by Dennis McHale, 2017
by Dennis McHale, 2017
This is how I start my days.
At four a.m. I awaken with a start. It isn’t that I wasn’t sleeping well, but this is my witching hour. The first five seconds is the hardest, as in my waking dream, I reach over to gaze upon my wife and instantly realize … she is no longer there. She will never be there again. It is a fleeting and aching “awakening”, but this, too, is part of my healing. The pain dissipates quickly, and I realize that one day I won’t even have this. It’s a cruel way to start each morning, but it is a new morning, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?
I stretch deeply and take a moment to gaze out the window into the moon-drenched early morning darkness. I am in absolute awe at the beauty of its silence. This…
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The hands of the Artist,
emissaries of the mind –
separate from all musing
What can be imagined,
what must be created,
from the heart upward
flowing into thoughts
to hopeful, colored hands.
The hands of the Artist
makes visible the width,
and breadth and depth
of expressive imagination
while paint-stained fingers
creatively caress canvases,
illuminating and breathing life
into the visceral void.
What remains are not
the hands of the Artist.
What remains is enduring
grandeur and grace;
the blessing of the soul
the echoes of the heart,
a gift for future generations.
What remains is truth;
his inspired vision,
her lasting legacy.
across deep blue ocean swells
lover’s passion-clenched eyelids
soon sleep descending
soon sleep descending
life demands its sacrifice
death a bitter toll
death a bitter toll
human souls ascend the scale
stars suddenly aglow
stars sudden aglow
midnight meadows bathed in light
winds begin to blow
winds begin to blow
softly swaying, children dance
to music unheard
to music unheard
new life from true love formed
the world rejoices
the world rejoices
eagles screech their summer songs
eyes glancing upward
eyes glancing upward
a silent voice offers prayer
clouds begin to weep
clouds begin to weep
lashing rains, the voice of God
Like a butterfly, obsessively fluttering in my mind:
Open-winged and delicately perched within
her soft pudenda; smiles in kind
dripping dew, and all for the want of a kiss.
She is…vinegar and vanilla, vaseline and vagina.
breathing the soft whisper of invitation.
I am a prisoner to her intelligence, her volition, her erudition.
She is a cascade of vulva vocabulary:
vibrant and vivid: the supreme vivisection of vacuous idolatry.
Her dictionary is a thrashing of vague innuendos;
and all meaning is encoded in the fluttering of her labial wings.
Splayed out on her gypsy brass bed, she calls to me
in wet words and moist verse:
songs sung in disdainful agitation – her cheeks,
red as those of Modigliani’s whores.
Teasing, she baffles me with the pink virtuosity
of her tongue and seductive mouth.
In vain, I reach out to the heat of inevitability,
the dark depths of her cavities.
It was she who devoured my strong ancestors:
she who left Christ crying and gasping for breath.
What hope then for me, with only my poet’s pen
and second-hand adjectives to protect me?
With the careful flick of her wrist
the sensual stroke of her brush
She gives us a watercolor day
Purple blue skies, a soft ochre sun,
Summer winds begin to sing
Blurred pink and white blossoms
Shady walks of lilac and henna
Far away jade and twilight green,
A loose balloon or two
Floating lazy and proud
Against titanium clouds
A water color day, quiet colors run
Run with water spilled edges
Revealing shadowing birds nesting
Amongst slender olive stems
Beside indigo blue streams
Moving slowly as the water blends
Wondering, dreaming, what to do
Splashing one color upon another
Within her watercolor day
Beauty, I’m told
comes from within
From the depth of the heart,
not from the skin
From fierce independence
softened by grace
From the splendor of hope,
not just the face
I didn’t see this coming,
yet I accept it as true
I was seeking my equal
the day I found you
When I look in your eyes,
my heart is inspired
And I think to myself,
“She is filled with such fire!”
I was captured by beauty,
but I’m held by respect
For what makes you strong
makes you perfect
I’d gift you my heart
and my soul, if you please
If you walk by my side,
not to follow or lead
Perhaps one day
we’ll share deep love and desire
Built not upon beauty,
but these strengths I admire
This poem is dedicated to all members and artists of The Rock of Ages Consortium, for your love and support of fellow artists everywhere who we honor on this site by exhibiting their incredible works of “colour” online.
“I am a Rock! and yield to none!”
The swelling words of a tiny smooth stone,
“Neither time nor season can alter me;
I am abiding, while the ages flee.
The pelting hail and the drizzling rain
Have tried to soften me, long, in vain;
And the tender dew has sought to melt,
Or touch my heart; but it was not felt.
There’s none that can tell about my birth,
For I’m as old as the spinning earth.
Generations of man arise and pass
Out of the world, like the blades of grass;
And many a foot on me has trod,
That’s gone from sight, and under the sod!
I am a Rock! but who art thou,
Painting beneath the restless bough?”
The painter was shocked at this rude salute,
And lay for a moment abashed and mute;
She never before had been so near to here
A rock that spoke, this mundane sphere;
And she felt for a time at a loss to know
How to answer a thing so coarse and low.
But to give reproof of a nobler sort
Than the angry look, or the keen retort,
At length she said, in a gentle tone,
“Since it has happened that you were thrown
Into this river that’s become your home
From beneath this tree, as a child I grew,
Now listening to a stone, so hard and new.”
And so it shall be, this Rock that speaks to me,
I will cover it with paint, and then we’ll see,
And quickly adorn with the stroke of my brush
It’s time, it’s season, it’s storm, it’s touch,
Not the gentle dew, nor the grinding heel
Shall ever subdue, or make it feel
Abandoned, unloved, unwanted, alone
For I’ll paint this rock and take it home.
But soon, from this Rock, she sunk away
From the comfortless spot where the pebbles lay.
But it was not long before the soil broke
The artist sat once more ‘neath mighty oak!
And, as she painted and painted; the colors spread,
The Rock looked up, and wondering said,
“Modest artist! Please, I shall never to tell
If you covered me in paint, this granite shell;
See the pride of the river has swallowed me.
Won’t you pick me up? Won’t you set me free?
Am I to meekly sink in the darksome earth,
Never to attain my potential, my worth!
And oh! how many more will tread on me,
While you sit and paint beneath this beautiful tree?
Your artistic vision towering towards the sky,
Can transform such a Rock as worthless as I!
Useless you release me, for centuries here,
I’ll be sitting in this riverbed from year to year.
But never, from this, shall a complaining word
From the painted Rock again be heard,
For the artist transformed it, without and within,
Gave it new purpose, and love again.
The Rock its vow she could never forget,
It lies brilliantly painted in painted silence yet.
All I would want to hear is that you are in a good place.
That’s all there is, I think.
I want to hear that you like yourself more than you did all those moments when you told me we would never amount to anything.
I want to know that you’ve changed for the better, but not how, not why, or how much.
I want to know that someone loves you.
That’s all there is, I think.
I want to know that you wake up everyday looking forward to whatever it is you have in your heart.
I want to know just how far the painted golden path of your dreams have led you, just how much it is that you have sacrificed to gain something far worthier.
I want to know that the wind has blown away every piece of me that didn’t quite resonate within you.
I want to know that you are free now, washed clean from all of my lies, the dirty blood that flowed through your veins whenever you looked at me, the dirt on your knees every time you bent over with such compassion to tend to my own weakness.
I want to know that you’re still that kind of person who would never let anyone go home alone.
I want to know that you never have to look over your shoulder, worrying about those days when I would get into trouble and make you cry all over again.
I want to know if you still like french press and if your fingers still bear the same raised skin you got from working so hard to make us work, the same raised skin I held on to for so long.
I want to know if you still find the good in men; if your faith has reached an ultimate standard now that I’m out of the way, if your convictions have brought you home.
I want to know if everything that reminds you of me no longer hurts as much, if it hurts at all.
I want to know if you’re still the same person underneath the protective arms, the breath of calla lilies, those sleepy eyes that became sadder and sadder with each day that passed until the clock told you it was time to break my heart; until those same eyes decided they no longer wanted to see me at all.
All I would want to hear is that you are not the same person as the one I was fortunate to meet and love.
That’s all there is, I think.
While a tad late seasonally, this posting by my good friend, blogger and author, Marie Marshall is an incredible read. Please enjoy. When you are finished, treat yourself to some of the best blogging on WordPress at her website: https://ladywotwrites.wordpress.com
Well, some of it anyway. I’m looking out on Christmas here in the UK. Most people celebrate it in some way or other, most people don’t work on the 25th, though some folk do – hospital staff, the em…
Source: The truth about Christmas
In the quiet spaces of my mind
there is a softly sleeping figure
with the relaxed repose of an angel.
I kiss her cheek and lightly stroke her autumn hair
with a hope that she might slightly stir,
becoming minutely aware of my presence,
if only for an instant.
Heavenly sojourner, you are there in my dreams
laughing with me under the wild canopy of my fluctuating soul;
in between moments of consciousness
in between exhalations and eye-blinks.
I am caressed and buttressed
by the elegant strength of your tender spirit.
You are freedom after centuries of imprisonment.
You are a heavy rain after a cruel drought.
You bring the stars closer to my eyes.
You pull colorful spiral galaxies toward us
with your heart-bending gravity.
We explode like kaleidoscopic fireworks,
splattering a longstanding dream
across the churning night sky.
Refilling our palette of sensuality
with shattered rainbows.
We bend down to pick up the myriad jagged pieces,
our heartbeats bouncing again and again
to the hypnotic rhythm of evening descending;
our hands touching, our eyes devouring .
Our minds uniting, and our bodies shaking
as fiery desires are sporadically quenched
and rekindled, slowly dying down to embers
of nirvana whose warm afterglow
is eventually extinguished by the cool,
refreshing stream of our parallel thoughts
drifting weightlessly towards the sandy shores of eternity.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead
Hold onto the faith that what you can do, and are willing to do, matters. Nothing matters more. You are not solely responsible for the solution. Bite off only as much as you can chew and trust that it will be enough to directly and indirectly feed a multitude of others.
When you do pray, pray for purpose. I promise you, the answers will come. They may not come in a way you were hoping, but they will come in a way that you need. And you may not see that your prayer was answered until you look back one day and see how all the answers fell into perfect place.
If you don’t do so already, make time to meditate. Oftentimes, we are so deafened by the noise of our own hectic lives and the demands pressed upon us that we drown out the quiet whisper within ourselves that reveals our inner compass, our hidden strengths, and our unique gifts.
Recognize that the person most in need of comfort and support may well, at times, be you. Allow others to do for you what you cannot in this moment do for yourself. In accepting love and care from another, you allow other individuals to fully actualize their humanity.
Empower yourself to change the world. Each of us, individually and magnificently, can do something by simply reaching out and offering the gift of comfort, assistance, and love for that one person who cries out in need.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves our paying attention “on purpose” and in “this moment.” Marathons are more easily won if the runner can simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, and in equal measure. They are generally lost when all the runner can see is the 26 miles stretching ahead.
Accept the reality that you are not powerless. You are infinitely powerful. The answers you so desperately seek are within you. But do not confuse power with purpose. Power is simply the fuel necessary to propel your purpose.
Look to those closest to you in need. Discern what your “gift” is and extend it to others. Resist any temptation toward personal recognition or reward. Empowered individuals are in the business of sowing, not reaping.
Believe that what you do not only matters, it is essential. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but you just might inspire another who then inspires another who then inspires another.
It is 4 a.m. and once again I am planted before the keyboard attempting to craft words into clever sentences…and there you go, failure in the first keystrokes. The good news, based upon my dearth of hits on WordPress, is that no one will read this anyway.
I once envisioned myself a budding writer, but now I am thoroughly convinced that feeling was nothing more than insomnia in the early morning hours combined with a pot of cheap coffee flushing out last night’s indigestion (don’t worry, that’s as graphic as I am capable of writing!)
I know I could be a good writer, if it wasn’t for all that grammar and words and things. But who am I kidding? It’s all about the words…the fucking words! (Hey, I used “dearth” in my second sentence…doesn’t that count for anything?) Well, I don’t have words or ideas or pesky plots, but what I do have is way too much time on my hands, so here you go.
When I write, I don’t have a particular audience in mind. Well, sort of, I guess…I have the ghosts of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Plath. Sweet Sylvia Plath. Lots of dead people who, while not necessarily helpful critics, at least show up in my head and watch the circus of confusion unfold. Sometimes I can hear the occasional clicking of the tongue, a sure sign to lay on the backspace and come at a line from a new direction. Or maybe the clicking is the melting cubes in Ernest’s posthumous cocktail. The revolver of his pistol being locked into place? Who knows? The point is, I’m often guided by the whispers of spirits.
It feels as though when I write it has less to do with me having something to say than something that has to be said having me to write it. (Wow, I just plagiarized myself..that last line was something I wrote a year ago!) But it’s true, nonetheless. I often find that it is sufficient for me to just press the keys, and somehow the story will tell itself. Don’t believe me? I just wrote everything above without a thought in my head.
The key to being a great writer, I’m convinced, is to be a great reader. There is nothing I can say now, or will ever write, that hasn’t been said or written before. But a studious reader understands that there are a million ways to say the same thing, and that’s the beauty, and salvation, of writing. You don’t have to be original. You just have to have a unique dialect. In my case, it also helps to have a really poor opinion of most of today’s writing. I continually lie to myself and say, “I can do better!” And sometimes…I do. Then I pull down a worn copy of Pushkin and think, “shit..fuck this!! I can’t write!” And again, I am right.
So I continue my early morning ritual and if it’s true what they say, that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters, in a thousand years, one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare, then surely, if this continues for a thousand mornings, I can bang out something worth reading.
Should you desire to be hateful — to dissect an innocent heart from the inside, to bury a soul under its own weight, bind it in secrecy. Afflict it with a power it cannot share, knowledge it cannot teach, truth it cannot practice.
Secrets are dangerous not in being told, but in being kept.
What is locked in the heart is so vulnerable and precious; it is a force meant to be reflected upon, reconciled, and released. Perhaps some secrets are too burdensome to be unleashed in shameless entirety or in direct confidence, and those are scattered throughout time in legends, myths, in art and poetry; masterpieces littering each single experience with whispers and with shadows. The secrets and their fragments we may be blessed or cursed to encounter are not for us to harbor, but to share as we see fit:
When we share foolishly, they instruct us; when we share wisely, they enlighten others.
In life, we accumulate so many secrets — they settle under our skin. They imprison us in our own minds, trap us with our own wills. Sometimes such secrets efface our very desire to live, for being alive is no more than sharing secrets:
Taking them on and letting them go.
For those who are truly living, there is no such thing as a secret, for to hear a whisper is to be whispered oneself. Being alive is standing on an ocean shore listening to the tide or marking the centre of a gust of wind or smiling quietly at a stranger’s conversation or holding the unshed tears of a close friend, inhaling the hushed morsels of existence and inserting ourselves in their place.
When we do this, we take the wind and give to it our being, and thus the burden of being is lightened for all. We cannot hold secrets dear, we can only hold them in vain. We are merely vessels after all:
Filled so we may be emptied, emptied so we may be filled again.
It is said that one of the prerequisites of creativity is to have had experienced childhood trauma. Read the works of any great Irish writer (Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) and you will clearly see that youthful pain and suffering fueled much of their creative genius. And while I do not claim to be remotely on par with these incredible storytellers, to read any of my writing is to know that childhood trauma played a significant role in the determination of my creative voice.
To be honest, my youth unfolded like the discarded first draft of a story that could have been so much better. There simply weren’t enough stretches of peace or joy in it to attend to the edits necessary to have made it bearable. It isn’t that I am filled with regret for all of the things that might have been. It’s more that I am blanketed in a sadness for the sheer waste of it all.
Intuitively, I know that my broken juvenile years can’t be the full measure of why I write the way I write. Something deeper, more sinister, is afoot. Something bigger and more malevolent presses my pen to the paper.
For me, the value of nothing out of nothing comes something. The nothing started even earlier than the moment when I began to write. I have no doubt that what little creativity I possess is the function of some neurological quirk; that I have just enough of psychosis or depression to fuel an interesting poem here, an article there. That creativity (if that’s even the word for it) is not, in any circumstance, the product of “talent” or creative muse, but rather arises more as a testament to a damaged mind that perceives the events of life from a slightly more skewed or twisted perspective.
Perhaps it was the combination of the two: an injured adolescence and a form of brain damage. When I was four years old, I fell down the stairwell of the two story duplex my family lived in while my father was stationed in the Navy. I was rushed to the hospital because the fall had resulted in a crushing blow to the frontal temporal region of my skull. Surely, my brain was impacted, if not forever altered because of this accident. Combine that blow with the endless physical and sexual trauma that rejoined the family the day my father retired from service, and then, perhaps I can begin to put my finger upon my “creativity.”
Ask yourself…what can be more creative than scrambling daily throughout your entire childhood to find a place to survive. Out of necessity, the damaged mind constructs a false reality in which to take shelter. It is this false reality that takes form in the expressive arts.
I may never know what truly fuels my creative process. The sands of time that fill the hourglass of my life have nearly run out. While I am by no means an old man, I am, nonetheless, a tired man and my time upon this tortured plane of existence called “life” can now be measured in moments rather than years. I will leave behind me no great works of art, no lasting legacy of poetic genius. Even the memory of me will fade before the ink is dry on my final written word.
Mine has been a lonely walk: solitude whispers a silent story. And as we all know, life and living require interaction. But I was born alone, have lived alone, and will undoubtedly die…alone. And that doesn’t require creativity.
by http://www.dlmchale.com on October 10, 2016. © Dennis McHale, All rights reserved
Painting by Rajesh Shah
Sing of leaving the warm wetness of her womb
Of falling into the room, wide-eyed and softly agile
When life stretched before you, innocent spirit so fragile
Sing of the crawling to horizons yet sailed
Into your Father’s strong arms lightly held
Sing the hushed lullabies in your Mother’s sweet voice
Who when given the choice, brought you into this world?
Sing of your childhood, each moment a treasure
Such memories we measure in toys now long broken
And white lies then spoken in giggles and laughter
For then ever-after the truth held the day
Sing of your visions unfolding and carefree
As children’s dreams are meant to be
Of bruises and cuts from climbs gone amiss
Of band-aids and the healing of your Mother’s soft kiss.
Sing of the loss of those long carefree days
No longer to play, for in sadness we yearn
To simply return to our youthful ways.
POET’S NOTE: The title of this piece, “Always Be Singing”, is meant lead the reader immediately into the atmosphere of the whole poem, in which the child (or the child within us) and the parent seem to move in the circle traced by the irradiation of love. The words, movements and gestures of the child/parent correspond to the interior movement of their hearts. It is possible to understand the language of love only through the prism of this movement.
I had a dream last night where I watched the moon swallowing the stars,
greedily ingesting the sparkling tapestry of the heavens, asserting a vain primacy,
ever becoming brighter and brighter until I could no longer look directly at it.
Silver clouds, in whispered wisps, shrouded this celestial midnight consumption
shape-shifting across the evening sky, spitting regretful droplets of sorrowful rain.
Abruptly I awoke, bathed in cold light, my face caressed by a bitter breeze
wafting through a carelessly open window, and there, on the windowsill,
quietly sat a majestic seagull.
His waterproof coat of feathers was luxurious. His animal spirit was fierce and strong.
The red dot, like resilient drop of blood, accented a brilliant yellow downward-curved beak
as his stony black eye fixed upon me with knowledgeable contempt and exacting judgment,suggesting that in my waking I had somehow slandered the significance of this extraordinary night.
One by one, molting black-tipped feathers fell like accusations upon my pace-worn wooden floor until the whole of it was carpeted and this noble scavenger fell naked backward into the nocturnal void squawking in his naked, downward death-spiral…
“I am Life! I am Death” …words whispered like dank petrichor with dawn’s rising light.
What was I to make of this? Was I awake, or was this my awakening?
I could not the discern what was real and what was not, but in that way of knowing that cleaves not to understanding, I knew.
I knew this was my last night.
I watched as meandering rivulets of rain painted my window like random-flowing veins,
transparent rivers of pain creating artfully disturbing and distorting prisms through which the lunar light filtered into my bedchamber swaddling me in hazy sheets of bewilderment and appalling fear.
I, too, was being swallowed into the voracious belly of the moon. My final breaths, like puffs of steam, floated before my sleep-filled eyes and like the stars ingested before me, my light faded into nothingness.
And the moon, she smiled.
I see a lot of things I disagree with on social media. And, to be honest, I’ve probably posted more than my share of things that are disagreeable. It’s hard to keep our personal beliefs to ourselves when we see things online that we take issue with. Let’s take the subject of politics on Facebook.
For me personally, I have many friends and family members on Facebook who are on both sides of the fence politically. From time to time I have posted something politically charged, only to go back a little bit later and remove it after I’ve thought about the possible repercussions. I am now fully committed to never doing it again.
So, I’ve come up with some reasons why none of us should post about politics on Facebook. Nothing that I’ve written is intended to silence anyone. My sole motivation is to keep relationships on Facebook intact, and invite the reader to look toward more appropriate forums for political debate. Here you go….
Agree or disagree with my advice? Instead of beating up on others, go ahead a beat up on me at email@example.com. Trust me, I have nothing to lose. I promise, I won’t be offended and perhaps your family and friends will still love and accept you after election day.
The first poem I ever wrote…..
Love never dies…
it echoes across time.
It is like a circle
with no beginning,
The pain of love diminishing
as it journeys to the far side
of the circle is real
but remember the joy
before the pain
and listen for the echo.
Love has no dimension,
yet it clearly defines
all that it touches.
the images carved
as love passes along
our side of the circle;
life’s subtle reminder
to hold on
as love echoes across time.
Cast your ear
to yesterday’s wind,
if you must;
do not be too surprised
when the sounds you seek
reach back to you from
Echoes bounce in time and space
for that is their nature –
but they must return,
for that is their truth.
The circle cannot be denied.
Love cannot die…
it echoes across time.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead
Each and every day precious orchids wither in the garden of life, and die. They never have the chance to fully bloom. These orchids are the men, women, children, soldiers, police, and innocent civilians whose lives are cut down by senseless acts of crime, violence, war, and terrorism.
We awaken daily to see promising lives and futures swallowed whole behind cowardly and senseless acts of terror and we, the survivors, caretakers of the garden, begin to struggle behind the unanswerable:
Each and every day nations grieve after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon their cities: Munich, Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Benghazi, Misrata, Ferguson, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad, Basra, Nice, Paris, Grozny, Mumbai; the list seems frightfully endless.
Man’s incredible thirst for the blood of his fellow man seems, at times, unquenchable.
Each and every day we see nations rally around the families of the dead and maimed, embracing their brothers and sisters with mournful tears and desolate prayers that fall from their trembling lips upon blood soaked sand. We witness unimaginable suffering in cities and communities everywhere and find ourselves caught up in what seems like and endless loop of rebuilding and healing.
Those of us who are unscathed physically (though mentally savaged) begin our struggle for an understanding that never comes. We seek answers to enormous questions that can’t even be framed. And tragically, we begin to doubt ourselves. We doubt our ability to navigate the futility and despair felt in connection with these continuing acts of horror. In our collective grief and sense of powerlessness, we quite naturally turn to our God, by whatever name we call Him, and tearfully cry out for mercy.
I realize I often turn my own readers off when chastening them not to look too earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I most certainly and devotedly do. I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we lead ourselves to believe. I believe God expects us to be the channels of that mercy. We look to Heaven for answers, yet fail to look within ourselves.
We keep searching for God’s mercy whilst withholding our own.
More often than not, we sit by almost catatonic after each horrifying act feeling helpless against the enormity of it all. And yet, the question inevitably arises:
“What can I, just one person, do to make a difference?”
I’ve asked myself that very question every time a new tragedy unfolds. And for too long, I sat there, likewise, feeling powerless and defeated. Yes, I also prayed for strength, understanding, and mercy. But like so many others, I felt my prayers fell on silent ears. They were seemingly unanswered, or worse, I feared, unanswerable.
It was a restless night a few years ago, as I was writing an article on first responders to the Boston Marathon bombing, with utter clarity and intensity, I was compelled by what can only be described as a stream of consciousness – a phrase that kept repeating itself in my brain, much like a song you can’t get out of your head. And so, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It was like that lost piece of a puzzle that perfectly fell into place. I came to the amazing realization that this was the answer to my prayers.
Pouring like clear, fresh water from my pen, I wrote it down:
We are closest to God when we extend compassion;
we are furthest from Him when we withhold it.
I had to ask myself the hard question: what was I doing to extend compassion? What was my role in the solution in the face of so much pain and suffering? Then it finally dawned on me. I could write. That was my gift. My blog reaches over 170,000 people. If I could write something that could comfort, inspire, or motivate just one of those readers, I could make a difference. It isn’t much, and I’m not the best writer, but it is one thing. I finally came to the realization that even the smallest spark can yield the greatest fire!
I began searching on the internet for examples of what others have done to make a meaningful difference. As I was debating whether to offer up examples of iconic individuals such as Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, etc., I came across an incredible discovery that was too perfect and too awesome not to share with you.
Her name is Milana Aleksandrovna Vayntrub, an Uzbek American actress, comedian, writer, and producer who is best known for playing the wholesome character Lily Adams in a series of AT&T television commercials. But more importantly and relevant to this discussion, Milana is also the co-founder of CantDoNothing.org (#cantdonothing) an incredibly successful online organization that has offered thousands a pathway to “individual” empowerment. Her message is simple: doing something, no matter how small and inconsequential it feels in the moment, for it is better to do that small something than to not do anything at all.
Milana is tireless in her efforts to show us that individuals can make a profound difference. Through her own work with Syrian and Turkish refugees arriving by the boatloads into Greece, she clearly demonstrates that feelings of powerlessness that leads to inaction is a false construct created by generations of war-mongers and power-hungry bureaucracies as they attempt to marginalize the power of individuals, of social activism. The power of one individual helping another, Milana shows, can affect an incredible sea change of good that can and will alter the lives of thousands over time.
Doing “something” produces ever expanding ripples whose reach extends far beyond one individual act of charity and compassion. Doing even the smallest thing, Milana demonstrates, can ultimately change the world.
I confess, I have been generally suspect when it comes to feel-good solutions to complex human problems involving suffering and pain. But the more I dug into it, the more I found endless examples where one individual has done something which can, in time, alter the course of our human experience. You may never hear about these people. These are not well-to-do celebrities or Ivy League business moguls (although many of those do wonderful things) but rather they are your neighbors, the man or woman or adolescent next door, the lady mechanic fixing your car, your child’s teacher, a college student with a bold idea. They are often hidden in the shadows of our everyday lives, but their lights shine brilliantly within their obscurity and their power is undeniable:
http://moralheroes.org/jorge-munoz# Jorge Munoz’s humble efforts and his heroic commitment to feed his needy neighbors equally inspires those who need help and those who can help.
http://www.cambodianselfhelpdemining.org/ A former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as museum curator in Cambodia, Aki Ra has devoted his life to removing landmines in Cambodia and to caring for young landmine victims. Aki Ra states that since 1992 he has personally removed and destroyed as many as 50,000 landmines.
https://www.onedayswages.org/ Self-described as an ”average family” from Seattle, WA, Eugene and Minhee Cho state upfront, “We would never ask anyone to do what we would not do ourselves.” They founded #OneDaysWages to show others how to combat global poverty by creating their own personal campaign to alleviate extreme global poverty.
https://theliftgarage.org/ Kathy Heying founded Lift Garage, a 501c3 nonprofit aimed to move people out of poverty homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports our community on the road to more secure lives.
https://vimeo.com/154614207 He is literally turning gorilla poachers into protectors. , Edwin Sabuhoro came up with an idea to help gorilla poachers make a living — a plan that didn’t include killing wildlife. “I thought of an idea of turning poachers to farmers,” says Sabuhoro, who took all of his savings — $2,000 — and divided it to poachers to rent land, buy seeds and start farming.
There are hundreds of heroic examples like these, enough that I can almost guarantee you will find one that provides an avenue for “your talent, your gift.” For me to feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of a terrorist attack across the globe, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to me while doing nothing is a cheap, selfish emotion. I assure you, I am better than that. So are you.
What I learned by researching what others were doing to make a difference, I finally understood that In my own life, the line between “grace” and “disgrace” is simply the difference between “doing something” versus “doing nothing.”
I put together this small list of suggestions that might help provide you, as it does me, a pathway toward identifying how you can make a difference:
This last point is a beautiful example of the Butterfly Effect; the concept developed by Edward Lorenz in 1960 suggesting small causes can have extremely large effects over time. The butterfly effect simply states that small events can lead to big changes.
The phrase was started by the Lorenz’s hypothesis that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could influence a hurricane half way across the world.
For the purpose of this post, I have borrowed from Lorenz’s butterfly effect to demonstrate that even the smallest gesture by a single individual, say a gesture of compassion, mercy, or love, extended to just one other person in need, could ultimately reshape the world into a more compassionate, merciful, and loving place.
Consider this: every instance of great change in the world began with a single person. One person. And it all begins with self-empowerment. It begins with believing that what you think, or what you do, can shape the events in not only your life, but the lives of others.
Keep in mind that in empowering yourself, there is no fixed end point. Self-actualization and empowerment is thus not a location or a stage of development, but rather a state of being, an awareness of who one really is in relation to others. A realization that in this relation to others, you can be the catalyst for significant and far-reaching change. An acceptance that your single gesture of compassion, mercy, and love can, theoretically, set into motion a ripple of correlated events that could one day prevent war and terrorism.
We are not angels, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do angelic things.
And why shouldn’t that someone, somewhere, somehow, be you?
With every breath, inhale love and peace
Though the acrid smoke of terror sears the lungs
Exhale to glory and the assurance of hope
Do not allow the feeble tantrums of hate
To rob you of the joyous songs of faith and courage
Breathe in the evil and the immoral acts of mortals
Exhale the beauty of poets, dancers, and artists all
For they are God’s voice lifting through the darkness
Breathe in light; exhale dreams of a better world.
Exhale fear and misunderstanding; inhale trust
In the limitless imaginations of peacemakers
Do not whisper your prayers, rather shout loudly
So that the force of your pleas peel back dark clouds
And the beauty of your supplications outshine the sun
Hold your breath for a moment, and taste the kiss of life
And with lungs full of God’ compassion and tenderness
Exhale your loss and your grief and your sorrows
Do not allow suffering today to rob you of your breath
But in exquisite protest, breathe more deeply yet
Let your inhalations be incantations to soothe the living
And your exhalations be the exaltation for the dead
Do more than just survive…continue to breathe, deeply
For in every breath there is possibility and promise
In every breath lies healing and forgiveness and peace
Artwork Courtesy of DeviantArt©2016
“At the end, I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards. “
Autuor, Anne Lamott
The years have swept my face
carving time in deep crevices
thinning my skin with relentless cold
Like a child pushing milk teeth
my smile is likewise gapped
though my innocence lays broken
like this child’s backyard toys
These days, I pretend I am busy
that I’m working, that I’m writing
but I’m not doing anything
I just didn’t want to appear artificial
in these my final fading days
I have known glorious moments of fame
where my words stoked the hearts of man
and my poems filled a woman’s tender soul
but all these thing mean very little to me
I am into the finality of the here and now
the past is such a strange thing for me
Oh, loving her was indeed an incredible journey
a wonderful everlasting treasure hunt
I found emeralds in her soft green eyes
and sparkling diamonds in her radiant smile
golden coins tinkling in her laughter
her kiss as soft and pure as harvest wine
but like all treasure, she lies buried now
while I am castaway upon these lonely shores
My life is a dead space, expired time
if you would describe it in colors, a grayness
The changing seasons no longer cut
by snow and rain and sun and falling leaves
but rather, like clouds pushing darkly
against one another in a stormy sky
my days blend beneath a blotted sun
I know the number of my evenings are few
and my remaining mornings fewer by one
but I am tired, and I am alone
…and I am ready
Zenos Frudakis Freedom Sculpture
On December 10th 1948, the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration enshrined the principle that human beings could no longer be treated in law or public policy as mere tools of the powerful or subjects of the state, but that they possess inherent value, and must be permitted to live their lives according to the priorities they themselves identify, in so far as they do not infringe the rights of others. This enshrined the definition of freedom that extends beyond international borders and political regimes.
Personal freedom is “the legal allowance to do whatever a person wants insofar as he or she does not offensively harm or coerce other people against those other people’s wills”, and insomuch as the desired end does not constrain, suppress, or deny the freedom of others. Remember, this limitation is a logical requirement. Freedom obviously…
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The royal robes of winter’s night
tightly bind me in its blue-black grip
The shadow of majestic purple mountains
kneel upon the fields of frozen graves
ancient tombstones, like granite faces
hemming the barren valley floors
An amber moon spills its bitter glow
through naked branches like brittle
fingers clutching a button-less cloak
Icy winds whip swirls of fog across
lifeless lakes, and on broken wings
doves fall from a voiceless sky
In a distant village, old ladies warble lullabies
to their dying husbands; soft verse cutting
like jagged blades through thick cherry smoke
bleeding from pipes clenched in broken teeth.
The children, with bellies as round as their joyless
eyes feed upon fermented peaches and dance
on knitted bones, playing hide but please, don’t seek
for we are tired, for we are weak
I have walked a lifetime to return
to this is, my kingdom, stretching as far as the blind
eye can see. Built upon the shifting sands of hope lost
This, both kingdom and the shoveled grave
My head crowned in a spray of dying stars;
my spirit drowned in muted prayer;
my hobbled feet cut upon jagged stones.
This is my destiny, my hell, my home.
How long will our love be kept waiting,
our trembling hearts anticipating,
yearning reflected in half-closed eyes,
refusing sleep when passion lies,
with spoken words clearly stating –
how long will our love be kept waiting?
For love is purely mesmerizing
we tightly embrace as the sun is rising,
come fill this man’s heart with joy,
for daylight brings my heart’s envoy
in nature’s work there’s no disguising,
what we share is purely mesmerizing.
Your burning love makes my shadows bright,
and carries us through to dawn’s first light,
dancing circles turn around,
feeling the Earth’s beat underground
on this blessed day and shortest night,
the sweetest love makes shadows bright
Natalie, you are destined to shine
beneath a dazzling array of bright colors
Brilliant, and brave, and blinding
Your light will provide bright reflections
and light the stage upon which you dance;
careless, joyful, and exuberant
Mine is a separate light that bathes me –
not quite so radiant and full of shadows
I will always struggle to find my way
my light will never warm me in its beam
It is what it seems: an insignificant blue glow,
dim and misleading.
In your light, you will be found
In mine, everything may be lost,
yet because you’ve shined your light upon me
there is hope…and f0r that, I’ll be forever grateful.
She whispered softly in my ear
such tender words to ease my pain;
soothing verse to calm my fears.
Though, she was gone when morning came,
The essence of her love remains!
Here even in my darkest hour
soft echoes of her song sustains,
which fills me with a lasting power.
Where has she gone? my life unwinds!
If I must die, I’m so resigned,
for dying unites and gently binds
my heart to hers, two souls entwined.
She filled me with a lasting breath;
Once more within my arms I hold
the height of love, its width, its breadth,
spanning dreams that now unfold
So cast me down into death’s abyss,
But allow once more her lips to kiss.
I shall not pray for more than this –
Once more I love…eternal bliss
In Loving Memory of Tyler Warren: There is perhaps no pain that cuts as deeply to the heart as that of a parent prematurely losing a child. My dear friend, Robbie Whitlock Warren, recently laid to rest her courageous and loving child, Tyler. Tyler Warren was that rare breed of a man who put the needs and well-being of others selflessly before his own safety and needs and above those of his own, serving as a volunteer firefighter, heroically serving his community. He lived life with joy, love, and laughter…surrounded by his loving friends and family. No words can offer comfort, but may God, in His tender mercy, wrap his family in loving arms and in the sure knowledge that they will all be reunited in the promise of eternal life. God speed, Tyler.
sleep eternal, my son
the flesh is over;
wear as much earth as you wish now
let the flowers braid
themselves across your breast
let the bees bumble and
the morning birds babble
above your heroic bones
let the setting sun
kiss your marbled stone
with summer’s lips
let the southern winds
like a mother’s arms
let the heavenly poems begin
though the poets surely weep
for your earthly voice has ended
let the memories flow as freely
as the rivers in which you bathed
as an innocent, carefree child
how can the earth be denied
the heavenly sustenance of you
which I have known and loved all these years
who am I to deny God his angel
or the ocean her song
your whispers remain upon His lips
your sighs upon their waves
pray the passing seasons
don’t stack themselves
too high one upon the other
as I await our sure reunion