I remember when I was a preteen that I had many altercations with my elder sister. When these events would occur within ear-shot of my Grandmother and she got wind of our mutual disrespect, she would always caution us against “being ugly.” When this type of behavior is seen in this light, it is in the interest of the identified party to desist. Dignity is both preserved and encouraged.
As I learned from this teaching over the years I came to see that men and women are complex creations. We all share a basic foundation, however. It is from this ubiquitous base that we become more refined and individuated. It was intended to be thus. At the high-frequency range of our make-up lies the realm we dub “the spiritual.”
Like a constantly fluctuating river, life works with the tools of time and movement to deposit layers of various sediments. These harden to different degrees due to varied heat and pressure. Conglomerates form and as these in their turn wear away, their differing components erode at varying rates.
The softest rock is that which is formed of recent mud and without extreme heat or pressure. This material wears away first. Enduring longer are crystalline compounds and rock formed in response to heat and pressure. People are analogous to rocks in many ways.
The deepest human convictions endure, even as the softer parts of personality wear away quickly and are easily molded by forces that be. The greater percentage of a personality which was formed under the application of heat and pressure, the larger amount of that personality will endure.
There are those who perfectly understand this correlation between men and minerals. Among this group are those actively engaged in human prospecting and the mining of men. With an uncanny eye for promising ore, they stake their claims among the population.
Like wood-peckers, they chip away at the softer parts of their fellow men and by using their knowledge of solvents, they are able to accelerate the process of refinement faster than is natural. What is left in their crucible or on their screen in the end is something other than what they began tampering with.
If asked, all of these miners will adamantly exclaim that they are doing good. What used to be the best attributes of their fellow men and women, they now keep in a little bag like so many gems or flakes of gold dust. If asked, they are unlikely to want to part with their portion of the pay-dirt after handing over their own boss's share.
They can always argue that a chunk of iron ore is worthless compared to a steel sword. I would ask them, who gets to wield the finished sword? There are those who's motto is to make bad men good and good men better. I would point out that when a person submits to another person to be “made”, that the finished product will be employed as a tool. Men have never gone mining for fun. Those people engaged in spiritual and psychological mining are like walking wet-belt sanders. They crush, wash, cook, abrade, sift and smelt all those they come in contact with.
In the physical realm, it is the lower faculties within humans that reacts first to the approach of a soul miners. This is because this is our most ancient part and our first defenses are seated here. Call it intuition, call it a gut feeling but do heed it.
I believe that it is noble for any person to employ some of the techniques of human refinement upon themselves, their own offspring or upon a paying customer who is seeking such treatment. Outside of these three scenarios, I find the practitioners to be aggressive, intrusive, disruptive, despicable and absolutely loathsome due to the cloak of goodwill with which they cover their ugliness and the syrupy mantras by which they mesmerize.
The irony here is that life, time and movement are already performing the process of human refinement in a natural way. Since we must choose many things, we are co-authors of our own refinement via the pressures, heat and abrasives that we subject ourselves to. The finished product is supposed to be a unique sovereign creature. Not a brick in another mortal man's wall or a jewel in his crown. Beware of all middle-men for other men always stand behind them.
Any person can be broken down into “good” and “bad” components regardless of age, sex, race, religion or education. This is the complete person. No person has to be “ugly”, however. It is a choice and those who choose the road of ugliness shall live as vultures, welcome only in the presence of the dead.
Today I was combing through items in my apartment in preparation of a move. The address I'm giving up has been home for fifteen years. A 200% longer residence than in any prior space I have ever occupied since the Dr. slapped me on the butt. Because of this, I have learned long ago not to amass too much junk.
I tend to categorize my inventory into two groups: Fluff and Necessaries. Since I was twelve years old, my Necessaries have been essentially the same items: my guitar, my books, my music collection , my own writings and a few clothes. All the rest is Fluff. Mammals are fond of lining their nests.
There is an extra category for the married man. I am married and I refer to the last category as Her Things. I have never been married to a woman who looks at this topic quite the same as myself but I am happy to report that my wife comes closer than it is safe to wish for. This is due to her childhood of constant moving and lack of wealth.
We began giving away furniture and other things several months ago and are getting down to the contents of drawers that are never opened in day to day life. As our Mayor has seen fit to raise taxes and cut garbage service by 50%, we try to maximize the rare occasions when refuse will not be refused.
I was handed a pile of papers by my wife tonight to peruse for potential keepers. I easily determined to chuck the lot into the yellow bag, save for several pieces of old stationary. I recognized the watermark of seagulls straightaway. That stationary dates back to the Seventies and the words written upon it took me back to a letter I wrote to my self at nineteen years of age. My intent at the time was to have a philosophical time capsule to refer to at a later date, such as this afternoon.
I will reproduce it here:
“If you just remember back to where you were before you got lost. There was a Voice. It was you. Like your right hand, you took it for granted. It never let you down. It was wise and explained all things in such a way that you could always understand. It was with you since birth. The younger you were, the better you knew it. Remember... Remember back. It was there alright. Then something happened. You probably didn't even notice or realize that the Voice was gone. Everything got strange. You maybe even forgot the Voice existed. Your life after that was very hard. You seemed to feel it more and more. Struggling always with only brief interludes of peace. Well, at some point you decided that you were damn well going to find that Voice because things seemed mighty better when that friend was with you. So, you searched and upturned every philosophy, religion, poet, author, place, high, person and thing in your quest. To you it was as if a life and death matter. It was never found in anything you examined. After examining each new thing, they were discarded quickly. This pace got going faster til it blurred. Many of the things you had looked over you left broken. Even more left their mark on you. You had it - you lost it - you went on a mad search for it- you started running - finally you tripped- you crashed in a heap. When you woke you found many scars and hurts acquired. You could see – hear - feel – smell and taste only one thing. Your own self. That is all that was left. You weren't aware but what that meant was that you could only find what you were looking for (The Voice) in one place. Within your own self. Actually, The Voice was with you the entire time you were searching for it. Finally, since you were so off-course, it had to bring you to a halt and block all else in the world right out of your senses, except you. It figured that if you were the only thing you could see, maybe you'd try looking there. At this point, you had no other choices. So, you looked inside. You stepped in. It was almost unknown in there with many unfamiliar things lurking everywhere. You knew damn well that all you could do was go on deeper because outside was only your crashed and bruised shell. You picked through every piece of stuff and set about saving things you valued and casting out the rest. You even returned some borrowed items. Finally, you stood at the center. There was The Voice. It had just been muffled out. You polished and cleaned it. You sat back and just listened in awe. You began to learn and vowed to never again let it be silenced. Some call it God. Others call it Sense, Sanity, Wisdom, Shit-Being-Together, Soul, Spirit and other Names. This is not important. The important things are Where It Is (inside you ) and That It Is. Being a natural part of you it can never be gone or truly “not there.” You must stay near it. If you allow it to become muffled by not maintaining its home (yourself) you will inevitably crash. Some crash once and learn. Others crash over and over. The choice is always your own. I love you.
PS: Don't take your own ultimate wisdom for granted. It must be cared for.”
I will turn fifty-seven in about three weeks and as I muse on this epistle to myself, I am struck by two things. One, that I still concur with the gist of what it says and two, that I have relearned this same lesson multiple times in the ensuing thirty-eight years. Perhaps someday, I will truly “get” what I perceived when I began shaving. More likely, I will relearn till I leave this world.
I early on perceived the circles in life. It was easy to put the patterns on top of each other and to translate one system to the next. Several years ago, it occurred to me that though life is cyclic – it was not intended that we go around the same experiences like children who upon finding themselves on a carousel, decide not to risk getting off for fear of getting hurt. Most of the world is comprised of that group of adults clinging onto poles and riding plastic horses.
I think that it was intended that we describe a spiral in our lives. The circular returns are still there and the same lessons are revisited but from a higher or lower vantage. Obviously a spiral can ascend or descend. A two dimensional circular merry-go-round is the safest way. To draw a spiral, one has to take on responsibility and the attributes of an Eagle.
I had a pow-wow with The Voice recently. Probably sparked off by my impending move, I decided to do some sorting out of my human contacts at this time. I found myself writing letters to two acquaintances, one old and one new. The letters informed them politely that I would no longer associate with them. I advised them to not write, to not call and to not visit. Even a hound dog will scratch the ticks off its ears once in a while. I felt right when I wrote it and when I mailed it.
PS: A stomach problem I had been suffering for more than a year cleared up in two days.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.