegory of the Cave is too much to read, much less comprehend?

My life, like yours, is fiction. My fiction connects different parts of the world, different societies, different cultures at different times…

A stranger in my own skin.

You Can Never Go Home

That Kind of Day.

In almost 45 years, my feet have touched ground in about 20 different countries.

My life has not been one tethered to a geographic space; every time I have tried something has pulled me or pushed me in a different direction. Every time I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would settle down, I end up having to move either for work or for some form of duty. Wherever I put my feet up becomes home for that moment in a long string of moments tied together by the concept we call time.

Sometimes we retrace our steps, but in crossing the stream, we never cross the same stream. Things change. People die, new people are born, people who had influence decline and new people rise to new influence. Previous friends can become mortal enemies, mortal enemies may become your best friends.

And you change. The world changes you. Some people sit in the same part of the world, living in their own little part of the global village, unable to truly understand the world around them as news of it is piped in from media outlets more interested in selling advertising than actually telling the truth about the world.

You wear out shoes and boots. Vehicles come and go, some becoming legend (as the one above was in my mind and the mind of some others), some become the bad jokes lived through. Time wipes things away, introduces new things, and does so without apology or excuse.

As a traveler, sometimes weary, mostly not, I know that there is no going home. It was once a lament, a pain when others spoke of their homes so warmly, but in the end I know, too, that they can never go home either. They may think so, clinging to a familiarity and comfort of what is there, but it is never the same home.

All that you can work toward, all that you can hope for, is really just a place to put your feet up and rest now and then. A place where you feel comfortable, if even for a moment, is home. And while home may remain mainly the same for some, in the end it is never exactly the same.

You can never go home. You can, however, make your home wherever you are, whenever you are.