SOME PEOPLE

August 24, 2017


It’s late at night in the infamous, shabby neighborhood. All of I sudden I hear the thunderous roar of a motorcycle in the street below. I look down from the window and I see one of the most humongous Road King Harley Davidson beasts I’ve ever seen. The black monster displayed a tall wind splitter windshield and a kick-ass sound system that blared a seemingly famous 80’s soul-pop song. The beast’s owner, a typical large, hairy and rugged man in his mid-fifties, proudly and meticulously backed up towards the curb, parking his precious ride. He left the music playing at full blast as if it served as a soundtrack to display his Road King bike. I watched as he got off his motorcycle in a slow-motion pace we’re used to seeing in movies. He wore the classic detonator leather jacket with the famous logo on his back.

The music went on for a few seconds, when a bag lady, attracted to the song like a zombie zeroes in on humans, wobbled and closed in on the bike. Wearing nothing but her dirty underwear and an equally filthy large sweater, she started singing and dancing erratically. She knew the words to the song. It surely brought her memories of something good, and she immersed herself in the experience of that moment.

I left the scene and proceeded to get ready to go to sleep when I heard again the thunderous, raucous rumble of the black beast leaving, and the music fades away in the distance. It left me pondering about how memories make us feel the emotions we experienced in the past, all over again. Maybe, if the memories are good, they give us a glimpse of all that could have been but hasn’t, and now keeps haunting us. Sometimes, like the Erinyes (those hideous snake-haired monsters) they punish us for eternity for the mistakes we’ve made, and we still don’t seem to be able to forgive ourselves. A blessing or a curse, I don’t know.

It is intriguingly peculiar and, at times torturing, the capacity that MUSIC has to penetrate the deepest layers of the unconscious structure of our minds. It opens up doors into different personalities, different personas, different masks we wear all the time during the course of a single day, or an entire lifetime. Music throws this spell on us and reveals the dynamic state of ebullition within our hearts; some days we are saints, other days we are vengeful demons perpetrating evil at any opportunity we get. Music extracts from us the intensity of our emotional states at any given time or brings back from the history of our past all the sensations experienced in a powerful re-enactment of the pathos, encrusted in our psyche, by those moments.

The cyclic nature of the human experience shows us that somehow the idea of Nietzche’s Eternal Reoccurrence, the “eternal hourglass”  of our existence, places us in a state of fatalism where each generation observes the other repeating similar mistakes, under similar circumstances, materialized in slightly different modes of expression. What difference separates our sufferings of love or bouts of anger from those experienced by other humans centuries ago? The evidence of repetition seems to underline every era and behavioral activity we all have been reproducing ever since we came to be. Is the awareness and total embracing of this dark side of the human psyche the process through which we get to the other side as some great thinkers postulate?  Yeah.

“What is thinkable is also possible”, says the philosopher, and the rats and the scum of society recognize the essence of what the word really means in a perfect correlation of one meaning, attached to no other possible form, and its objective and empiric represan_tation of a specific state of affairs. In what represan_tation of the events of my life, can my most accurate experience be reproduced through the signs of language (which serves as my sole form of expression and communication) in an attempt to transcribe to another person the perspective I take during the course of my innermost urge to convey, explain and make it real with the stamp of language as a form of creation itself?

In what represan_tation of the events of my life, can my most accurate experience be reproduced through the signs of language (which erroneously serves as my sole form of expression and communication) in an attempt to transcribe to another person the perspective I take during the course of my innermost urge to convey, explain and make it real with the stamp of language as a form of creation itself?

Perhaps, music becomes the medium through which we can clearly reproduce the framework of a past experience, somehow untied from the constraints of the new material lying on the surface of present waters. How honest can we be as we use language to make the situation alive and real in the world where we interact with other thought-creating organisms like ourselves?

THE MOTORCYCLE, THE RIDER, THE BAG LADY AND THE SONG

(note: the song in the video clip above is not the one the motorcycle was playing)

HOW HONEST can I be when I try to represent here my experience of that scene I witness between the motorcycle, the rider, the bag lady and the song? All elements put together to reveal the totality of truth in the universal structure of a timelessness event within the space we weave our way through. Nothing but our senses to lead us through the dark fog of the soul, and the inevitable surrender to this phenomenon becomes the recognition of our inability to control anything at all.

The representation of an idea can be explored through different perspectives, but its transparency will rely on the logical and unequivocal observation of the fact(s). You will give yourself naked to the other and your strength will reveal insofar as the vulnerability which you allow yourself to experience at that particular moment in time. The puzzling and peculiar realization we observe is that anything at all we perceive can actually be completely different from the concept we have in our minds and attempt to represent through the linguistic signs we choose to use.

I walk across the room, pacing back and forth like a conscious organism that has just been woken up from a dream, trying to make sense of the reality I was afraid to accept, and instead, tried to imbue unsolicited meanings to the facts that go beyond my control. Why do we seem to negate the facts and forcefully try to apply a structure that agrees with the emotionally charged personal meanings we use to disguise our inability to deal with the state of affairs we see in front our eyes? Fear is the answer to the problems that afflict us. Fear of what is. Fear of what is not. Fear of what is no more. Fear of our inability to accept the conditions that rise up from our inability to understand that we can actually deal with anything that is given to us.

We are all alone. We are (not) all alone and we all know that we are not alone since we all share the same state of insanity we inherited from our ancestors. How can we disguise the fact that we seem incapable to accept that we are perfectly able to deal with whatever reality is thrown out our way? I feel, in my heart, the pain of the recognition that I still resist the unmerciful inexorability of the conditions that arise in front of me.

I die a little bit with every turn of the page, every change of scene, every landscape; every experience, every dream zone redefined, every specter of myself –  even if the darkness of the shadow proved unbearable to resist. I live those moments over and over again in my mind and I see myself replicating the same similar patterns that will take me out of myself. I rejoice in the moments where I recognize myself in the eyes of the other, in their faces; that moment of rapture, complete surrender to the emotion, the ecstasy of being swept away, of being swooned.

Grab my hand and follow me and let me make you cross the gap that divides us. Let me hold you close to me and whisper words of forever, even if for just a brief moment we will believe that nothing else exists but the totality of the reality we are creating together;  the pain of existence can at least stand still in time, in the silence of our need to connect through the awareness of choosing no one in order to become one.

And for that one moment, we are invincible in our own selves.

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*Information about the video clip above is at the end of the clip.

MEMENTO MORI

May 29, 2017


(Philippe de Champaigne‘s Vanitas (c. 1671) is reduced to three essentials: Life, Death, and Time – MUSIC: “Great Day” by Senking)

Yesterday, as I ambled my way through the galleries of a Monet exhibit, I considered the life of this über-talented French painter who gave us the possibility to see the simple details of a scene in new ways that touch us emotionally, and evokes memories of experiences related to the images he chose to draw our attention to. He also, like us, contemplated the existential angst but believed in the immediacy of experiencing each moment without the expectation of some other form of reality other than the one he was experiencing. He lived his life from the perspective of authenticity, total presence, and clarity.

Later on, during a harp and pipe organ performance, at the same museum, I observed the faces and behaviors of all the other people gathered around in the same place while listening to the simple, but sweetly melodious compositions of Debussy, another French impressionist artist. On my left side, an Asian lady was solving a Sunday paper crossword puzzle on a clipboard, together with the musical program notes underneath, that was resting comfortably on her lap. Very rarely would she raise her head to look at the performers, but went on completely absorbed in the music and in her task the whole time.

As I  continued my observations, I couldn’t help noticing an older white lady, farther away, who was attentively watching the performance. Her face deeply carved with wrinkles, markedly displayed the passage of time in her physical form. Some other people would come in, listen for a moment, and leave. An elegant older man, properly dressed in a black suit sat in the row in front of mine. He was there for his friend, the harpist, who was playing there at the museum for the first time before leaving for Cleveland, Ohio. She was there at the invitation of her other friend, the organ player. The harpist, a woman probably in her late fifties, showed an impressive control of her instrument, which corroborates the fact that she has indeed built a solid academic career. She had saved a chair for her friend, who arrived early and lucked out a seat as soon as a middle-aged woman decided to get up and leave with her friend who arrived in the room. The spot the harpist had saved for him was strategically chosen near the area where she would be playing. If I were him, I would have got up and taken the seat she had saved. The seat would have given him a front row view to appreciate his friend’s hand skills while her fingers beautifully caressed the strings of that majestic musical instrument.

The organ player was this short, burly man, who not only had an impressive ability as a player but also as a speaker. He commanded the space and his words got everyone interested in the music pieces he was about to play. The page turners’ sexual connection with the players has always been a recurring fantasy of mine. The relationship between page turners and musicians always make me go off in thoughts of secret lovers and forbidden affairs.

Children were present as well, sitting on the floor and enjoying the experience. There were people of all kinds: couples holding hands, rich middle-aged women dressed in sparkly blouses, and those who wanted to capture the moment through pictures and videos, so later they would be able to share them on their social platforms of choice.

This all made me think of the passage of time and how soon we would all be replaced by another generation repeating similar social activities. I could not shake off the uneasy feeling that we are all equals, that we all suffer and have problems, but the simulacrum of our social identities put up a facade of normalcy and emotional detachment. I could see on the faces of each individual the presence of their stories. If you let yourself pay attention, you can actually see that. And it’s a beautiful thing. It is our vulnerabilities that bring authenticity on how we show up in the world. The truth is that soon we are all going to die, vanish, disappear. It is the acknowledgment of this fact in every moment and every experience that is giving me the possibility to reflect and be less afraid to live my life without imposing so many unnecessary limitations on myself. I look at all the people around me and I see them dying with me, I see their bodies changing, decaying and disappearing, just like my own physical body. This realization is giving me the courage to appreciate my life and be true to the changes passing through me that go on reshaping the way I think, the way I act, the way I live.

The moment I was conceived I began to be in a relationship with someone or something. I began a relationship with myself. Throughout my life, I go on a series of continuous relationships. Being in a relationship is no easy task for anyone. It requires the ability to stay present, mindful and accountable. Relationships are at the very center of our personal and spiritual growth.

We are social beings, and we live, for the most part, within a community whose basic purpose is to keep us safe and give us a sense of belonging. How can we experience differences if we tend to orbit around others who are similar to us? Isn’t by being exposed to what is different from us that will gradually open our views of who we are and facilitate the changes necessary to our growth? Why is so difficult to accept differences?

I have always accepted the fact that my beliefs are constantly changing, and therefore are as insubstantial as the air I breathe. The most difficult part of growing is to acknowledge those parts of my personality that are identified with the useless pursuit of the inaccessible attempt to keep life and everything else static, stationary and predictable: the insane ability to live in denial.

I feel I am losing my mind every time I seem to find myself closer to the madness present in me. As I watch myself journey through time, I see the exhilarating awareness of my expanding consciousness in direct opposition to my ever-decaying body. As my physical body dwindles away, loses its luster and contemplates its own extinction, my sense of who I am opens up and gradually expands to an impossible extension that goes beyond any limits I had ever thought imaginable. Between a blessing and a curse, I don’t have the option to disagree.

Knowing I am going to die puts in perspective the attachment I might have to things and conditions I dared to think were unquestionably mine and under my control. All of a sudden, everything I do is overwhelmingly scrutinized under the lens of my befuddled, scared mind. Like a defenseless child, my mind tries to cope with the sensations of abandonment, existential loneliness, and universal despair. As  I dive deep into the Mariana Trench of my existence, fearing the Challenger Deep lying in wait, I have no option other than complete surrender to this insane mystery in the depths of the ocean within me.

Why is it so hard to live completely without meaning or delusions of grandeur? It seems I have always reached an impasse at every phase of my life. At every corner lies a question unanswered and the dread of making choices, only to regret a second later. Holding on to the belief and the behavior that I can control things insanely contradicts with the life I try to live. The pain becomes immeasurable, and the agony of delayed actions perpetuate a state of stale conformity to a familiar kind of suffering.

My body speaks to me like a volcano about to explode. How many opportunities have I missed? How many crossroads have I stood too long staring at the paths in front of me without taking the first step to continue the journey? I, from all people, who continuously help other redefine and recalibrate their own sails so that they can follow the natural course of their lives, resemble a sullen stalled horse that voluntarily isolated itself under externally inflicted psychological pressure.

I go about looking for temporary relief underwater, but the underlining cause of an overarching anxiety lies on the surface of the ocean. How can we know if we are making progress and being authentic if the unrelenting uneasiness grabs hold of us and keeps us muzzled and unable to have our voices heard? I look around and I see others struggling the same way, a ghostly, hazed look hides their light from shining through. If I let myself get stuck in this process, I will always hold others captive, lest their actions might destabilize the illusory harmony of my foibles.

In the spirit of Memorial Day, this time,  I would like to pay respect to all the ones who have passed on, veterans and civilians alike. They give us the gift of their deaths as a way to celebrate life in all forms, all experiences, and ways to be. It is the evolution of life on this planet that we are writing with our stories when we allow ourselves to be who we essentially are.

It is with this perception and acknowledgment that I am becoming a man beholden to all the other ones I meet, indebted to all, and forever grateful for the way I can make myself graciously accepted, quirks and all.

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n. pl. memento mori

1. A reminder of death or mortality, especially a death’s-head.
2. A reminder of human failures or errors.

[New Latin mementō morī, be mindful of dying : Latin mementō, sing. imperative of meminisse, to remember + Latinmorī, to die.]
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Memento mori literally means “Remember you must die”. The early Puritan settlers were particularly aware of death and fearful of what it might mean, so a Puritan tombstone will often display a memento mori intended for the living. These death’s-heads or skulls may strike us as ghoulish, but they helped keep the living on the straight and narrow for fear of eternal punishment. In earlier centuries, an educated European might place an actual skull on his desk to keep the idea of death always present in his mind.

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*American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

*And also from Merriam-Webster

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