Many years ago I did my college internship at a Suicide Prevention Hot Line. I went through a basic orientation and a training session prior to beginning my first all night solo shift. I was young, confident and fresh out of the gate—-Talking someone out of suicide ought to be a breeze. I quickly learned (after my first 3:00 am phone call) that I was in over my head. I immediately realized that the voice on the other end of the line belonged to a living breathing person who was suffering. Their pain was beyond my life experience. To this day, I’m not sure if I really helped anyone. I tried my best to be an empathetic and patient listener. I bore witness to unrestrained sobbing and screams of horror cried out into the phone’s receiver. There were stories of godless depression and anxiety beyond ones ability to remain fortified.
I had no rehearsed script, no prescription pad or the luxury of providing a client with a series of on going counseling sessions. I had just that moment to “try and reach” the person on the other end of the line. I did my best to listen attentively and to interject support. When appropriate, I’d provide input or referrals to community services. In spite of my lack of training and limited life experience, there we were, in the middle of the night fumbling with ideas of why it’s worth holding on for one more moment or for one more day.
And sometimes, by holding on for one moment longer than you’d think is possible, the suffering would pass——at least for a while or until the sun would rise once again.
Soundtrack “If I Go, I’m Going” by Gregory Alan Isakov.
raindrops falling and disturbing still water
she smelled like fresh laundry and the newness of a morning sun
this ole heart is wearing worn and cracked work-boots
It’s the miles not the years
You fell in love with me
like a frozen statue
like a fallen hero
Mistaking love for things that never change
even our sun
will someday die
put on a sun dress
and I’ll wear flip flops
and we’ll get sunburns
while drinking beer at the beach
Internal wallpaper is how we decorate our lives
You were my star in this darkened theater
There is no poetry in Los Angeles, it’s got chicken scratch graffiti on concrete, where tattoos are mistaken for art, its train like cities that have no beginning or ending, just endless strip malls, fast-food joints—-with its smog hallowed sun. How can there be so much loneliness in these crowded places, we have become citizens of cloned hometowns, we’re generation X, or Y, or millennials,—–held together with Facebook velcro.
Nobody really knows what’s going on or what it’s all about. We’re all just running around trying to figure out what we should do, where we should go next, whom do we dare pretend to be. The clock is always ticking, all is uncertain. Before it’s all over we are desperate to discover our part in it all. Occasionally you’ll touch something and it will shock you, like the unforeseen bite of static electricity, or glimpsing a dead falling star. And for that instance your puny life takes on a speck of meaning—–one random piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Her love was like wisteria. At first it brought a subtle beauty to everything it attached itself to. But in time its clinging nature enveloped and entangled what had once been a free-swinging garden gate. Over time there was no way to gracefully enter or exist, the overgrown gate was forever intwined and frozen. It clawed over, across and on top of what once gave the garden its structure and form. In time its need to control and twist all it touched would cause the lattice to sag, to crack under the weight and finally give way. Such beauty strangles the life out all it once embellished. She was my weed strewn garden, she was everything I wanted, but the last thing I needed.
I’ve heard it said that writing is the loneliest of pursuits. It’s just you, a blank piece of paper and your thoughts. I don’t know how writers of pulp fiction feel about their craft, but I suspect that the poet is much more of a desperate soul. His ankle is tied to a huge rusty anchor and it is plunging him to the bottom of the sea. He’s headed to a place where there is no light, no sound, an inhospitable cold region. Poets aren’t depressed—-—no—they’re truth scavengers trapped in a world of forgers. If they were afflicted by depression they might find relief in a drug or in a support group. There is no clinical diagnoses or magic cure for being a poet. Please don’t be afraid, its not contagious.
My father and I share a common name—“Victor”. My dad was called Vic by his friends but I prefer Victor. As I’ve grown older I’ve seen parts of him rise to the surface in me. I was his only son and we tried to reach one another, but we were separate boats being pushed by opposing winds.
I went through a period when I was an adolescent where I’d have night terrors—-I was a sleepwalker pacing the floor in sheer terror, crying and screaming out at things no one could see but me. My dad would shake me, pat my cheek in an attempt to wake me, but I’d carry on in my neither world of monsters, demons and madness. This would go on for hours. He would ask me at breakfast if I remembered these fits. I never remembered these night events. But I’d have a faint memory of something that filled me with terror.
My dad use to say “You’ll find out someday”. And what he meant by that was, someday I’ll learn that life is cruel and bitter and hard and full of frustration and let downs. He would almost say it with a sense of glee. Like he couldn’t wait until this life beat every ounce of idealism and romanticism out of me. He’d just look at me after making this repetitive proclamation, shaking his head and giving me a snide little snicker.
I don’t know how, why or where, but somewhere along the way he surrendered his personal power. It’s always easier to give in, give up and throw your hands up and concede, but that just isn’t me. I take my name seriously, I’m a Victor, I’m born to take on all comers—bring it on—–I’ll go down swinging.
Don’t fear the inevitable, such as death. But rather, fear not taking action on the things you have the power to change, such is your life.
“The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.” I could’ve sworn that I heard that wobbly melody playing in my head the other day. The original vagabond and singer of protest song is now the Noble Prize winner in literature. And it leaves me wondering, how much change has really taken place since 1962 when that song was first released. Even Dylan doesn’t sing protest songs any longer, instead he mumbles songs from the Great American Song Book. It was never his singing voice, guitar or harmonica playing that made him a legend; he once was angry and had something to say——-“Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
Where’s the rage and the contempt for the established authority? Where’s the cadre of enraged youth demanding that the old guard move aside so that they can fix the mess they’ve been left by their parents? There’s a pervasive complacency in the world today that frightens me. There’s nihilism where idealism once reinvented itself with each new generation. When did the power of music, investigative journalism and critical thinking fall out of vogue? When did taking to the streets in protest get replaced by insipid tweets, trendy FB posts, and lame blogs——-insert angry emoji here.
It’s not as if the world has evolved into a kinder and gentler place. To the contrary, if you take a good look around you’ll see that we’ve begun to de-evolve. We’ve elected a president who’s a racist, sexist and a xenophobe. For over a decade we’ve remained mired in wars in the middle east. A conflict that was initially predicated on a lie regarding WMD. We have the “one percenters” who’s resources and wealth continue to grow as the middle class evaporates. Earnings and benefits for workers continue to shrink as the rich blatantly pay no taxes. Mr Trump hasn’t paid federal income tax for twenty years. He proudly defended this conduct by stating “Because I’m smart. “Smart” should be replaced with “greedy”. Scientist warn that global warming is destroying our environment, while leaders of industry choose short term profit over the long term effects of climate change. We have a system of government that allows billionaires to buy the outcome of elections. We have a “democracy” where a candidate can be elected president even though the majority of voters voted for the challenger. There’s mass shootings occurring on a daily basis, yet NRA refuses to indorse a ban on AR-15 “assault-type weapon,” or support thorough background checks. Every day children unnecessarily die of starvation and preventable deseases. The cost of medical care and college education has spiraled out of control. Can someone please tell me where the answer is to these travesties. Oh yes, I forgot, “The answer is blowing in the wind”.
The twenty four hour, seven day a week news cycle has diminished our capacity to feel empathy or comprehend compassion. We’ve become passive observers watching the news as a form of entertainment. We’re a society of rubber necker’s gawking at the daily mayhem. It’s reminiscent of the spectacle of blood and guts that the masses once cheered for at the Roman Coliseum. We’ve become anesthetized, desensitized and numb to the suffering of others. As the masses are fed a daily diet of misery, they’ve become consumed by a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. We’ve become a “fuck it” society. It’s a culture that’s lost faith in the system, in democracy—–in integrity. The greatest threat to our freedom and liberty isn’t the power vested in the elite but rather in the apathy of the masses.
Imagine a mythical island that’s comprised of 100 acres of land. The island has only coconuts, bananas and goats as its form of currency. There are 100 inhabitants living on this island. An individual who calls himself the Lord Of The Land has ownership of 99 of those 100 acres of land. He also has ownership of 99% of the coconuts, bananas and goats. All the inhabitance of this island depend on this man to secure their housing and food. He picks a man to be a candidate for the position of Island chief. He gives this candidate 2 coconuts, 2 bananas and some goat cheese. This island is a “democracy” so in order for this man to become the chief he must have the majority of the 100 islanders vote for him in order to become the island chief. He divides the gifts given to him by Lord Of The Land into smaller pieces. He offers these small gifts to islanders to entice them to vote for him (trickle down economics). He promises the islanders that he will represent their rights and liberties. These promises are in conflict with the Lord Of The Lands goal to maintain ownership of 99% of the land and its resources. The new chief is indebted to the Lord Of The Land because he provided him with the coconuts, bananas and goat cheese. Once he’s elected chief he is obliged to repay the Lord Of The Land by creating laws that protect his dominion over the islands resources. Can you imagine a land such as this? Can you extrapolate how this metaphor relates to our system of governance?
The word revolution hasn’t been uttered since the writing of The Declaration of Independence or the call for equality and change echoed in the 1960’s. The only way we will be able to restore equality, fairness and justice is by organizing and utilizing our power of civil disobedience and non violent resistance. It’s always been the kings and queens, the land barons, captains of industry and the ultra rich who’ve suppressed, manipulated and taken advantage of the masses. From the beginning of time, the redistribution of wealth, resources and power is something that the majority has had to rip from the greedy hands of the powerful minority. It’s through the union of the majority (Unions) that we’ve been able to demand our fair share of the pie. Leaders that preach divisiveness are manipulating the majority into splinter groups to fight amongst themselves. It’s a diversionary tactic that’s used to keep the majority from unifying and challenging the elites control and hold on power.
Ironically it isn’t the youth of this nation that’s risen up and demanded freedom, liberty and justice for all. No, it’s a seventy five year old Jewish man who’s attempting to mobilize a revolution. His bold message is captured in the following quote “With your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.” ~ Sen. Bernie Sanders.
It will take a revolution to right this sinking ship. It will take people organizing and standing up for the rights of all citizens. We need a new Declaration of Independence. With that in mind I’ve drafted the following document. This is a working document open to input, additions and omissions. It’s an evolving document.
The goal of the following document isn’t to provide all of the answers to our political issues, but rather to start a dialogue that gets people to utilize their critical thinking skills rather than irrational emotional responses to issues. It’s a document that requires input and inclusion from all its citizens. Please feel free to provide input and insights into the following document.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness——-regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, age, heritage, disability or any other individual differences.
Taxes shall be levied fairly and equitably. This entails implementing a flat tax that offers no deductions or write offs for individuals, cooperations or organizations. Those individuals possessing resources and earnings in the top one percent will be taxed at a flat rate of fifty percent of their earnings and resources. Those that are reaping excessive rewards must be held accountable for paying their fair share towards the good of the community.
A living wage will be paid to individuals. Any person working full time shall be able to afford their living expenses. This will negate the need to provide food stamps to individuals working for companies that do not adequately compensate their employee’s. This is a subsidy that tax payers are currently paying to support such profit rich companies as Walmart.
Each citizen of the United States of America will be limited to one vote. Each citizen of the United States of America will be limited to no more than a $100.00 contribution per candidate. Companies, organizations, lobbyist and special interest groups are not allowed to contribute to a candidates election. This is to prevent undue influence of such entities over politicians with whom they have financially supported.
Gerrymandering will not be manipulated to provide a political party advantage over other such parties. The process is to support a system that determines a winner of political office by a majority vote, not by biased voting jurisdictions. The Electoral College is to be abolished.
As a citizen of the United States of America each tax paying citizen is entitled free access to medical care. Tax revenues are to be prioritize for this purpose. Health Care is not a commodity that only the rich can afford and access.
As a citizen of the United States of America each tax paying citizen is entitled free access to college or technological school. Tax revenues are to be prioritized for this purpose. Education is not a commodity that only the rich can afford and access. Motivated students should not be saddled with huge college debt upon their graduation.
Social Security and Medi Care are guaranteed to all tax paying citizens. These programs shall reflect the cost of living and not be privatized. Taxes are to be prioritized for this purpose. A nation is judged by how it respects and treats it most vulnerable individuals; the young, the old and those populations and individuals who possess limited resources and power.
Politicians will be limited to a maximum of two terms. This is to prevent politicians from using their power to stay in office rather than serve those who voted them into office.
Just like a vehicle, all guns must be registered and licensed. Automatic weapons are outlawed, thorough background checks are mandatory.
All vehicles, factories and related industries must meet strict environmental standards to counter the affects of global warming and pollution. Failure to comply will result in stiff penalties.
All candidates running for public office must disclose their tax returns. This is to prevent conflict of interests.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is protected and guaranteed.
Individuals or business that hire undocumented immigrants will suffer a stiff fine. The fine will progressively increase by the number of illegal employee’s and the frequency of infractions. The number of work visas will be increased in accordance with need and demand by employers. These employees will be compensated at an equitable rate.
Sitting on the hard Christian pew in the front row of Saint Joseph’s Church, I idly listen as the pipe organ fills the stained glass chamber with the sound of Ave Maria. The beauty of the melody is occasionally punctuated by the echoes of a cough or a child’s desperate whine. The organ stops and the room is consumed by a ponderous silence; the silence of a funeral is louder than that of any other decibel—it is the deafening sound of stillness.
It’s hard to say how many times any of us may have lived or died, but today, eternity surges through this space like static electricity during a thunderstorm, death teaches us about the impermanence of all things—-a million days or a million years, mortality will never empty my pocketful of soul.
The priest droned on in a thick accent, perhaps Indian or some foreign place from the far east—-his fouled up mispronunciations make the ancient stories from the bible even more esoteric. The messages within these texts I’ve heard hundreds of times. At different stages of my life I’ve interpreted them differently, isn’t that the way of any true art. For me, faith is an art, something that grows and changes as it finds new ways to connect with me in a place beyond my limited five senses. I‘m not a biblical purest or fundamentalist, I am a spiritual personalist—I believe God speaks to us all in his own personal language of love. I hear him in the wilderness, others may feel his presence on a commuter bus, God finds a way to adapt to our idiosyncrasies.
Ironically, things become so twisted when we force God to conform to our personal needs and demands—-oh the horrors perpetrated in his many names. I prefer the belief that we are created in the image of God, rather than God created in our self serving image. Such a subtle yet profound change of outcomes when choosing between these two conflicting points of view. My puny prayers are composed out of a humble desire for there to be less of me and more of God in this broken world.
I’ve never had much of a grasp on God, religion or spirituality, but in the peacefulness of this moment I’m absorbed by a sweet serenity. In the presence of the sacred statues, symbols and the mumblings of holy prayers I’m filled with a sense of communion to all things. I suppose this sublime feeling may also be evoked from Gregorian Chants, Hindu Mantras or Zen Koans, we are all reduced to the simplicity of oneness in the presence of God.
“If Jesus were alive today, the last thing he’d be is a Christian.”
The sentiment communicated in the above quote may be applied to all prophets and spiritual leaders who have been merchandized, propaganda-sized, materialized, cauterized, convicted and tried, dehumanized, demoralized, rectified, deep-fried, electrified, televised, commercialized and apostatized—–