Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Place-ness


Some places have a definite feeling of “place-ness”, which means that when you are there, you feel like you’re Someplace: Famous monuments. Exotic ports. Grandma’s house. When you are there, you know where you are.

But place-ness in not just about popularity or familiarity. It’s about feelings, which vary between people and over time. It’s elusive. Today’s Center of the World might be tomorrow’s Nowhere.

When I was a fifteen, my dreams and aspirations revolved around malls: home of Cinnabon and the Guess Store and the multiplex. Malls, which were situated in a glamorous suburb where the houses were new and shiny (and matching!).

Then, over the years, the place-ness of that suburb wore off, presumably not just for me. And the shop fronts were vacant and the houses got shabby. And living in that once-shiny land feels like being left behind.

It's not all bad, however, because we do have The Dump. Sure, its stinks. Torn plastic flutters in the wind. It’s full to the dirty horizon with all the stuff that no one wants. But the wonder of the dump is its big machines, trundling over the wreckage, shuffling it to and fro. Machines of power and purpose. Machines that are yellow and really...cute.

You could say my world-view has changed.
A visit to The Dump makes me feel alive. More than an echoing mall, anyway. The Dump, you see, has become a Place.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Storyteller Hero


I saw a dog on a motorcycle once, a chow-chow, perched backwards behind the driver wearing Oakley sunglasses. On the highway.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Much stranger. Because the purpose of fiction is to make sense out of truth.

Each of us is building a story every moment of our lives. But sometimes the narrative breaks down. Something horrible happens. Something inexplicable. Or we wish we could scrap it all and start over.

Now, if you are a really skilled storyteller, maybe you can integrate it all: the pain and the joy and the "what the hell?". You can see the connections between all things. And that should make you a kind of hero.

Because the world needs good stories, more than anything. More than food. Because nothing is pointless if you have meaning.

And with stories your suffering is not in vain. And your trials will strengthen you. And your path leads somewhere.

And we can lift ourselves up with stories.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Shop Dog


The Shop smelled of broken dreams and lost love and mice and wet shoes, and all of it was fuzzy with dust.

As Virgil watched, almost smiling, I wobbled around, familiarizing myself with the layout. Under the racks and behind the bookcases and into the deserted corners.

I heaved my front end up onto boxes to sniff at the cardboard flaps and stuck my head into the bathroom that smelled of urine and followed a spider along the base of the wall, sniffing, sniffing, until it reared up in annoyance.

I got on my belly and wormed under the sales counter with the dropped change and lost receipts and balls of hair. And then I got stuck. Virgil tipped the counter up on two legs as I scrambled out, sneezing. Everything in the case shifted six inches to the front, and stayed that way.

I found sweaty old clothes hanging from pipes in the ceiling and cut glass candle sticks and board games in broken boxes and photos of someone's ancestors and jars of marbles and half-empty cardboard cartons spilling their contents onto the concrete in places where the linoleum had worn away. There were cases full of sparkly jewelry and broken meat grinders. Anything you could possibly want, you could find in our shop.

Overall, it was satisfactory. There and then, I embraced my new career as a Shop Dog.

Every night we watched television together, and every day we hobbled down the stairs to the Shop. Virgil read novels that smelled like autumn leaves. I lay on my bed behind the counter, or under the army surplus rack, and watched.

It wasn't  just a junk shop. People called it that because we weren't much for cleaning and things were organized according to whether Virgil Got Around To It.

But it was a lot more than a junk shop. A person looking at it with eyes of wonder would have seen a place of possibilities. Anything could be there. Everything was there. Everything in the whole world. I know, you think I'm exaggerating because you only look with your eyes. You glance over something, and you think you know it.

Well, it's not looking that will help, anyway. It's seeing. And seeing isn't only with your eyes.

You know they train dogs to be "seeing eyes", which is kind of ironic, considering our vision is, well, mediocre. But the thing is, dogs don't see with their eyes. We see with our hearts. We see with smell and sound and feel. We know all the scents on the wind, the tension in the air. We see what you're thinking. We hear what you don't say. We touch you with our eyes. We make things happen by wanting.

Dogs operate in a connected universe. People, not so. Even when you think you can see, you're blind: The Orphans of the Universe.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Incubating Evil

"Evil exists in everyone as a shadow, for the very reason that the world is in everyone. Being raised as a good person is a counter to the shadow of evil, of course...But if you are fortunate enough to have made choices on the good side of the equation, you must still acknowledge that the shadow exists in you somewhere...
Conditions That Release Shadow Energies:
Removing a sense of responsibility
Anonymity
Dehumanizing environments
Peer examples of bad behavior
Passive bystanders
Rigid levels of power
Prevailing chaos and disorder
Lack of meaning
Implicit permission to do harm
'Us-versus-them' mentality
Isolation
Lack of accountability"
Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets