The Sun Tower to Crazy Gods: 10 for Today

 

Ever try and look at all the pieces of your life, all the jobs paid and unpaid you do, all the habits conscious and unconscious, and all the words spoken and silent, and put them in a pattern? Have you ever tried to read your life like a puzzle starting to form the picture it’s going to be? Ever place the links in the chain of cause and effect in a line (a necklace) or a mosaic (fence) to see how it all fits?

I do that. It feels good. I’m a pattern maker, a puzzle solver, and a radical analyzer. I’m also critical and judgmental, as collateral effects. I do that–knit patterns, crochet chains of events and behaviors–because I want to know. We’re all seekers.

It’s not just death, either. Some people have that question covered, while still more probably don’t. The notion of doing right or wrong is somehow tied up in prediction and calculation. If I do this, the result will be this, so I should or shouldn’t. It’s not rocket science. It’s logic.

But long ago, I gave up the god of logic. I know there’s more to this living thing than logic. And whose logic anyhow? Mine? Yours? Intuition and sense are real. No denying them. Mostly, I comfort myself with balance. Life is balance. It glides off the mind’s tongue. But aren’t I just looking for patterns again?

What if…?

Yes, I know I can count on one thing for sure. Chaos is my creed. And randomness. There’s comfort there. Neither disappoints. They just are. Fact. I don’t understand why the more fearful of us don’t embrace random chaos more.

It’s not anarchy or nihilism. I believe in order and cause and effect. I just don’t let them rule my world. My sigh of relief is the mystery, the storm-flurry of ideas, flung pieces, like the shrapnel of cogitation embedded in the skin of consciousness.

Surrender. Give up; you can’t build a tower to the sun, so lie down in the grass and let it bathe you in warmth instead.

 

Aha!

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Joseph Campbell

In one of the Upanishads it says, when the glow of a sunset holds you and you say ‘Aha,’ that is the recognition of the divinity. And when you say ‘Aha’ to an art object, that is a recognition of divinity. And what divinity is it? It is your divinity, which is the only divinity there is. We are all phenomenal manifestations of a divine will to live, and that will and the consciousness of life is one in all of us, and that is what artwork expresses.

Joseph Campbell, “Creativity,” The Mythic Dimension, p. 154

“Mom, how does your eye work?” a five year old once asked me.

“I don’t know off hand, but let’s draw one,” I deflected.

“Aha,” the little one exclaimed when it was finished.

It’s a Soul Thing

  
I think she’s right about that. It’s a soul thing.

She was my best friend in elementary school until teachers and distance separated us. 

I lived in a town that had four junior high schools: north, south, east and west. 

I went South and she East.

But before then, she was a beloved friend, one to laugh with, mostly laughing.

Not much intellectualizing in fifth grade.

But she also bristled at pain and injustice, felt empathy.

Like the time the fourth graders unmercifully tore into the acne-red-faced substitute 

teacher, Mr. Ebert.

They found his weakness, his vulnerability, and dug in. 

They cried and outraged, accused him of something I have forgotten.

And he shook and stammered and reddened until I thought he would burst into flame. 

Until he was fired.

They were vicious. We, my feeling friend and I, were mortified. But no one else seemed to be.

Just us, two angst-ridden misfits–maybe that was just me, though.

The singular, coded, inside jokes and kinetic joy we shared was neural blazing.

The inarticulable closeness–intuited–that we took for granted was the glue, 

what made us seek each other out in our memories, in the halls of high school, and finally on facebook.

And as if 43 years had not passed, we laugh.

The sensation of spun years, like a casino slot’s triple 7’s whizzing past round and round, 

experienced as static motionlessness catches my breath, pricks hyper-notice.

An arm reached, a stretched connection folded across time flattened into special relativity

–the train’s caboose merged with the engine.

Special relating. It’s a soul thing.

Umberto Eco

  
“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” 

― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

I first learned of Eco after reading The Name of the Rose in graduate school, though I cannot remember whether it was the first round in 89 or the second in 2003. I saw the movie of the same name and cannot remember whether I saw it before reading the book or vice versa. I do know I enjoyed both immensely, so much so that I read a second book, the one from which the above quote comes, which I also enjoyed, though I believed that the text was far more about the title namesake than it was before reading it. I had read Michel Foucault, who I found as intriguing as mystifying, so naturally was drawn to the title. 

The text, like all Eco works, is complex and dense with plot and erudite history, lore and textual references–not your read on the beach in paradise. Eco demands you grapple. And while many details of both books I read are long forgotten, the words and specific scenes remain etched in the beautiful keepsakes section of my brain.

Like many faithful readers, I seek treasure–that unique turn of phrase or universal truth that hangs with me, bubbled to the surface when I need a lift, a reason or insight. Countless times the belief in mystery became and becomes my mantra. Some people often sigh, “It’s God’s will” when at a loss to explain the inexplicable and I just as often say, “Bow to the mystery.” Though both signal surrender, one does far less resignedly. 

That the “world is an enigma” satisfies, becalms and relieves humans of the burden of making sense of chaos and that which we cannot understand due to the size of our brains, undiscovered truths or components necessary to solving riddles, or both–or neither. That we madly “attempt to interpret” the world smacks of vanity or fruitlessness but not necessarily. Human’s drive to know, to understand and control is itself an enigma, one with benign origins though sometimes malignant intent or results. 

This quote counters another oft-pronounced snippet pulled out of pocket at the cause-effect chain’s logical end with no solution: “Everything happens for a reason.” Eco obviously disagreed and wrote legions against that idea, wracking ordered plots with disordered interferences from magic, evil intent, human contaminants and other messy interlocutors, all in historically altered (small and large) and imagined context. 

One thinker, writer and human I mourn, Umberto Eco died yesterday, a significant loss or gain for the mystery.

Bow to Mystery

I went looking for my calling 

until my calling found me 

but forgot my name.

Before I could hear, 

I wanted to be a 

journalist,

teacher, 

biologist,

writer,

mommy, 

dancer, 

artist, 

dragon, 

nurse, 

sociologist,

tightrope walker, 

doctor 

and boy.

A few wishes called to me 

and a few I summoned once 

on a boring Tuesday afternoon, 

or was it Wednesday?

Days go nameless 

when your suit does not fit (unfit), 

your business is none of yours, 

and your words remind you 

of the unspecified advice 

given by that unnamed source 

on a forgotten date or 

something someone once said or 

letters you read in a book.

Endeavoring turned out a total bust, 

all that flapping and folding 

just to breathe the same air we all do 

and  always have since birth.

And after so much wind, 

when good fortune dropped in my lap, 

I turned to the skies looking for the bird.

Where does all the world’s blindness come from?

“Who created the creator?” my father asked, 

surprising me with the quality of the question. 

We all were.

But the truth is, 

the laurel crowns all word-walkers emerging open-eyed 

envisioning the final curtain call 

–as if there were a stage. 

I bow to mystery.