By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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The people I’ll carry to the grave with me to share the final analysis will be people like Woody Allen. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know him personally; his job is to scoop up all the images of the insecure-self, the bumbling ego, the out-of-proportion self in me and others, and show us what we look like, gently, with humor.
The me that tackled the mob of mental preparation for the first date, with the desperation of preparing for a final exam. Throwing my hands high into the air, shutting my eyes tightly, waiting for the ordeal to be over. I wrote an opening speech, memorized, drilled myself on it. It was designed to destroy any awkward moment of silence. It was long enough to last me the evening, provided I used it sparingly, provided HE was no shrinking violet. But my anxieties burst into classic full bloom as soon as we were alone in the car, headed for the movies. I recited my speech with the expressiveness of a telephone operator in a terrified deadpan voice, and the bewildered silence that followed was a lot worse than the speech ever could have been.
* * *
Thinking about time this morning between coffee and french toast, idly watching the morning get warmer and warmer. Moments of “the past,” they are still in a state of becoming. I can feel that so strongly I have the sensation of empty space and suddenly my fingers close around this idea and its soundness feels solid. Every single moment of consciousness, of your experience, from the past, present or future is such an incredible storehouse of creativity that is unleashed upon itself, I am awed, my mind is boggled.
The initial events of the “past” are raw materials that are never wasted and are eternally creative. Often when they are actually “happening,” or coinciding with my waking consciousness, I am unable to “live” them fully because it is necessary to adopt a particular state of mind that is sometimes inflexible, not allowing me to reap the fullness of the experience. But remembering the past, I am more there now than I was there then, because I am qualifying that raw material of an event with intelligent thought now, making the existence of that moment fuller, and actually altering it because the event, the “there-ness,” is for me a reflection of my own consciousness. As my consciousness alters, so does everything, “behind” me in time. THAT is what I am sensing when I catch glimpses in my mind of the most beautiful outstretched hand, reaching towards me with such a powerful love that I melt before it and cry and understand that I am in some way an echo of this being that IS US ALL in our WHOLE state. I am an echo, but in my recognition of the hand, I am already there with the wholeness.
I am realizing how inflexible I’ve gotten in my conceptions of where is a “good” place to be and where isn’t. It probably started with an effort to get away from an old pattern, getting drunk, mesmerized, stoned. But that pattern is gone, for me. I am no longer emotionally involved with it in a condemning way, or the opposite extreme. I don’t have to be brought down by the girl slumped in the chair in the corner, her eye empty of sensation, her rhythmic ejaculation of “all RIGHT!” when a new album is put on.
On what sound basis can I judge other people? NONE. I am realizing that my subtle and unsubtle rejections of others have been stemming from mis-perceptions that originated within ME.
My motive in looking at another’s actions has been largely determining what I see.
Behind a simple act there is a vast array of motive, colorings, emotions, desires, thoughtforms that well exemplify the rarity of “pure motive.” Some are stronger than others, and you may choose which will be strongest, at least for yourself, and, to a degree, for others. As you focus on your own lowest motives (through shame or guilt for example) you tend to reinforce a low focus on other people’s motives as well, thus making that aspect of another’s behavior more real to you, and likewise, making that aspect of yourself more real. The advice “raise your vision” is applicable here.
Too often I accept random responses within myself, instead of being selective with my powers of visualization, with my reactions, to reflect only the highest good outwardly from the highest good within me, by thoughtful study of the mechanisms within me that dominate my creative abilities and the resulting framework of my life.
This selectivity of thought is so important because impending reality is a direct result of the first conceptions within your mind that qualify the creative energies. THINK about it, watch your thoughts and when they coagulate haphazardly out of old habit into a negative form that has no real base anymore, no reason for being other than your decision to not be picky, then take note, and catch yourself. Consider the alternative to random responses: See the highest possible good within yourself, within the situation, within that other person. The latent blooms of God and goodness are within all, and as you recognize this at all levels, even in an unspoken attitude, your recognition charges the air with vitality that feeds the growth of that latency within yourself, or within your friend, or feeds the goodness you already ARE; thought are REAL, and they are the most dynamic energy of all, the creative energy. The joy that comes from intelligent selectivity, from submerging yourself into this powerful current of uplifting energy, needs no words to prop up its value, to enhance its truth, to explain to the logicians and the intellectuals its rightness.
THE TUB. My mind hums its quiet song of nothing, no-thoughts, smiling at the warmth or the water, soft light of the lamp, comfort of steam rising from hot water to cold night air, little bubbles crawling up my stomach. I cannot judge time when I’m in the tub. I forget to wash, I forget me, holding the hose over my head, warmth penetrating deep; I sink deeper into the water, curling my toes rhythmically, kneading the end of the tub like the cats do the bed blankets. I feel loved by the tub, isn’t that silly? (Merv, in her delirium after affair with Jack: “Well I slide on my front and then I slide on my back, when I get in the tub, I forget about JACK! ”)
Total identification with warm water fills me up with all that warmth means to me. Unspoken memories of sunshine on bare flesh, Mama’s warmth (her words as she hugs me to her, “It won’t be long now before you’ll be too big to get in my lap.”)
I like thinking like this, being like this; I’m not using words or sentences; I’m not talking in this language. It helps me remember what it was like before I learned words, how to spell, read, write, how to put labels on everything. Free form thinking, sort of; maybe undisciplined, but its mixture of feelings, color and an unidentifiable quality I can’t describe is nicer than word-thoughts. When I was really young I thought of the total experience when I thought of the swimming pool: riding in the car to the community center, too-big bathing cap, the almighty lifeguard, sitting in the baby pool, cool bright blue sparkling clear water; the entire experience rolled into one thought was how I thought “swimming pool.”
I noticed colors more then. Sunday was a bright yellow because it didn’t seem ever to rain on Sunday and the sun struck the window of the basement nursery a certain way and I can smell those damp basement steps and feel that toy rabbit. Friday was white and Saturday was blue and why did that color association ever begin?
I was sad when I realized that this native “language” that was no language was being replaced by another one that was spelled out and had words that were limited by the mechanisms of sound, and speaking.
I was just a little person then and maybe I’m making this up from the vantage point I sit in now time-wise, but I don’t think so; the memory is too clear, that perplexed feeling, a feeling of curiosity when I noticed I was no longer seeing and feeling the swimming pool when I thought “swimming pool.” Suddenly I was seeing only the word, a cut-out pasted up label. It didn’t have the richness the other way of thinking did.
I make lists everyday and carry them around with me like the Bible, and if I’m lucky, one or two things on the list get done in one day, and that night I transfer the left-overs to a new list.
If something stays on the list too long, I begin to dread seeing it. Its letters smell foul, and the mental block begins. If it gets too far, I may not do that particular thing for months. Ironically, those things that are put off are usually the easiest to do. “Repot plants.” “Take tin cans to recycle bins.” “Write Helen.” “Read about bees.”
I do a lot of thinking about those lists, and the minute projections that stem out from each notation, running up and down the body of my life, repairing, maintaining, creating and sometimes infecting.
That sticky sort of boredom that comes when I am mostly dead was here for a few days, and it was so hard to propel myself. Inertia is one hell of a sin. Its stuckness is as powerful as a riptide, drawing you under. Lately I’ve been deciding that the only thing to do is ride it out, instead of getting angry, that kind of anger that sits you down in an easy chair and won’t let you out, feeling nothing, but fuming in an un-fuming way. Ride it and don’t look at it so much, ride it and do the things I do mindlessly, folding up the mountain of clothes out of the corner of the room. Stack wood. Collect kindling. Fold paper bags. Anything.
Can I permit myself to see that sometimes I DO NOT WANT TO GIVE? What do I have to give when I am tired, when I have not had the opportunity to dip into my own reservoirs of routine, quiet, my ROCKING CHAIR? Times like that, when I’m tired and pretending not to be, dredge up what energy there is and hastily paste together a semblance of my self-concept of the me that is “so happy to see you!” And I shuffle the thoughts in my head like a deck of worn cards, and pull out the ones that seem to match the other person (“did you know N. is getting married?” “I’m reading a terrific book I think you’d like.”) and I moan to myself silently, wounded, as I listen to that pathetic little imitation of a voice trying to “be nice and friendly,” pretending to be this person talking to another person. My need to forget my own name and the sound of my voice when it says “WOW!” (please God invent another word for me besides WOW and NICE and NEAT). When I am tired like this, I don’t want to reassure anybody “See you soon!”
If you sway with the chaotic winds of others’ expectations you’ll get blown to bits, and further and further away from the truth. You simply are not supposed to sacrifice your present level of understanding to accept the responsibilities of a level you do not even understand. That is like asking a quart jar to hold a gallon of pickles. I can only give what I want to give, otherwise the thought floats off through space like a plastic apple, with an image but no depth.
This attitude of acceptance of your own level of understanding should be balanced with a working knowledge of where and how you can improve your awareness. It’s like learning to stand off, looking through binoculars, looking at very minute aspects. Detachment, yet real scrutiny. The only judge qualified to truly teach you is yourself. Sharing ideas and opinions with others is great, but I’ve noticed that my idea of “serving together” no longer means physical congregation and outer manifestations of allegiance so much as a wider, broader, mental congregation that is more real. A balance between the two seems ideal.
He is outside somewhere, calling me.
Why does he always scream my name when he wants me??? I feel that anger, an ominous bubble that creeps into my life too often, I feel it burst with an exclamation point of its own. I am irritated at having to step outside of my warm kitchen. What do you want?? I snap at him silently.
The cold is colder than I’d expected. It is getting dark, hard to see. “Where ARE you?” My voice sounds like an insensitive whip, crackling in the air with hostility.
Then I see him beside the field, his head turned up at the sunset, his eyes wide, that silly toboggan jammed on his head, bursting beard a fiery accent to his profile. My heart melts and my eyes sting, shameful of my irritability at the outstretched hand of a brother who loves most to show me beautiful things, to murmur profoundiy as he squeezes my hand, “That’s neat, isn’t it?”
Here I am with ten rows of juicy tomatoes and lots and lots of squash from 1977’s summer garden, but I am still being here right now, because this visualization of the garden is more real to me right now than the rain outside or the ticking of the clock. This visualization is PURE ENERGY, dynamism that will create outer form, a tomato that is red and plump and juicy that I will slice and EAT.
A tomato is form, and form is nice to meet, (EAT), but the non-form products of visualization interest me more than the form ones because the mechanical levels of operation are THERE, just more subtle. I can smell ’em when they are growing or when they get banged up a bit, maybe setback by premature expectations, or acceptance of superficial criticisms resulting from illusory perceptions (in the acceptance, a needless limitation can be created). But no matter how tangled up we get, like goats in a Kudzoo patch, WE ARE LEARNING and becoming more truth-like. To have known even a fraction of truth is an irreversible step toward becoming it, and more truth. (Light is never lost.)
Irreversible path are the words that keep coming to mind. I think it is THE PURPOSE that is irreversible. The path itself may wind round in circles, backwards, or occasionally forwards, but despite the contortions it may take, I think in looking at the progression in its wholeness, an understanding of the true fertility and goodness of the entire cycle will come. An understanding I can suspect but not fully know yet.
I have met a few people who symbolize for me that more full understanding and they seem to embody harmlessness, humility, wide tolerance and love to everything and everyone.
Thinking about all this makes me feel less futile. And my thoughts don’t mind being put into words today. So often I’ve fussed and fumed and worried over my concretized words, reflected in my dreams at night (I am on a sinking ship, radioing for help. I open my mouth to make an SOS plea, but am unable to utter anything but a crooning message of “shee-doobie, doobie, wah WAH!”).
Sometimes I am exhausted after giving, or after receiving from others. But it is a healthful exhaustion, a feeling of completion, of having made something more whole. The labels “I gave” and “I received” are nullified in the exchange, in the openness and acceptance, that surge of love that is not necessarily colored with emotions, but with an innate desire to share. This constant reversal of student-teacher, giver-receiver is one of the most beautiful things in the world to me. It is God, loving enough to create, and the creation, loving enough to be God. It is an ultimate banishment of labels and sticky roles and death.
The co-mingling is a living breath of life that cannot be stopped but will go on to merge with another and another, steps towards the final balance.
The pendulum swings, back and forth, back and forth and I gesture wildly at the middle way, “hurry,” pushing it farther away. This exercise of the extremes is another part of the alignment. I must learn to see that in myself and in others. My criticisms. Others’ criticisms. My incredulity at another’s extremities. Incredulity born out of ignorance, non-acceptance of the pendulum. Non-acceptance of the rhythms of growth another person has chosen. The pendulum may not be the only way, but for people like me who rarely learn from others’ mistakes, experiencing extremes and the assessment that follows leads surely to the middle way. That is what is happening to me. Rash talk, and then sudden silence. I feel all the control of the mongoloid child, words dribbling down my chin as I haltingly think thoughts solidified into confused, quivering jelly I can’t spoon out. I don’t have anything to say; what shall I DO??? The obvious answer leers out at me making me curiously defensive, yet agreeably relieved. DO, without saying, until you have something to say.
It is so much better to DO what you feel than to make promises with words that sway crazily in still winds, finally crashing back, a false pregnancy.
Elizabeth Rose Campbell