Nothing.

Enjoying a few too many cocktails recently, I was describing the following post, which had only up until that point been scribbled somewhere inside my head. To my tipsy surprise, the friend with whom I was speaking told me that I definitely needed to publish these thoughts. Understanding they may very well have been equally as tipsy as I, still, now I have.

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Please don’t ever think that you have nothing. The only nothing you have, is the nothing you refuse to let go of, ignoring all the everythings around you in your ragged pursuit of it.

Let’s put it this way: imagine you’re a child at a party. Not just any party, but your birthday party. Your party, spent slouched in a chair sobbing, holding a deflated crippled balloon flaccidly in your lap. You tried to breathe new life into it, but every desperate effort was damned as the molecules of heaving air escaped through the unseen, unforeseen gash towards the opposite end. Weepily raising your head towards the sky you bellow at No One, lamenting the fact that this balloon – this very special singularly unique balloon – is no longer thriving, no longer yours to adore.

Your caterwauling never reaches its wail-volume potential however, being muffled instead by the tens of hundreds of bright balloons surrounding you – at this very moment bouncing off against your head, neck, back, and flanks. All of them full, vibrantly alive, and desiring of your attention. Bouncing joyfully in the hopes that in catching your tear-filled eye, they might persuade your entrenched frown right side ‘round.

These balloons not only absorb your mournful yelps, they also have the power to sooth your pain, muffling the hurt similar to the way they do the dirge. At the risk of taking the analogy too far, these balloons – these hundreds of balloons that are afloat especially for you on your special day – have the power to lift you up straight up out of your misery, up even out of yourself.

More often than not, this scenario I feel finds us choosing to ignore the hundreds of joyful choices around us, focusing instead our energies in attempting to resurrect the death that lies before us, this torn past unreturnable. If you’re like me in this, I’d remind you again to please not be that way. I have learned through my own wasted exertions that the nothing that once was will never again be. For even if it does come back ‘round, it will be something different than what is was before, something familiar yet new.

Truly, the nothing you think you’re trying to hold on to is already gone. It mightn’t have been your fault, but that isn’t the point. Let it go. Let it go so that you can grab on to the everythings that are right now at your door, beckoning to you, begging to lift you up as they too soar.

So please, don’t ever believe that you have nothing. For any nothing you do have, is simply the nothing that you alone choose to keep.

An Errant & Somewhat Ashen Thought

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Sitting at the red light one frigid early Ash Wednesday evening, my preoccupied between-jobs mind followed my drifted gaze.

I observed them as they exited the nearby church, in twos and threes, mothers and children both, freshly ashen-faced. (And just where are the fathers anyway? Do we ALL get tossed aside unneeded after our seed and wallets have been harvested?) While they trudged through the cold air determinedly to get back into their colder still cars, I noticed something.

Of these husbandless tribes, some of the children seemed typically miserable, exact-mirroring the look of the maternal unit they were trying diligently to distance themselves from, lagging behind. And then there were others who were atypically fully engaged with their mothers, animatedly eye-to-eye communicating while staying close, better to prove their “whatever their point is anyways,” as clearly and lovingly as possible.

It’s probably no surprise that I found myself jealous of this latter group, what with me being a recently reluctant member of the tossed aside dad club too. But I also noted envy towards the former group as well; similar to the way I imagine a legless man must feel about someone with a limp. “’Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,’ is a statement clearly concocted by one who has never actually had to test the theory,” I clucked to myself in defiance to that particular cult of thought.

The light greened, and I drove off to career pt. 2 of 4, forgetting soon thereafter about the experience till just now. Life does move on after all, whether you be limbed, amputated, or merely limping along.

Bart’s Amazing Disappearing Cloak*

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Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Raised in the Christian tradition, I had heard this story more often than even Mark must have told it. But it wasn’t until I was well past 40 something or another that I finally heard the words as they were originally said.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was BLIND.

As such, he had hopes few whatsoever in finding the damned thing again, should his take on this particular Jewish carpenter-turned public speaker prove to be wrong.

According to the new testament at any rate, we know that his gamble paid off. And maybe that’s where the story gets watered down for us. Winning always does look so easy in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Now my point here isn’t to address the dogmatic diatribes of who’s god-head is true, or who’s god-head is false, or even the idea that the whole lot of them might just be a case of communal wishful thinking. No, my point here is that Bartimaeus was blind. And he threw that blessed cloak away anyway.

Again, being raised in the Christian tradition, I am fairly certain that there are already camps forming for either side over a potential upcoming schism, as to whether he did so because he felt he no longer needed it, or because he felt that in a few short minutes he would be able to find it himself. Not the point here, kids. Why he did it doesn’t matter, that he did it, does.

You see, what he had was faith. True blue, potentially pie in the sky faith. In something, or in someone, or in his own good self doesn’t matter either. What matters is that he had it. Enough so that he could throw away the one thing that was guaranteed to protect him otherwise. The only thing that had proven itself to him up until that point.

And assuming that Mark wasn’t blowing total theological smoke, it carried him through to the end, this faith, making him presumably a happier guy who could now find his own cloak without any assistance, thankyouverymuch.

I don’t know why I heard it this way today, but I did.

The verse doesn’t expand on any back stories in regards to his possibly also having had a spouse who deceitfully broke all their promises to him, nor if he had had children who had also seemingly summarily dismissed him from their lives. It doesn’t even go into whether or not he was more than broken as a result of all these things.

In short, there was scant anything about him at all, sans a desperate plea for help and the fact that he and I both have cloaks – mine being woven much more with fear than fabric – that provided me with any sort of kinship with the man.

And still…

Still, I feel that as if this cat Bart could have faith – faith enough to literally toss aside the only protection a blind person of his day might have had against the elements – then I might also find this sort of power in me as well. I might also find the faith needed in some Thing, some One, hell, maybe even in some Me, someday as to be able to throw aside my personal cloak; carefully hand-woven over these past 40 something or another years. Maybe.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside any way.

Pray this cat someday has vision similar to do the same.

* Based on Mark 10:46 – 52.

Squandered Epiphanies

*

Sunday was one of those rare days when I found myself actually awake well before I needed to be, with more than enough time to get ready for church without rushing about.

Of course, and as these things go, I squandered every damned last extra minute, and found myself still bolting through the door yelping, “wait for me Jesus!” when I realized that I was already supposed to be where I was just now heading off to.

In fact, I was in such a rush that it wasn’t until I was seated, moistened by both a late summer sweat and just a hint of former Roman Catholic guilt – and exactly at the point in the mass wherein we pray for the recently deceased – that I realized something:

Someone wasn’t here today.

Someone who had been here – to my knowledge at any rate – just yesterday.

Not “here” as in the church itself, but “here” as in at all; as the day prior I had gotten word that Someone dear to me and dearer to others still had finally come upon their great reward. It was a Someone that I loved.

Someone that I loved.

And how odd it is that only in their death was I finally able to appreciate that feeling for what it was. Understand it for what it is. Acknowledge it to be true.

Someone I love and now miss is not here today. No, not ever more.

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And, as these epiphanies tend to cluster ‘round a recently illuminated mind, it then also occurred to me in very short order that this sort of thing happens every single day, a million times over. Every single day there are others – many, many others – who simply are no longer here today. Gone. Dust. Legacy. No longer are they a curse nor a blessing . No more are they anything, but what they gave unto us, and what we gave unto them in return.

And as such I wondered, why can’t we be better?

Why can’t we stop hating, judging and fearing?

Why can’t we forgive, and mend, and build anew?

Why can’t we be, and let be?

Why can’t we – well, as one of the greatest rock songs of all time once said – be friends?

Why can’t we let go of the trash in our heads, and use that freed space for great thoughts, and inner peace, and outer love, and for the possible and final realization of the full potential of what those wonderful grey bumpy things bouncing about inside of our heads promise to be when We grow up?

Whenever the fuck we decide to finally grow up…

On a microcosmic level example I suppose, and in an effort to shed even more ever-present R.C. guilt, why can’t I – even though the pain caused by their transgressions was deep, overwhelming, intentional and still being doled out in sporadic venomous rations – forgive my ex-hole enough as to finally stop calling them that? And why can’t I take that forgiveness and apply it to the incorrectly (and sometimes justified) assigned failings of my own good self as well?

For fucks sake, I watched both my dad die miserably years ago, and the ex-hole choosing to live in a similar fashion today. How many examples does it take for me – for any of us, really – to finally learn The Lesson?

Someone I love and will now miss is not here today. No, not ever more. And I never even got to say goodbye. I never did so because in my daily blindness, I never once thought that the time was nigh.

And yeah, I did use the word “nigh” just now so that you’d think that I was some sort of educated writer, but in honesty, I would give up the impression desired if I was granted just one more kiss on Rae’s cheek before she bolted off to her Yahweh.

Honestly, I would.

*

Stumbling back into my office from a quick run to her funeral service today, I was met by a private note amongst friends that two of the very best I have ever been blessed with were themselves blessed just hours before with the birth of their long-awaited twins; twins that I will forever more now call only Luke and Leia, by the way – regardless of their parents chagrin.

In reading the note, especially on the heels of the service I had just attended – one wherein a life was celebrated instead of a death being cursed – I had one last epiphany and saw that Tomorrow was once again here. Another chance to learn, grow, share, enjoy, and maybe – just maybe – build upon the efforts of those who lived yesterday to become just a little bit better tomorrow. For, just as someone isn’t here today, there are two more who have just arrived. “And the ripples of the good will continue to spread in wider circles than the ripples of the selfish, for they travel across much deeper waters.

Sounds good, right?

Someone I love and will now miss is not here today. I would like to be of a mind, and live in a world, where that is a celebration instead of a curse. A world where goodbyes are heard only through all the hellos also being made. A world to come, if We make it so. A world to come, if we decide to be friends.

Dedicated to Rachel Cohen.

Windows…

He sits there, drink in one hand, small unseen food product in the other.

I know it’s food, because he holds it gingerly, like it means something more than the size of it would normally let on. He sits in his chair, chewing. Possibly peanuts. Not to be confused with a food-chewing analytical expert, but to me his mouth definitely did seem to swish in the sort of fashion that you’d think it would, had he been chewing on nuts.

Anyway. He sits, eyes casually glued to what turns out to be a television screen. And he does so while she leaves, seemingly unnoticed, from the room. Walking briskly away in her white blouse and black slacks. A look very similar to what you’d expect Bebe Neuwirth to wear on the set of “Frasier,” though this specimen is NO Bebe Neuwirth. No bother, neither am I. Neither are any of us, really.

Mmmm, Bebe.

But alas, I digress.

So he sits and chews, as she sashay’s from the room. And though the poetician in me wants to say that the two were in perfect sync and beat with each other, for whatever reason they were not. And that, my friends, is all the story that there is to tell. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they in love with each other? In love with someone(s) else? I’ve no idea. I only spy them through their front bay window and make a mental note as I pass along.

Another bay looms into view as I stroll along. It’s a very Polish town, Buffalo, and many of the post-war “cookie cutters” reside here, all storeys single, all front windows bay. Maybe for ambiance, maybe for budget. Maybe just for passersby to have a tale to tell. But this second window provides none. The lights are all lit, but oddly. That weird sort of odd, where the owner was trying to leave just enough on to connect one room to the other, in an effort to traverse them when sauced. But not so many on as to blow their National Grid bill while they were out, getting sufficiently loaded for the experience.

The third looks similar, but buried deep within the kitchen – oh yes, in these houses, every room is viewable from the bay – is a woman hurriedly speaking on the phone. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but I do notice that something is wrong with the phone. Wrong, but right. And then I see it – she’s wrapping her finger round the phone’s cord.

A cord!

Have I stumbled upon the Smithsonian? No, just a person who knows better than to believe every advertiser who says that your way is dead and the next way is king. She’s wringing the cord like she’s nervous as she speaks anxious-eyed into the phone. Is she? I’ll never know, as I’ve already passed her by.

The final window I look into shows no communication, no companionship whatsoever. I suppose you could say, the sort of window I fear of one day owning myself. In it, is just one elderly woman, sitting alone in a televisonless, phoneless, and decidedly Bebe Neuwirthless room. Spilling over her comfy chair almost as if she and it are slowly morphing into one. I would normally compare her to a sloth, but honestly, I can’t think of a single sloth that has ever looked so forlorn. So alone. She sits, looking into her lap at something. Looking into her lap at nothing. If not rejoicing over avoiding It so long, hoping that Death would hurry up and come already. And in either case, dreading what she’ll offer It to drink when It finally arrives. The bleak scene deadens me as well.

So I continue on.

I continue on, but decide that my window-gazing is done for the night. Their stories will be forever unknown to me anyway, and I’m a mere shadow to them. A whitened-shave legged aging ghost walking in an effort to stay attractive to no one in particular at the moment. A wanderer who knows the path all to well from taking it almost every single night, though finding something new on each and every pass. A nobody who is only noticed – if at all – by the cloud-covered moon hovering brightly above. A moon that most likely sees – should he be paying attention – only a spindly armed pot-bellied dreamer peeking into worlds that he really shouldn’t be visiting in the first.

I continue on and am able to avoid what – had I still been window-gazing, would have surely stepped upon – a colony of ants. I spy them as they all toil furiously, together and in earnest. In one big and shameless heap of achievement. And I wonder, are they like that because they are not as smart as us, or are they like that because a long time ago, they in their wisdom decided to refuse to build windows?

Windows that would have kept the outside world outside, windows that would have kept them trapped?

Windows that would have allowed each to look into – ever-so slightly – each other’s souls?

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