The Secret of Reincarnation

acala

Gather ’round, Children, and I’ll tell you how to find my next incarnation.

Yes, yes. I know that you were worried, with my poor health, but who knows how to run this organization better than me? I couldn’t leave you hanging like that. Regime changes are always a time of great upheaval. It would just be easier if I came back.

To this end, I have devised a secret test, the answer of which will be given to one person. That person will give every applicant the the test to find out which one is me. Of course, being the one who made the test, I will know the answer. All others will be given a nice parting gift of lingering suspicion.

When you find me, find me young. The younger, the better, for then I shall be granted longer time to study my way back up. Perhaps I shall reach my pinnacle sooner the next time.  Look for the spark that reminds you of me. You’ll know it when you see it.

Lock me away from all outside influences and give me only the writings of great thinkers, of which I shall list. Mix in some of my own writings for flavor. I will have a hard time remembering who I was, so this must constantly be reinforced until I no longer doubt it.

Mind you, do this with love. Still afford me every honor of the titles I hold, and continue to bow in reverence. It will be hard for me to relearn all that I know now, but it will be easier if I know that everyone appreciates the effort.

Continue that and you’ll have another me. Is it reincarnation? Perhaps. The energy that is me might continue on, and I will try my best to redirect it. If not, I have given you the recipe to make another one of me, because this is how I was made. I have made some improvements in my time in this role, and I shall pass it on with the collected knowledge of the ones who came before, in the hopes that I can do it again better next time.

On second thought, wait a while. Find me when I am a teenager. I have had some dreams of late that I will wish to pursue. I have a deep regret for what I might have missed back then…

What’s that? Yes, you are probably right, my friend. Dukkha. The earlier I start, the better chance I have of breaking free of the cycle and be changed. 43rd time’s a charm, right?

In the end, it is an ancient experiment. Pick someone with potential, give them every chance and resource to achieve in a completely sterile environment and see if you came make one transcend. Take notes and try again.

It was never about authority, though the time a reincarnated being has spent steeping in the foundations of the belief would put them ahead of most scholars, just generally.

The goal was to build an archtype. Every hereditary system uses this as the core. Kings promise to produce issue of their same caliber, and enlightened masters use this to provide a blue print to build another, only this time better.

It is a legacy of sorts, one which outlives buildings and trappings. An eternal bet against Fate, that it is just mapped out perfectly and every word is said at just the right time, I’ll win at this Game of Life.

I started out as a random kid once. This is what they achieved with that kid, and I almost made it. I glimpsed the other side and I know I can get there if I just take another route. Turn left instead of right. I am too old to make the journey again, but maybe next time…

What was that? Vote on it?! Hahaha! That is funny. An inner faction will hijack the experiment to the benefit of some know-it-all, another faction will disagree and then the thing splits apart. There is no accountability and little direction. Might as well grab someone randomly out of the hallway…

Come to think of it, that is not a bad idea. Grab the next monk that walks by and I’ll assign him the ‘Keeper of the Keys of Knowledge’ or some-such. I’ll teach him the three main precepts that I want preserved and give him the holy charge of enforcing it. Tell him that he can have a helper and that he should start a little club. I’ll give him one of these doodads here to make it feel official…

Sorry? Oh! The Test! I got a little distracted there. Yeah, don’t worry about it. We have time. If we don’t get to it, you’ll think of something…

Buddha Park

The Fox

fennec-fox_523_600x450

I caught a fox in the farm truck. At least, I am pretty sure I did…

It’s a wet, dark night tonight. The clouds still hang fat and grey in the sky, though they seem to be done dumping water on us. The remnants of a Supermoon peek through the cracks. A drenching like this is rare and the toads sound thrilled. At times like this, the desert is peaceful and sated, with a medicinal creosote scent hanging in the warm damp air.

When I opened the driver’s door on the old Amigo (1995’s nicest bachelor wagon), a light went off and an animal shape lept to the alert. I remember the vague shape and the dark eyes in the moments it took me to gently relatch the door.

The frenzy of escape took over, and the creature began to run about the inside of the cab as if inside an egg in space. It hit each window squarely with the back legs, as if to burst forth, the chase brightly lit by flashes of the moon. The underbelly was brilliantly white and the canine paws comically dainty.

Suddenly, stillness. I had long enough to wonder what to do now, before I heard a scrambling, and the creature escaped through one of the Jeep-like holes in the back. As it escaped out the back, I lept to see if I could see it clearly, but it was a shape lost in the desert night.

I reflected on what seemed a good omen and wondered about what made it lucky. Until that moment, I had no idea that a fox was in the area. This is important news to a chicken farmer. I’ll have to rethink my security, which has grown lax. I have a jump on things, though, because I spotted the fox.

In the Shinto mythos, the Fox would be Inari, a lucky god and patron of farmers. The Hindu would say that it had brought me a message, perhaps of great change from Kali. The Japanese, themselves, believe that it could really go either way and the Chinese believe simply that it is a messenger of bad luck. The Japanese counter this with statues of Oinari’s Messenger, Kitsune, that stand guard against these other bad fox spirits.

In Feng Shui, this would be Kimon, warning me that my current path was perilous and fraught with danger. The Tibetans would warn that the color portends calamity.  

Or, perhaps, it is simply a rainy night and it is good to get in out of it, especially when your home is a burrow in the ground.

If it needs meaning, I’ll call it Kitsune, our only defense against the demon gate of the Northeast. That sounds better.

fox mask

Of course, it was probably just one of my barn cats, who look like ‘Morris the Cat’ from the old cat food commercials, but that wouldn’t have been as good a story.

Morris-the-Cat

_/*\_

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Further reading: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/oinari.shtml

The stunning mask was the work of this artist: https://www.etsy.com/listing/94972453/white-okami-kitsune-mask-japanese-fox

Suicide is Painless (The Sad Clown, Part 2)

mork-orson

A friend of mine posted a statement this morning, in reference to the article Being Suicidal: What It Feels Like to Want to Kill Yourself“, which said simply “Honestly, cannot comprehend.”

This was before the more vivid picture arose of Robin Williams’ passing. We were left with so many questions, but this is one I had experience with, and could answer with some authority.

The closest example I can give you, … , is that one time you were so tired that your chest aches. All you wanted to do was close your eyes, and the very act of being upright and awake seemed like a Sisyphean task.

In a suicidal depression, your heart hangs like a heavy weight and it is almost impossible to lift it off the floor. At that point, every error and failing comes swooping in like a vulture, and even stupid things gain a soul-crushing gravity. The errors and sins pile in, more and more, until the idea of laying it all down sounds so sweet and peaceful. The self-preservation mindset is overridden with the idea that killing yourself is not nearly as scary as facing tomorrow. There is a gasping relief in the idea that it is almost over, and a peace that it is all in your control. The act gains urgency as the realization settles in that it had always been in your power to end it and there was really no need to suffer as long as you have already.

That is the tipping point. Sometimes, it can be held at bay with goodbye letters as you struggle to explain why this course makes the most sense, and the unexpected return of a close friend or a well-timed phone call can make all the difference. Even then, though, the sirens’ song of self-destruction lures you back to the rocks and it takes continued, pointed resistance to stay focused on staying alive.

When you are self-destructive, killing yourself is the easy part. Staying distracted enough to keep going is an almost impossible task.”

His reply is typical as a normal person, with a genuine love of life, grapples with this issue. He compares it to the most awful thing he can remember, but finds a way to hit the nail on the head with the following statement “Maybe I haven’t been miserable enough for long enough…. Even with that, I knew that things would improve, or that, at the least, I could manage to tolerate them. If I couldn’t, who knows what I might miss out on…? You can always kill yourself tomorrow, and I’m a bit of a procrastinator anyway…

I don’t seem to have the psychic makeup to be suicidal, too much curiosity, maybe. I mulled it over when I was younger — don’t all teenagers at least mull it over at some point? — and dismissed it when it realized that what I _really_ wanted was to both be dead and somehow get to stick around and see just how put out by the whole thing everyone was.

That clearly is unfeasible.”

That’s when it came back to me. I was horribly suicidal for a long stretch of my young adulthood, but there was a point when I suddenly got it to stop. The stupidly simple epiphany that lead me out of that particular darkness, and I haven’t returned for 14 years.

That was when everything changed for me. A local evening radio show (back when they were still competing with Howard Stern’s all-day radio stuff) played a comedian with music in the background. He started off by stating all the really good reasons for killing yourself before shifting gears and listing everything you’d miss. “You know how the Beach Boys say ‘Two Girls for Every Boy?’ That means that there will be four for me. A job would open up. An Apartment. Yet, you won’t get to see what the next marshmallow for Lucky Charms would be.” His list went on and on until I was weeping with the need to see what was next.

I gave it up then. I realized that, if I was willing to make such a drastic change, a less drastic change was to simply change everything. I still made a lot of bad choices and felt a lot of pain, but goddamn it, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because I was still alive. I packed a bag and walked out on life. I joined the carnival, of all things. Anything, just to get away from that life that nearly drove me to suicide. Sure, I still packed the biggest problem I had, which was me, but I learned to make peace with it.

You’re right. Curiosity is the perfect foil to suicide. Learning that depression is your psyche’s way of dealing with too many emotions at once is another.

I have spent 14 years searching the internet for that recording and I have never found it. I am starting to wonder if it even existed outside of my sad, dark little psychosis.”

The Professor has deep understanding. “Doesn’t matter. Clearly, it’s what you needed to hear at the time.

There have been times when I wished I could share it with someone else who needed it. It worked for me. I have become desperately, painfully alive, and I am going to live forever if I have anything to say about it.

… and that is one thing I can say is an “Absolute Truth.” I want to see where this thing goes. The world is full of awful and things seem at their absolute worst, but then something amazing happens, and you’ll want to be there for it.

From there, the best part is the sharing, as we spin the legends of our specific tribe. They grow in the telling as you realize that the listener is hooked so you had better make it good. Maybe I cannot make people laugh anymore, but I can still spin the lights of the universe and leave them in the dreams of children.

I had had a long dark winter that year. I had gone completely insane the year before, and I was having trouble putting that back together. I was writing goodbye letters and listening to the radio, every song a personal reminder of some failing. At the time, the evening show DJ’s were doing their best rip off of Howard Stern and played that piece I mentioned. The timing was perfect and I realized that I ran the risk of missing all the wonder that life promised.

I still lived a completely haywire life. I have been in fear for my life and have felt like the world was shitting on me and me alone. I have been the Atheist who prayed in the foxhole.  I have made awful decisions and left destruction in my wake as I burned bridges.

… but I never considered suicide again. When all is lost, suicide is a drastic change. It is less drastic to just drop everything and leave. If everything is lost, then everything can be changed.
robin rehab
What if Robin Williams had simply said, “Forget this,” and went to work at that Dairy Queen in Lindstrom, Minnesota? What do you think would have happened? I believe he would have been inundated with people who love him.  I can see people driving across the country just to meet him face to face. Shake his hand. Tell them how much he meant to them.

I would have been one of them. Without a father, I imprinted on Robin Williams, using him as the model for how I interacted with the world… and it worked. I did not find fame with it. I was not expected to always be the funny man, and did not alienate anyone when I couldn’t make them laugh anymore.

It was easier for me to walk away from who I was. I could find my way out of the darkness because there was no one demanding that I go back to retrieve any of it.

My wife is facing a second brain surgery for Geniculate Neuralgia, and my spinal bone spurs have to take a back seat until that is done. This leaves me in twisted pain as I try to find anything to make the pain stop. Sometimes I am left panting and weeping in misery, and I wonder if I am dying.

… but I can’t die yet. I have two daughters to give away if they decide to wed. Someone has to make sure to hold a shotgun and put the fear of the Godless into their Prom Dates. I have rediscovered old friends I had missed dearly and discovered new friends that fill my life with joy and love.

There is also my wife, who I first stood in the cold November rain for three hours with, just talking. She’s the cohort I always wished for, and the co-conspirator in so many good memories. We know each other’s humor and share each other’s dreams. I met her four years after I was going to kill myself. If I hadn’t heard that recording that night, we would have never made the connection that saved us both. We’ve broken each other’s hearts, and thought that all was lost, but as soon as we are together again, the bonfires blaze and we can’t stand to be away from each other, even for an hour, our heads bowed together as we snicker at the world that we hide from together.

I think Robin Williams felt that he had drifted away from too many of the people that he shared that with. In 2009, we heard that he was trying to reconnect with his first child from his first marriage. His failed TV show recently repaired him with Pam Dawber from the original series that launched his career. He was newly remarried, but so much of his life was behind a wall of pain and constant apology that he felt was impenetrable.

Why didn’t you just run off and have a crazy religious experience somewhere, Robin? Grow your beard out and become a rapper or wear a bag on your head and claim to be no one?

Just tell us that you quit, Robin. We would have preferred that to this.

So if this is some twisted version of the Celebrity-Protection-Program, when a star drops off of the map to hang out with Andy Kaufman, Tupac and Elvis, you win. My sappy farewell will be added to the clamoring and weeping that would make us all feel foolish if you poked your head up again to say, “Just Kidding,” but I deserve at least a post card one day, OK?

Otherwise, farewell Robin Williams. If there is more than this, I’ll look you up when I get there.
Robin_Williams_Canada

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To contribute to my wife’s second brain surgery, here is the link: http://www.gofundme.com/likeaholeinthehead

For The Sad Clown, part 1: https://grimmjest.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/the-sad-clown/

The Sad Clown

Mork calling Orson.... Come in Orson...

Mork calling Orson…. Come in Orson…

Robin Williams death hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. The trigger, of all things, was the local radio station playing Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady.’ I went from remembering Mrs. Doubtfire to weeping in my car.

It is an argument against sheltering your child.

Robin Williams was always quite open about his sheltered childhood. His parents were rich and doting, and kept him hidden from the world. When you get out of such a situation, everything you discover is “What else were they hiding from me?” It also can become scary and unknown.

The common thread can be seen in nearly every character he has ever played. He began as extraordinary but out of sync. He is mistaken for other than what he is, and he’s able to use this to ease people into realizing what he was, though the whole situation is doomed to spin out of control. You are given the reassurance, though, that there will be daily accountability.

In ‘Mork & Mindy,’ Mindy first mistakes Mork for a priest. Hijinks ensue, people laugh, until it ends up with them raising Johnathan Winters as a child. You are always promised an interesting ride before it inevitably goes off of the rails. He took this insanity on the road and it made him a star.

Now people are watching and you have to be ‘on’ all the time. Robin found that intoxicants could help him be ‘on’ longer. Quicker than you think, it becomes the ‘on’ before, inevitably, not being enough. Then, you’re in the dark again, alone and afraid.

Alone and in the dark, Mork is held accountable to Orson.

From pure insanity, Robin’s career began to try to explain him. The child who never grew up, forced into adulthood. He was crazy, but he meant well. There was always something different about him, slightly off. It was as if he were always hinting at the idea that he was some kind of fraud.

All that seemed to be lacking was the accountability.

Mrs. Doubtfire seemed to be the start of his apology phase. He had been a lousy father but he really does love his kids and would do anything for them. He went on to mad genius, winning awards until ‘What Dreams May Come.’ Sober and contrite, his popularity waned as he delved into more serious roles. His theme became revealing the darkness beneath.

Eventually, his dark introspective phase ended and he wanted us to invest in him one more time. He promised us he could be funny again, if we gave him one more chance.

Instead, his show, “The Crazy Ones,’ was cancelled after one season.

Being able to make people laugh is a powerful feeling. Your own heart bursts with joy and it feels like young love. It is a hard superpower to lose.

When my father left when I was four, I lead a sheltered life as my mother always feared that he would return to steal me away. I imprinted on this strange man as there is a slight family resemblance. I have been stopped on the street, all over the country, just to be told that I looked like him. As a child, I learned his routines to make the other kids laugh, so that there was some reason to like me when I never ran around the neighborhood with them or came over their houses.

Solitude can be a great peace to some, but to live in constant apology is another. The all-seeing eye of Orson is always there, waiting to see where you went wrong, reminding you of faults. There is not time in that empty place, and no hurt has healed with time. Time goes backwards there, and you feel the greatest regret for the safety of childhood, when all mistakes seemed so minor and the cares fewer.

We heard back from the mercy flight service, and my wife is cleared to fly across the country for her second brain surgery. She’ll be making this trip without me, it appears. For the past week, my pain has lessened, getting my hopes up, though it spreads to other parts of my body now. At least it is out of my head. Then another storm rolls in and I am dumped into twisted pain again. I can hear a -ping- when I turn my neck, like running your thumbnail down the teeth of a comb, when I turn my head the wrong way.

I needed cheering up, so I went online. Something told me to check the news, something I haven’t done in a week or two. Despite checking, I heard about it 15 minutes afterwards, from a friend. Robin Williams: Dead by Apparent Suicide.

I immediately had the thought, “If I had a time machine…” I have never done that before. Suddenly all the emotions on the screen from various films flew through my head as I reconstructed the final scene. It didn’t seem real. I double checked to see if it was a hoax, as it was in 2012.

If I could have talked to him, what would I say? Should I have written him a letter? Should I have watched his show? Didn’t he know how important he was to me?

You taught me that redemption was always possible. Why didn’t you believe it yourself?

Farewell, Robin Williams. The world is a darker place without you.

Further reading: Childhood – http://www.freep.com/article/20140811/ENT07/308110195/1996-interview-Robin-Williams-movie-Jack

Apology- http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/sep/20/robin-williams-worlds-greatest-dad-alcohol-drugs

Sci Fi Sexism

How does one address the rampant juvenile sexism in today’s Sci Fi crowd? We will never live in a world of Star Trek Miniskirt Uniforms with you snickering and making rude comments.

The answer, it appears, might be placement. I saw this masterful exchange earlier in the comment section of a young woman’s Cos-Play photo, and I applaud the artist!

(The names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty.)

Image

Shattered

There really was a time when I was the All American Boy. An overly-sheltered White boy from the suburbs of a major city in the Midwest. I have stood before a Congregation and announce my calling to the Ministry. I never played sports, for one reason or another, but my parents didn’t believe in snowblowers or gas powered lawnmowers (At least, not until I moved out), so I was in surprisingly good shape for someone who has seen every Gilligan’s Island episode.

I desperately wanted to be GI Joe. We took the ASVAB at my technical school, and I scored a 96%. This was not because I knew all the answers so much as I was a dyslexic Printer who sees forms differently than other people. I was always the ‘forms guy.’

The core blood of most Printworks in the 90’s was medical forms. The challenge was that Hospitals in the Northeast are old and well established. It was not uncommon that a form ordered in bulk in the 70’s had finally run out, and you’d get a rush order for the next box that would last for 20 years. There was also the chance that it was another Shop’s form, but it wasn’t going to be anymore.

No matter how intricate the form, I could have it reproduced in 20 minutes, down to the ‘mistyped’ form number signature, 3° skewed, that shops use to identify their work. I could have an original form in 15. This was on a CRT monitor using Aldus Pagemaker.

It was in this stage that it was finally discovered that I was dyslexic. Years of being labeled an underachiever in school, and it took a Printing Teacher looking at my notes to find out. To me, a form looks like a completely different creature than what you would see, and if I were asked to print a multiple choice ‘fill in the circle completely with a #2 pencil’ form, based on the answers I knew, I was able to match, with apparent great accuracy, the randomization of the rest of the form.

It was intentional, I assure you. The Army recruiters would tell a story about ‘some girl’ who had been ‘told the whole time that, on the ASVAB, when in doubt, put “C.”‘ So, test day comes and she put “C” for every answer, passed with an 86% and caused a massive scandal. So, we were told to do the best we could with what we knew but skip any of the ones that we weren’t sure about. We were then told to ‘Christmas Tree’ the rest. If it looked like it should have a dot in a specific space for proper dispersal, give it one.

Though I was obviously thrilled at achieving a grade that assured me of Officer’s Training, the Realist in me could admit quite frankly that I had only known half of the answers legitimately, and even some of those I changed when they didn’t look like it matched the randomization I had in my brain. Part of me wondered if that might not be the point, but I was 17 with an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

My original plan was to become Chesty Puller. The Recruiting Office was one of the few places that I was allowed to ‘hang out’ at as long as I liked. I was not only enamored with becoming a Marine, it also helped that the Marine Recruiting office was right across the street from Pizza King, which always had the coolest video games in their lobby, and both were on my walk home from the Library. My parents thought I was at the Recruiters a lot more than I was, and always willing to vouch for you if you at least stopped in to say, “Hello.”

In the end, I betrayed their kindness. The Army Recruiter swept in with a better story, assuring me that he would give me choices that the Marines could not. ‘Do you know that the Marines make you buy all of your uniforms? We give you the first set for free. Hell, you don’t get a decision on MOS in the Marines.’

Much later, I came to realize that this was because 17 year olds make bad decisions.

With GI Joe firmly in mind, I decided that my quickest path to the Green Berets was Infantry. Luckily, being the 90’s, this was not a deadly decision. Not so lucky was the fact that, prior to Afghanistan, they were still teaching Infantry the old-school way, with 30 miles road marches and 5+ mile runs.

It was during one of these 5 mile runs that both of my tibias (shin bones) broke. It was the beginning of the end.

I turned down 4 offers of Medical Discharge before I accepted the fifth. I had been holding out for an MOS change, but when you have been on crutches for a year and even Walter Reed Army Medical Center can’t put you back together, you get labeled a ‘Soldier Without Potential.’

It was good for me. If I had it to do over… I would have been a Marine.

Anon. Infantry Soldier jumps the rail at the Fort Benning Infantry Museum to pose with a display. 1995

Anon. Infantry Soldier jumps the rail at the Fort Benning Infantry Museum to pose with a display. 1995

I am pretty sure this is the only picture of my in Uniform. I am standing funny because I have left my crutches behind on the railing.