31 May 2012

Accomplishment

I was inspired to list my accomplishments by reading another writer’s list of accomplishments.

“Gee,” I thought, “these are nifty.”

What have I done? I make one. A scholar-friend says, “You've led such an interesting life.”
I look at it. I sense culture speaks if I name it list.
I’d like to feel it's nifty. Why? I’d like to think what I've done, seen, heard, and experienced, made a difference to me, or to someone. Why? My list objectifies my experiences. My list transforms them. They are no longer being they are items, money in an account, or merit badges on my Boy Scout sash. Item’s verb form, “itemizes,” objectifies. I’ve spoken some of my badges as boasts, something I’d speak to proclaim, as if the badge says who I am. Why did I boast? I hope I wasn’t a bore.
I do therefore I am. I am what I’ve done. Really? “I think therefore I am,” is progress in the development of the consciousness of the self. Descartes believed it evidence of existence, of being. I studied Descartes; I like him. I felt significant when I read him, worked to understand him, worked to speak about what I didn’t understand, and listened to philosophers talk about what they thought they knew they understood. I felt significant for a moment when I did my list items too. I felt affirmed when my scholar friend said, “You've led such an interesting life.”
Today, I feel my items are evidence of my being’s insignificance. Feeling so makes me sad. What have I left undone? I was reared in my birth family, and it’s extended culture, to think and behave that I’m significant, that I have power. Now, well, not so much.
Most items now are like dreams, frail and foggy, though real enough in the experience. It’s difficult to make a difference. I had to show up . . . again, and again, and again, and even then, well, this doesn’t feel like affirmation. “What I’ve done,” will have to be good enough. “What I’ve left undone,” well, that'll have to be good enough too.

28 May 2012

I Have . . .

I have - studied symbolic logic - apprenticed in summer theatre in Woodstock – driven for a Jimmy Carter campaign committee - attended boarding schools - 4 years ballroom dancing - attended 1965 Newport Folk Festival - escaped club wielding police - driven a taxi cab in NYC - attained Eagle Scout rank - fathered a boy and a girl - lived in East Tennessee - photographed Diane Keaton, Eugene McCarthy - been swept away by the Ocoee River - transported rescued Airedales - mastered black & white and color-transparency analog photography in studio and on location in all formats for a living - accounted for millions of dollars in cash - worked at Sotheby’s – stood next to Georgia O’Keefe and Reggie Jackson - learned 108 Taoist Tai Chi moves - read Being & Time and the I-Ching - walked out on Woodstock Music & Arts Festival - known Lenny Riggio - been psychoanalyzed - had ACL reconstruction - been inside Bob Dylan's home - competed against an Olympic rowing team - operated a lawn care service - escorted Joseph Beuys - studied history and literature of religion - worked in bookstores - married twice - worked with William Accorsi - learned the language of morals – worked at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts - stood in the largest North American open-pit coal mine - served people seeking assistance - heard Ike & Tina Turner, Allman Brothers, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Mountain, Canned Heat, Leon Russell, Dr. John, Iron Butterfly, Grateful Dead, Ten Years After, Eric Clapton, Chicago, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Filmore East - 353 years of American matriarchal descendants - lived 61 years with God's help. I practice spiritual renovation and renewal.

17 May 2012

Fire

 We circled ourselves near enough to feel and sense it. It built on itself as we fed it. We’d scavenged plenty of wood. We moved off a bit, but near to it’s warmth in the chill air.
“It’s good to have fire, I say.
“Yes,” Ciapha said.
I start, feed, listen to and watch fires, and never say a word in my enchantment. I once camped in the remnant of a hurricane. I started a fire ~ used birch bark ~ out of boredom and to unkoop myself from my one-man tent. The storm blew and poured rain three days. I fed it the entire time. I was alive with the fire in a hurricane’s remnants.
Ciapha was alive too. He’d emigrated from Liberia. He and his beloved escaped, fleeing gun barrels aimed for them. They fled for their lives. He gave me his story, his trust. He was safe. He loved to talk. I cannot recall his words. I listened. I heard the fire in him.
Ciapha spoke of his people, the Vai, and loved ones left behind. Ciapha lost paths, roads, and landmarks. Ciapha lost jungle, beach and ocean, geography and weather. Ciapha lost his village, city, country, nation, and continent. Ciapha lost training and profession. He lost his tribe. He lost natural customs for fellowship and living. Ciapha lost food and drink. Ciapha lost music. Ciapha lost his community of worship. Ciapha lost everything he knew. He knew he'd lost all he'd known. He talked, while understanding, as he talked, all he had never known or dreamed of, as if seeing in the fire, was now, here, at the fire. No, he did not lose what he'd known. They were stripped off and flung down by thugs.
I sensed his feelings of bewilderment and relief, sadness and hope, longing and peacefulness, in his voice. Ciapha spoke of family, tribes, politics, cultures, and spirit. I heard his determination.
I knew what we had in common. The Spirit we practiced together in our church. Ciapha found his way into the place, the community of worship, in Knoxville, TN., far from the Liberia he knew. We’d met in our community of our worship and spirit. We met in the fire too.
After a while Ciapha grew quiet.
“This is a good fire tonight”, he said.

11 May 2012

Straight ~ Center


The center snap is the most ignored youth football drill. I was 14, rising into 15, on my all male boarding school freshman football team. I was the 190lb. center. Tucko was the quarterback, he the red-haired 15 year-old jock all around sportsman. We had a working exchange; could snap the ball to Tucko the punter too. It sealed the relationship.
It was symbiotic. I’d squat. Tucko placed his hands above my package; press up, into my cheeks, and scream,
“Ready!
“Hutt, Hutt . . . HUTT!”
My snaps were a serious matter with serious consequences. Once, we were playing Cranbrook School, late into the season and our football relationship, and on a goal line third & none we fumbled our exchange. I recovered for the touchdown.
The relationship continued into next year’s varsity season.

02 May 2012

Undaunted


At 14th Street & University Avenue, we sat down.
“Hell No!” ~ We won’t go!”
“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! ~ Richard Nixon’s Gotta Go!”
A transit bus crept in to move us out. The bus was big. Within 75 feet, undaunted, I stood up amongst the sit-inners.
Undaunted, it moved in some just being pulled from under encroaching wheels. I watched, not believing my eyes, but, undaunted. The bus stopped. The doors opened and, in the vernacular of the day, pigs, but with respect, I mean, riot-police, came out. I panicked over and from the sit-inners like a hounded rabbit. Up a Union Square Park ginkgo tree I ran, as best I could, the skinny trunked scaly thing ~ geesis! ~ and feeling safer and undaunted, watched the club swinging melee.