Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Many Would Tell You

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

On Nov. 1st, the New York Times ran a theater review by Charles Isherwood His review, titled “Her Life Coach Comes From Another Lifetime,” starts this way: “Barbara, the heroine of ‘Spain,” a new play by Jim Knable at the Lucille Lortel Theater, has an unusual pest problem. She’s got a conquistador infestation in her living room. A real, live Spanish adventurer from the 16th century has plopped himself down on her couch – battered armor, blood-spattered sword and all – and he won’t take his grimy boots off the coffee table.”

I haven’t seen the play, but I know it really is hilarious to think about the costuming we do as we show ourselves the hidden memories we constantly live with in our internal worlds. We don’t know any other way to live with them, or explain them, except to display them theatrically. And what fun it can be. Isherwood goes on – “Barbara is played by Annabella Sciorra, a likeable actress who spends too much of the first act shouting. This is to some degree understandable since Barbara has recently been dumped and now finds herself playing unwilling host to that messy houseguest in a quaint helmet.” Well, I have played unwilling host to a messy houseguest in a helmet, dour sisters cloistered too long, raucous pirates with a lust for more than gold, a painter with a mind addled by colorful fumes, a giggling schoolgirl playing with her schoolmate hours on end, a soldier weary of battle and entombed in the sense of hopelessness that battles will never end. The list goes on.

Those who know me are often surprised when I say such things. Those who know me well, beyond the trappings and customs or borders of certain times and frames, are not surprised but amused or intrigued, curious. We each live our own memories, more and more easily unfolding our own personalities as we know ourselves. We are learning what it means to be infinitely energy beings, habitats of our own making, universes within, all for one and one for all. Life as the ultimate “finishing school,” and beginning school. I am walked to the door by my mother or father the first day of school, that intrepid walk down the sidewalk (or, in our case, my brothers and sister and I, to the converted carport) to the entrance. From that day forward, the feeling changes. Nothing is ever the same, although more is familiar.

Now what comes to me more often are the images of men and women in long robes, with endless conversation into the night, wine flowing, tears sometimes falling both from laughter and sorrow that passes on into the night air. Glimpses of little children running, fully free in their glee. Characters stroll through my internal and external plays, too, and I am learning to enter and exit on cue. The structure of the day’s plays, the nighttime flights, are becoming more familiar and free-flowing, and the vistas are opening up to me in ways that arborists have described biographies of trees, and one ecologist has explained her motherhood. Pilots describe flying, acrobats have no words for their flight. I feel their words anyway as I swim through my life, remembering, diving.

I think of Nabokov writing about his Blues, that widespread group of small butterflies known today as the Tribe Polyommatini, called Blues even though many of them are other colors. His passion for these creatures, his joy in pursuing, collecting, categorizing, studying them is exquisite, obsessive, joyful. He never learned to drive, and he estimated that between 1949 and 59 his wife Vera drove him more than 150,000 miles all over North America, mostly on butterfly-hunting trips. Nabokov obviously relished his pleasure in this study, which he was committed to as a boy, and his personality also appreciated the humor in this character of a man strolling through towns and fields with a small net. He trained himself as a scientist and wrote specialty articles for a few appreciators. The rest of his literature does not show this aspect of the man, but the seriousness, the winks, are still there, along with his precision of language, his seriousness of tone. This is an example to me of a man who gave full rein and focus to that memory stream that was so strong in him, and he created this in the stream of his “other” life, though with great nudging and support from his wife, Vera.

Examples abound. And what fun it can be.


pic by C Buffington
I thought of a fairy tale with the three little pigs. The wolf threatens to blow their house down. This story came to my mind when we talked about the ego and the power we give our ego as our negatively controlled mind. When we are not solid in our own truth, knowing ourself, we are swayed by the wind, and not just the strongest winds, hurricanes that come with roaring and warnings. I have lived this swaying, and compared to dancing, the dancing of leaves in the breeze, even the sexy swaying of hips in the hot mambo chemistry on a dance floor, this swaying has the quality of giving in, crumbling, unequal.

Fairy tales are simply more images we’ve made of ourselves to help us see the stories we live. Beasts that speak, trees that reach their limbs to us, water that climbs and shrinks – these are fantastic, we say, the eyes of children bright as the moon, expectant, surprised, and full of wonder. This is mine for the day. My friend Max had a cat he loved. He knew I didn’t love cats, in fact I sneeze around them, so he never asked me to pet or take care of his cat when he was away, or needed time without his cat. Max is 10 years old, and very busy. Sometimes I call him just to ask how he is. When this is during a weekday, sometimes he will say, Aren’t you at work? I’ll say, yes, and he’ll say, Well, me too, can we talk about this later? He sounds preoccupied yet attentive. When I hang up, I am smiling, and I always hear his care, his concern that I hear him. It is wonderful to know such a child. One day Max called me and said his cat Perkins was going away. Where? I asked. Why? He spoke very calmly, yet with the same attentive air, the same concern. Well, he said, I decided he wanted to live with someone else. How did you know? I asked. A friend of my mother’s came over, he said, and she loved Perkins, I could tell. I could tell that Perkins wanted to live with her, and that I was ready to spend time on other things. Wow, I said. Yeah, he said. He was very matter-of-fact. There was no love lost. She brings Perkins over to see me sometimes, he said. I could feel his smile when he said this.

I will never have a cat living with me, but I surely remember every image of them – stalking, sleek, lazy, fast, large, small, meowing, growling. (Did you ever see the film, Cat People?) Cougars, cheetahs, Siamese, tortoise shells. One morning before fully awake I lean across the bed to reach for my water glass and a big paw complete with claws rises toward my hand, its soft pads suddenly there. Believe me, my eyes opened then. I rolled over and up before I got the whiskers and coat.

Closing the door behind me as I throw my animal print scarf around my neck, I think of Max and I smile. Max knows how to listen and learn. He knows how to feel a breeze. What a night, what a day, what a life.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hidden Agendas

First, what does it mean to be "conscious" and "aware"?

What does it mean to have a "hidden agenda"?

What are "ulterior motives"?

Until we recognize ourselves as energy beings creating matter, creating our physical world and physical lives, we have "hidden agendas" too that are solely physical and therefore manipulative of our own energy fields as "our world."

I think of this as I am learning to know myself as an energy being with an intelligent design of creation, an evolving consciousness. Recently I was in a restaurant for dinner with a few friends. We waited for a table and consulted with the hostess about the choice of tables and our preference. We were seated in a section with a waitress we have interacted with many times in the restaurant, but not for a few months. When she began working there we were among her first customers, and she was charmingly young and engaged as she opened our wine bottle for the first time as customers. It’s a good memory for us. This recent night she came to our table and we were all smiles to see her again and she was happy to be waiting on us again too. We asked how she has been, she gave us a brief update of her activities, and opened a bottle of wine for us, remembering that first time. As our dinner went on, the band began to set up and then play, and the number of people in the place increased. It was a Friday night, and the loosely reckless air of weekend freedom began to build too.

As the noise increased and we had to lean over our round table and talk loudly to be heard, I paid attention to the many different energies I felt. The physical tension of energies building – the music, the voices, the sound of chairs scraping the floor, the energies of the many people getting together and communing, those gliding in and through carrying food, the kitchen staff in their focus of preparation and momentum – was itself orchestral in the crescendos and changes. I felt the verses and chorus of the song my friends and I played as we were together, even as the physical energy in our space increased, with the activity of the larger space, the crowd gathering, music playing. I looked around and saw some familiar faces, people talking, eating, some drinking. As I made eye contact with a few familiar people, those nodes in my mind felt different than when I passed through other fields physically unfamiliar.

The joy I felt in the familiar energy of our waitress was delightful, and we hugged as our party left. I remember this lilt of energy inside like buttercups appearing in a field, blips on my screen, my archival history of moments that have lit me up. As I contemplate this energy, the energy of this physical person with the charming smile and innocence of youth which still holds the wonder of actively creating life, I smile at this feeling and remember – as a child, my brothers and sister and I running in circles, or down the dirt road of the compound, arms out, just making sounds in the wind, sometimes barefoot, sometimes with soles kicking up dirt. I understand more now why these giddy streams of memory, energy, are what they are, and why we make them into other images in our urge to feel that way again. When we open our minds to our infinite memory as energy, the streams are there to wade into spontaneously and also to be consciously explored "as they are," no manipulation required. What joy this is.

Seduction and manipulation are physical energies that are the "totems," the stock exchanges, of what we come to believe are the tools of our trade as human beings that need and want to be loved. The "hidden agenda" within us is our intelligent design as long as our minds are not open to the reality of us as energy beings creating our physical world in every aspect. The inspiration and motivation of the soul and spirit is to create, to evolve. I see now how a belief that "I am responsible only for myself" can be a manipulated and distorted image of the belief that "I live only one life."

As I sit in silence by the open window on this beautifully brisk Fall morning and think about this carnival of energies, I think of a book I’ve read called Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood (2001), by Sandra Steingraber. Sentences she has written came to mind as she describes the narrowness of focus in amniocentesis, for example – the whole enterprise implying that the future life of a child can be read by counting its chromosomes and scrutinizing their architecture. She writes about having her amniocentesis and the process as science interprets it. Only about 10 percent of the captured cells are alive, but these can be coaxed to grow and divide if carefully nurtured in an incubator at human body temperature. Then they can be harvested for genetic analysis. She explains that chromosomes can only be studied if the fetal cell’s growth cycle is interrupted just at the point where the cells are about to divide. Only when the cells are about to divide are the chromosomes changed from the loopy threads that are impossible to study to the pictures we see in science books of fat, distinct bodies. Chromosomes have to be compressed and contracted and then stained to be examined for their individual characteristics. Steingraber shares a great image: "A geneticist friend of mine claims that a properly stained human chromosome that has been captured in the moments preceding cell division should look like a headless man in a striped prison suit." Given my fascination with mannequins and manufactured body parts, I now understand my relationship to these internal images more clearly. Steingraber’s epiphany was this: Whatever is in hummingbird eggs is also inside my womb. Whatever is inside the world’s water is also here in my hands.

In his new novel, Tomorrow, Graham Swift's character (Paula Hook) describes her twins imagining what it was like before they were born. She found them one morning trying to form a positive single ball of flesh, giggling, saying they were practicing not being born yet. A stage beyond the stage of not being born yet was still beyond physical imagining – but that sense of "being there," one, of having been one and divided remained, and remained a delightfully giddy sense that prompted giggles and never-ending smiles.

Having been born a triplet, I now easily image beyond what our physical division as growing children, then adults was and all it portends – over and over. This is a pattern of cell division and capture made real, with a special signal to me as an image of my own creation in this life and an invitation to feel the exuberance of this process of creation that continues endlessly, simply captured in moments, stained and otherwise.

My heart pumps away, tireless, part of my intelligent design of life, and I feel both the giddy and quiet shades of joy with it. Whatever is within the seed of my thought, is what I share with the world. I am the maker of my world as caretaker, caregiver. My epiphany is this: staining an image I’ve captured to study simply shows me creation is eternal and constant. Not to know this is to remain cold-hearted and huddling by the hearth without a sense of the world. A blind man was one of the greatest known explorers in history. Imagine walking a mountain range the width, to scale, of a human vertebrae high in the air, without physical sight. Imagine stumbling into furniture in the dark when you open a door or get up in the night to go to the bathroom. Indivisible. Images come to us in the same way we capture them before cells divide, to study their characteristics and what they tell us of life and its development. Now, we go beyond that narrow way of rods and cones alone defining our world for us. Our chemical environment is constantly in motion, interactive, not just in one image, or at one level we have learned how to capture and predictably interpret. Life goes on.