Risk/Reward

Breaking free of our bonds can send us soaring. Or it can make us crash hideously. Sometimes the same experiment or adventure can lead to both results, and sometimes that can happen in short shrift. Hubris leads, often enough, to overreaching and all manner of unrealistic expectations and lets us take stupid risks, if we get too caught up in our dreams or delusions to pay attention to their practical details.

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Breaking free of all constraints has its challenges; it can be a long, laborious, and sometimes dangerous task.

Icarus, My Cousin

A bird, aloft on updrafts in the sun

Above the path, could see one tiny soul,

Alone as if in death, yet singly, whole,

Complete and full contented as that One—

For on that path, and in that blessed place,

He knew such deep delight, such peace and calm

From drawing in each breath of nature’s balm

With that sweet sun so gentle on his face—

It seemed that like the bird, he too could fly,

Could rise above the green enchanted wood,

Need only think it and, behold, he could

Leap up at will, suspended in the sky—

Yet, knowing he could not thus really do,

He suddenly wept, bitter now with rue—

So turns the heart of merely mortal man,

Full in one moment of outlandish joy;

The next, despairing like a little boy,

Because the joy’s imperfect, as it can

Be seen by clearer eyes to truly be;

So rose that wanderer up to the crest,

Where soon the path was free of trees, and best,

Clear-viewed down from the cliff there to the sea—

He bound upon his shoulders feathered wings,

Sleek as the bird’s, to take by force his flight

And steal the sky, but its great burning light,

The blazing sun, had no use for such things,

And cast him, melted, in the ocean swell,

Gravity’s slave, thrown back from heav’n to hell.

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The world, powerful as it is, cannot fully contain me.

For myself, I will concede that I have been known to aim higher than my reach many a time, to think I am better or more skilled or more prepared for certain things than I really am. I have gotten knocked on my backside more than once; turned down, failed, fooled, exposed. There are fissures in the earth to prove the grandness of my fall. But what little I have accomplished was done mainly by dint of that same outsized expectation of my success, and without that I would hardly have moved since birth. So while I may grow and change as slowly as a tree breaking roots out of its paved prison cell, I will take my cue from that tree and keep expanding and hoping, and just see what I can do.

A Faraway Look

Looking inward requires the most thoughtful, clear, exacting kind of sight. It requires both the power to see great distances through any number of intervening obstacles or distractions and the will to pay attention to and accept what’s seen. These interior distances can present the greatest challenges in our lives. And when they’re conquered, having presented the greatest risk, they can at last offer the greatest rewards. Braving this adventure into self is often frightening and intimidating far beyond the terrors offered by ordinary, real life adventures ‘on the outside’. May I always be willing to take the leap.digital illustrationI wrote that thought down some time ago, and while it’s often played out in my life in a vast number of ways and to differing degrees, it seems to have come to the fore once again in a particularly pointed way. Every time I reach the crossroads I have to decide: do I dare to do what I really think I need to do? Do I want to do what I need to do? I know that other people are always undergoing these same challenges, most of them deeper and more perilous than my own, but I also know that every one of us worries and struggles and imagines and aspires uniquely, and that no one person’s journey is truly untouched by any other’s. And the more other people that I know are affected–directly or indirectly–by my decisions, the more I will wrestle with the inner process.

All of the standard stresses of existence that plague those of us fortunate enough to be beyond the most basic survival questions of food and shelter will continue to try us as long as we do exist. Health, work, age, finances, relationships, memory, strength, purpose: how we do fret and fear and puzzle our way through them is the ongoing test of our self-worth and contentment, and in turn, of our ability to give to others. Will I come out of the day on the plus side of any or all of these valuables? What decides it? The only certainty, for me, is that the need to address such questions never ceases.

Now let me close my eyes and go to work.

Against the Grain

It’s not only thanks to dyslexia that I get lots of things backwards. Say, this morning, when I realized that I was about to publish yesterday’s post because I forgot about it yesterday. That was just plain forgetfulness. So here you go.

Backwardness, now that’s a much more deeply embedded part of my nature than just reading and seeing physical things differently than others do. I see life differently, too, and sometimes it sets me off on paths that diverge and digress from all previously known ones. And that’s not inherently bad.

I don’t necessarily advocate bucking the popular trend just for the sake of being different. I certainly don’t advise doing the opposite of what everyone else does all of the time merely to prove you’re above them all. That can put you right in the path of danger; sometimes rules and boundaries and well-trod routes and even conformity derive from practical need and hard-won experience putting people out of harm’s way.

But there are times, too, when it does pay to be willing to hang the painting upside down, go home by a different road, or get up and dance when nobody else dares to get out of their chairs. Once in a while, the gift of getting out of sync with all the rest of creation is that you will learn something none of the rest know, feel something you’ve never felt before or even discover something previously hidden from the universal view. Even if it only lasts for a short while, the inner evolution that results might well be worth holding in your heart, your inside-out, upside-down and backward heart, for a very long time indeed.graphite drawing

Adrenaline & Naivete

photoHeadlong

Past waterfalls where spume and froth and water vapor cloud

All sense and rationality with which we are endowed

We plunge and splash, quite reckless, blind—drift to the very brink,

Oblivious that in the silver spray’s a dangerous drink

And in the mottled blues and greens’ wild currents, deep ahead,

Adventure’s treasures all await—if we don’t end up dead.photo

Of Frontiers and Pioneers

I stand in perpetual amazement and awe at the courage, will and dedication it takes to live on the cutting edge of things. How is it that people find those first inklings of a new trail and then, also, the nerve and wit to set foot on it, the persistence and bravery to pursue it to its unknown, unforeseeable end? Seems to me that there’s far more than a hint of the miraculous in the whole enterprise: to recognize that there’s something utterly new and unprecedented Out There somewhere is astounding enough, but to have the wherewithal to pursue it with passion or plain doggedness is much more remarkable, in my view.

It’s rather beyond my ken, this intrepid spirit–or willful folly–that moves anyone to go off into the great unknown and sail over the flat edge of the earth in a pipsqueak of a boat, looking for answers, or for adventure. While I know from my own very limited experience that those things in my life I’ve most treasured generally came at the price of a certain amount of risk beyond my usual, I’ve never quite been able to imagine how there can be people who actually seek such danger, who desire huge challenges. My idea of a grand showdown with Fate falls somewhere between going into a different grocery store than my usual ones and putting on pants that were a little too tight last week.

I am sincerely grateful that there are other people on this planet willing to plunge into the unknown and take on its vagueness and vagaries head first, for without them I wouldn’t exist. It’s not simply that I wouldn’t live in my accustomed comfort and safety, but indeed that I wouldn’t know what was safe-vs-poisonous to eat, let alone which of the seemingly available house-caves were already occupied by less than teddy-cuddly bears. On top of all the basics of safety and shelter and health I am glad that there have been explorers and inventors and pioneers of every sort, all out there avidly finding, making, fixing and each in his or her own way advancing the things that make life so livable nowadays for me and for others like me who are equally unprepared to live on the razor’s edge.

And I’m especially happy that so many survived these trips to the borders of reality and came back to tell the tale. It’s pretty swell for the rest of us, and I’ll bet you, too, are glad to be among the surviving heroes–especially if you’re among the handful that eventually came off the high of discovery and achievement and said to yourselves in a faint echo of what I was saying all along: ‘What on earth was I thinking!‘ If you’d like your thanks at your personal high noon or any other time, I’ll be right here in the safe and comfortable reality you bought for me, slinging no guns at Destiny other than those housed in my safe and comfortable internal universe.digitally enhanced drawing

Keeping Watch

Now that everyone seems to have the technology to make cheap watches (which I must designate in my heart mere instruments for marking time, not timepieces), I get to wondering whether the beauty of true clockworks will always be preserved or will only serve as curiosities and fodder for art. That precision we take so nonchalantly to be ours is a museum of measurement and the poetry of a mechanism we should keenly regret to lose if we value something more than the rigid math of time, the seamless meeting of Doing and Deadline.

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