26 November 2012

The Wolf and the Voice

A wolf sat resting in the illuminating beams of a bright moon. It was the most peaceful moment in the young wolf’s life. Everything was at ease, at peace. There was no fear or rush. As he sat there, his eyes began to grow heavy and his head to slouch down on his paws that he gently stretched out in front of him. What a grin slowly stretched out on his face. A single deep sign escaped from him into the night air. Just when he was about to tiptoe into dreams hard-earned during a day’s work, he heard a howling. For a wolf, hearing howling is not particularly unusual. This howl was not the sound of anyone he recognized though, certainly not anyone in his pack, and it sounded different in a way that he could not fully perceive.

Heart pounding and mind in a haze of panic, he sprang to all fours ready to pounce if an assailant presented himself. His whole body was on edge, filled with adrenaline and suspense. But, everything was normal; there was not even the faintest indication that there was anyone around, certainly no danger lurking nearby.
There were no cries from anyone else in the pack to indicate that anything was happening. Trusting the pack and their ability to sense danger, he shrugged it off as an imaginary sound, probably a dream. Reclining once more on the rock where he was a seated king, reigning above a valley that stretched out far into the distance and eventually losing itself in the dark, he resumed rather quickly his previously at-ease state of mind. Before a few minutes passed, he found himself once more knocking on the door to his dreams. Just before he stepped though the doors, he heard the call again. The same howling uncharacterizeable voice.

Again, he sprang to all fours crouching and ready to attack whoever was assaulting the peace and the calm. Hearing the howl but once could have been a dream, but twice, now he was sure there was someone or someone out there. Whispering under his breath, he inquired of the night, “where are you?” It had been a rhetorical question, neither warranting nor expecting a reply, yet that is just what he heard.

The reply came from all around, seeming to emanate not from a source but from everywhere around, perhaps even the rocks beneath him. The reply was spoken by a voice as unfamiliar as the howl and had been. It rang out in a mocking tone that evoked anger in the young wolf. It said, “I’m surprised that with all your howling and prowling and sense of hunting that I was able to catch you so off-guard. Are you new to being a wolf?” Shooting searching, frantic glances every which way, the young wolf could not catch even a glimpse of the  voice’s owner.

Half from fear, half from anger, he intended to rend in two whoever dared speak to him in such tones at such hours. “Show yourself, and I’ll show you the reward for your insolence!” he shouted at the top of his voice. Several long moments of silence rife with tension passed, and the young wolf spoke out again, “Well? Are you afraid to show yourself?,” but before he could finish speaking, his sentence was cut short by a query from behind him. This time the voice came from a familiar face. “What has gotten into you?! It’s nearly the end of night. Have you gone mad?” It was the young wolf’s mentor and the pack leader, strong and fearless, cunning and crafty, and no one to antagonize at any hour, especially not at the end of a long night of hunting.
The young wolf replied in fearful humility, “I’m sorry sir, I had a terrible dream,” pausing to invent the latter half of the lie, “I was confronting the fear, rooting it out of me like you taught me to.” The lie was an appealing one, playing in tune with the ears of the pack leader and his ego very pleasingly. “Well, I laude you for your loyalty and commitment to becoming a warrior, but keep it down.” With that he turned and left the young wolf alone once more.

An unsettling nervousness eventuated itself among the many folds of silence that now ruled the night air in the quite of the pack leader’s voice. Separated from the rest of the pack, he felt the urge to seek the security he knew he could find in the pack’s numbers, but realizing the urge was born of fear he shamed himself from taking any action on the fear. “I’m a wolf,” he growled, “Wolves don’t cringe in fear or cling to one another when an enemy even as strong as a bear attacks. We are strong individually and together invincible. I won’t budge. I won’t move, not an inch from this rock,” he uttered the whole pep-talk in a passionate, but markedly hushed voice to himself.

No sooner did he speak the thought than the voice spoke yet again. This time hearing the voice, being wide awake and on edge, the young wolf shrieked piteously a muffled shriek. “That is a good self-talk you gave yourself, better than some coaches I know. Am I all that scary. There, there, don’t fret yourself little wolf.”
Snarling in a burning rage, the young wolf combusted into a frenzy of rage. Leaping into the air, he attacked every direction. After a few desperate minutes of exhausting, aimless attacks his strength crumpled beneath him.

There he sat, unable to do more than rest on his haunches. He was still very much a pup, resting on the transient line between adulthood and childhood. He wanted the comfort—the consolation of his parents—the assurance of their strength. But equally he wanted to feel the wind beneath his wings, to lift himself from dependence and to feel the excitement of independence.
“Little wolf is tired. Doesn’t know what to do.” The voice spoke again. Leveling out, the young wolf thought to ask for answers instead of war. “What do you want?”
“What do I want? What do I want! Just to have a little fun, that’s all.”
“This isn’t fun—not for me.”
“Why not? Too old to play?”
“I’m a wolf. I am a warrior. I don’t have time for games. If you want to fight me, then fight me. If you want to play games, go elsewhere.”
The young wolf was surprised to hear the confidence in his own voice. To hear the stability and strength in his voice, a voice no longer fearful, no longer weak, but that of a wolf. The voice, too, seemed taken back and a pause followed.
“You speak as though you control what I say and do. I can do whatever I want.” The voice had taken on a different quality than before. It spoke similar words, but lacked the sense of command that it had.
“You are afraid to even show yourself. If you were as mighty as you try to seem, you would have shown yourself before now. Only those with a need to hide take refuge in doing so,” the wolf again said with command and courage.
Another pause fragmented time before the voice answered. “Look up.” Looking up, the young wolf saw nothing.
“What is this, are you trying to distract me?”
“No. Look up. I’m in the sky.”
Looking up, the young wolf saw no one. The moon, the stars, that was all that there was above.
“I don’t see you.”
“Oh, but you do. I’m the moon.” Startled by the statement, the young wolf focused his keen eyes fully on the moon.
The moon spoke once more, “It’s my job to teach you to howl. Most wolves naturally learn to howl by just seeing me, but I saw you struggling and wanted to help. No one but you can hear me, but I’m real.”
The young wolf looked at the ground in shame, “I try to, but I can’t. I can’t howl. All my brothers and sisters can, but not me.”
“Yes you can!,” said the moon with a tone strangely encouraging.
“How?”
“Do what I do. Many years ago, I taught the first wolf to howl. There is something in the heart of wolves. Every wolf must learn to howl or an emptiness will consume their courage. A wolf gets strength from howling.”
“Why are you doing this. Why were you mocking me earlier?”
“I was testing to see if you are ready to become a wolf. I now know you are.”
The moon then let out a simple howl. The young wolf tried to follow the moon’s example, but let out a soft yelp instead.
“Try again.”
The young wolf tried again with little improvement.
“I don’t understand. What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you. In fact, it is weakness that drives a wolf to howl. They don’t really understand why they howl, but there is an emptiness inside them. When they see me, they just naturally cry out. There was a time when wolves knew that one of my jobs is to help wolves with their emptiness. That was so very long ago. Over time, wolves have forgotten why they howl at all. It has just become part of their identity. You see, you are different than the rest though, you are stronger than others.”
“If I am so strong why can’t I do something as simple as howl?”
“You are strong enough to get-by without howling. But if you ever want to be everything you should be, you must learn to howl. Now try again. It comes from your heart though. Not your throat. Feel it deep within, there is something missing. Cry out the loneliness you feel for the thing that is missing, what you must become.”
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, it suddenly made sense.
*              *              *
Years later, the young wolf, older now, remembers that night each day. When he leads the pack through a battle, it’s a source of strength. In time, the moon and the wolf became close friends. 

24 November 2012

Good In A Jar


Give away your joy. Give away your love. Give away your life. Giving is a contradiction. By definition, to give is to take something from you and give it to another. The idea of giving is to lose something so that another can have something, but that’s not the whole story. Giving is one of the most selfish things really. It has a way of making you feel good about yourself. Giving takes something from you, but then gives something back, or maybe makes something that was not there before. However you want to look at it, giving is gain.
Giving is usually not gain of the same thing, but it is gain of something precious and impossible to make for yourself. It's like you traded something you had for something that you need.
Giving does not have to be a material thing, and it doesn’t have to be anything big or grand either. Giving can be little things like opening a door for someone, saying bless you when someone sneezes, a simple smile at someone who looks like they need to be reminded what peace is, or helping someone capture a picture of with their loved ones. Doing good is easy and simple in most cases, it’s only when good is withheld for a long time that doing good can become very difficult.
But, go ahead and give to people. Give and receive back. You may not receive anything right away or from that person, but you at least received the justification to know that you did something good—you have permission to feel good about who you are and what you do. Good is meant to be done. You can’t store good in a jar, or a bank account. Good is an action. Give it away and it will come back. Keep it for yourself and it will turn rancid.

Too Dang Thankful

In a way, Thanksgiving Day does not remind me of the things that I am thankful for but rather makes me realize how unthankful I am. Rather than reinforce a deep and strong understanding that I am very blessed, I am forced to look the truth of the matter in the eye—the truth that every single day that I live is sponge-bath of things, experiences, and relationships that I have no claim to because of any earnings of myself, and all while remaining unaware of the obligation I have to be thankful. At best, I could try to stake a claim to the wealth that I have by arguing the intrinsic value of human life, which then makes what I have not a blessing but the fulfillment of what is right and good for me. But when I propose that argument to myself, I am left with a hungry question, “why do you have such an intrinsic value while so many millions of others do not?” I have no answer to that question, and, indeed, there is no answer that I can rationally muster. The only thing to do is to change, to change and become thankful for the inexplicable prosperity that I have.

Prosperity does not make anyone thankful or even more apt to be thankful, it merely takes away their excuse to be unthankful. I have no excuse to be unthankful, and  no reason not to change and become thankful. I hope the same is true for you. I hope you are as thankful as you ought to be. I know that I have never been more thankful than I have a right to be; I’m not even sure if it is humanly possible to be too thankful.

19 November 2012

Love is Not a Lonely Word


Love is not a lonely word. Love almost always refers to something between people. It’s not a singular word. Love is best expressed between people, towards people, and for people. There are not many other things that are felt jointly. One person can full well have lots things like peace, joy, sorrow, hope. Love on the other hand is difficult for one person to have. Love is a shard thing. I don’t want to call it an emotion or go into detail in trying to define what exactly love is—that becomes quite the difficult task. But looking where love is, it is between people. It’s true that people can love them self—and need to—but love is almost always directed away from the person who has it. 

It's OK, not being perfect

I don’t know about you, but a feeling of perfecting is far more common than a feeling of perfection. Seeking perfection is a cruel business and pays poorly.
Everyone wants to be perfect but no one is. If we seek out to become something that we will never become, then we will never find success. We may as well be looking for the fountain of youth or a city of gold. The difference between your friends watching you get in a boat to search for a land made of gold and them watching you try to be perfect is they don’t see anything wrong with you trying to be perfect. All that means is that your friends and most other people are caught in the same trap as you. They want something that they can’t have and are disappointed when their rational brains argue with them about it.
The fact of the matter is we are all still being made; we are all paintings still in the works. Rather than look at what’s not yet done, it makes more sense to focus on what things are done and descent. But, no matter what, your painting will never be perfect—no painting ever is.
I for one try to spend less time touching-up what I've done and more time painting what I haven’t. I’m going to do what most painters do and tell people that that one big thing in the middle of the painting—I did that on purpose. There is only so much time to work on one painting, I’d rather have the whole canvas painted in colors, than one corner looking pretty good at the end of this life.

Strong by Holding Up Another

Left stagnant with only bloodless ambition, the heart longs not for things to weigh down a shelf or fill a house but rather the embrace of a loved one, to look into another’s eyes with love and to see love reflected back, to embrace another in weak arms--to find those very same weak arms become strong by holding up another when weak. Strength rests in the heart and spreads through the rest of the body, growing from tiny seeds. The will to love must be as strong as only love is or the drive to reach beyond doing and into the realm of being will never be realized, and love must be realized or it is not love at all but a wish. And needs to be loved. In this way, love is not one thing but two--it is a substance that lives only by the process of being spent on others—and it is the action of being spent on others. You can’t weigh it except in the heart; if we try to weigh love in big thoughts, our mental scale will topple down on itself and only reveal the fact that we can’t know love in our heads. We can only know it our minds that we can only know it in our hearts.

10 November 2012

Misty-eyed Memory

Looking though a misty-eyed memory
And remembering time spent, me and you

With heart-filled clarity I can still see
And cherish moments that we lived and made

Time can’t take away from the gift we had
or take back the laughs that echo from the past 

04 November 2012

In Memory of Summer


The day had been blaringly hot, but now the long shadows of summer stretched themselves out like a lazy porch-dog. The stifling heat dimmed along with the sun and the coolness of evening dawned within a light breeze that teased the skin with fleeting, cool touches.

Sociable

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