Where are you these days?

“Where are you these days, Jenny?” is a question that King Arthur asked Guinevere when she was torn between her love for the king and her infatuation with Lancelot, his best friend and a knight of The Round Table, in the captivating story of Camelot. The film rocked the youth years of the baby boomers. We, the generation of the shining sixties, so filled with song and dance and rhythms and tales that seem to have vanished in the wind.

Still, when I hear the songs of Camelot and of Mario Lanza from yet another landmark movie in those days, The Student Prince, I am transported back to an age of romance and of lightness and passion that seems so unreal now in an environment dominated by the men of burning ambition. The men of devouring reason and singular objectives. In yet another memorable old film, Man of La Mancha, songs were sung to inspire impossible dreams, to reach for unreachable stars, to follow pure and chaste from afar and to right the unrightable wrong. Are we perhaps longing for that era, that mindset with some modicum of indifference to what became our holy grails in the age of illusion? Are we searching for the flower children and the hippies and the gypsies of wild abandon, free from logic and the many restraints of reason? Are we watching as the beauty in being is diminishing in the search lights of enduring ‘doing’? Are we witnessing a reality of harshness with hardly any room for the passion of the Foolish Romantics of an era forever buried in the sands of time?

The lyrics of the lovers seem to have dissolved in raging seas of ambition and of strife in the arena of accumulation in the winner takes all scenario in a time of amplified purpose, rationally defined. As the years go by, each generation is robbed from something, some ingredient or quality that is relegated to memory of fewer and fewer people in the large scale surrender to the incessant draconian demands of a time where might is right and rampant, and greed amplified. So, without even knowing, we are captivated by technology and enslaved by goals in line with the empires we perceive to be had, so remote from the songs of Heidelberg in The Student Prince and of Camelot in those distant dreamlands of the lovers and the knights. We are propelled into a reality of miracles explained and magic diluted. On stage in a drama so rigid and predictable, so mind over matter with hearts astray, that little room remains for feeling and for those remnants of craziness for saving us from the sane and the sound.

We are the witnesses or the actors in an unfolding drama where knighthood and round tables, nostalgia and legends have vanished in the mists. We live in a world demanding different night time stories for our children, where motivation is the flavor of the day and the creed in existence. The measure of success is related to the establishing of the captains and the kings to, ironically, glorify the grandeur of the inevitable existance of the high and the mighty. We have broken into the prisons of an insatiable ego, lured by the literally shining, and we rush along in crowds to destinies defined. Until we are bold enough to ask ourselves a simple question: “Where am I these days?” Rather than “Where do I need to go?”

Which of the things I have assembled, do I truly need? Are there people in close proximity even, that could have used some of the stuff that I have not touched for a year? When last did I tell myself to walk in slow motion for the sake of being lost in the detail? To listen attentively for the sake of understanding, not only hearing? When last did I take the time needed to really revel in the tastes of a thousand things? To passionately celebrate the song of all the senses? To stand dead still and contemplate the Amazing Embrace that Oneness so astoundingly introduces in stillness, and where vulnerability is experienced as the common denominator of we, the dying?

All these astounding things that living present to us, and a thousand more still to discover, have never left us. But we have gone on a trip. A journey far away to where we believe happiness hides. But on the way there we got distracted and ensnared by money and might, stuff and status. In this state of unconsciousness, we fall victim to the merchants of the promised lands. Diligently, filled with expectation, we follow images of grandeur, mirages in the desert, just like the rats followed the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The one question nobody seems to dare to ask, and yet the most obvious one is: which of all these things I have and I desire, can I take with when the bell tolls? What part of my empire shall endure in even the next century? Who will remember me in a 100 years from now? What will remain of my position in society? How dispensable am I, even in the smaller scheme of things?

Of course we talk about time as fleeting. Of course we notice the marks of the years. Of course we stand at open graves. But far too little to impress upon us the futility of our actions and the foolishness of our endeavors. If so, the world we know might not have been as advanced as it is, but ambition would have been diluted and responsibility too and the illusion would have dawned on us. Expectation would have been unmasked as a trap and divisions as a state of the ego and legacies futile. Reflection, more often, on this salient inescapable truth and the fragile temporary nature of existence, might have brought us closer to our senses in discerning a race towards nothingness in a nowhere land. Not towards emptiness of preference in a paradise of consciousness.

Maybe a simple question randomly asked in the course of a day might well bring us back to where the legends were born in the first place. To where the wizards are. To where the music originates. To where the heart belongs. To where the ego dies in the final realization that our sojourn of the seconds marginalises all our monuments and destroys our legacies–to set us free at last. Few truer words were spoken than time being the great equalizer. Few questions are more relevant and more disturbing perhaps as: where am I these days?

The Heart of the Void

Looking back on a life is probably not always a good thing.  Far too many moments wasted. Far too many sins imagined. Far too little gratitude. Far too many opportunities missed. But reflection on the past is intrinsic to the human condition. The older we get, the more we inadvertently visit those bygone days. The more we reminisce, the more we seek the company of ghosts we played and danced and laughed and cried with.

Why is this so? Simply because the passing years deprive us from everything that we embraced. And everything that eventually validates our existence. The friends who linked us to the stories of our youth. All those experiences and all the hectic living that identified us and determined our place amongst others. Then, far too soon (when time is still real for us) we become aware, that slowly but surely, our lives matter less. Our histories do not hold much sway any longer. Our impact on the neighborhood and friends and family wanes. The castles erode. The kingdoms dissolve. The passion diminishes.

All this, you say, is natural. Nothing more or less than simply growing old. No great philosophical  revelation. Nothing to do with acquired wisdom. Just growing old. The most natural of human conditions. By now the one visceral  affliction that we should have mastered in our stride, being so universal. Yet, of everything that the human mind is forced to accept and cope with, this is by far the most challenging one. Far more daunting than death itself, is the advent of watching and feeling our diminishing. Our destined involvement in a process towards weakness. This stark and unavoidable reflection of the body’s unravelling on the mind. Therefore, to die before the  triumph of the years reflecting in the mirrors and felt in our bones, is perhaps preferable. Yet we seem to have a mission to live as long as we can. So afraid of a too sudden snuffing out of the light. Rather preferring the dimming of the light more gradually, despite the pain in the joints, the mist before the eyes, the wrinkles, the stumbling, the fading of the sounds. Somehow age dawns on us too late to wish for an earlier exit, and yet far too soon. And in this paradox hides the essence of our confusion. The core of our longing.

We are driven by the lure of achievement at a great tempo in a world of survival of the fittest. Victory is imagined for the ones with the most. Those with power and the nicest possessions. Those who, just maybe, could make some absurd difference in the flow of the river of the ages. No thing, however, can preserve a single semblance of the youth we have known. The games we played. No money or imagined power can take us back to even the previous second. And this is, and shall be, the one and greatest equalizer of them all in the whole wide world. This one facet of being human refutes separation and makes us one in our vulnerability. In our wounds. Nothing can take us back to the moment before the loss or the tragedy. Before the wrong words or deeds or decisions. Nothing can guarantee our safety or preserve our comfort zones. There is little use for the past. Forgetfulness is a form of freedom, like Gibran said. The fact and the dilemma is that the one lesson none of us ever seem to learn, with exception of The Masters of Moments, is that almost all of us are tangibly and obsessively haunted by the past, while projecting a future in the fog that is nothing but the realm of phantoms in spheres of the fragile, filled with the victims of those who imagined infinity.

That’s why an exit strategy is preferable. Avoid the middle seat in life. Take a place at an open door or a window.  See and experience the vistas in the immediate vicinity. Learn to travel the thousand destinations of the spirit. Don’t get stuck in memory. Play in the nearby beauty of rain on roses, drifting clouds, four-leafed clovers, shining blades of grass, the vast emptiness in forlorn fields, the majesty of mountains, the tastes of a thousand things, the sounds around. The lure of lakes and trails and cultures and books and music. Stay wild. Remain free. Reject the norms. Don’t play safe. Go beyond. Live dangerously. Seek nothing. Die laughing.

What is the cost of our enduring planning in terms of simplicity, joy and here- and nowness? Tremendous and frightening. We cater for eternity while haunted by the finite. Provide for the darkness, while blinded by the light. Maybe, just maybe, there shall come a time of insight when a paradigm shift shall propel us back to the worlds we never should have left. Those places of the poetry, the music and the surrounding inherent beauty. The origin of the legends and the fountainhead of wonder that set us free from ourselves and our ridiculous ant-like nature of assembling and preparing for a future haunted by a past. Acquiring diligently for generations yet unborn.
Maybe, deep down we miss the savage and resent the nobility.  The creature inside, living for the day with basic needs and simple joys. No sets of rules. No prescribed civility. No emphasized responsibility.  Our attention span has become far too involved and outstretched and much too long. What we all need is a little more of an attention deficit syndrome for the sake of freedom and of laughter and of lightness. A notion of ‘whateverness’, if you will. Maybe the Super Human of the future will be a specimen of simplicity devoid of needs and released from seeking and of time and virtue, and wisdom even. A Supreme Being with scant memory. No pact with the past. No notion of the future. With a singular vision, cast in the Instant of the Visible Reality. Resembling the Ultimate Heaven in the Heart of The Void.

Prayer

God,

Can I rather exchange Your heaven for some extra healthy energetic years on this planet, only until I have seen the whole magnificent world, read many more books and listened to more music. Until I have had my feet in all the seas. Stood on all the mountain tops. Walked with the ones I love on pathways through a thousand forests. On the premise, of course, that I retain the strength to play hide and seek with my grandchildren’s grandchildren. Be able to love and be charmed and loved until I give You notice that I have had enough, and that I am ready to take a chance on that Paradise of Your promise. 

You see, God, I am one of those, and believe me there are many of us, maybe millions, who, given the privilege of choice, might well have opted to be forever young. The fact that we do not want to live forever, God, is only because we are scared of old age. The so visible ravages of time. How can we get bored in such short a time? Because we see our own unravelling and feel how life seeps away. Because we falter when we walk and are shortchanged in the running years. But You know that, don’t You? If You could perhaps change your mind, something that should be a breeze for You, the All Mighty, and give us the option at least of a decent youth, let’s say 30 something for a minimum of only two hundred years straight, as an alternative for the Nirvana in the Book after the few years here.

Then, God, some of us will find Your Grace more tangible and I promise You, some of us will take the opportunity to explore this Majesty of Yours with a vengeance, the commitment and the ecstasy of a prolonged youth that then would not disappear in front of our eyes in seconds. I, and many others I believe, will even take the chance of worlds around us disintegrating on account of human greed and exploitation, conflict, hatred and confusion. But you must remember that, having more time then, and with the experience of a little longer then of all our own mistakes and our lack of love and compassion, we might well stand a better chance too of changing  this earth into the one that You must have dreamt about in the very beginning. The one our children and grandchildren deserve.

Having more time to reflect, Master of the Universe, don’t You think we might just make the grade as awakened beings somewhere along the line? And then Your boldness to consider this prayer favorably, might just bring heaven closer to earth and give us the extended breath to see for ourselves how good can finally triumph over evil and love over hate, exactly where we find ourselves on Earth. And meanwhile God, we get the chance to explore some more and learn so much more of the one fascinating world we still know so little of. 

Think about this God. It should be such small thing in the domain of Your Majesty, and such a paradigm shift for we the starving. Or, if this idea refutes your Heavenly Plan of the Scriptures, would You then consider furnishing us with just a semblance more tangible  evidence of the existence of that Nirvana where You hide.

Amen.

Riding the Dragons

“Now everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background hum of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity. There would be no more of those nerve-jangling highs and lows. The friends they had now would be the friends they had in five, ten, twenty years’ time. They expected to get neither dramatically richer nor poorer; they expected to stay healthy for a little while yet. Caught in the middle; middle class, middle-aged; happy in that they were not over happy.” – One Day by David Nicholis.

Reading this, I was struck by the universal validity of this statement. This is what life is about. The initial thrills, adventure and tangible ecstasy hidden in the guessing game. Then, as time begins to demand its pound of flesh, follow the days of evenness. The drama gets diluted. The whirlwind is exchanged for the breeze. Health and predictability, security and stability become the pronounced priorities. Breathlessness is exchanged for easy breathing. Riding the waves for watching the ebb and the flow from the safety of the shore, both literally and figuratively. The Catcher in the Rye are becomes the Watcher in the Rye (maybe not a bad idea for a follow up on that world famous book of JD Salinger).

Firstly, the reaction that surfaces in the mind of someone who lived in the fast and reckless lane, to the words above, is tainted with sadness. Melancholy with its origin in the inevitable diminishing that time is the great conductor of. We think of the wild days of your youth. The willingness to boldly experiment outside the framework of what was formulated as socially acceptable and responsible. Those days that brought you, often, to the brink of an insanity with a lure and a fascination of its own. Life as a rush. The thrill of death-defying moments taking you to the apex of discovery and daring. The years with secrets that you cannot even share with your family and most of your friends, without running the risk of wrecking any semblance of a reputation as a responsible and dedicated son, father, family man and businessman. A task I took on hopefully in time with dedication and love.

Sometimes images of those days of abandonment haunt me in my dreams. But I embrace those ghosts and dragons and wolves and fairies. I never would have opted for a life that would have excluded them from the vistas that I still have, albeit mostly only in my dreams. For some of us, normality does not work right from the start. A measure of insanity is needed to make us tick. You may be glad if this were never your challenge in life and if you were spared this ‘cross’. As for me, and those restless souls who share my world, I would not have wanted to change one of those monster waves (figuratively) that I rode in the company of like-minded souls. Would not, for all the money in the world, have risked losing my few years in that blazing sun and under those brilliant stars with those daredevils for whom nirvana was visible in a reality not defined by what we believe to be true.

Never would I have been able to find myself, at least for most of the time, in the moment’s embrace, had I not ventured on a different journey. I would have been hypnotized in the illusion still, and the words would never have found me on any other journey. This, of course, does not imply, heaven forbid, that this is the path recommended universally. It only means that there is possibly a thousand ways to paradise, and blessed are those who find the way that takes them here (not there). Paradise undefined holds that magical quality that today still, by some weird grace, let’s me loose on the opposite side of time and space and thought.

If I had to choose again, regardless of all the dark hours in the mix, I would make sure, once more, not to be caught in the middle. Even in old age to grasp onto my imagined world of  the wily wizards where nothing is laid on the altars of safety and comfort.  Where the highs and lows stay extreme with rollercoasters in the vicinity.

The Possible Dream?

After all the traumatic conflicts among nations over decades now, and worsening instead of abating, the time is overdue to consider serious introspection regarding value systems that seem to be in rags and tatters all around a besieged globe. Especially the self proclaimed World Leader, the USA, should display the willingness to investigate its own moral fibre and ask the pertinent question: is a massive dislike of all that is American in so many countries all over the world for so long already, and continually intensifying at that, merely the result of jealousy among others of the undisputed phenomenal success of the US as the leader on so many fronts, or are there perhaps other reasons as to why America is largely now seen as the bully of the world?

To what extent is a reference to American “specialness” helpful in an age where one is hoping for divisions to unravel in line with the imminent need all over the world for consciousness to emerge that will reflect Oneness and shared interests as a common denominator among humankind, rather than the deepening divisions that shall eventually destroy us all? I hear the immediate defensive arguments about violence and intolerance among so many cultures, also the argument spelling out all the saving graces of democracy and capitalism, and also the blame leveled at religions that are more warlike and conflict-bent to render the whole world unstable and to impose their will and dogma on others. We are all aware of  this. But we are so enmeshed in the deeds of radicals and if this stays the main focus, we shall have to content right through existence with the vociferous and visceral wars waged agains these elements, and at the same time neglect to bolster the community of moderates, always less verbal and less pronounced, but still presenting majorities in all societies, I would like to believe.

So what about the idea of an International Summit for World Awakening, at least giving the malfunctioning United Nations, with a dubious track record, a chance to at least play a role in such an event, in stead of always being in the trenches of defense. An opportunity to bring Nations together with no exclusive agendas and no pre-conditions at all. How far fetched is such an idea, compared to the dire notion that we will never be able to address the danger of wars and endless conflict in a mode of thinking along the lines of bridges too far to cross, unreachable stars and impossible dreams, while the world is pining for a new dispensation and a spiritual revolution? Something that, long ago already, should have brought all religions together under the auspices of universal gentleness, tolerance and especially the accepted notion that nobody, and therefore no nation, can claim ‘specialness’ or ‘uniqueness’ in a world of temporary creatures, diminishing as we speak, eat and dream.

The great leaders of the world from hereon will be those who can see the global picture, realize that the smallness of the world, caused by the technological revolution, now gives sanity, compassion and especially humbleness a chance to get a foothold  in the most remote corners of earth. It is hardly likely that such visionary leaders are to be found amongst the current political masters. But I would like to imagine that the likes of a Jefferson or Lincoln or FDR can arise in America again, just like the likes of a men like Nelson Mandela in Africa and elsewhere to sow the seeds for human awakening across a landscape that through the ages divided humanity and robs us all of that rightful place in the sun that is all the heaven we can hope for. We, and America especially, I think, need to be awake enough not to claim the ‘specialness’ that they so often do as a reflection of a far too amplified, uncritical patriotism, so extremely pronounced that it separates them from the rest of the world, more and more intimidated by displays of power in words and deeds.

I had the privilege to live in the US for seven years. I have, and always shall have, a great admiration for what was achieved so spectacularly on that soil, but I shall not be the true friend that I would prefer to be, without my own small effort in urging Americans to scrutinize their own society in terms of holy cows that in this day and age should have been passé. To be less isolationist and to make an effort to learn more about the surrounding world. And yes, to even temper extreme patriotism for the sake of the revival of individualism. Commitment and loyalty should at least have some boundaries, one of them intelligent and objective observation of reality and illusion.

You can hardly claim to be enlightened and conscious in a leadership role in the world and it’s knight in shining armour too, without checking your own premises regularly with reference to a moral high ground that cannot be left to be defined by politicians, always power driven in the first place. Always involved in the next election in a system that, if not reformed according to the dictates of compassion and inclusiveness, shall self-destruct at some point in time. The brand of capitalism that we think will endure forever, is also long due for reform. Go ask the common folk and the working masses – even in the affluent World.

Only in a collective awareness, spiritually driven, now perhaps more critical than ever, can this world be saved from ourselves and our separatism and our greed. We need a new strategy. A different philosophy of inclusiveness in the place of kings and masters. Is the idea then of an American initiated World Awareness Congress in some Islam country maybe, only the pipe dream of this raving lunatic, stumbling all over this wounded world, or can this become a reality before the destruction of our dreams as One? As for me, I shall dream on.

The Kings of Comedy

Lilla and I saw a Jerry Seinfeld show last night in Long Beach, California. It was truly excellent and worth the money, even with the Rand at more that 10 to the dollar, something we are rather quite aware of in the US this time around. Can one, in a world haunted by conflict, desperation, violence and the senseless deeds of men, ever put a price on laughing out loud? Seinfeld illustrated, once again, that he is a master of comedy and in a way this elevates him to a master of life. He made fun of himself and literally everyone else, so intrinsically bounded together by the Comedy of Living. He joked about issues that irritate most of us all of the time. What made his performance the highlight of comedy and such a classic act, is the fact that he joked about our common dilemmas, frustrations and experiences in life in a journey that, in essence, is pretty much the same for we the living. 

When we left the theatre where more than 2000 people attended, I was wondering what will the world look like if we had the ability to see the joke of living for what it really is, and to shed the last    vestiges of seriousness with a vengeance. What would happen tomorrow if humor becomes the common denominator in our existence in stead of jealousy, fear, expectation and dreams of better worlds to?  What would transpire if we can look in the mirror and see the laugh lines rather than the frowns? How would the neighborhood be affected if the sound of laughter replaces the sound of sighs? To be able to see the humor in situations has the power to convert a world of prisons into the arena of the free souls of the incurable lightness of being. 

Would the closest we can ever hope to come to heaven, not perhaps be a metamorphosis that can eventually mean our emancipation from even time and space as known to us? How will we approach the battle fields as the laughing armies? What will the effect of a Jerry Seinfeld be in a corporate boardroom where dog eats dog? What would humor in the highest gear do to the ridiculous crusades of the megalomaniacs all over the planet? Maybe one of our biggest challenges today has to do with the fact that we crucified the jokers amongst us and crowned the men of unbridled ambition and endless greed to rule the world. 

What would happen if, by some miracle of maybe as short as only five minutes,  we can be in some kind of deep trance, looking at what consumes our fleeting lives in a genre that was never supposed to be anything but one spectacular comedy of errors, releasing us from exaggerated responsibilities and eternal legacies that evaporate anyway in the play of the centuries. Is our shared dilemma of being here for particles of seconds only, not also our escape route right into the realm of laughter and lightness?

Is stupidity not actually reflected in regarding something of such ridiculous short shelf life as serious to start with?  Should we not then rather find one another in what truly is the Theatre of the Absurd where all the baggage gets dropped right at the door, never to be collected again? Can we do much worse as jokers as we have achieved as philosophers, politicians, priests and custodians of power and wealth? Where are we in the midst of exhausting dedication to a million causes? Maybe it’s time to evacuate the battlefields, tone down the missions, re-think the crusades for saving the world and the bizarre outcomes of our plans for greatness.  Maybe the Kings of Comedy now deserve a change to try and save us from the shadow lands of seriousness with its brutal ghosts. And if they too fail, then this too shall be a laughing matter in the few seconds if our existence.

Stories

No one was better at captivating an audience than Grandpa, when he sat on his favorite bench telling stories, leaning on his walking stick and chewing tobacco.
“But Grandpa … Is that really true?” we grandchildren would ask, wide-eyed.
“Those who only say what is the truth, they’re not worth listening to,” Grandpa

From: The Hundred Year Old Man–Jonas Jonasson

Reading this again on an airport somewhere in time it struck me that truth, too, does not have to be true all the time. That relativity is the greater agent for freedom. That magic dispels reality–mostly.That we breathe with greater ease in fields of secrets. That the worlds of black and white are loaded with conflict and confusion, judgement and perception.  That, in reality, realness is bearable only in its unrealness. That we are rescued in stories. That the tales on the opposite side of truth and rationality, are the truly Great Stories. The stories that induce the journey with adventure. The stories that allow us to dare to be wild and to let go of our serious dispositions in lives rife with chores and responsibilities. The stories on the shady side of the truth bring the big fish to life, rescue the knights, slay the ghosts, resurrect the fairies and glamorize the sinners–and may even finish off the saints. The stories make everything possible and bring the magic right into the neighborhood. We are untouchable in our stories. Kings of castles.

Maybe our inborn sense for adventure that we all share in the arena of universal diminishing, ensues from the awareness that one day, the only living that we know will suddenly be snuffed out, and this while so many roads have not been explored. So many stories not been heard or told. So many places still unseen. That’s why we cannot go without the stories, since in the stories we remain the ageless listeners or tellers, and we can travel a million miles in seconds and be back for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reality in any way is obscured, because of our fortunate incapacity to fully understand. Because of the frustrations in our seeking, we remain free in a weird sense.  Our  truth is erratic and shifting in the Sea of Change. By its very nature such questionable truth dilutes feigned responsibilities and imagined crusades towards ideas or goals, shaky and fragile in our lives consumed by assumption. You see, we live in stories. Even if subconsciously. They are effervescent. The stories of the dragons and the princes, the knights, the heroes and the villains, save us from too much light, too much world with us at once. Too little shades of saving gray.

The stories and the words, the poems and the songs become our sanctuaries and safe houses where imagination is invulnerable. In truth then, one can assume that it is not the truth that classically sets us free, but rather the inability to define the truth. The truth as mystery. The not-knowing. For in the riddle resides an element of danger and uncertainty, the ingredients of our dreams, and even of our hopes. How can we stick to the so-called undisputed truth, if this contains our ultimate demise and desperation in vanishing in the twilight of nothing? Even religion relies on the stories to keep its appeal in the lure of eternal life. The prophets and the priests especially need the stories for their credibility not to erode and their kingdoms not to collapse. So do the artists, the writers, the politicians, the young and the old, and even the greatest of rationalists amongst us. Life to be worth living, has to defy the truth every now and then. The dreams can only stay intact when the legends defy death. In the worlds where the fairies stay alive and dragons wink, we are all fine for now.