Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lost and Revealed

"Lost" was one of my favorite shows. A metaphysical mystery/thriller that revealed a little more each episode, but even as it revealed, it kept you off balance.

Lost is not however, one of my favorite places to be in life. I look for a familiar landmark, true north, a compass, a map, a guide, but then I realize I am a bit like Alice, unsure where it is I am trying to go.

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
- Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert and Dante share an address in the dark woods. I am starting to know them by sight and smell. I'm listening for the music, the kind that comes only from being in the woods.

In my teens I loathed peace symbols. Pacifism felt boring, stale. I don't know if I've ever drawn a peace symbol. But I spent years drawing anarchy symbols. They described the shape of my restless soul. Lately I have been binge watching "Sons of Anarchy," and rekindling my unrealistic, romantic love affair with anarchy. To hear Emma Goldman quoted,

Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals...

I am not deluded enough to think that anarchy is a way most people, myself included, would choose to live, any more than thinking chaos would be a fun way to be stuck in a shopping mall. But there is something to letting a natural order take shape, rather than feeling lost in a society that rarely seems to find worth in the things I've come to value. It's a dilemma.

Lost. That's the shape of trying to figure out love, vocation, passion, time, family, art, nature. It's the shape of being between. In flux. Maybe it's just a more honest description of how we always are, when not deluded into thinking we have things figured out. It's easy to think of these lost feeling times as a sort of existential intermission. But that discounts these days, this time. And it assumes that the next act is written already, somewhere to be found. There is just as good a chance it is yet to be written, still to be determined. Unless it is already written on the soul.

I've been reading around of late in Pablo Neruda's "Residence on Earth," and Jim Harrison's "The Shape of the Journey." Both books were written over decades or more. Harrison's is a new and collected poems. In "The Theory and Practice of Rivers" he discerns:

It is not so much that I got
there from here, which is everyone's
story: but the shape
of the voyage, how it pushed
outward in every direction
until it stopped:
roots of plants and trees,
certain coral heads,
photos of splintered lightning,
blood vessels,
the shapes of creeks and rivers.

Maybe that is why life is hard to pin down. Maybe that is why it is hard to know the soul. Because the shapes we understand are circles, squares, trapezoids if we want to get funky. But life might be more accurately shaped like creeks or rivers, which have always been some of my favorite shapes. I am reminded of their unique shapes when I am on a paddleboard or cruising or floating in a boat. Or sipping a beer or reading or writing or watching sunset from the shoreline.

Maybe the shape of our life isn't one we can predict, or map, maybe it is a shape that gets revealed, made clear, little by little. Season one of "Sons of Anarchy" ends with Jacks Teller walking through a graveyard over to his father's grave. The song that is playing is a spiritual old blues song, which is a favorite of mine, written by Blind Willie Johnson. It's called "John the Revelator." Maybe it's fitting, or telling, that it's written, sung, revealed by a man who was blind.

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