Category: Conspiracy of Light


Although I have written many posts here at Conspiracy of Light most remain unpublished. They consist of ideas that I am still working on, venting moments, or half baked ideas. However, the idea that sticks out to me this week is to write about my relationship with music.

Although music therapy exists as a therapeutic modality, most of the books and articles I read only speak of the value of the tune and the emotional tenor of the music itself. Very few recognize or even acknowledge the impact of the word, the lyric. It was for this reason that I introduced a section of the Soundscape Progcast called “Lyrical Spelunking”. The idea was to get at the emotional and philosophical content that was buried in the words of the music. However, that was not complete enough. It did not recognize the way that the tune itself also pierced into our world. So then I introduced musical spelunking. Well, Soundscape is an ever changing animal, built to evolve with time and the motivations of yours truly. It has more recently become a platform for exploring theme and delving into the hidden layers of prog rock. This week we will explore the strange overlap between punk and prog. That is enough for several episodes and I am trying to condense it into one, so needless to say there is less and less room to delve into lyrical content or the meaning of the music.

My relationship to music has always been such that it fuels my weekly life. It motivates me, reflects my mood and thoughts, it serves as a friend in times of distress and a catalyst for all the rebellious energy that hides beneath my otherwise calm appearance. (You know I appear calm so just accept it). As a result I often feel the need to shout from the rooftops the joy and the depth I find in the music I listen to. Actually one of the purposes that Soundscape serves is for me to share my musical adventures with others who are interested. Sometimes though Soundscape is not enough. I need to wax philosophical on my experience. I also still want to be able to connect music to psychological content as I think a connection between clinical needs and music could be made for those who need it.

The piece that lit my fuse this week is from the new Ben Folds Five CD. It is a song called “Do it Anyway” This song has been my motivator this week. Anything I have been fearful about or procrastinating about I have just chanted the mantra “Do It Anyway”. While this song may not be motivational to everyone who reads this, I think you can see how it does motivate. Artists provide a ritual chant, an emotional texture, etc. They pronounce the cultural memes which we will all follow.

You might put your love and trust on the line
It’s risky, people love to tear that down
Let ’em try
Do it anyway
Risk it anyway

And if you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head
It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead
Go on and
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

There will be times you might leap before you look
There’ll be times you’ll like the cover and that’s precisely why you’ll love the book
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

Tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are ok

Sometimes it’s not subjective: wrong and right
Deep down you know it’s downright wrong but you’re invincible tonight
So you
Do it anyway
It’s done
You did it

Despite your grand attempts the chips are set to fall
And all the stories you might weave cannot negotiate them all
Do it anyway
Be honest, anyway
So tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are OK
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Woah woah woah woah

It’s gonna be so very hard to say
And watch the trust and joy all drain from her innocent face
But you must
Do it anyway
It sucks but
Do it anyway

Call it surrender but you know that that’s a joke
And the punchline is you were never actually in control
But still, surrender anyway

Tell me what you said you’d never do
Tell me what you said you’d never say
Read me off that list of things ’cause I used to not like you
But now I think you’re OK
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Woah woah woah woah

Everybody knows that you just gotta do it anyway

Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

Cause you don’t do nothing to avoid self punishment
You won’t do nothing
You won’t feel nothing
Gotta
Do it, do it, do it anyway
Ah
Do it anyway- Ben Folds Five

Ben and his band have sounded a rallying cry several times in my life. But when I think about this, there are so many other bands that feed my fire. When I was much younger (so much younger than today), I found music to be helpful for the issues of the day. I remember listening to Marillion after they put out Fugazi. That album did not connect with me personally so much. I was too young to have been through a marriage, let alone watch one fall apart. But I knew that the efforts put into the lyrics by Fish were coming from real experience. They echoed the sentiments of someone who was dealing with loss.

It was not until much later (after Fish left the band) that Fish put out his first solo album; Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors and his words finally connected to my personal life. It was in fact the title song that made that impact. One of the key lines was “For now just our t-shirts cry freedom” that has since been one of my mantra’s. Now for you this lyric may not hold meaning which is precisely the reason that theming music to a psychological diagnosis is so difficult, but for me it connected to a constellation of rebellion. For me that line means, we are not acting on the things that need to be acted on. Instead we wear t-shirts that speak our truths. A cry in a wilderness of mirrors where everything reflects only me and no one else can be allowed presence. The song calls me to a life of action, or at least attempted actions. I do not want to live in a world where the only means of rebellion is to print our favorite band, saying, or mashup on a t-shirt. Instead I want to live a life of being the change I wish to see. I do not want to be just a voice in the crowd, and Fish in all of his marvelous wisdom was using this song to call for uprising, for change, and for collaboration.

Another song that I have found to be quite uplifting comes from The Alan Parsons Project The song is “Turn It Up” and the key motivating lyric for me “If there is something you’ve got to believe in, then the message must get through, so don’t just sit in silence, when you know what to do, Turn it up, Make it louder”. Again a call to action, rise up, don’t get caught in the folds of life, turn up the volume of those things that you find meaning in, and make them louder. Share your voice with the world. Live deliberately.

Each of these songs for me presents a call to action. Maybe I just get off on the call. I find it amazing that I can be lost on my journey and a piece of music can bring awareness to all the ways in which I could yet again move forward, kick start my motor and send me ever onward. This then is a deep interest of mine; How do lyrics propel you forward? Are there moments in your life that you feel lost, and a song either bursts from the depths of your memory and awakens you, or a song you are exposed to sends you throttling forward? A collection of such songs would be very different for each person. Obviously there is a huge catalog of sounds in the world and each calls to us in different ways. My musical taste may not be echoed in anyone else, yet I feel motivated to identify where these experiences cross paths.

For the conspiracy of light to make itself alive, it seeks subversive methods. Our music must reflect the reality we would like to see so that we can propel things forward, and our music must express the mood of the day, the zeitgeist under which we play so that we can express our feelings be they pain or celebration. I ask all of you readers whomever you are, what part does the music you listen to serve and what are the examples of how it serves you best?

 

 

Technology

An emerging theme in my recent viewings and readings has been the role of technology. While out at the Saybrook RC I began once again thinking through my dissertation plans. This is a daunting task to say the least, but a worthwhile project that will at the very least better educate me and hopefully some others about the way that creativity in the moment can inspire great music. Anyway, I have been on this sort of literary archaeological dig searching for information about the beginning of music. Not sound mind you, but sound used in some sort of utilitarian way. Sound used as a communication tool, as a ritual backdrop, as a means of technology. Our use of music across time could be seen in just that way, a technology. Now you may counter and say that this precludes the idea of music for the sake of music, but it seems likely that even that has a utilitarian value. After all it is used for the composer of the sound, or for some audience. It is an entertainment, or perhaps a pointer, but it is not nothing. It does not simply emerge of its own accord. Like the tree falling in the forest, there may be a need for an ear to hear to call that tree fall music, or to ascribe meaning to the fall.

In the song “Attics of my life” by The Grateful Dead the line is, “When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me”. The sentiment here seems to be one of deep and abiding care. Regardless of the idea that you cannot hear me, I will sing to you. Sounds like a pointless endeavor yet the idea is that song carries some value outside of sound. Simply the singing has its own life and meaning. I envision a deaf person who is sick, held in a singers arms. The singer bolting out passionately and the deaf person watching this amazing rapturous transformation, no ears to hear. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful songs by The Grateful Dead and you can listen to it here if you so choose.

Attics of My Life- The Grateful Dead

Technology of course has always been a very important part of The Grateful Dead experience. Forget the amazing array of musical instruments that the band use, they always encouraged the recording of their concerts. “Let the words be yours, I am done with mine”- (from Cassidy by The Grateful Dead). In fact Jerry always said something to the effect that the music was no longer his. It had in effect been given to the audience. Another stream of beauty cast into the endless void, a sand painting blown away by the winds of time (“Give it just a minute, it’ll blow away”). Contrast this idea with John Phillip Sousa who did not like the new technology of the phonograph. Sousa was en vogue at the end of the 19th century and he was very skeptical of the new technology. According to Elijah Wald in his book ‘How the Beatles destroyed rock n roll’ , Sousa preferred that the listening experience be a live one. While Sousa did of course record some of his music, he was much more interested in everyone developing their own musical talents and playing their own instruments. Perhaps the same way that we all read and write. Sousa did not decry technology, just canned music (as he called it). Technology was the instrument and it should be played live. The studio recording would then by contrast be called ‘dead music’. Looking forward, many jazz musicians prior to the hard press of putting music onto vinyl would say that recordings were the death of the music. Where jazz is alive, vibrant and on the spot, the recording takes the magic away. It places in standing reserve the sounds that are created on the fly during an improvisational exposition.

This idea of standing reserve was Martin Heidegger’s way of referring to technology. Heidegger did not have a very deep appreciation of technology either. To get further information on this check out this link: Understanding Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology So we have this dichotomy of ways of looking at technology. On the one hand, some musicians in the early part of the 20th century were resistant to recording while others much later down the line found the role of the recording to have a place beyond the lighted stage. Just think what the world would be like if we did not have a standing reserve of music. No recordings, just live music. We would never have known Jimi Hendrix, or Chuck Berry, or The Beatles. We would instead be going to more concerts and live events. Virtuosity would not be as prominent as there would be no real comparisons except through written reviews. It is nearly impossible for me to envision such a world. I with my huge standing reserve of music at hand. Music becomes technology in and of itself. It becomes a personal journey, this collection of music. We have learned to at least partially define ourselves as the conglomeration of the music we hoard. We personalize further with statements such as ‘I like Jazz’, or ‘I am a Prog Rock fan’. My guess is that these kinds of self definition would never have happened without recordings.

On the other hand, technology is an amazing catalyst for music. Mickey Hart, former drummer of The Grateful Dead has been bringing more and more technology into the spontaneous creation of music. This begins with his use of technology that translates the sounds of the big bang and other cosmic events into music and now will soon continue with using the Golden Gate Bridge as a wind harp. Mickey Hart to turn Golden Gate Bridge into wind harp Mickey has used technology of this sort ever since the Grateful Dead started, whether it was the use of an I Beam as a musical instrument, or trying to run The Grateful Dead’s sound through the Egyptian Pyramids before sending it into the audience he has been an innovator of sonic technology from the beginning.

So I guess the message is that technology is simply what we make of it. But I think it is important to recognize how technology plays a role in our lives. It can at once bring us all closer together, or tear us apart. I am thinking of the television as a means of escape from the ‘real world’ or the way that children drown out the world in video games. This is not to say that there is not a place for this use of technology. We all need our downtime. I am instead advocating for an appreciation of the intersection between our lives and the life of technology.

I will leave you with this video that I just found earlier today about prejudice and robots. We can easily extend this metaphor to any racism that we have engendered in our own lives. I encourage your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading!

No Robots

I woke up this morning and I was not my self, at least not the self I am used to greeting on a daily basis. I looked through my collection of daily masks and facades, but it seems all of my optimism and passion was out to the cleaners. What gives here? We all experience low days but when they hit, they are challenging. I applaud myself for getting this far. The laptop, the car service, calls to important people etc. I don’t even know how I got here. I have dark eyes, though I try to see the light.

I have to remind myself to be positive. Optimism is a choice, even in the worst of moments we can find things to be grateful for, and this is certainly not one of the worst moments. Just a temporary blip in the great drama of life.

Oh, but if I am in a bad mood, everything supports. Friends who forget you, parents who state that they want to end services, clients gone awol. In the right moment, what they all have in common is me….dark eyes. The eclipse, the dark side of the moon. Just a rim of light showing through. Is it really true? Is it all dark? I don’t think so. To those who scoff at the events of our world and point to the endless supply of media generated terror, I say you are still only living in a fable. A myth generated by your fears and your willingness to see the growing darkness.

Now I am convincing myself even lol. There is a lot of amazing stuff going on in the world while we live out our short moments. For instance, the mars curiosity probe is wending its way to an amazing encounter and we will be in front row seats, watching the unfolding story. Yesterday I was told by an insurance company that the parents of one of my clients had given me a glowing review. Today I heard from another caseworker that one of my clients had stated that his work with me as his family therapist had brought he and his father closer together. I will be in San Francisco tomorrow and it will be a nice 5 day visit. So why do I have dark eyes?

No good reason really. Just self pity raising up its ugly head in search of a target.

I am psyching myself up…fuel for a day with clients new and old. The constant churning of the engine is bound to stir up some negativity. “The things gotta have a tailpipe” I hear Uhuru say in my ear. Yes, we have all have the detritus that we burn off as we aim for our loftier goals.

A couple of those lofty goals stand out as both the source of my stress and perhaps the reason for the dark eyes. The Phd and being overworked. Suzi pointed out to me last night that even when I do have an off day, I am still on. If I have client cancellations, I am hustling for the next batch. I am not sure that was what I had in mind when I started this path. However, in a world where clients are required to have my services, there is bound to be some kickback. It is not even in my nature to force my ideas or thoughts on others. I offer guidance, but more likely I offer a chance for others to learn about themselves. I am a question shooting machine attempting to help others examine and work with their own inner mental landscape. Whatever positive effects come from the encounter, come from the client making decisions for themselves, not through any mechanical manipulation but through a build of awareness both personal and environmental.

The clock strikes. The paw of time scratching at the door….cheesy… what the hell are you writing about Woody? Uncertain, I close the paragraph awaiting the next budding inspiration, hoping for the best..I turn back to the orders of my day.

Silent Lucidity

I am not entirely sure why, but Queensryche is echoing through my head. Well to be honest I never really know why my internal DJ is playing what he plays but I find meaning by assuming that something is rising up from the depths of my sub or unconscious to let me know about something important. Never mind the earworm effect, that is a whole different genre of craziness. The current earworm has been “ride it my pony”…I don’t even want to know why this one is there but here is a link if you choose to be so encumbered.

 

Not exactly sure why I should want to ride Ginuwines pony, but I am fairly sure that at this point I might break the back of the poor thing. Anyway, the song that is really more pervasive and perhaps more meaningful is Queensryche’s Silent Lucidity and the lyric

“Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over… or has it just begun?”- Queensryche.

This is perhaps in keeping with my current mindset. It is an existential notion, this idea of being tricked to feel the pain. We do it to ourselves all the time, catastrophizing about what is to come, casting back and regurgitating the mistakes we made, always missing that our moment is now. Always missing the realization that past and future are just illusions. Any historian can tell you that the past is not fixed and almost any physicist can tell you that the future comes in multiple streams. So why do we so easily focus on these things. I think it might be fear. Being in the present moment, reacting to the hear and now takes courage. It is easy to throw blame on past mistakes and throw in the towel, inaction is so much easier. By the same token it is just as easy to look futureward and say things like “it will never change”. But to live in this moment, making decisions that are meaningful takes a dramatic sense of personal faith, and we are confronted with this challenge in every moment. It can be exhausting to stay present, ask any meditator. Nevertheless this is where we are at, this moment and we can shine, or we can dim.

“All my life, I’ve had doubts about who I am, where I belonged. Now, I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow. No hesitations, no doubts. The path is clear.”– Sinclair from Babylon 5

That particular mindset is no easy choice. It is a living with intention. A very zen state of being. A project to which I would like to attend every day. The biggest part of the behaviors I encounter in clients from day to day is the realization that they are trapped in the past and afraid of the future. I think you and I are no different, but we have been given the star of approval. Society has stated that we have handled it all in the expected way, but we still experience the same set of stress. The people who are experiencing these challenges are not bad people, they just handle things in ways that we don’t. They are (as one parent put it) the coal mine canaries of our day, warning us to our own failings. A reminder that we have not quite gotten it right yet. With so much polarization in the political system, it is no wonder we see our families and children torn apart by the stresses of the moment.

So what does the conspiracy of light mean in such circumstances? I think we need to bring our questions closer to home. Instead of asking how we can change the world, how we can change all of those we call other, the change will need to come from within. Each one of us will need to address life moment by moment with compassion and empathy. The hateful battles that I see daily will never breed peace, self ownership and awareness will.

I leave you with a story I wrote for my mythology class.

Squiggleton Pt.1
Once upon a time, in the land of Squiggleton, the Doodle family had their first child. They named the boy Cedric and they loved him dearly. When Momma Doodle took him out, the people would say that he was a beautiful little squiggle. Cedric seemed like any normal young squiggle. He made friends, played games, loved his family, and seemed to be a bright and creative child.
One day, Cedric started school. This was a very exciting moment for young squiggles. You see squiggles had a unique ability; with practice they could throw themselves into various meaningful shapes such as squares, triangles and even circles for the more industrious students. However, in order to learn this skill and develop the necessary shapes, squiggles had to go to school. In school they would practice with other squiggles, learn about the usefulness of each shape, and begin to apply themselves to becoming a useful member of the squiggle community. So when Cedric was told he was starting school, he was filled with excitement. Cedric had already shown incredible flexibility in his development manifesting all sorts of creative shapes.
Cedric’s father, wanting only the best for his little boy, suggested that Cedric apply himself to learning circling. Cedric very much wanted to please his father, so he signed up for circling, history of the circle, and creative circle play. Cedric seemed to excel at these pursuits, making his father a very happy and proud dad. Cedric seemed to be able to do almost any assignment and he was looked at by teacher and student alike as a born leader.
As Cedric grew up he began to become bored with circling. While he was proud of his special ability to throw a circle he began to have the nagging feeling that there was more to being a squiggle than simply throwing circles. So Cedric began to experiment with new shapes. When he was alone, Cedric would attempt to be creative with his shape throwing. He discovered by just making a few changes to what he was doing as a circle, he could flatten himself into an oval. If he twisted himself he could glimpse another shape which he thought interesting and he called this shape an 8. At first this shape play was simply happening in his bedroom, alone when no one was looking. But Cedric was so proud of his ability to throw these new and interesting shapes that he began showing them to his friends. Davey, one of Cedric’s best friends, told him that the shapes were interesting, but that if Cedric did not return to his circle studies he might lose the chance to work at the local circle shop. Cedric was sad that his friend Davey did not see the importance and the beauty of these new shapes.
Cedric slowly gathered a small crowd of friends who were intrigued and interested in throwing these new shapes. He called this group The Creatives. The Creatives would gather together every evening and practice throwing new shapes. While this activity was accepted by most of the Squiggleton residents, it was seen as very odd and not productive behavior. Father Doodle, although very disappointed in this activity, tried not to show it. He told Mother Doodle that this was just a rebellious phase and eventually Cedric would grow out of it.
Many years passed. Cedric had kept up with his classes, but just barely. Cedric spent most of his time with The Creatives. Cedric believed that the new shapes he and his friends were throwing would become useful eventually. Cedric just could not believe that this new found ability could be bad. However, eventually the Creatives were viewed as a social pariah. A group of ne’er do well squiggles that were not going to amount to anything. “The shapes that those kids are throwing are not useful” said one local squiggle on the evening news. The academic’s of the community all gathered together and decided that this was a maladaptive behavior and proof that the values of their community were breaking down. A town hall meeting was called by the mayor and during this meeting it was determined that something needed to be done. The outcome was that The Creatives would have to be disbanded. Anyone caught throwing shapes that were not useful would have to be put in jail until they could make better decisions.
This news upset the Doodle family tremendously. They loved Cedric and they did not want him to go to jail. After the proclamation went out, Cedric’s father sat down and talked with him. “Son, I know that you believe in what you have been doing, but the time has come to put away these childish ways and join the community”. Cedric was mortified. Cedric truly believed that what he had been doing would be the wave of the future, a grand brand new way to live. Cedric was angry and said some nasty things to his father. Cedric’s father became enraged, and he also said some things that were mean. The resulting argument ended with Cedric slamming the door in his father’s face and running away from home.
Cedric went looking for his friends who were members of the Creatives. Every one of them had decided that the Creative club was far too dangerous and they were not going to go with Cedric to do this anymore. Even Cedric’s girlfriend Dot tried to get him to stop throwing the odd shapes. “Cedric, I love you but I can’t keep seeing you if you insist on breaking the law”. Distraught and upset, Cedric went to the center of town. He began to publicly display unspeakable shapes. Shapes no one had ever seen, some no one had ever even dreamed of. As he did this he called out to the people “Come see the beauty of my newfound shapes, these are all so beautiful and amazing”. Cedric ended his demonstration with a shape that was a combination of square, triangle and circle all at one time. This was viewed by many as a very lewd vision. Cedric was taken to jail for disrupting the peace and sentenced to stay there until he could show that he understood and would obey the new law.

Squiggleton Pt.2
One day, while Cedric was being allowed to go to dinner he spied the chance to escape the prison. Squiggles by their very nature, in a relaxed state, looked a lot like a pile of yarn all knotted together. Although it was expected that a respectable squiggle would reveal only their thrown shapes when in public, the inmates at the prison often just did not present themselves that way. Cedric often practiced shaping odd things that the untrained eye might assume was a relaxed squiggle appearance, but he had been training himself to unravel into a near straight line. This was no mean feat as it took extreme flexibility and patience to manage. Therefore it was not expected that a squiggle could ever sneak past the perimeter. Cedric did just that, the first squiggle ever to escape from the Squiggleton pen.
Cedric knew that he could not stay in the city because he would get caught again. Although he desperately wanted to see his family and friends, Cedric made his escape into the woods. He was so scared that he ran on into the night, deeper and deeper into the dark of the woods. Cedric was so afraid of getting caught, and much more afraid of what lay ahead of him in the forest, that he ran until he collapsed.
When Cedric woke it was morning. He looked around and saw the sun shining through the trees, heard the water rushing beside his head, and felt the cool breeze across his skin. For the first time in ages, Cedric felt relaxed and all the fear he felt during the run was gone. He was alone, but he was happy. He felt comforted by the knowledge that the woods had been declared off limits to Squiggleton residents. He knew that no one would be very likely to come after him out here. He was sad to be so alone, but he knew that here he could practice his shaping and perhaps one day he would meet others who lived in the woods.
So Cedric learned how to live alone, and he spent his day practicing his shapes, and living a comfortable if lonely existence. One day while walking through the woods he saw another squiggle. This squiggle was simply relaxing in the clearing beneath the trees. A twig snapped as Cedric looked onward and the old Squiggle woke up. “Come here young one; let me have a look at ya”. Cedric did not know if he should run, or obey but he was so lonely and happy for contact that he found himself moving towards the old squig. The older squiggle was named “Puzzle” and he told Cedric stories of his years as a young squig. He had spent some time as a square, changed occupations and done the triangle thing, and finally got tired of his life and moved into the woods where he too felt comfortable but alone. Puzzle revealed that he knew all about Cedric and his plight. Puzzle told Cedric that he too believed in shaping that was beyond the norm. By way of example, he threw himself into a several layered octagon that made Cedric immediately respect his ability. Puzzle told Cedric that in his practice here in the woods he had learned many things, and discovered the hidden arts of shaping. Cedric asked if Puzzle could teach him this hidden art and Puzzle agreed. “It was my expectation that you would be interested in my teachings, but I must warn you, once I teach you all I can, you will need to go back home to your family and your town. You must promise that you will do this for me”. Cedric agreed to go home once he had learned it all, but secretly believed he would never go back home and that this was some sort of test set by Puzzle.
Puzzle taught Cedric for many long months. Puzzle showed Cedric how to layer himself, how to create multi shapes like a rolling square and a house (triangle and rectangle). Cedric lapped it all up, worked hard to develop each shaping ability, and practiced his own creative style often. By the end of the year, Cedric had mastered so many new shapes and styles that he felt extremely excited. Finally the day came when Puzzle told him he was going to teach him the last lesson. Puzzle took Cedric to one of the caves and told him to drink of the dark water pool they saw there. Cedric was afraid but did not want to disappoint his master. He took a drink and the water was bitter. After a few moments, Puzzle seemed to be fading out, his lines grew thinner, and then seemed to disappear. Cedric felt ill, as if he would faint. He began to believe that Puzzle had poisoned him and he screamed in agony at this betrayal.  As Cedric lay on the ground he cried a pool of tears which slowly engulfed him.
A rush of a wave and Cedric found himself being pulled into a hard powerful current. The river seemed to get faster and faster. Cedric was quiet but inwardly very scared. As the trees, the valleys and the fields seemed to pass by with the rush of the water, Cedric began to feel that he had died. However, just then the water seemed to settle and pour into another mountain side cave. There in this cave were drawings of Cedric as a young squig. In some drawings Cedric was throwing the wondrous shapes of his childhood; triangle upon square, a fancy knot, a double helix. Each picture was glowing with an inner light. “These are the shapes that you threw as you grew up, before anyone told you how they needed you to throw your shapes” Cedric heard. “These shapes are inspirational to many, but they force others to cast doubt upon the life they have chosen if their shapes have been solidified into boring workaday squares, circles and triangles. They see your shapes as a child and they gaze in wonder, remembering who they were, the same shapes thrown as an adult remind them that they have gotten stuck. They are both jealous and afraid of the shapes you throw”. Cedric gazed at the wall in wonder. Cedric loved throwing these amazing shapes and exploring what shapes he could shift into. A tear curled down Cedric’s eye and he began to cry. The cave filled with lightening, wind blowing all around. With the lightening flash the cave walls flickered and the pictures seemed to move and animate. Cedric was shaken but less frightened this time. When the situation calmed again, Cedric saw even more wondrous shapes on the wall. “These are the shapes of the others, Cedric” the voice said, “While you were scared of the authorities and those who belittled you, there were others who stayed true to themselves. All of you experienced the same painful realizations, that the world had come to be a boring place, and that people did not like beauty that defied the accepted norm. Each of these amazing shapes were thrown by other squiggles. The underground is filled with shape shifters and iconoclasts who follow their own path. Those who berate them, those who tell them that it is all a waste of time, learn to either ignore the beauty of their shapes or they appreciate them for the true miracle that they are”. Again the cave filled with lightening, and loud crackling sounds. The sand on the river’s floor rose into shapes, many, many squiggle shapes. Cedric first recognized a squiggle of his old school teacher.  She looked at Cedric and said “Cedric I am so proud of you! You are really a very talented little squiggle.  Don’t let anyone ever take that from you”. Another shape arose on the other side of the room and Cedric let out a squeal of joy as he recognized his Grandfather, one of the most wonderful shapers he ever met. “Cedric my boy, you are going to make all their heads turn! Don’t ever let them tell you that you can’t do it, because whatever it is my dear boy, you can. You can do anything you set your heart and mind to do”. More shapes arose now and they were all familiar. There was his mother saying “Cedric is so amazing and I wish I knew how to tell him, but I get so caught up in feeling bad about my own life that I have treated him badly when I should have praised him for his creativity”, then his dad, “I know I called Cedric names and made him feel bad, but I am so weighed down by watching over the family. What I don’t seem to know how to tell Ced is that I love him and I only want what is best for him. I wish to never say anything that does not support but I am only a mere squiggle and sometimes I let my passions get the best of me”. A cacophony of sound arose. Cedric saw friends, relatives, teachers and many others who had been supportive in his life. It was overwhelming! Every voice was either telling Cedric how wonderful he was, or apologizing for never having done so. A whirlwind ripped through the little cave and all of the figures crashed back into the water. The sound subsided and all was calm. It was quiet for a few moments save but for the sound of Cedric’s heart thumping away like a drum and his loud and steady breathing, pulsing from his lungs. “You see Cedric, you are loved, you are supported.  There are many who are proud of you for your achievements and creativity. They miss you terribly, but you have held onto only one interpretation of them. You have to hear with inner ears and see with eyes peering into darkness, seeing the shapes of the exquisite where you have only seen the shapes of the banal. The key, Cedric, is to look inside of each shape you meet, see the statements of hurt for what they are, pain from an inner space, borne out as a scream in the dark. Many squiggles are trapped in a silent scream and their words are more an echo of what is within than the reality of what is without. They live in the scream, afraid of opening up, afraid of throwing new shapes. In the beginning there was no pain, and one day pain was born. Pain was offered as a test to see who could still find the beauty of what is real. Pain was carried generation to generation, deposited into the vein of the families, infecting every generation until someone discovers that there is no need to own the pain, no need to be frightened of it, and no need to perpetuate it into the family. You have a choice. You can either choose to carry the pain, or let it pass through you. If you see the other side of things, you will understand.” With that, the water carried him out of the cave. The moon was full, and the water seemed to deposit Cedric on a shore as it receded backwards. Cedric awoke the next day and Puzzle was nowhere to be found. Cedric looked around and the world seemed to be transformed. He felt good about everything and realized that Puzzle was right, he would have to go back home.

Squiggleton Pt. 3
Cedric made his way back through the woods and towards the little town of Squiggleton. Despite the fact that Cedric felt a renewed sense of purpose, he was still very cautious. Although Cedric knew he had to return home, he did not know the outcome and this made him frightened. The only thing that kept him moving forward was a burning desire to see those he loved, and the belief that if he could learn to listen with inner ears, and peer into dark places he would have a different understanding of those around him.
The journey took many days, for Puzzle and Cedric had traveled deep into the wood. During the long journey, Cedric tried to spend some time each day just thinking about how he would approach the situation. He had many fantasies of telling the mayor of the town his new found learning,  while other visions had him going back to being a circle, but these were not clear and did not reflect all of the groundbreaking learning he had encountered in the forest. No, Cedric realized that he had to stand his ground and show the other squiggles that what he had learned could change everything. He imagined he would somehow transform the town but he did not know how to go about what he had to do. His plan was to first seek out Dot because he missed her more than he could say.
One day Cedric saw the little town down the hill, and there on the outskirts of town he saw Dot sitting alone in a local park. Cedric carefully made his way to a tree close to the clearing where Dot was and quietly whispered her name “Dot”, “Dot”. Dot was startled, but she came looking for the voice. When she saw Cedric she nearly knocked him over running towards him with such speed. She threw herself around Cedric, “Oh Cedric, I thought you were gone forever. I have missed you so much”. Dot was crying. “I am so sorry for treating you badly. You were just so headstrong and I did not understand.”
Cedric told Dot all about his experience in the forest, spending time with Puzzle, and the great shaping techniques he had learned. Then he told Dot about the lesson he had learned about the importance of being yourself, being creative, and of caring for everyone as if they were all trapped in a silent scream. “The measure of our life is not in the amount of things we produce for others, or about the wealth we gain along the way. The true test of a life well lived is whether or not we heed the call of our heart and how we help others to become creatively alive”. Dot hugged Cedric again. “That sounds so wonderful Cedric, but what can you do about those people who believe otherwise. What about the Mayor and the townspeople who voted to have the Creatives disbanded? What about your family?” Cedric thought about this then said, “It is up to us to show them the beauty, stand up for ourselves, and never give up that which makes us individuals”
Brave words! But things had gotten much worse in the little town of Squiggleton. There were more law enforcers than ever. Town plays that used to be held in the town center were no longer allowed. No one was allowed on the streets on certain days of the week, and the people seemed to live in fear of what they could and could not do. Cedric learned from Dot that all of these changes had taken place shortly after Cedric escaped the jail. “Once you were gone it was as if the whole town began to lose itself”
Just then they heard a commotion in the town center.  Cedric and Dot rushed towards the sound. Along the way, they saw many other squiggles that made faces of shock and disgust. In the center of town there was a wishing well, and many squiggles had gathered around the well.  There seemed to be a lot of bickering going on. When Cedric and Dot were finally able to piece together the story they discovered that the mayor of the town had been hanging a sign on the well when he suddenly fell in.  A few of the squiggles told Cedric “You are not wanted here” and “Someone call the cops that Ne’er do well kid is back”, and more of the bravado “back up you lout, this is Squiggle work”. In fact Cedric and Dot were pushed from the well by the townsfolk, while the other squiggles were busy arguing about how to get to the Mayor.  They yelled down to The Mayor and asked if he could jump, but it was clear from the echoey response that the mayor was much deeper than a jump would allow. One of the squiggles asked “Can you climb?” and the response was a definite “No”.  It seems the mayor had broken something during the fall. Another squiggle went to fetch a rope, but the longest rope in town could still not reach the broken mayor.
Cedric climbed up the podium that was across from the well. “Listen to me all of you”. At first there was no response. Dot climbed up with him, and yelled at the crowd to please pay attention to what Cedric had to say. There was still no response. A few former Creatives also came to the podium and yelled collectively for everyone to “Shut up”! Finally a few squiggles looked to see what was happening. Cedric seemed to have drawn a large crowd of supporters around him. One of the more burly squiggles came towards Cedric but Cedric’s supporters gathered around him and held the burly squiggle at bay. Cedric spoke again this time, loud enough for all to hear. “Listen good squiggles, I have a plan for getting the mayor out of the well”. More nay saying and insults were thrown his way but Cedric carried on. “Listen if you guys will follow my directions we can do this”. The burly squiggle spoke up now, “Who do you think you are? You can’t do anything!  You can’t even stay focused long enough to become a productive squiggle. Why I’ll bet that you fail miserably! In fact why don’t we all let Mr Smarty here try his little plan and then you will all see that he is nothing more than a common criminal”. A few other people made jibes of a similar nature. Cedric started giving directions to any squiggle who would listen. Cedric instructed each of them to open and loop around one another creating a chain of squiggles. Cedric instructed them to hold very tightly and for each one to line up. Cedric stated that he would shape around the podium and this line of squiggles would then link with him. Cedric instructed the squiggles to slowly lower one another down into the well. This went on until he got to the last squiggle was stretched one end holding Cedric who was anchored to the podium, the other being pulled by the weight of multiple squiggles who dangled in the well.
The message came back up the well that the squiggles could see the mayor, but he was still out of reach. “There you see” said the burly squiggle. “What’s all this ‘creative’ thinking gotten you?! You still don’t have a solution and you have endangered the lives of many squiggles”. Cedric, who had pushed his bravery to its limits, began to cry. He really did not know what to do; he was just improvising on the spot. What if it was really true that all of his creative thinking was nothing but a game and not useful at all? At this point, Cedric became aware that his father and mother were at his side. “Cedric, you need to pull yourself together! I know I have never told you this, but I believe in you and I know as sure as I am a Doodle that you can solve this problem. I am going to take your place as anchor so that you can come up with a new plan.” And with that father Doodle did just that, he looped around the squiggle chain, grabbed hold of the podium, and took Cedric’s place.
As soon as Cedric got free, he began playing with shapes that he could possibly use. Finally it hit him.  He would need to stretch out like he did in the jail cell. Slowly and methodically, Cedric untangled himself, curl by curl, and formed the straight line he had manifested before. “Have you gone mad” said the burly squiggle, “now you propose that we look at you doing the most indecent of things, how dare you!” But Cedric did not pay any attention to him. Instead Cedric inched his way over to the well, and started to slide himself down along the squiggle chain, attached himself to the lowest squiggle, and then hung down into the well. Soon he was swinging freely right next to the Old Mayor.
“Cedric”! The mayor nearly leapt he was so startled. “What have you done?!” Cedric looked at the Mayor, “Mr. Mayor, I know you do not approve of me or my ways, but it was my creative thoughts that got me here in front of you, and it is through my help that you will make it back up the well.  Will you please return with me?” The mayor seemed to be judging the situation, “I am badly broken Cedric, and you will not succeed in this useless gesture”.  With that Cedric seemed to come alive, he wrapped himself around the Old Mayor, and called to the squiggles to tell his father to pull the group upward.  Soon he felt himself being stretched and pulled and he felt that he was likely to break himself. Eventually after a rather painful scraping ride to the top, everyone came out of the well, including the Old Mayor.
The burly squiggle came up to Cedric and gave e him a look of approval. “You’re all right kid! You came up with a plan that was so out of shape that it worked. I offer my sincerest apologies for doubting you. “Many of the other squiggles came and greeted Cedric and apologized. The mayor broke down in tears. “Cedric” said the mayor “I have been mean and callous towards you. I recognized within you that same rebellious spirit that I had once had as a young squig. I remembered all of the trouble my own rebelliousness had caused me, and I did not want you to go through the same thing. But it all got so out of hand. The moment I tried to stop you, the whole town got behind me, and then it snowballed into this crazy hateful thing. I never wanted to ban you, but it felt like it was my duty to echo the voice of the squiggles. Can you ever forgive me?” Cedric looked at the mayor “No, I will not be able to pardon your actions!” There was shock in the face of the mayor and several gasps from the gathering crowd. “Without you, Mr. Mayor, I may have not learned the lessons I have learned. When you banned me, I was a rebellious squig true, but I was lonely and scared and I did not see the purpose for all of the rules of the town. If I had not run away, I would have likely sewn discord among the squiggles. But because of your decree, I had to face my deepest fears. I struck out on my own. During the time that I was gone, I learned many things, but the most important thing I learned was love for my fellow squiggle. I emerge from the forbidden forest a renewed squiggle! Without the trials I have been put through, I would not be the squiggle I am now. “
“Brave words my dear boy, but you have taught me something as well. You have taught me the value of thinking in creative ways, of being your own squig, and of what it means to care for others.  When I fell and I was down there alone, cold and broken, I wished more than I ever had. I have been foolish and have not listened to my own heart. You have taught me today what it means to have heart, and I am in your debt”. With that the crowd of squiggles hoisted Cedric upwards and gave him 3 cheers. Almost all of the squigs seemed to be applauding Cedric for his heroic actions. The mayor was whisked away to the local shaper to have his breaks and wounds healed. A broken sign lay on the ground; the sign said “No Wishing”.
Later that night, Cedric was home again with his family. It was late and he stepped outside to get some fresh air. It had been a long day, and he was excited but tired. As he perched quiet in his front yard, he heard a twig snap. Suddenly, almost magically, there in front of him was Puzzle. “You have come a long way Cedric”. Cedric was startled but soon embraced his old teacher. Puzzle said “Today was a victory for you in many ways, but your life will not be an easy one now.  Other squiggles will attempt to defy you, and you will have to stand your ground while still honoring yourself. You will feel like rebelling against others, you feel like running away and hiding but if you only remember that you do not have to accept the cycle of pain, you can let it pass through you, you will weather any storm.  You must tread a fine line between being rebellious and scared. If you do so, you will find that hidden within you is a wisdom that is both tempered by and born in the connection between fear and bravery. If you live with that knowledge, keep it alive in each of your actions, and call on inner wisdom, you will live a life of joy and creativity that you could never have imagined. “With that the wind blew, leaves swirled up, and Puzzle, who was just standing in front of Cedric, vanished into thin air.

Squiggleton: The Sequel
It is now 5 years since Cedric returned to Squiggleton and saved the mayor. As we walk through, the town square it is bustling, new shops have been set up along the main road. A sculpture sits in the center of the town. The sculpture is made of multiple shapes all connected to one another in a circle all around the town well.
The school building is just a few feet down the road. We look into the window and we see Cedric and many young squigs in a classroom. There seems to be a sense of joy and excitement coming out of the room.  Cedric is instructing his students in creativity. One of the squigs is curling into a spring like structure. Cedric and the other students all clap cheerfully for this squig.
After the class, Cedric emerges from the school, smiling. I ask if I can walk with him for a while. “I would welcome the company sir” he says. I ask Cedric to tell me about his life now compared to 5 years ago. A warm glow comes across his face. “Well so much has changed” he says eagerly. “I am now the lead teacher in a whole new field of shaping. I have been teaching this class for a couple of years now. I got married to Dot and we have 2 baby squigs, Sol and Puz. But that is just my life. The town has changed as well. The old guard is almost defeated. There are only a few left in town who still believe that creative shaping is wrong. In fact if you look around the town you will see many new shape shops. It seems that for the most part, once the taboo of shaping was lifted it did not take the town long to engage itself in experimentation. It really was a renaissance for us here. Like a great burden had been lifted off everyone’s shoulders. I told him how impressed I was at this change and asked for his advice.  How have you created such a revolution in your life?  It’s one thing to rebel against your boundaries, but quite another to make such an endeavor meaningful for everyone else. “Well at first I was really frightened by being back in town. There was a feeling of relief that I was pardoned of my supposed crime, but it was quite another to go from that to making a positive impact on others. For the first few months, I pretty much stayed to myself. I was almost completely unconnected to everyone but my family and Dot. However, there was a moment when I was asked by a very young squig what I thought he should do when he grew up.  It was then that I realized that I could do something positive, not just be accepted, but be exceptional. Good catch phrase eh? That became the motto that I lived by and still do. The trick is that you have to let your fear guide you; you have to embrace the fear by using it to catapult you into something else, something transformational. Once you do that you realize that there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals.” Wow, that was an amazing change in Cedric. From young squig to fully respected squiggle.
“I’m working on something new”, he said. “I have come to realize that shaping is only an outer transformation. What if we could change our mind just as easily and creatively? There is actually much more freedom in thought than in body. I am not really sure where this new venture will take me, but I am calling it imagination. Sounds pretty exciting eh?” At this point we stopped in front of a beautiful house. “Well my friend, this is my house.  I thank you for the pleasure of your company and I hope that I will see you around from time to time. My wish for you is that you follow your dream, live well, and embrace the fears that hold you back. They can be your greatest friend.” With that he bowed and walked up the steps. As he walked inside I heard the excited screams of young squigs, and the voice of Dot welcoming him. When the door was closed, I saw a sign hanging. The sign said “Don’t just be accepted, be exceptional”. A tear came to my eye, a truer vision of a life well lived was never spoken.

 

 

 

“Tell them, that from this place we will deliver notice to the parliaments of conquerors that a line has been drawn against the darkness. And we will hold that line, .. no matter the cost.”

Sheridan to Rangers in Babylon 5: “The Long, Twilight Struggle”

Why a conspiracy of light? In the amazing science fiction series Babylon 5, Draal states to Sheridan that he understands that Sheridan is involved in a conspiracy of light. That statement always resonated with me. As if there was some deep underlying movement to bring about greater enlightenment and peace to the world, hidden from sight but operating nonetheless. For those that missed this all too amazing series, I feel it is imperative that you give it a shot. Yes, there are some very cheesy special effects, and yes some of the stories are written very badly, but the canon, the story arc, presents an amazing space opera that ultimately depicts our rise to taking responsibility for our own actions, no longer looking to external answers. It is a call to the heart. A coming of age story about how we stand up for our own rights, and cast light on the dark spaces.

So this is the subject matter of this blog. A call to arms, a press for personal responsibility and a resounding cry for freedom. Freedom to be who we want to be, to choose our morality based upon logic and compassion, and to awaken the creativity that is our birthright.

On the other hand, this will be a very personal journal dedicated to motivating myself and anyone who reads. I will try not to get to terribly dark, but I will not shy away from shadow play. I will instead bravely embrace my darker side hopefully as an example to myself and others that no matter how far or bright your light casts, there will always be a shadow.

So what can you look forward to. Well I will try in the near future to outline this notion of a conspiracy of light. I will also be posting motivational quotes and reflections from the books that I am reading. There will eventually be creative writing in the works as well. For now I ask that you all be patient with me as I learn the ins and outs of blogging. I know very little about this media, but I am keen to learn more and you will see changes as I become more familiar.

Until next time, I wish you all brighter days,

Woody Harris