REFLECTIONS ON DEATH

Death, the intangible, mysterious thing

Not only the cessation of life here

A thing

The Mexicans dance

With half their face painted like a skull

On Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead

Some call it Completing the Circle of Life

As in the Mayan prayer

“We come into the world, and we go out of the world

“Remember that every morning”

I used to think only of the afterlife

And so there was no death

We think of those we loved

And go on without their company

Can’t talk to them anymore

Probably around twenty-five or thirty years till

My death.  I can see it, sometimes.

Till I complete the circle of life

This world is all I know

Despite Swedenborg’s visions

Or the five experiences of the Indigenous man I heard

One doesn’t want to let go of what one knows

Let go of what I know

The Indigenous man knew

Things look different if my life continues

If I sit next to my grandfather, next to a flowing river that is all love

Consequences matter more, matter infinitely more

Than if death ends it

Then the world looks different

When death is a palpable thing

The mysterious dance of the Mexicans

That will be for me in twenty-five to thirty or so years

BIRTH AND SECOND BIRTH

Today we celebrate the day that’s you

But I celebrate this day for me, too

On this day you were born into life

As if a second birth, you are to me as if a wife

 

Your birth, your birth to me, made my life live

That is what your birth and what you give

I didn’t really have a life till you

Then you came, then I was born anew

 

Today, this day is all yours and all you

But it’s also all about me, too

Now it’s us, not you or I separate

With you, our life is one eternal date

SILENT LOSS

I suffer

Silently

Proficiency stolen

Asleep for years

Bipolar Disorder

My friends don’t want to hear

Why I am this way

 

I am waking up

Only to see what I’ve lost

I try to explain

To deaf ears

Try to pick up the pieces

So I suffer

Silently

Remembering

My tragic loss

Only to me

SO SAY THE BUDDHISTS

The Buddhists say we are all connected

The coffee plantation in Africa and breakfast in New York

My coffee cup and a Chinese factory worker

The rice paddy that gave her supper

The exploding star that formed the iron of which the plow is made

The exploding star that made the iron for the bullets in my enemy’s gun

My enemy who would shoot those bullets at me

The iron in my body’s blood

The iron in the blood of the other political party, who stands under my flag

We are all connected, all one

My enemy as my beloved are all one with me

Everything is mine, is me

And I am one with everything

Makes me think twice about rage, about hate

About causing anyone harm, anything

ONE NIGHT STAND

A realization has been clarifying

Surfacing amid currents of incubation

From which my truths and convictions

Emerge, fix, and enlighten my ways

 

Living feels increasingly like

The experience of a one-night stand

So many—perhaps all—of my enjoyments

Lack permanence, will depart; will leave me bereft

 

Five years adjusting—enjoying—a life in a new city

Friendships I made, vocational commitments

Departing to another new city

Making friends, vocational commitments

 

And even persisting in one place a long time

Businesses grow, downsize, lay off

Long-established establishments adjust

To the market’s demands, aging demographics

 

When a person is young, time feels long

One year is like an eternity

And few things change in one year

So it looks like things will always be

 

But with the perspective of many years

And the witness of businesses, clubs, and restaurants that close

Friends who move away, get terminally sick

One sees that happiness is subject to fortune

 

And so one takes the pleasure that the moment affords

Knowing that it may end precipitously

And that enjoyment may be over

Yet one partakes in full, aware that it is fleeting

Awake to its transitory nature

Courageously enjoying, not denying

What happiness a given situation affords

Contemporary Pop Music and Classic Rock

Music was at the center of our lives when my generation was young.  There were no computer games.  So instead of hanging out and gaming with our friends, we would gather in a living room or someone’s bedroom and listen to classic rock.  OK, we usually got high, too.  With this much intensity surrounding music, it is not surprising how much really good music came out of my generation.  And with the gravitas now shifted from music, it is not surprising how poor the music quality is that is being produced now.  I think that music is now largely background to video games, repeating short phrases over and over again while one’s real attention is on the virtual characters.  I try to listen to pop music today, but very quickly get bored and turn it off.

Then I get philosophical.  Is this just another example of the older generation disparaging the music and customs of the younger generation?  I think about Dean Martin and Jimi Hendrix.  The silken sounds of Dean Martin and the melodic strings backing him were a mellow mix, soothing, if not mediocre.  Dean Martin was the music my parents liked.  What a shock to their sensibilities it must have been to hear Hendrix blasting onto the music scene in the ’60’s.  Hendrix, Clapton, the Beatles, Santana, and the other great bands and players of the ’60’s and early ’70’s brought a new and powerful sound to the world.  And none of them had anything near the silken tones of Dean Martin.  Young musicians are still learning Hendrix and other classic rock tunes.  No one listens to Dean Martin.  So I return to my philosophical question.  Is my disaffection with contemporary music just another example of the old disparaging the customs of the young?  Or is contemporary music really that bland?  I suppose the real question is whether there is any music today that will last like Hendrix.  Or is today’s sound fated to follow Dean Martin into obscurity?

But Dean Martin isn’t the only voice of his time.  Miles Davis, the great jazz trumpet/composer, lived approximately the same time as Dean Martin.  Miles Davis already has a lasting place in music history.  He took the jazz he inherited and took it into a new universe, inventing along the way the style called “Cool Jazz.”  The word is that Miles Davis wanted to collaborate with Hendrix just before Hendrix’s untimely demise.  Sadly, Dean Martin made more money and achieved greater fame than Miles did in his lifetime–except for those who cared about music quality.  So when I think of generational divides, it isn’t just a matter of Dean Martin and Hendrix.  Miles lived then, too.  And while Miles isn’t of my generation, my generation admires his music and, for me, envies the generation that produced the genius of Miles Davis.

So the issues isn’t one of generations only.  It’s a matter of the gravitas music holds for the listener.  I don’t think that there is a gravitas for music today.  So I doubt that any really good and lasting music will be produced in this generation.  And, sadly, I doubt that this generation will miss it.  Rather, I look into the future, when lovers of music will generate another climate in which a Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix will rise up in song.

COMING TO TERMS

It’s dawning on me that I will not be able

To reclaim 27 years lost,

The development I could have experienced,

When pills and depression

Robbed me

Of a competence I once had,

Which could have flourished into greater form

No, I can’t reclaim those years

Nor the increased competence I would have gained in those 27 years

I must accept the limitations on

My ability

Sad, or philosophical

I cannot reclaim those years

I may never recover even what I once was

Let alone what I could have become

With 27 years of practice, application, learning

Tragic, the waste, those lost 27 years

Coming to terms with what I am, where I am

The competences I do have, not

Those I don’t have, I could have had

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