The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Category : Family

A Dad Joke in my darkest hour

There‘s a story behind this photo. But scroll down and read the joke first, enjoy it. Then come back!

So there I was, 1969. The summer of love. While many young American men were spending time in foreign countries doing foreign things, I was stuck back home, in grade-school. All the love must have gone to Woodstock, ‘cause there wasn‘t much in Loma Linda, CA that year.

And still! I have some battle stories to tell!

See, in 1969, my dad graduated from college, and we moved off away from all the family I‘d known living in Indiana and Michigan. We moved clear out west to southern California, where my dad had been accepted to medical school.

Me? Oh, I‘d been accepted to a very prestigious and prominent class myself. Mrs. Karmy‘s second-grade classroom.

So there I was, feeing my way through a new school, a new city, all without tge aid and comfort of my great-grandparents, whom I was very close to. At that age, such things matter. I had to figure out society without them it would seem, so I went looking for ideas.

And then along came Karl.

Now, Karl was a cool human being. Not everyone thought so, I guess. He got teased a lot, like me but about different things. But well! I just couldn‘t figure out what really was wrong with him that made other kids harass him. There was something about his ability to talk through conflict, especially with humor, that resonated with me. He had his battles because of being! yaknow. Fat.

Oddly for the times I suppose, I didn‘t just “yaknow” know. A scared kid in a new town is looking for something more important than body mass in his friends. Maybe Karl didn‘t fit 2nd-grader social norms well. But he could shut down a bully by making such good fat jokes of his own as to embarass the neanderthals, and then tell one on his assailant that mocked so far above their mental powers they could only coarsely intuit how badly they‘d been owned and slink away. That was a kind of person I could hang with. Someone who could shrug off the natural bias second grade can give a misfit kid – that he isn‘t good enough for others – and to stand proud upon his own value system. I didn‘t understand all this at the time of course. Karl and I just had a good time pranking the haters for four years. Life had enough problems of its own and neither of us needed the company of the Judgmentalists. So Karl and I became tight friends, and stayed that way for the four years of our fathers‘ schooling.

Karl was hilarious.

And of us 3 – along with Jimmie, whom I‘ll tell you about someday – Karl was always the level-headed one.

It was a cool crisp October morning when, for show and tell, Karl got up and told a joke. Holy cow it was riotous. The kids laughed, the teacher laughed – we all laughed. And you know, I kept on laughing all day. That joke stayed funny with me for almost a week. You‘d think with all the analysis I gave it I‘d remember it now. But let‘s not get hung up on that.

I say almost a week, because it was exactly at the same weekly show-and-tell time-slot seven days later, when I stopped thinking it was funny.

It all went down like this: I had stood up at my turn, prepared with a joke I‘d made up that was based on the same framework as Karl‘s. But somehow, in the telling, my joke came apart like a paper-mache‘ party hat when the sprinklers come on. I started ad-libbing nonsensical punch lines. Yes! I said lines, plural. I kept trying new ones until Mrs Karmy said it was time for me to sit down. It was that catastrophic.

I was mortified.

And I stayed mortified the rest of the day. Karl himself hugged me and told me he believed in me. Well no, he didn‘t do anything of the sort, nor would he have in a thousand years of 2nd grade. But what he did do is give me half a candy bar at the end of the day as I sat, dejected, waiting for my ride home. There is no higher affirmation available from a 2nd-grade fat kid. Karl was a friend.

By the time my dad finally picked me up, I was shifting from mortification to grim resolve that I would find those ungrateful bohemians a good joke, and they would laugh, come hell or high water. I was in a fine kettle, virtually in tears over my failure, and angst at the distance yet to the horizon of my comedic future. I told my dad the whole wretched tale.

And my dad looked at me, until the silence of his attention on me got my own attention to slow down and kill the motor. When I finally stopped ranting and looked up at him, he spoke pointedly at me.

He asked, “Glenn?” I thought his tone foretold great impending wisdom.

“Yeah dad?” I moped.

“What do you find when you lift up an elephant‘s tail?”

Wait! what?

2nd-grade boys have a special reaction reserved for scandalous body jokes. They also have a special reaction for impending great wisdom, and there is a huge commute between the two.

I made it in record time.

He had my full, undivided attention. And this joke right here – this the very one that you just read – was his gift to me that day, a good joke to tell. And of course, tell it I did. I‘ve retold this joke a million times in the 50 years since that moment. It always comes with a faith that original jokes of my own don‘t have. It came from my dad, and was therefore inherently trustworthy.

You‘ll never convince me that a mere joke is a trivial gift from one to another. The right joke, the right moment, for the right reason! brings a ray of light into the deepest of darknesses – for generations. This is what sets a dad joke apart from the the rest – every one of them is lame, off-the-cuff, and usually juvenile. But well! I shouldn‘t be telling you this, but that‘s how a father bridges the gaps along the highway of growing up. The ride isn‘t any smoother, but sudden, spontaneous laughter out of the blue can propel a young boy over the highs and lows of growing up. This is what dad jokes do. They aren‘t some epic feat of manhood. They are a subtle, nuanced off-the-cuff signal to remind a wee person in the heat of the battle of growing up that someone has their back. Someone who has been through and triumphed over the taunts and barbs 2nd graders excel at.

It‘s a good joke. It‘s my dad‘s joke. He gave it to me when it was important to have something funny. Karl‘s dad probably did the same. While they probably never met, I suspect my dad and Karl‘s would get along just fine.

And now I‘m giving it to you.

When Time was Still a Thing

Back when time was still a thing
When morning rose, and evening fell
And in between we laughed,
and played,
and jabbered,
and thought,
and nodded Deep Understandings to each other with the time we had,

And sometimes we did – with every fiber of our beings – precisely nothing.


Back when time was still a thing,
We spent it.
sometimes frivolously
Sometimes we made somber investments.
We spent it – and now, time is no longer the coin of the realm. There is no time left between us to barter for another day of nothing in particular. No time for feeling the vibrant hum of human companionship.

That was back when time was a Thing

But Time has lost its relevance. This God from whom we ebb and flow has no beginning or end to His tides. Space and Time, it seems, have been a tool and a medium to practice and mold ourselves in the image of Love.

You occupy neither Space nor Time. But Love, that binding dimension we call Love! you have perfectly mirrored it. It has folded around you and given our feeble perception a glimpse into a greater existence.

And now we are left with this transcendent thing, and memories to hold it in our minds until our own time is over. Until we see a Day without beginning, and a Sanctuary without an end.

Love Conquers all.

Thank you, Sean.

My heart hurts

For two weeks now, my heart has sat idle, numb, stunned, boggling without comprehension at the swirling maelstrom of tears that flowed out of the hole your life‘s departure left in me.  How can it be that you‘ve gone?

You always were such a happy, mischievous wanderer.  

But how is it now, that you can find a place to wander, where I cannot search and find you?

Your whole life was spent finding places I‘d never been, physically and metaphorically.  Your laughter at each new trick, each new hiding spot, every road you‘d disappear down, waiting to be found, still rings in my ears.  Even when your body failed you, you found a way to stretch my horizons in search of you, to fix what you could not, to understand the language you didn‘t know yourself, to bring you in again in a safe place.

How can it be that you‘ve wandered too far for me to find you?

My heart has been stopped now, for nearly two weeks.  But today, it hurts.  

It has healed some from the shock, and re-awakened with an awful hurt.  And the tears that flow through the wound drip down my face, down this cliff with the rain, and into the Sea below.

And so, as I have in the past, I look beyond where they flow into the Sea for an answer.

It was in the Sea, and under the Sea, that I learned to search for the unfathomable.  Here on the shore, where the sand turns to foam and the foam to green waves and spray, and where beyond lies dark, brooding storm-swells, I am awakened from my languish by the sting of the wind-driven rain, and by that peculiar combined scent of life and death that a sailor knows best.

I know this Sea.  

I know that beneath it, wind and rain don‘t matter much.  And so maybe I‘ll stand here all day, letting the wind and rain wash my wounds, watching them return quietly to their own Father, looking and listening for signs of your passing.

I know you.  

I know that when I find you, you‘ll dash off with your arms swept back, with a squeal of laughter trying to make one last escape.  We‘ll laugh together as I snatch you up and we tumble in a heap, at yet another great game.  And you will be safe again in my arms, my son.

But I don‘t know the Sea into which you‘ve gone.  Not yet.  It is not for we with bodies to know it yet.  

And so today, and until that time comes for me to slip away from this body and enter that Sea, my heart hurts.  

Until I know you‘re safe, it will hurt.

Sean‘s Mom

“Hi, I’m Sean’s mom”

The words carried the kind of lilt that only a mother can give them. A precisely indeterminate kind of lilt that sweetly invokes your middle name and implies unspecified doom if you don’t pay careful attention to whatever comes next, all at the same time.

The doctor smiled back, knowing already two things before he had finished closing the exam room door: first, that Sean, whoever he might turn out to be, was someone special and second, that the wee lad had a special mom.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s mom”

In the next weeks, and months, again and again through a maze of specialists, technicians, and departments, she spoke in that space where Sean’s voice should have been, but could not be. There were no text books for Sean, and he had no words of his own to tell them.  And so, she simply became his voice.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s Mom”

The words pushed back against a wave of busy educators, who mistook Sean for a child without a Voice.  The determined invitation of her voice caught each one, so they listened again, and looked again, and what they discovered in that second look at Sean changed them – that beautiful Being that had almost been overlooked, simply because he couldn’t speak for himself.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s Mom”

Over the years, Sean met the grocer, the baker, the teachers at school.  He met folks at the local pizza joint, bowling alley, the Church and the pool.  And each person, when they heard her voice, saw Sean afresh, as a person.  They learned to converse with him with other senses than their lips and ears.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s Mom”

it was a plea, a demand, a push – sometimes gentle but always firm – that drew people in to experience for a moment a kind of person they’d never witnessed before. They learned how to skip over the choreographed lies of social interaction and just be together with someone.  People experienced Sean only because of her.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s Mom”

Doctors said they didn’t know anymore what to do for the seizures that took from him strength and years, and paid him in pain.  She spoke at once as Sean, and as a dedicated mother.  She told of his symptoms, and interpreted his movements, made him real to the doctors and nurses.  And once they had truly met Sean this way, most would try a little harder to feel, to see more in their patient than flesh, bones, computer blips and beeps.  Each one of them uncovered themselves a little bit, and re-learned what it is to be human.

“Hi, I’m Sean’s Mom”

In the hush of the night a prayer escaped her heart, as it had ten thousand times before, for the relief that Sean could not pray for.  And at the insistent voice of her grief at his failing body, Heaven wept.

“Hi, I’m Sean”

A young man walked innocently into the brilliance of a new Spring Morning.

And the Good Lord smiled back, and said, “Yes, I know.  You’re Dianna’s Boy.  We’ve heard all about you.”

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

The peal of Sean’s laughter radiated with that Morning light across the heavens like through a prism, setting them ablaze with color.

Relative Gratitude

A few hundred years ago, a small band of immigrants took the time to observe and record a moment of reflection. Their main theme? Thanksgiving, in the vernacular of their creed. Being grateful for what they had at the time was the first thing of importance to them that day.

And what, really, did they have? They had illness – not just a spate of common colds, but the kind of disease that kills – and in fact had already killed some of them. They had provisions, in part due to the hospitality of locals. They were not far removed from a dangerous and difficult sea voyage in an age when sea voyages were not guarantees of passage. They had a patch of raw land, which they had managed to eke out some rudimentary shelter. And winter was coming.

And yet, in their precarious condition, neophytes to a land of raw survival, a formal moment to give thanks for what they DID have occupied their thoughts. They took some time probably needed for winter preparation to speak of and to their God, from whom they drew courage and faith in a harsh environment.

This last couple months, our family has had much to fret about, hoping against common wisdom that Sean will pull through his recent health problems. Life always has something to worry about, but somehow the security of life itself seems to have a way of pushing to the forefront.

But when I think of the hardship under which the first Thanksgiving was born, modern problems seem minute, almost trivial. Their response – to create a Day of Gratitude – makes me ashamed almost of my anxieties.

Oh, and one more thing: it wasn‘t something these settlers normally did. It WAS something the Wampanoag natives normally did after a successful hunt. It was they who taught the immigrants their ways of giving thanks to a higher power.

Our family is grateful, among other things, for the slow but encouraging recovery Sean is showing. We are grateful for each other‘s love and support. We are grateful for each other‘s presence together tomorrow.

I wish for all of you the love of another human. Be it a mate, a child or parent, be it a close friend or even as simple as a friendly neighbor – if there is but one thing we are given, it is Someone: somewhere, in some way. We are given Someone.

And if our Creator has done but this one thing for us, in whatever tradition you believe, we have these we love, and by whom we are loved. Celebrate the gift. Let yourself be celebrated.

And thank your God for them.

First Cutting

The early morning air was quiet.  It was  still, and heavy, slumbering in a cool dew.  The hillside to the west signaled to the valley below the coming of the sun, bestirring life and getting it ready.

And we moved around the barn, readying our machinery there in the farm‘s common area.  The tractor, and the trucks, wire and hooks, fuel and water.

And gloves.  We needed gloves.  Well, I did at least.  This was not my usual job, but my work was intermittent, and required travel, and I was home on the farm for the summer‘s first hay-cutting.

We were already into the pasture when the sun‘s light reached it, climbing above the eastern hills to dry this crisp coastal air, and to dry the tall grass, and to warm our bones.  A mist arose at this warmth, and we tarried a few moments, feeling it‘s early-season warmth.

It was a light sun, a light that rested gently, toyed with the living things, lifted scents upward and spirits outward.  Completely unlike the later summer, when crops toiled under a heavier, more intense light, that laid itself down and smothered the plants in life-giving warmth, pushing the plants to grow as fast and hard as they can before the waning harvest season.  No, this was a light sun.  And my spirit soared with the field-hawks looking for breakfast overhead.

The machinery was brought to life, and we lined things up, ready for a task it had been months since we had done.  The mower had been here a few days before, and half the field was cut, and raked into rows.  The other half still stood tall. We divided duties and the baler started lumbering its way into the field.

My son and I worked together to lift the bales into the truck.  The two farmers, brothers who‘d been doing this since childhood every year, operated the equipment in the field.  The farm had passed from homestead to dairy farm through 4 generations, but we had only moved to this pioneer farm two years previous, and while I had baled hay as a teen, and last year here, it was my son‘s first time out.

The chuff from the grass that had lain drying in the field most of the week stirred up with the baler‘s passing, filling the field again with the fresh aroma of life.  All around us was nothing but grass, no road, no trail – just a row of bales in an open field – and it felt good under our boots to tread upon real earth.  We worked fresh muscles against the task of picking bales up, and bucking them into the truck.  I took an especial joy in showing Andrew how to buck, kicking his knee up under a bale almost as big as he was, and shoving the moving bundle onto the truck‘s bed.

About the time our morning strength began to wane, a station wagon appeared on the edge of the field, and cautiously navigated across the open grass that wards us.  It was my wife, and in the back of the car she had put a small grill and steaks.  So we sat in the midday sun, drinking our full of water and grilling steaks there in the middle of the field, an honest-to-goodness tailgate party.  Later in life, in times when I needed something to think on to bring me peace in a moment of angst, this moment, the quiet sun shining strong, the light breeze blowing thoughtfully in from the coastline at the mouth of the river, the smell of cut grass and this sense of belonging – that this work was exactly what we were meant to do, the feeling of fitting into the Puzzle of Life just so – it comes to me, and takes me back to the Center of things.

And as the sun‘s rays began to climb the eastern slopes, and long shadows lay across the field, our last load headed for the barn.  Andrew and I sat together on the back of the truck with our bales, legs dangling over the side and bouncing tiredly across the field towards the road to the barn.  We took off our gloves, and the earthy smell of sweat, dirt, leather and grass lodged itself indelibly in our minds.  Summer is now here.

The sun finally rested. Our tired muscles were washed, and laid down to sleep.  And a working peace grew into being a part of us.

The Curse

I remember well the day my mother cursed me.

It was in the early 70s, as I recall.  It may have actually happened more than once, but this one moment stands out in my mind.  I was working my boyish shenanigans, on a typical day, paying no mind to anyone or anything except that which caught my attention.  And very little could catch it.  Attention-catchers in that time of my life had to be bold, and curious, and the best ones were forbidden.  It was the Way of Things.

I can‘t recall what the Thing was, but I do remember my mother, in an exasperated voice, issuing me a Vexation:

“I hope you have children just like you”

And in a rare moment of focus, my young mind was stopped short, and found itself wandering into an imaginary world where my most recent escapades were committed by those I was responsible for.  A horror struck my heart.  It tore an entry wound, wallowed around making room for itself, and set up an operations office.

But, being a boy, I walked it off and I doubt it was more than a couple hours before I was back at it again.

Fast forward a few years.  The raw material my brain received to do its work had changed.  My shenanigans were focused on different subjects.

I had found a girl.

And the next thing you know, I was sitting in a hospital nursery holding a wee child.

And I remembered my mother‘s tormented declaration.  “Surely not this innocent bundle of sweetness”, I thought to myself.  “Ha!”  And I smugly settles in and cuddled my wee child with my wife recovering nearby.

And then two more came at once.  But still, what could go wrong?  And then another came.

And then they started coming in through the door instead of the delivery room.  The odds were greatly improved, and they were growing.  My confidence in avoiding my doom dwindled by the day.

And then… on a clear day with blue sky, green grass, and a group of unnaturally muddy children, it happened.  It took me totally unaware.  I was vexed, but what came from my lips stopped me short.

“I hope you all have children just like you.”

I knew instantly what I‘d done.  My wife did too, and she short-circuited the moment by sending the horde off to the wash station for cleanup operations.  She had a plan for this.  It was rehearsed.  And her capacity for patience was greater than mine that day.

And so I did the only thing I could think of to do.  I burst out in laughter, much to the confusion and dismay of the dirty little urchins departing the scene.

Bodies were washed, clothes changed, and it wasn‘t long before I was sipping lemonade and basking in the summer sun again.  And I found myself basking as well in reflection.  In introspection, I came across that walled off chamber of horror in my heart.  And there, sitting at the service desk, was the smiling visage of my mother.  

At the time, I thought my mother had wished a curse upon me.  But in this moment, I recognized it for what it was.  She wished for me the empathy to see both childhood and parenthood for what they were, together, in the same moment.  She wished for me to see that kids will be kids, and that eventually, with the kind of love only a mother can give, they will outgrow most of their shenanigans.  She wished for me to be able to see past the trouble, and the mess, and sometimes the pain, and see instead the small person in front of me as an adult, and to understand that while the mess will be forgotten, it is the moments of love or hate that will be remembered, and that this is, as a parent, the one thing I can control.  I choose whether my children remember love, or hate.

I don‘t really recall what I did on that impish day of childhood.  I don‘t remember the consequence of whatever it was.  And for years, I remembered the entire affair not at all.  But in the waning hours of that summer day, hearing the laughter of kids getting in trouble, and my wife dealing with the minor details with the particular kind of strong grace it takes, I remembered my mother‘s words in a new way.  I remember her wishing for me to have a full life, and to understand how to be human to the fullest, to be able to see and experience the love of a mother from a man‘s point of view.  And in my wife, on that day it was projected perfectly.

I remember my mother‘s blessing.

Boys and dogs

This is a story about a dog.

Well… I think it is anyway.

It‘s been, what, oh about 4 months since Mollie the Bouvier came to live with us.  She was just turning 1 year old, but she neeeed a new home. Even during her first home visit, she seemed to feel the need to keep an eye on the boys. She plunked herself down in front of Sean, and refused to leave when the visit was over. This reaction allowed the owner, who had serious misgivings about giving her up, to let go and be at peace with it.

You‘re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the picture of Sean and a mirror…

On her first evening with us, when I put Sean in bed, she hopped up in there, too. Sean thought it was great fun. He chuckled a pleased little chuckle, and patted her in his usual way, which is well-intended but not very gentle. She took it as her duty to endure this, and it became a habit.

I suppose none of this has answered the question of why I have a picture of Sean up here in this post

In the mornings, I give Sean his meds, we listen to Raffi, and play peek-a-boo. I talk to him sometimes, other times he jabbers at me. Charlie, the old geezer Bouvier, usually sits with me on Dustan‘s bed. We do this until finally Sean drops one foot over the side of the bed – the signal that he‘s ready to start considering getting up. It is then that I turn on the shower in the adjoining bathroom, go back in and assist him with standing up and walking to the shower.

A few weeks ago, Mollie started joining us for our morning soirée. Being still puppy-ish, she doesn‘t sit still for long though. She hops up on his bed, over to me, back over to him, down the hall to check out arriving grandkids…you get the picture.

And somewhere around the same time, Sean started doing something interesting. He started greeting Mollie every chance he could. He has an odd way of saying “hello”. He lifts up his shirt to show his tummy. I have no idea why, it‘s just a thing.

So every time he‘d stand up to go to the bathroom, he‘d say “hi” to Mollie. And then try to pat her back.

And then he started greeting Charlie.

And then the fish tank.

And well… anything and anyone he could.

And then, one morning, as we came into the bathroom, he looked in the mirror, and by golly, there he was in the mirror. He started saying “hi”, except he didn‘t have a shirt on to lift, so he walked over to the mirror, and did something he and I used to do in greeting long ago- he bonked foreheads, with himself.

And he smiled.

And then he laughed, and chattered what I assume was a volley of affirmations to himself.

And just like that, he was out of the shell he had fallen into over the previous months, where poor health and pain had reduced his days to a steady march of surviving from day to day. I‘m not saying he was cured. But he – the person named Sean, who despite his limitations lives, laughs and loves in his own inimitable style – that guy was back.

So I don‘t know, is this the story of a dog doing what a good dog does, with no idea of how it affects her humans? Or is this the story of a human, doing what a good human does with a little of the right kind of outlet? Is this what humans need – not necessarily to be loved themselves, but to have someone willing to be loved?

Maybe we‘ve been thinking about this all wrong. Imagine if every child could find a companion into which to pour his or her capacity for love. Perhaps if we can practice love, we get better at it. It may sound like a dream, but is this how we get kids to stop shooting other kids?

I don‘t know if a puppy is the answer to life‘s hardest questions. Life‘s hardest questions seem to come so fast these days – seems we spend all our time anymore asking, without any time to really answer. The few answers we come up with are hurried, panicked hand-slaps at the dragons we face. Then again, maybe we allow too many questions in, ones we don‘t have to answer so badly as the simple ones like, “who can we love today?”

Note I didn‘t say, “who‘s going to love me?” That‘s a good question, something our psyche is all geared up and anxious to answer. But maybe the best way to answer it is to answer a question with a question.

“Who can I Love today?”

Oh look. There‘s a mirror. Practice makes perfect.

Falling on our butts in a binary world

Yesterday in the shower, Sean fell. And I had an epiphany.

For those who don‘t know, Sean is severely disabled. Besides “profound mental impairment” as the medical charts read, he also developed a severe seizure disorder that really became an issue starting in his early teens. What this means in practical terms now, at age 30, is that he can‘t safely stand unattended, and can‘t understand why not.

So, I give him his shower each morning. We start standing up, and then when his back side is clean he sits down for the rest. He usually barely makes it to the sitting down part, but it‘s got to be done, so we have things in place to make it easier and faster to get through that first stage. There‘s a shower chair. We redesigned the bathroom to an open floor plan. The soap is in a pump so we can get to it one-handed while keeping in contact with Sean with the other.

Well, yesterday I tried something new. To try and stop him from getting water in his mouth, and then aspirating it, I turned everything around. Shower chair under the shower, him with his back to the faucet. But he didn‘t like that much. It was out of his routine, and he kept trying to turn around. So finally I said, “fine, turn around then”.

But I didn‘t immediately move the chair. I was just reaching for the liquid soap dispenser, and though I could get away with a moment with no chair behind him.

Except the usual soap was replaced by a plain bottle that required two hands. And in that moment where I grabbed it, flipped it, and squirted soap out, Sean decided the time for standing was done. He bounced off the back wall, and because he has little bent-leg strength, hit the floor heavily with his butt.

And so, now, he‘s got a big ol‘ bruise on his butt. And I feel awful.

While treatment is clear and Sean just needs to heal, I‘ve got a few choices, going forward, regarding my sense of responsibility. I could transfer my anger to someone else. Who the heck replaced my one-hand pump dispenser? Eh, it could be that I failed to notice it was empty and someone, not understanding this intricacy of Sean‘s process, just grabbed something out of the supply closet. Who knows. I could blame the chair for not being there. You laugh, but I have some experience with panic-induced rage. It seldom is even remotely logical, and I usually just add to the things I need to apologize for later. I could blame Sean for dropping. Nope. Can‘t do it.

Which brings me to myself. I let go of him, and he fell. And so do I beat myself up over it, or let myself off the hook?

How about none of those, by themselves?

I‘ve been stewing about this for 24 hours now, and in the meanwhile, having engaged on Facebook on a variety of issues of the day, some of the patterns and arguments here have tried to flavor my stew. And I‘ve realized that this example bears some similarities to the things we rage about here too.

Very little of what we experience has binary answers of “right” vs “wrong”. That‘s not to say there isn‘t truth and falsehood, but we humans, being intrinsically bent to evil, seldom experience any sort of pure clarity in our lives. This experience yesterday was, at the last, caused by letting go. And that is something I can do something about. Who put that bottle of soap there? I can search for a guilty party, but yelling about it, while maybe will change them, it will do so in a damaging way – they will be just a bit more defensive, a bit more insecure, and no one operates well under insecurity.

And so it is too with the social issues of The Day that we debate so fiercely. To say, for example that “the conservatives caused all of this” or “the liberals caused all of this” fails to grasp the totality of the problems we discuss. The Cossacks did harm, but they also experienced it. Illegal immigrants, people with guns, powerful businessmen, freaky dreamers, well-meaning do-gooders – all have caused harm, and experienced it. In fact, I‘ll go so far as to say all of our explanations and solutions fail to wrap our minds around the totality. And we will always fail to grasp it. Always.

So what do we do instead? There is a philosophy that, curiously enough has been around for a few thousand years. For whatever reason we reject it over and over. We reject the name behind it, because it has been hijacked and appropriated by Charlatans, Tyrants, and Schemers who see its practitioners as easy targets. We reject it because it denies us our perceived right to rage. We reject it because it requires of us to surrender our pride.

But, as I think about all the options to dealing with mistakes, I remember that I only have the option of control for myself. I can not control others directly.

Pride leads me to believe I can control others. It leads me to believe I should. Ultimately it leads me to believe I must, and that, right there, is the pattern of Evil.

The pattern of Good is explained by love. It reminds me that not only can I not control others, that heck, I can‘t really even control myself most of the time. I can only love or hate.

And the next step is where it gets real sticky. I am reminded that this is where the realization that if my goal is to be a good person, that in some way I must rely on a Strength greater than my own. That Strength allows me to forgive, because it forgives me. Note I don‘t say “excuse”. I am forgiven. And if there is any payment required for that, it is that I accept being forgiven, and practice it towards others. Lives come, lives go, sometimes tragically. Love takes time, it creeps in through your practice, and bleeds like life-blood into the people around you. Sometimes it takes generations to re-establish itself. But my only role, the only skill I have in it, is to accept and pass on that hidden Higher Strength.

Kissing Cups

The kitchen sink burbled in its evening state
A mountain of work at an hour this late.
A halfhearted swish at a half-dirty plate.
Betrayed my wish to be in bed with my Mate.

Alack and alas, but try as I might,
Wishing away this malodorous blight,
Merely prolonged this languorous plight
The woman I loved rested gently tonight,
She shouldn‘t awaken to this grungy sight.

So standing and scrubbing away at these dishes
And meditating on nuzzly kisses
I found in my work a redemption that glistens
In the reflection of thoughts of time with my missus

Thoughtfully pondered and carefully packed,
Our cups went together like a pair of knickknacks.
Side by side in the dishwashing rack
Cuddled together like love maniacs.

And now that you know the story of loving
When housework and chores are continually tugging
When weariness takes all the strength from your hugging
Just make sure your cups are still touching.