Stars Everywhere

Photo montage: Stars in the DarknessThis world is a dark place. War and strife, fear, hunger, hatred, greed, self-righteousness, and poverty gnaw the bones of suffering people on every continent at every hour. And all of these menaces are, in accordance with early expressions of the idea of Tragedy, nearly entirely the making of our own species.

Little hope, at least in my mind, of that sorrowful truth changing as long as our species continues to dominate the planet. We are deeply flawed. Even the finest among us tend to forget themselves and their mortal limits at time; regardless of how educated, high-minded and genuinely well-meant their attitudes and actions may be, it’s sadly true that underlying those attitudes and actions is a firm belief in their rightness. Only natural that it’s hard, from that perspective, to allow that others might have an equal possibility of being right, or at least as wise and well-meaning, as they themselves are, and to show them the full respect of that acceptance.

What, then, of accepting life among my fellow flawed beings in this imperfect world? No comfort is found in denial or in persistently, aggressively resisting what may not have the possibility of ever changing. But to accept this grimness as an eternal truth and let it lie like lead on my soul is no help, either.

I look to the stars.

Physical stars exist in a surprising number of places, many lower and commoner than the depths of the sky, and I look to them and rally as I realize that they stand, every one, as beacons reminding me of what is good not only in the nature in which we imperfect beings live, but what is good within us as well. Small as our fineness may seem, individually and corporately, at times, it does exist, and if there is to be any hope of overcoming the dark, it must come from the nurturing of every little glint seen starring that darkness.

I look to the stars in the indigo distance of the sky, sparkling like promises of better things as they look back at me. I look to the lesser stars of reflected light that dazzle on earth, the  diamond dashes on every body of water and glimmering in every eye, never mind among real gems and the many things made expressly to be beautiful and good and positive. I look, more than anywhere else, at the multitude of stars that shine from the hearts of good and true people, people who are thoughtful and generous, merciful and hardworking, and kind and loving, sometimes despite and against the dark things of this world, and often, wonderfully, for the sole reason that they were made to be such earthly stars.

Back from the Brink

photoBurnout. Tension. Stress. Exhaustion. Doesn’t matter what I call it, the unfriendly truth of that state of being is the same. Distraction. Aching and malaise. Irritability, withdrawal, collapse. The dramatic drops in life participation and wholeness all come together in equally unpleasant responses.

What are the causes, catalysts and triggers? As many and varied as the moments of any lifetime, of a million lifetimes, can allow. How is it that I–or anyone else on this madly spinning globe–can survive such stuff assailing us, let alone prevail against it and win?

Why, in a number of ways, we all do it pretty much all of the time. That’s how our species can even continue to exist; if we didn’t have a whole arsenal of defenses and strategies for the cosmic battle, it would’ve taken little more than a moment’s stray breeze to blow us all to oblivion. But vulnerable and weak as we are, we do have our ways, and we survive.

Faith. Whether it’s the belief in something as grand and benevolent as a Supreme Being that will rescue me or in something as small and ephemeral as the offer of a stranger’s hand to grasp mine and pull me up, faith can overcome many an obstacle.

Hope, too. If not utterly confident of it, as long as I can summon a sense that there’s some probability or even possibility of better things ahead, I have a chance of mustering just enough strength, patience and will to wait for the good to come to me. I may not be able to reach for it myself any longer, but I can hang on, however thinly, to a promise of change and renewal. For the return of the light.

And love. When all other resources are at their lowest ebb, even faith and hope having withdrawn in the impenetrable distance, love can carry me through. I have a greater store than most, being surrounded as I am by not only the encouraging affection and support of spouse, family and friends but also the remarkably kind uplift I’ve received at the hands and words of a wide array of acquaintances and strangers buoying me in my life over every would-be catastrophic wave. Beyond even this, there is another love that serves me well, when I can remember it: the love inside me that, however pale and faint it’s grown in my weakened state, recognizes a need to care for and comfort others in their time of need. The moment I can step outside of my own need, my hunger, despair, anger, longing or sorrow, just enough to recollect the existence of anyone else, I tend to draw back, however slowly, from the brink myself.

I can look around again with eyes less inward-focused and with a heart more willing to keep living, hard as it may seem at the time, and crawl back toward more gracious and sanguine days. My fellow survivors show me how to do it all the time. In this, I am once again truly at peace.digitally enhanced photo

Dangerous Desires

My little retelling of the story of Hansel and GretelYes, I prefer a slightly less virulent interpretation of the tale than the early versions focusing on the stereotype of the ‘Wicked Stepmother’ and a father cruel enough to go along with her determination to abandon the children. After all, there’s still plenty of blame to go around when ordinary and seemingly decent people do thoughtless and stupid and even horrible things without considering the ultimate consequences, and even a fairly charitable interpretation of the story seems to me to illustrate that quite handily. And, lest I be accused of excessive softening of what is, after all, a pretty grim [!] tale, I left off the traditional cozy ending, to keep the pointy parts more firmly entrenched in any conscience that will allow them. Wink, wink.

graphite drawingLaw of Unforeseen Consequences

Late, when the children want to play, When chores are a burden at end of day, Why, what harm can come of it, anyway?

Who would begrudge their choice, this chance To lay down the work and pick up a dance? Who would look on this sweet play askance?

What if their Schottische, when lightning flashed, Upset the pitcher and milk was splashed? Ah, suddenly, their mother’s lashed

At them with her anger in surprise At such wild waste of the poor folk’s prize, And tears are smarting in all their eyes!

The rich folk scarcely would give a fig At spilling milk over one swift jig, But their consequence never did loom so big.

No innocent children ever guess That a tiny slip and a modest mess Will afford their mother such deep distress,

Nor mother foresee that her sorrowed scold Will send, heavy-hearted, into the cold Her little ones, lost to the family fold.

And how could their father know what would fall If they failed to answer his panicked call And foraged instead far from safety’s wall?

Too distant from hearth and garden run, Could the children know that their crimeless fun Would lead to endangering anyone?

So off to the forest’s gloom, replete With wild strawberries, so good to eat, They skip unconcerned, when a wilder sweet

Appears before their young, hungry eyes In the most appealingly false disguise Of a gingerbread palace, whose luring lies

Present irresistibly tempting charms To lead them directly into the arms Of the wicked witch whose most horrid harm’s

The deceptive sweetness her cottage seems To hold in its sugary halls of dreams–What covers in icing the children’s screams!

(How could these tender young cherubs guess That under the sparkling prettiness Was a ravening monster intent to fress On their flesh and bones in a gory mess!)

But the most nefarious in the tale Was also most ignorant that such frail And tender tidbits might possibly fail

To end up feeding her heart’s desire, Instead being fueled by fear and ire To shove her into her own oven’s fire!

The story is old, that in unformed youth We may lack the wisdom to see in truth, That apparent delights may be foul, forsooth

But we still hold on to our foolish ways Of dreaming and hoping in wishful haze And never considering that this daze

Can blind us to sanity–in its mire, Can lead to such unexpected, dire Results–unintentionally, Desire Makes us leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Foodie Tuesday: Guess My Weight!

photoI’ve always thought of those who focus on weight as being a little bit mean and, no pun intended, narrow-minded. There used to be people at the State Fair whose sole skill was apparently to guess the weight of passersby, and I could never imagine what purpose that served, most particularly what positive purpose it could possibly have. There are still plenty of places, notably supplement, nutrition and ‘health’ stores, that keep scales around for customers’ use, and again, that strikes me as unfriendly, since the aim seems to be to make people aware of their ‘improper’ weight so that they will purchase all sorts of cures and rescues from the proprietors. Yet another cruel use of the scale: humiliation and robbery. All perfectly legal and, the perpetrators would likely argue, well-meaning, as of course their goal is to save lives and make people healthy along the way. Sorry about the miserable portion of the transaction, y’all, but it’s necessary.

Well, yes, sometimes intervention’s the only tenable solution. But not nearly so often as one might think, if only when guided by the popular imagery of skinny-as-beautiful, as successful, as admirable, and anything other than skinny as not so. I’m well aware that to help one achieve and maintain good health over a long life, generally speaking it’s advisable to keep one’s weight in a range that is proportionate in a fairly specific way to one’s height, bone structure, and/or other physical criteria. But it’s also true that not only are there plenty of variables besides weight that are significant parts of the health and longevity puzzle but many people outside the ‘norms’ strictly in weight also survive and thrive and even live very long lives doing so. An additional truth: that beauty is widely, wildly variable in its manifestations, and in how we perceive it.

There is still the business about how my weight makes me feel, emotionally yes but more especially so, physically. I’m one of those fairly despicable people who never struggled with trying to weigh anything but what I did by simple default, but like most people (at least most of the privileged people I’ve known), I find that’s changing little by little as I age. So now, what little my weight changes has a more noticeable effect on how I feel. The bad news is that at long last, I do find it takes a little bit of effort to keep my weight in my own comfort zone. The good news is that, so far, it does take relatively little effort, because two small changes are starting to make it easier for me to predict what will or won’t work for me, in dietary terms.

Two small things: one, that I eat less heavily processed [‘junk’] food and see that more of what I do eat is thoughtfully prepared (i.e., not ‘junked up’ in preparation); the second, that I eat more thoughtfully. I simply don’t need to eat the quantities I eat, nor as often as I do so. Simple. Yet not. Because, of course, I’m your typical habit-ridden, easily tempted, food crazy creature, and I have grown up eating what I wanted, when I wanted, in whatever big batches I wanted, and without many consequences. Now that I’m subject to consequence it’s not quite an instantaneous transition to being smart about my eating, least of all about only eating when I’m genuinely hungry. I’m working on it. I feel better when I stick to it.

And I’m still not going to go hopping on the scale to weigh myself. How many pounds I weigh has nothing to do with whether my clothes fit the way I’d like them to or whether I feel attractive, and less than nothing to do with whether I’ll feel well and be healthy or I’ll survive for many years to come. So many factors play a part in that equation. I just want to help tip the odds a little in my favor if I can by eating a bit less, and a little bit less often, and when I do eat, eating things I really, truly enjoy, with mindful pleasure. More fun, and I hope, for a much longer time.photo