I Am A Dancer I

(MY MOTHER DIED Aug 29 2018)BOLD_Owen_07

friends
(most are women)
have told me,”you think
too much”, “you ask
to many deep questions”,
“You’re a bit weird”
“not like most men”
I’ve always felt
that was up for discussion,
obvious.

I’m a dancer

my mother died in August.
we had an awkward relationship

I like science fiction.
I’ve always wanted to understand
quantum physics.
I heard that Albert Einstein’s
theory was proven
in the trenches of WWI.
and before that you needed
a graduate degree to understand
the physics of the universe.
and since that E=MC2
is understood by highschool students.

I’ve wanted to translate
my knowledge
into simpler formulas
for easier relationships.

I’m a dancer.

When I was 16
I watched my mother storm in
pick up a length of wood
and head my way.
A quiet voice
stood me up
and commanded
unflinching resolve
I held her eyes
she brought it down
on my shoulder.
‘Maybe it broke’
My father quiet
to my resolve.
“Don’t hit your mother.”

I walked 20 miles
through the night
to see a nun
in a convent
avoiding car lights
on country roads
I arrived at dawn
I waited until 7
I was hungry
She made me tea.
I told her my story.
She asked me if
there was anything
else.
I was 16
I was devastated
I was steel
I was the wolf
scouring forest trails
I said “No”
I got up to go.
She said, “Goodbye”.

I went to university
and studied physiotherapy
and asked deep questions
and joined the Baha’i Faith
and the new earth order
and that was a bit weird
and even there,
still not like most men
and not like most women.
and married
and begot 3 sons
and spent some hours
each week helping
on my father’s farm
and burning out at work
and getting fired up
and for fifteen years
taking holidays
to have conversations
with politicians
about rural health

I saw a signpost
Performance Community
and something glimmer
in the distance
like a bright new
city of the future
and took that track

I’m a dancer

These past 14 years
I’ve had lunch with my mother
and father, or coffee
every week
helping around the farm,
being frustrated with them
finding a way to accept
no apology
finding a way to say,
“I love you.”
finding a way to tear them
away from their farm
his workshops,
her orchards.

In his dementia
in a house in town
my father remembered
“that bloke came around again”.
he fell and broke his hip
I sat with him in emergency.
He said, “It’s time”
I glibly, “Time for a cuppa?”
He gave me a sour look,
a ‘fuck off’
I felt I’d disappointed him.
He died.

There’s not much for a wolf
in a modern society
– pickings at the edges

I don’t know whether
my mother knew
I am a dancer.

My mother died in August.
We buried her in September.
Her friends noted to me
how lovely she was
to be with.

Sadness tinges
I didn’t forget
not to go around for lunch
or coffee.

 

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PRAYER I

(my desire reaches out
“I want …. ”
so much to achieve)
My speech falters
…. it isn’t adequate to ask
The vision seems strong.
Not sure of Your Will.
Perhaps, if I ask
Your Will,
You will
throw what I desire, away.
See how my desire is frightened
that You Will throw it all away?
Do you throw things away?
Or is it me.
Do I throw things away?
I don’t want the things
I desire, gone.
I want that achievement.
I don’t want it gone,
just for Your Will.
Could there be a way?
An open heart?
Yes, an open heart
so people will come
to what I want to achieve.
That should work for you, yeh?
… the pen throws down
and the lip curls …..
“… save them from outward semblances.
Make them to be a comfort
and a solace to humankind
and servants to the peace of the world.”
Bowed in my ineptitude
I shall dance
as an opening to Your reply.
 

Mistakes

“Mistakes were made (but not by me)” by Tavris and Aronson is a punchy 240 pages about a fundamental driver of our human identity: cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the state of discomfort that occurs when we have two opposing ideas operating in our mind. For example, I think I am a good person, good people don’t yell at their neighbours, I yelled at my neighbours: so, either I am not a good person or there must be something about my neighbours that justifies a good person to yell at them. And thus also determines the way to war.

Cognitive dissonance seems to sit at the interface between our higher mind and our baser mind. The higher mind is a great space for virtuous idea and creativity. The base mind is all our instincts for survival. Both of these minds interact through our language centres and therein become our thought and our being. However, our baser mind provides hard wired outputs so that we can survive. Our higher mind requires educational sources, nurturing. So our baser mind can express in action almost quicker than we can think about what we are doing ie putting it into language eg be angry when feeling threatened. When an action from our baser mind expresses itself, we will most likely find ourselves at odds with our own higher mind. We experience a terrible discomfort, perhaps a deep guilt. This is cognitive dissonance. However, because we don’t like the feeling, we get rid of it by justifying our behaviour.

Self justification is behind good people doing even more terrible things. A man embezzles a million dollars from his company to pay his gambling debt. He starts by just a small amount which he pays back. But as he gambles, he takes more, and he can’t pay it back. Yet, he justifies, I will win big and all will be restored and I am a good person and I will give up gambling. But he never wins and eventually he is discovered. The small mistake, when justified, will lead to a greater and greater misdeed. Tavris and Aronson’s straightforward unfolding of the elements of Watergate, provide a strong lesson for all of us.

Tavris and Aronson identify several ways to deal with cognitive dissonance.

  1. Don’t be too ready to resolve it. Have sleepless nights. Turn your discomfort over and over. Where might you be self justifying, being right, making someone wrong. Where might you need to make a hard decision that is ethically the right one.
  2. If you have made a mistake, own up to it as soon as possible. If the mistake made a mess, you have to clean it up. You have to take the consequences. But the early mistake and consequences will be mild compared to an escalation of mistake and consequence through self justifying.
  3. Learn from the mistake. In fact live for the mistakes you make, the people who can alert you to them, and what you can learn. This will ensure that you become a great learner, a successful person, and avoid making very big mistakes with big consequences.
  4. I would add, encourage others for the effort they put into trying things, making mistakes, and particular, learning from them. Help others see mistakes, not to be right, but that they can try again, even if they fail again. This is accountability, this is empowerment. This is the place in which there is no failure, just (paraphrasing Edison) a million discoveries of what didn’t work so well, and, in looking at each one clearly, finding a great opening of possibility.

Remember, says Tavris and Aronson, you are a smart, capable person who made a mistake. You remain a smart, capable person. The mistake remains a mistake.

DOES GOD EXIST?

The word EXIST, like all words, stands as a symbol of a symbol, in this case an idea of phenomenon. As a word, it is, itself, a phenomenon. As a word it points for me to something that I am experiencing, that can, therefore, be said to be a phenomenon. The word God and Exist in the same sentence, for me, falls away, awkwardly, to the degree that I am leant to declare, God doesn’t Exist.

In the Baha’i Faith there are two words that stand for the idea of God: UNKNOWABLE and ESSENCE.

Unknowable, in the sense it is used for God, is an absolute feature. It is not like the idea that I know I don’t know, or even that I don’t know that I don’t know. It is not the mathematical idea of nothing in the set, zero. It is an idea that anything I can be, anything a sentient being will be, will not come any closer to knowing. It is that there is no set to hold no items. The word God, itself, is a placemark for the unknowability of, and here the second word comes into play, Essence.

Essence is the idea of the merest hint, the barest sense, a fleeting awareness. The fleeting awareness is a register of an ocean of power that is itself something manifest, something phenomenal. This ocean of power exudes both an awesome potentiality as well as a deeply inviting calm. An awareness of the ocean of existence only points further to the hint of an infiniteness of existence that, nonetheless, has certain regulations, a way that it works. And, there, as the way it works, lies the essence of the unknowable. The bringing of existence into existence is tangible as that it works the way it works, and that it is not ours to expect differently, nor decry that it works the way it works, for it works for we.

When I bring up the word exist, it is if essence ceases to exist. The word ‘exist comes up like an impenetrable wall which shuts out all merest hint, all barest sense. Exist not only has no capacity to speak of, to point to God, it is a heavy veil between my sense and the essence. To seek for the merest hint of the unknowable essence, put away all thought that God exists. Sit with your sense of being, ranging widely and seekingly, without any more purpose than just broadening the range across the ocean of power.

Punishment Doesn’t Work

On 8th March 2018, the Australian national broadcaster (ABC) ran this story of a father punishing his son for bullying by making him run to school. I am actually appreciative that this dad took a video of him driving behind the child and posting it, so that we can learn from it.
It and the supportive responses for it, does show the failure of most of society to understand the idea of consequence. This failure is not only why our child raising has created bullies and addicts but why prisons are overflowing with recidivists. Below is my take on it.

In the ABC article, bully experts like Dr Hannah Thomas, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Queensland, said “punitive strategies like making the boy run were an attempt to teach the child to be accountable for their actions, but they didn’t always work.”They use shame, humiliation and guilt to try to motivate change in future behaviour,” she said.”This generally never changes behaviour in the long-term. It gives the child very limited opportunity to learn and acquire new skills — i.e. ways to interact in more positive and social ways with their peers.”Dr Thomas said these kinds of strategies can also have flow-on effects.”Children who are humiliated or shamed can internalise negative feelings about themselves that hinder their healthy development,” she said.”Children misbehave as they learn and develop. They need parents to be supportive when they make mistakes and to take a practical role in teaching their children how to behave more respectfully.”
What I see is that it gets down to consequences. There are two things to know about consequences: Punishment is not a consequence of someone’s action; and all actions come with unintended consequences.
Punishment is an indirect consequence of an action, and in many cases, that ‘indirectness’ is confounded by a complexity of agendas and motivations, often to the extent that it is of no consequence at all. If anything, punishment is often a pathway to a whole complexity of unintended consequences, the least of which is that the punished get that they are responsible for other’s distress and that they can be a different type of person in the world.
In this case there was a direct consequence to the boy’s bullying, he was put off the bus. The boy would have understood the relationship.
A consequence of the complaint to the parent was that the parent went into bullying mode. It seems Dad doesn’t have a conversational relationship with his son, probably an authoritarian one. His son is learning that authoritarian method, the being a three year old for the whole of your life, that is, of course, it is signified by bullying anyone as a control mechanism, a fabulous way to teach the next generation how to be a bully.
The consequence of the bullying mode by this parent is the boy being forced to run to school.
I have no problem the boy running to school. Great thing!
However, attached to that running to school is a punishment, is a bad idea!
This is where we have to get better at thinking through about unintended consequences. If we have learnt anything by listening to each other about why we find ourselves poorly motivated around some things as adults, it gets back to the unintended consequences of, sometimes, the most trivial thing a parent has done that has been completely misunderstood by the child. The consequence of establishing for your 10 year old son that running is what you do for punishment, when you do something wrong, can be that, later on in life, you run a lot and you do nothing wrong (even though you are really an A-1 tyrant), OR you do nothing wrong (you’re a nice guy) and you don’t run (you are fat, have a chronic disease by your 40s). Ultimately this boy is on a path to being either a bully for life or a failure to take-off.

The real issue though is of parenting. Parents who are in conversation with children from the time they are in the womb, parents who are self reflective in that conversation and can acknowledge with children where they messed up as well as taking a firm and clear stand with their children, parents who are up to something bigger than themselves and their family, in life, have children who aren’t bullies and grow up to be contributors to society.