Sunday, December 27, 2009

Consciousness Is A Gift

Consciousness is a gift given to each human. We could never plan something so complex, nor, given our limitations, would we want to try. Look how awkward are the attempts we make inventing robots. Even in a thousand years, I do not think a robot will ever exist that could cry watching a sunrise, or at the sight of a whale breaking the ocean surface as it leaps into the air. Furthermore, a robot will never have curiosity, a main feature of human consciousness. Humans are driven to know, and ask themselves, “What is crying?” and then they proceed to study this phenomenon. Research tells us that crying is a production of tears that result from emotional states that trigger the brain to send signals to the tear ducts. A build up of stress hormones is released through the tears and emotional tears are different in composition than say, the tears from being in a cold wind, or from smelling chopped onions. It is thought that other animals do not cry emotional tears. On average, men cry once a month and women cry five times a month, except during menstruation when they cry much more easily. After my daughter Naomi died at the age of nineteen, I cried every day for six years. (See my book about Naomi, death and dying.)
The gift of consciousness is greatest when we use it to discover truth, for then we become strong and approach the freedom of the divine. The lower realms are slavish and blind, but the higher spheres are where true happiness is found. Aristotle said, “Happiness is an activity, and the highest activity is in accordance with virtue, the result of contemplation.” This is why he remained a philosopher all his life.
I only have two weeks to move from my home, put my things in storage and begin my wandering. I love the bittersweet feeling of letting go.

See all my blogs at My Fairy-Tale Life

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Chain Of Events

My mother has begun entreating me not to travel in South America because of “murders”. But then, my mother has barely ventured past her backyard for twenty years and experiences the outside world vicariously through reading volumes of books. Some of my friends too, when they hear of my plans to wander around in South America, express concern for my safety. One person cited a recent article about murders in Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 11,000 in six years, and these were by the police. Rio is my first stop in South America, when I arrive to experience carnival.
THE DREAM is what matters to me, and I only want to experience all that comes to me. I trust the future will arrive bearing gifts, and so what if some gifts are unpleasant? If I desire to be safe and secure all my days, then I would not take risks that might lead me away from my comfort zone. But I need to be united with the matrix of existence and this leads me to live without barriers and go into mystery, or the opposite of safe, because it is where life abounds, but also death.
One of my best experiences in Africa was in Nairobi. One night I went to a dance hall in a poor neighborhood. I must have been the only white person for miles, and this was immediately after some civil unrest had seen rioting in the city that left scores homeless. Entering the darkened passageway to the club, I felt a tinge of fear, remembering that my mother had pleaded with me not to go to Africa because “They will kill you there, just to steal your shoes!” When my friends and I were inside and I got used to the dark, I realized that the way people looked at me, that maybe I was the first and last white person they ever expected to see in this place. Here, THE DREAM was unfolding and I found it perfect. I was in deepest, darkest Africa and that evening, I loved the night. A live band played steady African rhythms and I joined in the dancing, bonding among strangers. I liked what they liked, and had fun despite some stares.

Last night, I returned from a three-day visit to Chicago, where my lovely daughter Sarah performed in her last dance works at Columbia College. Now she is a graduate, and I am proud of her accomplishments. While I drove home from the airport late in the evening, I had to smile thinking of how remarkable travel is, and that it is a chain of events. Then I said a prayer of blessing to all those that assisted me along the way. Often we take for granted the little touches we receive. I thought back to the porter that opened the door for me at the hotel as I stepped into the cold air to walk to the subway. At the subway turnstile, I had to ask to get a ticket and was given directions by a young woman who then smiled and said, “Have a happy holiday!” Then the ride to the airport, and as I stepped off the train, the woman train driver leaned out her window as I passed by. I said “Thank you,” and she smiled, and said, “Your welcome!” In the corridor, a man played Christmas tunes on his saxophone. At the terminal, everyone was helpful going to the gates. We had to take off so many things at the metal detectors that I joked with the young woman behind me that soon we would be nude. She laughed as she took off her shoes and I finished taking off my belt, and said yes, the guards like their jobs. But we were being protected to insure our arrival. In the air, the stewards were polite and jovial. At one point, a steward announced “whoever had opened her nail polish on the plane, please put it away immediately because it could make other passengers sick.” I sat next to a young woman arriving home from a college exchange program in France. We traded travel stories. The pilot announced it was a stewards 35th birthday. Everyone applauded and cheered. On the shuttle bus from the terminal to the parking area, a young man was wearing shorts, although it was almost freezing outdoors. We joked and he said he was coming from Phoenix. Several of the passengers joked and laughed. I said I was arriving from Chicago, where several days earlier, people were wearing two coats when they went outdoors. As I retrieved my car from the airport parking lot at 10 PM, the attendant took my cash and said, “Drive safely, and have happy holidays!” I pulled on to the highway, turned on my radio and listened to a wonderful program about the Beatles and their music. Someone had put great care into the production for the free enjoyment of others like myself. At that point, I gave thanks and prayed for the blessing of all those who had touched my life and who I touched.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bound In The Inscrutable

What is it like, to live in a DREAM? It is to realize ephemerality— the fleeting moments in eternity. Whatever it is that we think we know is bound in the inscrutable; the grand mystery beyond human intellect and reason. Poets and philosophers struggle to come near truth, but like Icarus, when they fly too near the sun, their wings fail and they fall into the sea. Perhaps we are not given to knowing perfection because we ourselves are not perfect. We can only guess, and this guessing is like a dream. Even prophets, the most advanced among us, admit that they fall far short of knowing ultimate reality.
When I live in mystery, the place where I am humbled by “not knowing,” and am only aware of experiences that come to teach me, I call this living in THE DREAM. I do not hold on to moments, or avoid them, but simply trust that behind everything, and within every atom, divine love exists and informs the open heart and mind. Further, divine love cannot be contained, but only experienced. We can be vehicles for love, just as breath animates a lifeless flute and causes wonderful notes and melodies to emerge. But the big love, that which sustains universes, cannot be contained, but only experienced.

All things pass, all things return; eternally turns the wheel of Being. All things die, all things blossom again, eternal is the year of Being. All things break, all things are joined anew; eternally the house of Being builds itself the same. All things part, all things welcome each other again, eternally the ring of Being abides by itself. In each Now, Being begins; round each Here turns the sphere of There. The center is everywhere. Bent is the path of eternity. -Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Good Happens

Soon I will be homeless again. Don’t worry; it is by choice that I am putting my things away in my studio and giving up my home and car to be a wanderer. This is my calling, to experience the earth without barriers. I plan to leave Santa Fe around January 7, and first go to Santa Barbara, California. My parents are finding life more difficult because of their age, and I want to live near them for a month. My brother also lives there and has been doing most of the managing for their concerns. I will offer my devoted time to help and support them in whatever transitions they are in.
Mid February I will go to South America. When I traveled around the world in 2008, I lived in nineteen countries but missed South America. To accomplish my goal of taking pictures of people from across our planet, I need to visit this important continent.
Before I left the USA in 2008, I thought about starting in Rio de Janeiro, during carnival. Rio has intrigued me, but also intimidated and frightened me. It is known as a brash, seething, violent, and sensual city. I am aware of those same qualities in myself and I have been reluctant finding out how strong they might be. So in 2008, I started my traveling in Belize.
This time, I am starting in Rio de Janeiro, during carnival when the city hosts the “biggest party on earth.” (See a video) I must experience this revelry and take a thousand pictures. Yes, there will be carnal self-expression that goes beyond modest tastes, but certainly a passionate fervor will also be present. Samba parades will proceed day and night, and for some participants it is the culmination of an entire year of preparation. I am not going to be merely an outsider, but throw myself in the pulse and feel the beat. It is the only way, for then I have stories to tell and pictures to show. If I were to moralize and hold myself to a higher calling, perhaps I would not go. But in the streets is fantastic beauty and surprise. It is life laid bare, my brotherhood, and I crave this. I do not try and tell people to live differently, but I love all and connect, and in this, good happens. (Here is another fun carnival video from 1955)
Certainly, my character is challenged while living free. For instance when I was in Istanbul, I became acquainted with a Muslim who befriended me and gave me a small Koran. He worked in a rug shop and spoke English. I prayed with him in a mosque and met his wife and little boy. We went to dinner together, and in the evening drove around in his car. I became incredulous when he began pimping. “Surely you don’t want to spend the night alone!” I said no, but he persisted many times. This stuff happens when I travel and keep open. But then, I simply stayed strong in my love, and in the end, my friend had to respect me and learned something of value besides. And I learned something too. We made each other think.
After Rio, I probably will go to Buenos Aires, then west to Santiago, Chile, north to Bolivia, and maybe Peru.
THE DREAM will take me, shelter and protect me, strip me of what is unnecessary and be my teacher.