Lent Post #8: Listen


Today, I almost didn’t write anything. It’s not because I don’t want to, but sometimes when you’re tired the last thing you want to do is stick to a 40-day regiment of consistent and persistent writing. It’s also because I’ve been keeping something pretty close to the vest for a long time. About a year ago, my grandfather asked me to write his biography. If I would’ve started when he asked me, I’d probably be around halfway done by now. So, why didn’t I? I wish the answer were a simple one. But I’ll do my best to explain it here and try to get into the meat of my post as soon as possible. There were a couple of things that I struggled with: the first of which being the death of my grandmother. It hit me hard, and I know that it hit my grandfather even harder. The second of which is that my grandfather speaks sometimes using terms that are anachronisms of speech, no longer suitable for common parlance.

But in the year of struggling to find how to approach everything going on in my life, I didn’t really find any answers. So, I just begin to listen. And something happened, I began to see that underneath sometimes offensive terminology, no doubt an artifact of serving in one of the most racist branches of the military (Korea and Vietnam era), and merely trying to fit in, there was and is a deep appreciation for people from all walks of life. But many people wouldn’t know this if they were simply turned off by things like word choice.

I once had a very long discussion with a couple of friends of mine about this very thing. One of whom told me that their father is prone to the same thing and that they confront their father on a regular basis in an attempt to retrain how their dad speaks. There’s only one problem, though, my grandfather is literally almost 3 times their father’s age. I was also confronted with something else: many people in my age group have no idea how to relate to the elderly. In American culture, there is not left much reverence for the aged and infirmed, instead, we prefer the vitality of youth. Don’t think so? Look at popular media here in the United States. We often disregard the wisdom of our elders as having little relevance in today’s world. What I learned, is that in cases where this is true, my grandfather is acutely aware of that fact. But all too often, in my youth I found myself unwilling to listen because I used to believe that in all cases (believe me, I know this is still true in many cases, but stay with me here), one’s choice of words does not necessarily produce a clear picture of how that person thinks. I thought that my grandfather’s dated terminology for people that sometimes bordered on the offensive meant that he embodied all of the thoughts that such terminology is said to betray. I was wrong.

Once I let go of that, I realized how complicated a person my grandfather really is. I hope in the remaining time that I have left with him, I can at least take a peek at the core of one of a small handful of people who are responsible for who I am. What I’m trying to say is: learn to listen to what a person is saying, rather than simply how they are saying it. Old habits die hard, and it’s important to learn to truly listen instead of simply reading your own interpretation on to a place where it does not belong. I know some of you will disagree, and I used to save us all the time… But for the first time, I find it to be true: I really don’t care. And I couldn’t be prouder of who my grandfather is, and in turn the person I’m becoming.

Because you know what? Beneath all the superficial things that used to prevent me from really hearing him, I found the source of my affinity for languages, as at one point my grandpa could read and speak five different languages, and I have found the roots of my view that while humanity will always be deeply flawed, there are still worthy of basic human dignity, and love. Those are things that I will never regret.

Lent Post #2: Remember

I don’t really know what to call this post. All I can really say about it is that it was born from watching and listening to hours of Joseph Campbell lectures in combination with watching a few of my friends and family members struggle to maintain a kind of peace within as the turbulence of life showed itself to be a force of reckoning. I will let the piece speak for itself. Enjoy, and thank you for reading!

In the west, in our “modern culture,” there is often little feeling that there is a connection between us, in between those who came before. There is a tendency to think there our problems are novel; therefore, they must be unexplainable. Often, this isn’t The case. We are species with multivariate cultures and lineages, with bloodlines and independent yet interconnected histories that are a constant show of human strength and ingenuity.

From this perspective I offer: when you fail, still carry yourself with the utmost Pride, for our ancestors did the same regardless of how many turbulent seas of life they crossed without maps or guides of any kind. When you succeed, look up to the starry night and picture each bright incandescent orb as an ornament upon your family tree and remember that the ones who came before you are the ones who brought you to these shores, Long before you were but you were a thought even on the periphery of someone’s mind. They shared the same hopes, fears, similar aspirations all dressed in different cloth, but the same in essence. Let them celebrate with you, let their strength be yours, remember… No matter what land your ancestors came from, each of them in some way was a warrior, Wayfinder, A craftsman, and many other things. No matter what happens in life, carry yourself with the pride of knowing that others before you have made it, and you will too. You will do it somehow, in your own way. You will. Just because we are all flawed in some way doesn’t mean that defeat, in the total and utter sense, is never a certainty

Lent Post #1: A Day of Mourning

Once again, I find myself in a place where I have not touched this blog in quite a while. Lots of things have come and gone that I won’t go into here. Regardless, the fact remains that I need to get back to writing. After all, I wrote a book. And once upon a time, I thought writing a book would finally turn means that mythical beast that many have called a writer. Such a magical creature never suffers from the mundane roadblocks of mere mortals such as writer’s block. At least, that’s what I thought. But here I am, and I haven’t written a book in almost 2 years. I haven’t even really begun one… Yet! So why not start here?
As many of you know, I grew up Catholic. While I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, the season of Lent is upon us and I thought it would be a good opportunity to use it to rebuild something that I allowed the tides of life to wash from my shores. For the next 40 days (yes, I know I’m a little late), I will be writing one entry a day, and I’m going to start with this one. If you’ll forgive me a bit of rambling, there is something I’d very much like to say about lent itself before I get into the meat of this post. The way we were taught about lent as children was that we gave up something every year in order to take part in a small piece of the sacrifice made for us by the figure of Jesus Christ. Many people go about this by giving up chocolate, coffee, certain TV addictions, or what have you. And that’s perfectly fine if that’s what someone wishes to do. But I began thinking that it might be better to add something to your life that you have been waiting for the opportunity to explore. Kind of like an extended jumpstart to a New Year’s resolution, only slightly later in the year. That’s what I intend to do this year: to participate in lent is what I would call a cultural Catholic, rather than adherent to the Catholic faith. Consequently, I will be ending the day after Easter Sunday… 🙂

Now, on to my originally planned portion of the post. Yesterday, on March 1, 2017, I had the honor of taking part in a national day of mourning in remembrance of people with disabilities who have perished at the hands of caregivers, be they hired or family. There were many names, and for an hour and a half we’ve read those names is a group out loud, we also told how the people died, as well as their age. I’ve known this to be a problem in the disability community all of my life, but I had never had the experience of having it placed so plainly before me. I found myself filled with a combination of rage, sadness, and a kind of empathetic fear.

It might help if I unpacked that idea a little bit. What was the empathetic fear that I so deeply felt? It was fear in recognition of the fact that my name could quite literally be added to that list if the circumstances presented themselves. During that time, I also began to feel a kind of silent sadness at the fact that so many people will not be able to participate and lend their voices to the growing movement of disabled rights advocacy. We will not get to hear their needs, their sorrows, nor their brilliant ideas. Worst of all, these were lives that were needlessly snuffed out by people who saw these individuals as mere burdens to be eradicated by laying those burdens down in an extremely gruesome fashion. When I say gruesome, I mean gruesome. There were stories of people who died at the hands of paid killers. There were stories of people who were literally left in closets for weeks at a time to starve, neglected to suffer horrid infections… Some had their heads bashed in shortly after being brought into the world. I was left to ask, “what is the value of human life? And what is it that it means to be human?”I am left with the overwhelming feeling that certain lives are devalued merely because they don’t fit some preconceived idea, either that is carried with the individual passing judgment, or by society at large. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which, because these people are gone.

As my long-term followers may recall, I wrote a book called The Gimpy Monologues. At the time, I didn’t really know who the book was for. I just wrote it because I felt like it needed to be written, yet I couldn’t quite articulate why. Now I know. While I don’t want to write about disability for the rest of my life, I know that the books I do write about disability are so that an understanding grows from them. And through that understanding, it is my hope that future generations of people born with various medical conditions which present obstacles in their daily lives, will be born to a global community that sees them for who they truly are: simply another individual partaking in the bittersweet human experience. You’ll notice that in the post I have included an image of the names which were read that night. It is for you that I continue, and it is for us all that I will continue to write and to do my best to open the eyes of those around me. I’m truly sorry that I didn’t see it before.

Please forgive me.

PS. If you are interested at all in purchasing my book which I have done a horrible job of promoting on this blog, please note that you can find it here.

I Am Awake: 30 Days of Poetic Meditation Day 4

Deutsch: Yin Yang
Deutsch: Yin Yang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slithering and scaled
Most griped with fear,
They have become deaf
Your message they cannot hear
Close to the earth, lord of the naga, you feel its vibrations
You follow your finely tuned instincts without any hesitation.
Your children, the dragons of yin and yang
They enter into me, and eradicate the doung (demons)
My mind is quiet,
Your gracious yet fearsome hood protects me
As I sit with you my gracious protector,
Keeper of earthen wisdom.
You ask me,
“Why the hatred?”
“What is your mission?”
“Where are you?”
“Who are you?”
I said to the lord of the naga:
I can feel the heartbeat of the universe.
The trillions of stars across countless galaxies pulse in time with my own.
I see lines that all connect to me,
and to each other.
Love is the divine will of the universe.
Where love in its truest form exists,
There can be no hatred,
So I will take all the pain and the hatred,
and I will turn it into love,
I will use my will of fire,
use my will of fire,
and transmute it into love.
I am awake.

Golden Capped Salvation: 30 Days of Poetic Meditation Day 3



Manna descended from the Heavens.
A golden capped dose of the divine connection,
The oneness and peace that comes,
With a healthy influx of dopamine and serotonin,
Helps you to seek and find the divine within
The All…
Time erodes the experience’s originality
,Replaced by the need for the dogmatic authenticity.
Twisting the words of all the great prophets,
To act as symbols of division
As corrupted agents causing a profound
Ideological collision.
Instead of embracing the memory
Of that place of inner peace and harmony
Whether through prayer,
Contemplation, or plant medication.
Remember the message,
From that golden capped spiritual invocation,
Peace, Love, and tolerance…
Will lead humanity to its salvation.

THE BEAUTY OF YOUR BLADE: 30 Days of Poetic Meditation Day 2

image of katana on stand

They say the sword is the soul of the samurai,
And still, the mind is the seat of the soul.
Your mind is your blade.
I’ve often heard you say that it is too slow and cluttered,
I vehemently disagree.
Yours is a blade forged in the fires of your will.
Folded with hands of compassion,
with the impurities pounded away by your own internal strife.
And cooled in the waters of empathy.
It’s edges sharp enough to hack away at the weeds of delusion in the minds of others,
And pointed enough to pierce the veil to find truth.
Though it’s forging may have seemed slow,
It was done with the utmost care.
Crafted with the expertise of a legendary swordsmith,
And wielded with a kind of calm ferocity only present in the finest warrior.
Yours is a sword you will never lay down,
You will hold it up to the sun, and it will reflect all your inner glory.
This is the beauty of your blade.
Dedicated to Anna Satori, Amber J. Vadner, and all my confidants and mental sparring partners. May your blades be held up to the sun for a thousand lifetimes

The Tao of Mother: 30 Days of Poetic Meditation

Yin Yang symbol superimposed over the earth 

You, the bearer of life are closest to the Tao.

Simultaneously soft, yet unyielding.

This is the way of nature.

Nurturing budding life in a cradle of springtime warmth and tenderness,

And tempering the mature with a necessary harshness,

That life may endure,

As you have.

With an effort practiced to such a high degree,

Results seem to  be birthed without the slightest pains.

A Master of wei wu wei, of effortless effort.

The deepest well of compassion,

We drink and drink,

Perhaps too much.

Yet you appear unscathed.

And over time, you wear down, ever slower.

And with eyes of wisdom cultivated by your care,

We slowly step into the way of the sage.

And give of ourselves to nurture you

Into the next season,

The coming winter.

This is The Tao of Mother.