The gypsy undertaker cries
The lonesome organ grinder sighs
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn
But it’s not that way
I wasn’t born to lose you
(“I Want You”, Bob Dylan)
…it’s not that way. I wasn’t born to lose you. But maybe I was. Maybe we are born to lose what we love. I have lost many things I loved, often without realizing that I had loved them until after losing them. Loss is a fearsome bitch. She has no father, or even mother, but her parents are greed and ownership. I own nothing, save myself. Whenever I think you are mine, I have already lost you. And I so want you, if not to be mine, to be near.
I am a selfish little cur. Truly I am. When I started seeing my current therapist, I repeatedly asked her to name a diagnosis she might make of me, of my “peculiar” condition. Most annoyingly, she offered me the diagnosis of “human”. That is the last thing I want to be known as.
Humanity implies far too much vulnerability, far to much imperfection, far too much arrogance without cause. I don’t much care for the whole vulnerability trip…there is much pain there. I am tired of pain. Tired of dodging and weaving, only to be caught unaware by a lucky punch in the last place I could not protect. What good is that?
Yes, yes – pain is the touchstone of growth. Good. That’s good. But when you have endured so much pain, while people raise a glass to your resilience, you become desensitized, and number to further infliction of it. Again, what good is that? If I grow any more, I will be too big to fit through the door. Any door.
There is no container that fits me, and truth be told, I am not sure that i wish to fit into a container of any kind. Perhaps that lends itself to not really wanting to be in a solid state, preferring instead to be liquid or gas, fitting into containers on its own terms.
The problem with things like white supremacy culture, and status quo, is that it attempts to be a rigid framework of governance, of management, intent on maintaining some control of resources for its own self preservation. That just doesn’t work. Matter really doesn’t want to be confined, and it’s damned hard to control. Everything is vibrating all at once, at different rates.
My vibration may be a bit higher than a tree or a rock, but still, they are vibratory. We do ridiculous things like cut trees, and presume that has eliminated them. But, the law of conservation of matter an energy says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, and so cutting a tree releases that energy into the cosmos. It isn’t destroyed, only reappears in a different form. Somewhere. Somehow.
I believe this is the reason we see the Universe as expanding (or contracting, depending on which scientist you believe, and on which day they are speaking of it). We believe we can control the aggregate pool of energy, and we cannot. We don’t even know what that looks like. We wouldn’t be up to the job of managing that, even if we did. We’re too puny.
Perhaps energy that is prompted to change form by virtue of a negative action, such as indiscriminately clearing land and cutting trees, or murder, goes on to become the dark matter and dark energy that plagues astrophysicists. Maybe if we keep stocking that pool, it will eventually overtake the matter we all know.
What I want is frequently elusive. It’s usually difficult for me to describe, articulate, much less devote my energy toward something I can’t name. I suppose, when pressed, I can easily come up with immediate objects that I want, like to lose weight, or a new truck, or a clean apartment. Overall, though, most of those wants are transitory, and their achivement temporary. Maybe the are all that way.
My needs are sometimes a little different, a bit loftier. I need good health, I need a reliable income to provide necessities for myself, like food and shelter, veterinary and health care. World peace. Yeah – that’s do-able.
Seriously, though, I feel as though I need to feel safe in places and spaces within my orbit. Perhaps that is also transitory – when I take an airline flight, I feel the need to be assured that I will be safe, that my luggage will be safe, that I will arrive at my intended destination. Perhaps that is not reasonable, perhaps I should pay my quarter (or my somewhat more expensive ticket fee) and the rest is left to fortune. Fate, luck of the draw.
I had a discussion with a friend once about luck, and fate, and they were of the opinion there’s no such thing as luck. In their traditionally Christian theology, luck and fate are non-existent if you have faith in God. Everything is a function or result of God’s grace, and God’s intention for you. Hearing that, I felt like that equated to predeterminism, and I more or less reject that. What’s the point of having free will, if everything is already determined for you?
I suppose my theory, at least today, is that what we choose to do denotes expenditure of energy that accrues in a Universal store, or bank. If we are expending positive energy, that is more positivity that populates the store. If we are expending negative energy, likewise. This is how we collectively generate our reality. This is how we are collectively responsible for trends we are seeing now. I shudder to think about the individual events that make up that wave of energy.
We are interrelated. Many people would like to deny that, and do. It doesn’t matter, I believe it’s truth. What happened over here with George Floyd’s death a year ago sparked parallel protests and movements in Europe. They don’t now George Floyd, don’t understand policing in the U.S., but they saw coverage of the murder and were moved and impacted by it. The same is true of spread of viruses – both HIV and COVID have spread between nations, because the viruses don’t understand maps and governments and time zones.
I don’t know why this is coming up for me, except that I am still incredibly trouble by seeing a 16-year old girl shot down by a police officer for behavior that teen-agers have been engaging in for centuries. This child was not equipped to deal with her emotions, was not equipped to deal with conflict, was not equipped to deal with the bad behaviors of her peers…and this police officer was not equipped to think critically, or in a solutions-oriented fashion. That could of bad energy brought down the unethical, immoral end to the child’s life, and some are supporting the officer’s decision to do what he did. More negative energy spreads. And it has to go somewhere.
Where that cloud goes is unknown to us, but I would imagine that it influences how we feel, and what we do in the coming days, weeks, years. Just like when a football team loses a close game, and fans are angry, disappointed, heartbroken. Where I come from, when the Saints lost a close game, with controversial referee calls and penalties, people are shorter tempered over the next few days. There are fights well after the game is over, maybe even a few shooting and stabbings, some road rage, random irritability. And that’s just a football game.
We’re all interconnected. Even the Klansmen, the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the gays and the homophobes, the aetheists and the Christians. There would seem to be no room for predeterminism, then, if we’re all coming at the world from different – and conflicting – directions.
I’m still not quite sure why this is up for me right now, other than I am more and more full of a child-like wonder when I watch the news every day. My jaw drops, my lips part, and my mouth opens into a perfect circle…like Mr. Bill’s in the Mr. Bill Show (that’s been seen on Saturday Night Live a few years ago…Mr. Bill is a clay figure who gets killed in almost every episode, and the clay figure shows him with a round mouth and the narration intones “OH NOOOOOO” in a high voice). So, that’s what I feel like most mornings now…like Mr. Bill, who has just been smashed, or smushed, or killed by his arch-enemy Mr. Sluggo…and my only response is to open my mouth into a circular shape and squeal “OH NOOOOOOO!”.
So, that brings me to my writing prompt about rituals. I suppose tuning into CNN each morning is a ritual. It serves a purpose of sorts. I don’t feel quite complete without checking the state of the world before I go out into it. I always feel the need to know whether or not global thermonuclear war is about to show up near me today. Do I need an umbrella or a haz mat suit? Little things like that give me a vague sense of security.
I give less than two shits or a damn about checking the stock markets. Those are not relevant for me. I guess I’ve retained the habits of my original household – check the newspaper, see what’s going on (whatever it is), read the comics, drink coffee. I don’t have a physical newspaper any longer, but the practice seems to translate digitally pretty well. It’s expanded to include FaceBook and Twitter, and sometimes portends more than one cup of coffee. But that morning centering practice remails quite relevant for me.
Other rituals I have include repetititve obligations, if that makes any sense. For instance, I have a regular Monday morning meditation and mindfulness group at the Fellowship. There are a couple of people in the group that make me a little nuts, but not to the point of needing to reject the experience. We generally do a 20-minute meditation together, either guided or entirely silent (in either case, the participants are silent, of course). Knowing there are other people doing the same thing when I am doing it seems to enhance the collective energy of it, and I feel as though I have entered a meditative state while so engaged. Because I enjoy the effect of this, and find it beneficial, I count it as a ritual because it’s like a waypoint for my journey. I look forward to it on Monday morings, and don’t miss it unless something really drastic comes up (and that hasn’t happened so far).
I have other things that I do regularly, that I would say are just habits, and not quite rituals. Rituals seem to have a degree of invariability, and to some end. I don’t always have an energetic, or far reaching goal for my wants, but I do for my rituals and my needs. I am looking for long-term, continual result from my rituals…not so much from my wants. Those are generally more immediate, have a finite time span for accomplishment of a tangible goal. In the case of something like weight loss, I suppose it’s a little of both – the ritual of healthier habits should inform the finite and measurable goal of weight loss. At least one would hope.
That actually brings me to a somewhat puzzling juncture around rituals, and habits. I’ve been told that if you can stick to a practice for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Once a habit, it’s supposed to stick. What I’ve found is that even after many months, or even years of a habit, there is frequently recidivism. Alcoholics have described going back to alchoholic drinking after decades of abstinence. They usually attribute this to a rejection of auxiliary habits that contributed to maintenance of sobriety, things like adhering to 12-step practices and meeting attendance. I have found this true of things like compulsive eating, work habits, etc. I don’t quite get it.
So, i suppose there is a trap door to ritual..at least if one is expecting permanent change without having to do anything else. Here, I also wonder about unhealthy rituals. Maybe those are simply addictions? Drinking alcoholically, or substance abuse, is that not ritual? Repetitive action or behavior, highly stylized (we have our drinks of choice, drug of choice, and until the addiction makes one physically dependent, we can be pretty nitpicky about how we get the stuff).
One definition of ritual I found (Wikipedia) is: a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. In the context of addiction, consumption is indeed a religious ceremony, often solemn. Many an alcoholic described having a long-awaited drink at the end of every work day, at a set time, in a set place, often involving a set substance or cocktail, sometimes in a set glass or container. In some cases, the setting is also prescribed – favorite bar, or maybe at home alone, in a special chair or with special music. It can be very solemn. This is addiction.
There are some who are addicted to non-tangible things, like religion, gambling, books, or even anger. Imbibing such causes the same release of endorphins, and lights the brain up in much the same way. I would venture to say, however, that until the extremes are reached, these do not cause anaesthetic or analgesic changes in the brain, like alcohol or drugs might. To the extreme, however, there are any number of ancillary actions or reactions that might cause negative effects for all of these.
OK, that last bit might be a little off, since I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on television. But I get my point. And I suppose that’s what matters right now. When even I don’t get my own point, I’m in trouble and probably need more coffee. To which, yeah, I’m pretty much addicted. And I don’t much care. I’ve given up most of the rest of my vices, and I’m not giving up coffee, possibly even if my life depended on it.
It’s raining. It’s not particularly cold, and it’s not raining very hard, but it’s rain. Ordinarily I would not care, but have to go out to start this 12-step meeting tonight on-site, and I really don’t want to. I don’t quite understand why they are so anxious to do that. I could go pretty much the rest of my life without going to a face-to-face meeting. Zoom is doing me proud, and I’m fine with that. It takes so little to please me. (and that is a big, bold-faced LIE)
The gypsy undertaker cries