Friday, January 15, 2021

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Abuse, disease, one ill-fated turn.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Some die in the womb. Others are born.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

There are those who succumb to depression and fear

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Others? Whether good fortune or triumph? Still here.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? How many "Greats" have we lost far too young?

How many songs cut short, left unsung?

How many works of art linger on?

How many unfinished once the Master was gone?

And what of the butcher?

The baker?

The candlestick maker?

Or those who made nothing at all?

The lambs to the slaughter

the cannon fodder

the holes in the ground with no names.

Shame.

Cacophony of beauty, bound up by pain

All of it teardrops, lost in the rain?

Some go and some stay.

Some scoff and some pray.

But stand, kneel, or lay

The End - it always ends the same way.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Friday, January 8, 2021

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Mattress Side

She bit down hard on the corners of her mouth as the green blips on the monitor flatlined - folks would be suspicious if she smiled.

She desperately wanted to smile though.

A metallic taste formed in her mouth. She swallowed, hoping the blood hadn't stained her teeth.

Any observer who witnessed this swallow would see it as a sign of quiet resolve. Of bravery in the face of unimaginably tragic circumstances.

But it wasn't unimaginable. Cheryl had imagined versions of this moment for a long time.

Beside the hospital bed, as her mother drew her final, labored breaths, Cheryl held the clammy hand, limp upon the mattress, and felt that familiar but elusive sensation up her spine: excitement. A chill only achieved by doing something naughty or dangerous. And getting away with it.

Any moment now...

Any moment now the breathing would cease. Any moment now, the face slacken. Any moment now the woman who gave her life would be plunged forever into darkness by the Harbinger of Death.

"Harbinger of Death," Cheryl mused. Deciding the moniker fit, and conveyed the true levels of her power, she imagined what the words would look like printed on a shirt. A low cut, tight, black one. One that would make Dr. Spencer notice...

She bit her lip again.

Mustn't smile.

The future she'd planned for, fought for, killed for, only moments away now. Her ultimate triumph hung in the air like all the empty promises and hurtful words.

"She's gone."

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Dirge is such a dreary word

5 years in, and the physical healing I've sought hasn't materialized.

I'm still devastated by this.

But this past year or so, I've experienced a mental shift - namely, that I'm still here. And that I don't know how much longer I will be. So I should put my thoughts to "paper" - some of them anyone - to leave behind for those few who will want to spend time with me, even when I am gone.

I have chosen burial arrangements with the same aims, being, essentially, composted beneath a fruit bearing tree, symbolic of the Tree of Life, and continuously providing "good fruits" - a goal I hope I achieved to some degree in the one life I know I was gifted.

It's hubris to believe with any certainty that anyone will find this, but, if you do, please know I am not being morbid or sad. Rather, I am being my own warped form of grateful.

I finally got to a place where I loved my life. Where I found some mental peace. Where I established at least a few boundaries with which I was comfortable. Where I could - and do - believe myself to be a "good" person in so far as that is possible.

Some of you - again, assuming you find this - are direct contributers to this growth. While it may be called "self" esteem, some of you are the reasons I was able to find some of me.

And I thank you.

I'm not unhappy. Which, in and of itself, is quite a feat.

And it's because of this revelation - that I am no longer unhappy - that I feel compelled to write. Because something in my soul says my journey is close to its conclusion.

Does that mean Death in the traditional sense? I don't know. It could just mean a metaphoric death to all the pain I've carried with me since memory serves.

But I am a Pisces - the last sign of the Zodiac - the last spiritual phase before Nirvana. So maybe my soul chose to have its most challenging life this time 'round, to prepare me for what's to come. If anything. I've been dreaming a lot lately, and whether that's the sleeping pills or the last vestiges of my mind exorcising old hurts, I cannot say.

But I can say I am physically much worse and spiritually much better than I have been at any other point in my life.

If you are one who will miss me, thank you. And please know the best thing you can do for me is remember me fondly.

I do hope you'll come visit me at my tree, partake of sweet fruits, and continue to share with me all the details of your continued life.

Do I believe in Heaven? Not really. But I know we live on in the minds and hearts of those whose lives we've touched. So maybe there's my immortality.

Thank you for being a part of this life, a beautiful thread in the fabric of my experience.

I am grateful for you, for me, for growth, for the life I was given.

I am grateful for the love we shared.

...

I feel very powerfully "an end" in this moment.

Strangely, I felt compelled to go back to my very first blog post on this site - composed almost 11 years ago to the day.

Frighteningly, it parallells this present post.

And confirms the feeling that's presently so strong in my soul.

I recently had tarot read - and my cards said that a struggle I've been carrying for so long is at it's end.

The card - a dead man, with 10 swords in his back.

11 is a number that has special meaning to me.

11 means I'm going in the right direction - that I can trust the path I am on.

That the man is dead with 10 swords in his back - does that mean 11 - my right path - is just around the corner?

I'll leave you where I found you: with my first blog entry.

I may not pass this way again.

...

"Female Frankenstein"

I am the living evidence of the decisions of generations past.

My shape derives from the shape of their lives.

I see the world through the focus of their eyes.

Their story is hardened in my bones. And beats through my pulse.

Individual choices,
right turns down streets of Fate,
left turns into adversity...
All culminate March 16, 1981...deep gasps and baby's cries.

Female Frankenstein.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

On Justice

I value justice.

Highly.

And no, not "Cancel you on Twitter 'justice'."

When I say I value justice I mean "right the wrong, hold the assholes accountable, change the world" justice. And to achieve those ends? Often involves punishment.

Indeed, to some, justice can only be achieved with punishment. Harsh punishment. Punishment "befitting the crime." There can be no righting of wrongs, no changing of the world, if the assholes "get off easy". To some, punitive justice is the only true justice.

I was one of those people.

At least I thought I was.

In recent years, as I've looked at my life and considered my (ongoing?) development, I've discovered something "other" amid the punishment that I (still) regularly wish - and inflict, if only in daydreams - upon the irresponsible, ignorant, arrogant, intolerable assholes of the world.

It's that "other" thing that's on my mind this evening, as more and more I'm coming to realize that the "other" is the type of justice I'd like my future self to pursue.

This "other"? Is RECTIFICATION.

Allow me to explain: rather than being out for blood for all those assholes who hurt, abuse, mistreat people - rather than seeking PUNISHMENT for the crimes - I now declare my desire, hope, and intention to pursue RECTIFICATION for the crimes.

Punitive punishments only affect one individual - the perp - and only after the crime has been committed. But rectification justice affects entire communities, and may even prevent future crimes.

How so?

I'll give you an example: If an asshole brandishing an AK-47 robs a bank, punitive justice means he's sent to prison. But that punishment doesn't provide true justice. Punishing the perpetrator doesn't mean that the bank ever got/will get its money back. Punishing the perpetrator doesn't mean the folks he scared to death in the bank lobby will ever get their sense of security back.

And, while acknowledging that sitting in a cell is no one's idea of a good time, punishing the perpetrator in this way doesn't mean the asshole has (or ever will) learn his lesson. (*In fact, recidivism in this country is so high that, if the asshole ever is released, it's likely he'll wind up right back there again. More on that later.*)

So what has this punishment really accomplished?

And, more importantly, what is the alternative? Especially when seeing an asshole put behind bars makes so many of us feel secure and self righteous in that "justice has been served"?

I propose that rectification is the answer.

When something bad happens, the root issue and fallout must be rectified, and, surprisingly often, this has very little to do with punishment as we, the Frank Castles of the world, typically understand it.

In the above example, rectification would require that the bank be compensated in some way for its losses by the individual who caused the harm. The same is true for the citizens of the bank, who may well suffer PTSD from such an experience. And lastly - and listen up here! - rectification would require that the asshole not only be held accountable BUT ALSO AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, that he be assisted and supported in chaging his behavior so that 1. he can make better decisions in the future and 2. we, as a society, will give him the chance to show he's changed, and to benefit from that change.

Yes, you read that last part right.

True justice - rectification justice - requires something from US, THE INNOCENT PARTIES, because we're all members of the community, and the community sinks or swims as a whole.

I know I just lost some of you. I know there's at least one, "Why should I have to do anything? I'm not the one who robbed the bank! Why am I being PUNISHED for someone else's mistakes?" person in this crowd.

And you? Are the person I am writing this for.

Why should you (or I, or society as a whole) take part in this rectification process?

Because you're a fucking human being and, no matter what they've done, so are "they."

Because you'd want another chance if you fucked up royal.

Because you should be given the opportunity to rise above and grow beyond your worst day and your worst act.

Because sweeping change only occurs when resources and ideological shifts are made across communities as a whole.

And here come those same "I shouldn't have to change because he robbed a bank people" now: "Oh yeah? Well what if the person is a child molester? Or a rapist? Or a murderer? You think we should just let those people off without being punished? Tell that to the victim's families!"

To that I say, don't ask me, Kimosabe. Ask that Jesus you claim to worship who hung out with the dregs of society and made a literal murderer a disciple.

Ask that same poor, wandering Jew who highlighted the importance of the community's responsibility to forgive when he said to forgive people "70 times 7" times.

Or, if you insist on asking me, I'll tell you this: there are numerous stories of criminals who turned their lives around based on the kind acts of folks around them, who gave them a chance and the resources to make better, healthier choices and become productive members of society.

Entire punitive systems in other countries are based on this premise, and their recidivism rates (and violent crime rates) put ours to shame.

And, here in the United States, there are even more examples of what happens when you stick someone in a cell, and later let them out, without forgiving, without providing avenues to better choices, without giving a helping hand to those who need it and a guiding light to those who lack it: More crime. More hurt. More pain. More vicitms.

Fact of the matter is, our prisons are filled with people who were raised in poverty, without adequate role models, in areas where selling drugs or forming gang affiliations were the only ways to ensure survival. Our prisons are filled with abused children masquerading as adults, people who turned to drugs or other vices to dull pains that were never addressed. People driven by mental illnesses they often cannot help or for which help was available but unaffordable.

And all of those people, while owing a debt to society, are also owed a debt by society.

Yes, I said it.

And yes, some of y'all are cursing me out.

Fuck y'all. You need to hear this.

In Judaism, we have something called Tzedakah. Many translate this to mean "charity" as financial collections typically go to the poor, the needy, or other worthy causes. But the true meaning of the word is "justice." Justice, in Judaism (and in truth), recognizes that some of us are just gifted with more than others. And, quite often, those gifts are not reflections of our own merits, but, rather, our own circumstances, which are largely outside of our control. Did you choose to enter this world to poor, drug addicted, abusive parents? No? Well, neither did any child for whom that is their circumstance.

Sure, it's the asshole's fault for robbing the bank. But it's not his fault he was born to a single mom in a bad part of town and took to crime at an early age to make sure he and his siblings could eat.

And sure, there are those who came from similar circumstances who never rob banks, but, statistically, folks who grow up with abuse perpetuate abuse, because it's all that's been modeled for them and it's all they know.

As we're already aware that most mimic the situations in which they were raised - and those that don't manifest their traumas in other, often unhealthy ways - what can we do, what should we do, to break these patterns to help individuals and society as a whole?

So what's the true justice here? What's tzedakah here?

Tzedakah would be this asshole serving the sentence for his crimes, but tzedakah would also require that our society look at the poverty from whence he came and try to do something about it. Tzedakah would require that we examine ways to provide resources for the poor, for people from one parent or abusive homes, for people for whom higher ed is wholly unaffordable, for whom selling drugs is a more accessable means of financial independence.

Tzedakah acknowledges our power to help change the world around us for the better. To pursue actual justice. Tzedakah changes and saves lives.

And this should be a goal of justice - not punishment, but positive change.

Which is why I plan to put aside (to the degree I am able) my propensity toward punitive justice, in favor of rectificational justice.

I want to see the bank robber serve the bank the robbed, perhaps by receiving training in some aspect of banking, where he can work for the bank, learning skills, and facing, every day, the people he harmed, while learning a better way.

I want the bank robber to attend group meetings to listen to people who face PTSD after a violent event, and hear how his actions have lasting consequences.

I want the robber, while serving his time, to be counseled in ways to deal with his own personal issues that lead him to steal in the first place.

And, lastly, if he makes parole, I want opportunities made available to him that would allow him to thrive within the law, and contribute to a better, more just society.

There are those for whom this model will have to be modified. There are those whose crimes necessitate they remain behind bars for the remainder of their lives. But those circumstances don't negate our responsibilities as a community to provide a more nurturing environment to allow that person to heal and grow, and to foster a society that will breed fewer like him.

Lastly, I want to say to those pouters who've long-since stopped reading because they'd rather see someone put to death than given a second chance at life: you purport to care about the victims. You claim that caring about those who've been wronged justifies your treatment of the perpetrator of those wrongs - and to you I say this: punitive justice doesn't bring peace.

It may bring some sense of satisfaction, but it doesn't bring peace.

For those who've been hurt by unspeakable crimes - incest, rape, torture, murder - having the perp behind bars or even on death row might feel good, but it doesn't mend the deep wounds. Therefore if you, I, we as a society, truely care about victims, we need to provide avenues to healing and to peace.

We need counseling services available and affordable for all involved, victims and perpetrators. We need programs that will bring about changes in perps' hearts, lives, and actions. We need to see and enjoy the ripple effects of these changes. We need to foster environments where families will get true, remoreseful apologies. We need such growth and change that perps will one day learn that it's better to be part of the cure than part of the disease. And we need to create a society that nurtures all of its members, regardless of class, color, or creed, so that these same atrocities don't happen to other families.

We need rectification justice. We need Tzedakah.

And henceforth I plan to pursue both.

I hope you'll join me.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Suicide Prevention

Postsecret.com just shared a story about a college student who posted - anonymously online - her intent to commit suicide.

She felt, as many of us do, that no one really cared.

But someone saw her post.

Someone who lived far away. Someone who'd never met her. But someone who cared nonetheless.

That someone - Heather Stanton - took to multiple forums, including PostSecret and IMAlive online crisis network.

With the help of a growing team of internet strangers, Heather determined the college student's whereabouts using the color of floor tiles, the color of curtains, the word "Higgins," and a grape soda bottle.

When campus emergency services broke down the door, they found the college student unconscious.

She was rushed to the hospital.

AND LIVED.

...

Last night I watched "Promising Young Woman," which, to me, is a must-see for this generation of men and women. It also touches on the topic of suicide, and loneliness, and the feeling that nobody but nobody gives a fuck about anyone else.

...

Guys, I know this note won't reach many - but even if it touches just one. Even if you're a stranger. There are those who care.

They may not be family.

They may not even be friends.

They may not even live on your continent.

But there are kindred souls out there for whom your life matters.

And it DOES matter.

If you or someone you know feels like they just cannot make it one more day, please feel free to contact me, to call an emergency services line, like 800-273-8255 in the USA.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Google long enough and you can and will find a source that will agree with you.
This is a problem.