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Awaken

After a summer of such exhaustion (yes I am aware that it is not yet over), I have had a wake up call. An internal call to action. For me these come regularly since I often find myself lost on the path, gazing at flowers, and lose interest in the moving on. I am lucky that I have within some kind of ebbing and flowing motivation that every so often will kick me in the ass and move me forward. I pray that you dear reader have such a self sustaining mechanism as well.

There is perhaps an origin point for my motivations though. In my early years in college, particularly in West Ga. where I learned a great deal about existential philosophy and post modern psychology there were many iterations of this idea of mortality. Life has a limit and it is these few years of wonder that we are given. At the time, such a statement was frightening as all the great teachers and philosophers suggested we live each day like it is our last. When I do that, I fall to pieces. There is no way I can live today as if it is my last. I would be hunting down every dream and fantasy that ever reared its head toward me. So I wrestled with what a measured response to such an idea would be. How do you moderately live as if this is the last day.

This moved me more towards a philosophy of hedonism. The grand pursuit becomes pleasure in the moment, seeking out joy in all its hidden corners. So there was a rallying cry towards self fulfillment. But this too fell flat since it incorporated no far reaching goals, no journey or quest to set the heading of my compass.

I slept! Not an inactive sleep, I gnashed my teeth over ontology and religion, spirituality and mythology, but even in so doing I slept. My wake up call came when Borders closed the door on my management trek. I immediately went forth and made many sweeping life changes; started jobs in counseling, and applied to Saybrook University. It is now 3-4 years later and the changes have been impressive (at least to me).

I now am doing community therapy with families and children. Not something I ever in my dreams expected to be working on. I am working (rather slowly) on my PhD. I am on a healing and growth path that forces me to daily consider the bumps and turns in my life. I find I am developing a reverence for myself. A forgiveness from all of my personal wrongs is going on. I compare myself to the outside parade of characters, but when it comes down to it, pleasing myself and making the world a better place for others is the most important thing I work on.

Now, I am being pulled along again by the mighty force of times winds. A ship on a glassy sea can be pretty but eventually the crew and captain grow weary. Infighting begins, and sailing forward becomes the only option. (A voice inside my head calls out- Ummm do you think you can mix anymore metaphors for us here. It was a sarcastic voice).

The summer was a respite from all things push. I worked my two jobs, usually hitting 50-60 hours of work and driving per week. Over the course of a year I put 40,000 miles on the Honda…holy sheep shit, 40,000 miles. Anyway, when I got home from a day of work, I wrote my clinical notes and the whole idea of self motivating to school or other personal goals felt overwhelming. I did what any overwhelmed child would do, I played video games, I watched Star Trek and Doctor Who, I read comics, I watched the tweets of favorite celebrities, I played games with friends, and saw a ton of blockbuster movies all in the name of trying to give myself mercy and respite from the onslaught of my personal goals. However, the other day I woke up with a plan.

I was motivated to make changes. Perhaps the stillness of the moment got too quiet for me to handle, perhaps it was the internal voice that asked me not to give up on the things I want. “Give me 20 years of hard work” it said. Immediately I joined the YMCA, and began studying therapy techniques daily. It is all well and good to get a degree in psychology but practice is quite another thing. That was 2 weeks ago. The motor has been revving, the engines are ready. So this week, I scheduled into my already busy schedule, study time and writing time because these are the things that will move the ship forward. I am writing all of this here to spread this word of my motivation to the people who care about me. I have great difficulty holding myself accountable to my own goals and wishes. I am asking each of you dear people who have made it this far in my blog, to help me celebrate my successes, motivate me when you see me at a loss, and remind me- “20 years of hard work”.

This week, I will write 3-5 pages of essay for my essay on improvisation. I will begin recruiting musicians for my research project, and I will write 3 blogs (to stretch my writing muscles). I will continue to study therapy daily for 30 minutes. I will go to the gym every other day. I will do everything in my power to stay awake and pace myself to reach my goals.

Managing the tension

Last night, I came home to a very challenging situation. My wife told me she could not find the tickets to the Wanee music festival. I tell you all this not for your pity, but to spend a moment analyzing an existential/stressful moment. There was a point between reaction and action in which there was an obvious emptiness dying to be filled. The emptiness arose as a question mark seeking its answer. It was not an immediate reaction, more of a slow freight train of mixed emotions. After all the starting answer, “it’s around here somewhere” soon evolved into “What will we do if we can’t find them”. Wanee is important to us for a number of reasons. Those who know me, probably know that music is my engine. Music charges my batteries, helps me through the hard times, consoles me when I am down, and offers epiphany after epiphany in the midst of live jamming or improvisation. So for me it is a battery charging weekend. For the two of us, it is a needed respite from the cares of the world. My work is emotionally stressful. I hear stories of neglect and abuse every week that would curl your toes and make you wanna wash out your soul. Suzi on the other hand lives in a stress generating universe where the big boss creates struggle after struggle, and Suzi’s supervisor (direct report) has to constantly repair those rifts that the big boss creates. So you can see, Wanee represented more than the money that would be lost. It would be a loss of something very special to the two of us. Add to this the stressful realization that there is no place to point the finger. When we encounter a stressful block in our lives, we are built to seek out the origin of the stress. We like to be able to point the finger. Somehow, pointing the finger and setting the blame elsewhere often makes us all feel better. There is a collective sigh, “Thank God it is isn’t my fault” and then all of the energy is redirected at an attackable source. Then there is anger. Anger rises like a fire breaking loose and generally results in damage to someone or something. In know this experientially, and in my job I am constantly teaching my clients how to manage this emotional cascade.

In this case, I could not place blame. I could not honestly say it was not my fault, as much as I wanted to. In the fallout from our basement flood we went into a state of temporary chaos- one that is still looming just below our feet (and in our garage). So this flood decentered us. It ungrounded us. The usual order that we cling to so strongly was gone after the flood and we went into a repair mode of thinking. We did everything we could within our power to resettle and reground. But no matter how hard you work, chaos and dread are always just around the corner. Don Juan said that death is just over our left shoulder, guiding us to our answers if we only consult it. That is to say that any ungrounding and unsettling event, can only be so because it reminds us of the temporality of our moment in the world. All that we cling to for security and safety can and will inevitably fall apart and we are left with just what we came in with, breath, curiosity, pleasure, fear, hunger, disgust- all of the base emotions. We are chaos born into the world craving order, and when order fails chaos returns, the uninvited guest.

So here I was in the midst of this wave of emotions with no place to go. Oh, I certainly expended energy towards looking for the tickets, but somehow that was not what quelled the fire. I tried throughout to be mindful. This was after all not the end of the world. It was not as if we lost someone we loved, or got into a bad situation. Instead it was the specter of blame and the reminder of frailty, the things humans rail against daily.

One of the things I teach my clients is a concept called Radical Acceptance. It is a difficult concept but it is helpful. Radical Acceptance is the ability to recognize that which you cannot change, and letting go of the will to change it. It isn’t giving up, or accepting derision or pain. Rather it is a letting go and letting be, allowing things to pass and paying attention to that which is solid and real in the moment. So I came to this realization- I could search the house, I could call the ticket  vendors, I could yell and scream (a momentary release of tension), but beyond all of this, I could not change the situation. And so I let it go, as best I could. I surrendered to the moment. I let sadness and anger flow through me. I felt it prior to sleep, I felt it when I woke. I sat with it. I allowed it to be with me. I was disjointed and out of groove. I was the sour note in a beautiful symphony, but I let it be and let go of the fight.

Now, the story does have a happy ending in that the folks at ticketing have told us that we can still come to the show. But this is not the point, the point is that I made it through this in a way that I have never made it through a stressful situation, I let it go.

There was a moment when I really surrendered all of this. Suzi was clearly upset and I realized that she was hurting. At that moment, all of my rage and venom fell flat and all I could think of was that I did not want her to feel all of this. So I comforted her, took my half of the blame, and sat with her. And perhaps that is all we need in a moment of rage or pain, the realization that we are not alone in the experience of loss and chaos. We need look no further than the person next to us to find someone else in pain. And comforting that person, can cause the release we all need. So that is my message to anyone within ear shot, helping others through pain is better than sitting with pain alone. Desires, addiction to order, material lusts, these all have their place but none compare to just caring for someone else.

I will close this message with a verse from Oingo Boingo, the band who soaks up lots of pain. I encourage anyone reading to give someone else the gift of comfort, help them soak up the pain.

Pain

I woke up today feeling a bit sad, maybe even depressed. I have been trying to identify just what the source of this feeling is. One obvious stressor is that I was told by my professor that there was no way to finish my class for this semester, which will place me in an academic warning status. I am kind of at home with this, because I know I am slow to get things done. I have to truly understand the material I am working on even when I could indeed just throw something together. So papers and projects emerge as part of a very slow unfolding. But I figure that I am smart enough to get things done prior to the beginning of fall semester, and I can certainly talk to the powers that be about what it means to be on academic warning- surely this is not an irreparable situation. Besides, I work two jobs which often results in about 60-80 hour work weeks…no this is not ringing the bell.

No I think it is something deeper and more sinister lurking within me. This week a few old wounds were reopened. Wounds that I thought were well healed by now. Apparently, not as much as I thought.

So the first precursor is the opening of the movie Bully. This is a movie put together to show the public how kids get treated by bullies. There is a huge campaign to get this movie into theaters in every town. The movie has gotten an R rating which is an undeserved rating since what you see on screen you will definitely see in any given elementary or high school. I know, because I not only lived through a hell of a lot of bullying, but surprise! I now work with children who are bullied and on rare occasions bullies. The fact is very few adults know the kind of cruelty that bullied kids endure. I was bullied by friends and enemies alike. I can remember being hung from a locker by my underwear, thrown into a dumpster, and having throwing stars thrown at my saxophone case. These are just a few of the terrible moments I experienced in high school and elementary. Adults either did not care, or wrote it off as “kids being kids”- that is not an acceptable way of seeing things. Adults have to be the example for the children to follow, not the silent accomplices to wannabe dictators. Please support this movie if you feel it is time to take a stand against the bullies of the world.

The fact is, despite my past, I am generally a pretty proud geek. I still play fantasy based board games, watch tons of sci fi and fantasy, geek out on amazing music from Rush to The Grateful Dead, and I have a damn good time hanging out with my fellow geeks at conventions such as Dragoncon. Recent movement within geekdom has spawned a sort of uprising. After all it is geekdom that has brought you your X-box, your episodes of Lost and Battelstar Galactica, your blockbuster movies like Star Wars and Avatar. Ultimately, we are the ones that are cool now. Without us, you would still be using typewriters and watching Knots Landing.

Geekdom has some saints of its own. Felecia Day for instance has embraced her inner nerd and written an anthem for the geeks of the world. It is now available on Youtube on the Geek and Sundry channel. Within one day it has the top 5 at amazon and the top 40 at Itunes. Check it out:

Another geek of note is The Nerdist- Chris Hardwick. Chris has been running an amazing podcast for some time now. He has become a name synonymous with geekdom, hosting Dr. Who events, and now sponsoring an olympic style light saber relay to launch the upcoming Comic-con. You can also check out his Youtube channel:

I recently described Wil Wheaton, formerly Wesley Crusher on Star Trek TNG, as one of us. I simply meant that he is a down to earth guy who is as geeky as they come. He recently launched a bi-weekly show called This show will definitely result in more people playing great table top games, and will likely break me.

These are obviously not the only events in the growing nerdsphere but they are enough to give you some indication that we are present everywhere. I have never been ashamed to admit my fondness for hobbits, or redshirts, but there was a time in my life in which I felt a little embarrassed of all these obsessions; one of those little dweebs that the jocks picked on for whatever mindnumbing reason that they could come up with. I have since dealt with that part of me. I have assessed it and come to the simple conclusion that I am awesome. No one else really needs to offer their judgements of me and mine. However, all of these recent developments have gotten me to thinking about those days of being treated so badly. I am an adult now, and I like to believe that those mini-traumas of my yesterday are well over and done with. However, I still have Vader like fantasies of encasing some of my tormentors in carbonite, or placing an earworm in their heads. You’d think I would be able to forget and forgive, but instead I entertain fantasies of throwing those ape minded schlubs out of an airlock with no probability of being rescued within enough time to save their measly hides. Why so hateful?

I have my own personal demons to conquer, they are buried underneath layers of study and music and they rarely emerge. However, working with adolescents who go through the same damn treatment, plus hearing stories about neglectful parents who would rather chase down their next crack pipe, or who would allow their children to die so they could explore whatever damn obsession they have found, makes me sick. I promise you not a day goes by where I do not hear some harrowing story of abuse or failure to care and I have to brush it aside, because that is the job I do. But eventually, all of this emotional turmoil takes its toll and I reach a day like today. Near tears and wavering between fuck it I am staying home, and dammit I want a nice long break to get my head together.

And then there are the goddamned politicians who all think they can make it a better world if they just inject their religious values into the government. They want to take funds away from the Department of Family and Children services, they want to close group homes and other safe space facilities, and they want to place children in abusive foster care families. Don’t get me wrong, not all foster care families are abusive, but I have seen and heard about my share and it makes me incredibly pissed off.

Then there are the bigger guys who are all pissing on each other at the top. I have not been entirely pleased with Obama. He has made some terrible mistakes with our liberties, but the republican candidates have been hemming and hawing about the socialist nature of Obama policies and it just seems to be a lot of words with no real back up. Romney can’t even keep a single abiding attitude, and Santorum sounds like he would suspend every liberty that is not suggested by the Bible. How can we support people like this. I have no problem with the republican viewpoint of less government, but I have yet to see it presented in a way that would make me vote for any of the present candidates. I do not feel love and peace from the republican party. I don’t feel hopeful that we could somehow stand as a strong and free country. I only hear yarn after yarn about how the Democrats have screwed up the country. Even if this is true, which I rather doubt when I compare the damage in the last 4 years to the damage done in the last 12, the republican party do nothing but cast stones. They do not even attempt to win me over, and thus they serve only to drive the parties farther apart opting for civil name calling instead of rational discourse. They are in effect, bullies all grown up.

So what has got me screaming from my silent cosmos; the failure of the world to recognize the one true value we should all be working towards, love and tolerance of other, maybe even acceptance. So from out here in my little reality, I am begging for people to recognize the hate and venom and squash it. Perhaps you will only view what I have to say as hippie rhetoric, or the cries of a nerd who never got closure. I doubt I will sway any opinions with this silent scream, but it feels good to let it out instead of holding it in.

Flowing

The following posts were written after reading about flow. Flow is a state of consciousness that we have long known about but only recently started taking it seriously. Thanks to authors like Csikszentmihalyi who coined the term, and Perry who’s book “Writing in Flow” I am working through, we can learn more about what creates a flow state and how we can enter into this state of consciousness. Flow is a state in which whatever you are doing becomes effortless, it flows. It happens when we apply ourselves to a task long enough that it becomes second nature. Perry states, “To enter flow, you have to be doing something that presents enough of a challenge to use your skills so that you feel truly engaged, neither bored nor anxious” (Perry, 1999, p.11). I imagine a few upcoming posts will involve discussion of flow whether it is open discussion about this state of being, or it is embedded work in which I attempt to enter flow during writing.  I hope the reader will enjoy what is offered. What is here is one half creative, one half letting flow, and one half conspiracy of light preaching.

Decisions

1000 rivers run past my door and I on the unmoving rock

casting glances for the shore and planning to move the plot

forward into the fray the depth of the rivers beckons

I instead slip into day ignoring the rivers reckon

I see those channels flowing round and fear becomes alive

I live in panels fortified in words I am chained and bound

Yet swim I must in times due course the river choosing me

No need to struggle or initiate force just slide into the sea

I pray the currents take me there to the home of heart and soul

It warrants only faith and care and ignoring times of slow

River take me onward roll me into the night

I release, relax, respond, I give in without a fight

For somewhere down that flow at the end of the long embrace

I find myself on promised shore a smile upon my face.

Idea Factory

Where does a new idea come from? It hits me as if it is percolating up. Somewhere the deep erupts and an idea is given and I am left to defend it, play with it, take it for a ride until I am either unceremoniously dumped or the idea and I are both satiated. The thing is, ideas are always percolating. Some hidden voice casting words into the void throughout the day. Lost in my daily activities, ideas pop like bubbles or pass quietly into memory. Sometimes I pretend that I am going to “hold onto” that one. To file it somewhere to be called up again, but often they just fall back into oblivion never to be seen again. Who knows, we could all be on the verge of something but the idea is so subtle, so slippery that only the most masterful observers even glimpse its existence.

Then there are the moments in which I stand before a chaotic jumble, ideas swimming entangled, waiting to be dethreaded like one of the death knots in a rope. Then it is my job to untangle and release. There is always the release. A thing arises and perhaps through writing, or other forms of expression, it gets caught. There is the newly formed paper universe in which it lives, a book, a story, a letter, a poem, and then there is the living dialog when an idea passes from one person to another through discussion, the birth of the meme.

I wish I could watch where it goes. You know if I have an idea, a bubble of beauty, and it has meaning to others, it would be amazing to watch it pass from mind to mind. To be shaped by everyone who comes in contact with it until it later no longer resembles its birthed self but instead is an amalgamated hybrid of all of the shapers through which it has passed. How many simple ideas have been birthed and grown awaiting action until some well prepared catcher takes it and brings the idea into physical manifestation? How much does what I say here and now inform the future? Is there hidden within my own words the cure for cancer, a new form of weapon, the destruction of humanity? Yet I can’t take responsibility for these eventualities. Each of us has a responsibility to shape what comes along into the best it can be. We have to assume that the others of the world will take the idea into a positive direction. Words do have power. Ideas do light fuses. It is up to each of us to address each idea anew and lovingly shape them for the betterment of self and other. We are all caretakers of universal imagination. Creation flows, and channels from our bodies and minds, our hearts and souls.

A conspiracy of light recognizes that we all have a place in the great dialog. It is a dialog that happens out of sight, in the background. It is happening now and each of us tap in as we may. But we are surrounded by cliche, eddies in the flow. Those things that mask themselves as unique or original but yet only serve to slow the rise and fall of ideas. Commercials, soundbites, thoughts without give, all of these obstruct our collective dialog. We collect around them like moths at a flame. We are all part of this dance. But being conscious of such possibilities, cultivating awareness would seem to be the only cure. Being aware of the ways in which we are all a multiplicity.

We are as the Buddah would say ‘neti neti’, not this and not that. We are the press of all things into a holding space. Memory and pattern hold us in place amidst the cascade of ideas around us. But there is attrition. We shape ideas and ideas shape us the way the wind is no longer the same after it carves a canyon. It is a humbling awareness. We co-create our world daily. Lets try and create something of which we can all be proud. Let go of the hatred and guilt that destroys ideas and seeks to separate itself from all else by walling itself in. You can hang out in your castle, surrounded  by the things that you love, but unless you venture into the world you are rotting, going stale from the failure of accepting and intermingling with the other.

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Collective Mind

There is the possibility that the entire world is one collective mind. Like drops in the water we all make up the mind without being the mind. Within that mind, larger conglomerations of people form cultural minds. We are the neurons, firing information to each other. When a group or culture gathers around an idea of exclusion, we all lose. The richness of the world is diminished. There are groups out there that work to silence the voices of the gay community, of African Americans, or Latinos, of women, of the homeless, of the poor, of the Christians. If you can name a subculture, there is almost a guarantee that some other subgroup opposes them. I am not saying that we should allow the actions of those who spread hatred. Neo Nazi’s and Nihilists should have the right to express their ideology as long as their actions are kept in check. It is when the idea of shutting out others becomes an active physical expression that we must step in and take action.

None of this is easy philosophical banter. There are necessarily loose threads waving in the wind. I am not seeking to dictate to others how they should live their lives. That is up to you to decipher and work through. I am instead advocating for an openness towards the other, whoever that other may be. Developing a sense of compassion for those that we have no connection with could be the greatest challenge of your life, but on the other side of that divide is the space in which we can develop a harmonic existence. Lion and lamb, Christian and prostitute, straight and gay, liberal and republican, and yes even the libertarian. It only comes through work. It only emerges when we tend to our own candles and keep them trimmed and burning. Then and only then will light be less a conspiracy and more of a daily attitude. I urge one and all to go out and shine.

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Rush- Closer to the Heart

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart
The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart
You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart

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

Flight

Flight to San Franciso

For the most part, the flight to San Francisco was very pleasant. A beautiful young woman in amazing pumps seemed to be a good omen. I was going to tell her that they were kick ass shoes, but then my zone was called and all thoughts of being flirty kind of vanished in the hustle of..get to your seat, give sufficient greetings to your seat mates, and then put on the headphones before any kind of meaningful conversation can be started.

That is my flight MO. I do not like to fly. I understand that it is the most efficient means of getting there, but I have yet to feel totally at home packed into a metal tube and hovering some thousands of feet in the air. Plus I was in a damnable middle seat. Delta in all their wisdom started some kind of program where only people with sky miles can get certain window and aisle seats. I am sure this is supposed to be a loyalty program but they are not making any friends when they take away what few options I have as a flyer.

So, I put in the Yes album “We Can Fly from Here” which made for a perfect trip starter. I have left this one alone for a while just due to the overplay I gave it while acquainting myself with the new Yes sound. I was already a fan, but this listen cemented my notion that it really is an incredibly wonderful album (despite some lyrical content that fails).

Yes- We Can Fly From Here Pt1

The flight was full of good music, Airbag, Billy Sherwood, and Cosmograf (how did that one pass me by?) While doing all this I perused several copies of Classic Rock Presents Prog

This is a good starter for planning our upcoming show…the best of 2011 extravaganza. There is so much damn good music that was put together this year that trying to identify the best of the year is a near impossible feat. I know for a fact that I will disappoint many people with my choices, but I have to vote from my heart. I look for different things than a lot of prog fans when I am looking at music. I am lyrically and vocally inclined, instrumental albums often bore me, and I expect my music to hook me either musically, or with meaning. That means that some albums that are technically brilliant, genre defying pieces will still get left behind. In the end, if you like our show, you will like our best of show. I just have to make some difficult decisions and jettison a good many options.

A modest proposal:

After years of flying, I feel I am well versed in flight enough that I can make some suggestions to the airline companies. I certainly understand the need to efficiently load people into the bus, get them to their destination, and then drop them off. However, I think with a few tweeks we could bring some joy to our flying experience.

To begin with there are too many seats on the plane. We have bought into the idea that there should be a class system on the plane. We live in that world in which people who have more disposable income will view flying with a greater affinity than those of us packed like sardines into little seats munching on a pittance of pretzels, or the cheapest peanuts money can buy. My plan calls for the removal of this class system. 4 Seats per aisle, nice and roomy. Sure we will all pay a little more for the comfort, but probably not the exorbitant prices that have already served to separate us into some kind of high flying class warfare. I see the seats being geared towards comfort, having easily moved screens, and plenty of leg room.

Next there is the wait itself. When we landed we sat in our seats waiting for the doors to open, and then for each person to get their stuff out of the overhead. I suggest a new system in which both sides of the plane open Delorean style allowing all passengers to exit from their own row. The doors could be sealed both with mag locks and latches. The wings of the plane could fold in, creating a slim cylinder that can deftly slide up to a platform.

Next concern is air pressure. Why is going up so much more pleasant than going down? (phrasing)! Have we not come far enough with our science that proper pressurization techniques could not be developed?  My last experience of the plane is a sharp pain to the ear due to quick pressurization. Surely this should be a non-issue at this point. Not worried about rocket packs and jumpsuits, I just want a technology built with the customer in mind. I know it all sounds rather bitchy, but I just think that we should all be treated better and not held hostage to our badly planned flight program.

I always appreciated that video in which the flight attendant rapped the requirements of the safety protocols. In that moment it seemed that yes indeed we could move into a more hip world in which square values (yes I know the slang is dated) do not pervade so much. I mean we all know the spiel, seatbelt, airbag, flotation devices, exit doors etc. I guess it is a time honored incantation. Perhaps planes are held up by magic and we have to do a safety dance in order to get the gods to look favorably on our ridiculous journeys. No…it seems more likely that we are just trapped in passionless rituals that could be made better. Lets have the captain come out and sing us a safety song. Lets have scripts handed out so that customers can participate. Lets have stripper stewardesses show us how to put our seat belts on. Come on…we can be more creative. We don’t need to let the straight world own our existence. Pedestrian life is unfulfilling. Lets raise the banner and be weird, creative and wonderful for a change. That means everyone- Doctore, nurses, dentists, policeman. Put some zing in your step. Sing me a ticket for speeding! And politicians- far too serious no matter what party you are in. Yes, lets protect our country and develop our freedoms, but lets do it wearing rhinestones.

Flight Attendant Raps Safety Protocol

What do you guys think? Isn’t it time that we revamp our airlines? I am not talking about some kind of fall back to the yesteryear of Pan Am (although the stewardesses on the show would make the flight easier)

I am talking about a move into a new way of thinking. A plan in which the needs of business are the same as the needs of the buyer. I may be asking a lot. I certainly do not know much about the politics and finances of air travel but I think we can do better.

At least we did not have to wait for lemon scented napkins!

 

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.

The heart of good therapy

Friday 01/06/12

“What we look for shapes what we see. What we see shapes how we act with others. And how we act with others shapes what is possible to occur”- Madsen

This morning I have a family therapy session to conduct. In preparation, and almost as a tool for self motivation, I try to focus on what I can do to help my clients learn about their own resourcefulness and strength. Today I am doing this through the reading of a rather good book that I gave myself for Christmas. It’s called “Collaborative Therapy with Multi-Stressed Families” by William C. Madsen. So far the book is a pretty straight forward and well written treatise on things I already believe. But that makes it all sound too unimportant. We all need cheerleaders for our own positions, to remind us of the value of what we do in the first place. It is not that I am unopen to new information, in fact I hope and pray that this fellow is able to open me to some new ideas for managing in a session. It is however that the world of therapy as it exists today is a deficit model. We look at what is wrong with others instead of what is right. We have bought into the medical model, that therapists are here simply to fix some underlying problem.

“The application of a medical model to social functioning has encouraged us to
view life through a lens of disease, with a strong focus on presumed pathology
within the individual. In the process, the broader context of social interaction and
meaning is obscured. The family as a social context is essentially ignore except
as the locus and source of trauma (which can position counselors and families
in an adversarial relationship). And the influence of broader social, economic,
and cultural factors disappears almost entirely. As a result, what began as a
major triumph in one arena (infectious and acute physical illness) has become
quite limiting in the field of mental health. The problem here is not the medical
model, but our continued unquestioned adherence to it”- Madsen

The real challenge is that there is very little support system in the ‘system’ for someone to come in and address a family by their strengths. The presence of the medical model pervades the insurance that pays for mental health services so every piece of documentation implicitly underlines a deficit model. DFCS goes into a home and determines the future story of the family- this family is unfit to raise this child or this family needs to work on parenting skills or whatever it is they say. I believe that DFCS has tried to move to a more strength based model, and I certainly meet some caseworker who are dedicated to this model, but for the most part, the old guard DFCS, that is the long term case workers who have been around since the 70s and 80s, do not easily adopt this new fangled attitude. They are still looking at the world through dark eyes and rarely spinning a story of hope for the families we serve. So I sit in the middle, the intermediary between  those who see the family as irresponsible and unchanging, and the family who sees nothing so wrong. I acknowledge that there are problems, but I have to go in seeking to ally with the family or client. They need to know that in the midst of all of this bureaucracy that someone has their back, someone sees them for who they are, someone is looking for the good and the heroic in the story that is told in tragic language. This is my daily challenge and I appreciate writers like Madsen, who put into words something so important.

So here I go, chin up, ready for the day, hoping to help, and address everyone with the respect they deserve.

Monday 01/09/12

For those who are not acquainted with the fascinating world of therapy, you will not get there through the modern interpretations available to you. The fellow on How I Met Your Mother, the therapist on Revenge, Dr. Katz…it is truly amazing how maligned the world of therapy is in the mainstream media. Writers may have cracked a look at a psych 101 book but rarely go deeper. Bob Newhart may have gotten closest but it has been so long I don’t remember.

The mainstream media view seems to be a mixture of freudian couch sitting, free association, and sex. So most people have a poor idea of what a therapist or counselor does each day. For me in my attempt to be authentic and real and to offer positive regard to all it is a bit of a puzzle. Every time I enter a new home I am already seeking out ways to be helpful. Looking for handholds in our rapport building conversations that will allow me to convince them that I do indeed have their best interests at heart. It is not so much a performance, because that would make it all fake. Instead it is an attempt to suspend that part of myself that offers kneejerk reaction in favor of more thoughtful and clear thinking. I am literally trying to turn what I see into strength for my client, because all they need to know is that whatever they are going through, there is a way out and they have resources that they have missed in their personal assessments. In a sense it is a ritual in which I let the client take the lead, but that is not easy. When I first discovered the concept of therapy, I thought that this was the way we should all treat one another daily; unconditional positive regard, support and listening. Sounds good in theory but getting out of the way is much harder than you might think. If you go into a conversation with someone, try to divorce yourself from the part of you that strives to be heard, try to simply listen and be there for them without any ego reflex. It is just not an easy process and it can take its toll. The stories can be emotionally taxing, the ideas brought up can challenge the way you already think about your life, and you can end up hearing some things that will scare the bejesus out of you. It can drain you, but it is the good fight!

That was what last week was like. I had some amazing sessions with my clients, but when Friday came I had already hit the wall and Saturday then took it out of me. Yesterday was a recouperation day and a show day. I am happy just to be upright this morning.

This is music from one of the most amazing bands of our time: Genesis. In this one they sing about therapy. Not a good example but still an enjoyable song.

I also recently discovered another interesting blog post, this one from someone hoping to revamp our broken mental health system. It’s worth a read. You can check it out here: A Three Pronged Approach to Mental Health System Change

So here it is another day of craziness. I started my day with readings from Maisel’s “Mastering Creative Anxiety”. Here is the quote of the day that hit me:

“We put the research aside, announcing that it isn’t quite as interesting as we hoped it would be. We deny or do not quite know that it was the anxiety of thinking that thwarted us, but that’s what it was. People will do almost anything- not complete their dissertation, not deliver a book under contract- to avoid that anxiety”- Maisel

Well I fall into that category. For the last year I have been overwhelmed with work and I have lost interest in my dissertation topic. Not entirely, but part of the research and my own changing values have made it look less like what I expected. So it has languished. Now I have to try to pick it back up, dust it off, revise it for clarity, and build it up to a more meaningful work. I am actually still excited to do the research I just lost interest in the research portion. This week I will be headed off to San Francisco to charge my academic batteries at the Saybrook Residential Conference (the residency portion of my degree work). I am both excited and terrified. Excited to reconnect with the amazing people that make up the Saybrook family, and terrified of discussing the slow evolution that is my dissertation work. As a good friend of mine says, each drop of water in the bucket is one more, the bucket will eventually fill. My faucet was never turned off, but it is a very slow drip.

One more quote this morning. This one was posted by a friend on facebook:

Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.
R. D. Laing

May your days be excellent this week. I look forward to what the week has in store. Thanks for reading.

A long day

I hesitate to even write this evening. It was just such a crazy, mixed up day that I am not sure if it is meaningful for others to hear about it. Nevertheless, I have committed to write when I can as a matter of principle. To exercise my writing muscles daily and perhaps to offer some brief insight, a day in the life if you will. A true conspiracy of light will seek to cast light on the dark places and some of today was semi dark at least.

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks whey he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “this is where the light is.”[2]

This excerpt comes from Wikipedia but it is an oft used parable. It just seems appropriate here.

So the day began with an early morning transport from Columbus to Kennesaw. Not an easy wake up call considering that Columbus is 2 1/2 hours from my house, and the transport had to be completed by 10 am. This meant getting up at 4 am. Nevertheless I did this and I was happy to do so. The client in question is someone I have worked with for sometime and I am so connected that I will pretty much do anything to offer support. The relationship is perhaps one of the strongest bonds I have experienced in my current job.

Next I had a regular CSI session. I have come to realize that my presence, support and clinical interviewing skills can be carried anywhere and used in the midst of any activity. So I have made it a point to try and make sessions for myself and my clients enjoyable as well as educational and therapeutic. In this case today I taught a client how to geocache. This is a fascinating little hobby for anyone with a GPS device and the wherewithal to search and not give up. The game is being used as a means of teaching the value of following directions, staying focused on a goal and not giving up, and developing patience (something you need a great deal of if you are following GPS coordinates to find a bullet shell sized marker that is hidden in a tree trunk). This was a good session though. We searched for two caches (treasures) and found 1 one of them. After finding the one, I asked the client what they had learned: “To never give up” was the resounding answer. I could not have hoped for better.

Here are some pics from our find:

The first pic was the actual cache we found. It looked like a rock on the top but this was on the bottom. The second gives a view from just a few feet away from the cache. This one was actually in a hidden area between 2 apartment complexes. The picture paints a serene image but there are actually cars and people all about just 100 feet in either direction. We did not encounter any muggles, but we were on the lookout.

After this 2 cancelled sessions and then the bombshell. I am a mandated reporter which means if I am privy to any information that could possibly harm someone, I am obligated to report to the authorities. This rule is there for a reason, I am just still getting to understand what it means and how to enact my duties ethically both towards my clients and towards the state laws that I am bound to. Lets just say that the situation was challenging, but I handled it with as much integrity as I could muster and in the end, just as George Hrab has stated in his geologic podcasts, things were not nearly as bad as I had made them out to be…thanks George for being my motivation to take the risks that I have to take.

If you have not checked out the Geologic Podcast, you can find it here: Geologic Podcast

George is not only a great musician, comedian, skeptic, and entertainer, but he also lets pearls of wisdom dangle in front of you on long car drives and you are left with mouth agape wondering why you had not thought of whatever he is talking about before.

Anyway, 2 more sessions after this, and then…..flat frikkin tire!

I love my little hybrid Insight. I mean, what better car for a counselor than one with the name Insight. I have driven it over 21000 miles since I got it last summer. A scary amount for a car so young but then movement is at least 50% of my job. Anyway, I do love my little car, but there is one thing I am really unhappy about. Visibility! The lights form an almost box like figure in front that makes everything outside the box seem darker than it would otherwise be. So I have had challenges with seeing at night as well as I would like. Well tonight, I hit two curbs while making right turns and the second one did the tire in. Sad because this is the first time I have had any real troubles with the car. Nevertheless it went flat while on my way home and I pulled over to check out what I could do. I was ready to call AAA or the insurance company. However, a  very nice and helpful police officer drove up and offered to help by shining his lights and helping me find the jack that was all too hidden from obvious view. He found it pretty easily. He said this is what comes from searching cars on a regular basis. Anyway, he was an incredibly nice fellow and I was very grateful for his help.

“I want to wear my bifocals, I want to see at night, I want to wear my bifocals, I want to see whats in the light”- sung to the tune of Queen’s bicycle.

This is the other possibility. In my last eye doctor visit he mentioned a future need for bifocals…what! Yes, bifocals. It seems my eyes are not as good as they once were and it could be that my night vision is starting to have some problems. I seem to be turning into my Grandaddy. He had a great deal of trouble seeing at night as well. I am not sure that bifocals help with night vision, but it has been harder to see at night as I have aged. Damn you mortality! No wonder I have called this the year of the conspiracy of light.

So I know this is a rather pedestrian post, but it felt good to write it all out. A venting of emotion and frustration if you will. But I am proud of a few things. While the day was pretty tough, I never got down on myself, never got overheated with frustration or emotion, and with the flat tire, i just got out and started doing what had to be done. This just did not effect me the way such things have in the past. I must have learned some of the stuff I am teaching to my clients lol. I wish they could have all seen me, taking it all in stride like a big boy lol.

For those who have read this far, thank you for your indulgence. This just felt necessary. Plus I have a meter on the blog daring to write 5 full blogs. Silent lucidity still looms. See you all soon!

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.