why the world spins: an incomplete myth

WHY THE WORLD SPINS

At the beginning
of our small but heavy planet
a woman and a man stood up
from the ooze of mud

but while the woman examined
the curious aspects of her body
the man looked all around

until his eyes settled on
the far horizon:

a deep desire then impelled him to go forth
and discover what lay beyond—

in his impatience, he began to run
and the treading of his feet
made the ball of the world spin.

The woman could see
the man had created a treadmill
and told him he’d soon find
the far horizon right under his feet

but the man refused to believe
he could achieve his grand dream
without tremendous strain and pain
and so, he ran on.

The woman then followed her own deep desire
—the drive to be together—
and strode beside the fool.

This pair created quite a commotion
with their motion:
pounding out earthquakes—
raising tidal waves—
stirring up
tornadoes and hurricanes
down through the ages
of the human race.

How does this story end?
Sorry, but I can’t say
because it hasn’t ended yet—
however
I will venture this guess:

eventually, the man and woman
will drop from exhaustion—
maybe they’ll trip
and land hard

then in the unfamiliar stillness
they’ll feel another impulse
deep within

and obeying this drive of spirit
embrace the ground beneath their butts
with whole heart.

What will our new life be
in that strange world of peace?

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
Survival: a poetry ebook
© 2019, Michael R. Patton

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stalking the Bigfoot within

Maybe they’re dreaming with eyes open…

I’m talking about those who say they’ve seen Bigfoot*.

Yes, some are surely pulling our leg (a nice way to say “lying”).

However, I believe others actually saw something real.  No, not a physical creature that lives deep in the woods.  But a vision created by the unconscious.  A waking dream.

Our sleeping dreams reveal unknown and/or neglected aspects of ourselves.  I think the same is true of our waking dreams.  The waking dreamer, like the sleeping dreamer, is seeing his own shadow.

But Bigfoot is not just the personal waking dream of a few eyewitnesses.  He’s also one of the waking dreams of our culture.  Consider the fascination with Bigfoot stories—all the articles, books, TV shows, and movies.  I say: we’re stalking on our own inner Bigfoot.

But you don’t hunt for something if you feel it’s already in your possession.   What have we lost; what do we seek?

To me, Bigfoot is a positive expression of “the beast”.  We’re used to thinking of the beast in negative terms.  Something to be subdued—caged, if not killed.  No wonder Bigfoot is afraid.  No wonder he hides from us.

This positive beast is strong, but gentle.  A part of nature, yet close to being human.  He’s a bridge, I think.  A bridge between our civilized world and the world from which we emerged.  A world lost to us.  Ironically, we need to reconnect with that world in order to be fully human.  In order to be whole.

That’s the Bigfoot I seek.  But perhaps Bigfoot means something different to you…

In any case, after hunting haphazardly, blindly, I’ve developed this plan for myself…

If I go into the woods of my own dark deep nature…

…and wait patiently for my awareness to open…

…maybe what I have lost will return to me.  My own inner Bigfoot.

(* This concept would apply to most, or maybe all, creatures of legend—including lake monsters and elusive entities such as the Chupacabra of Puerto Rico.  And of course, Bigfoot’s cousins: Sasquatch, Yeti, and the Abominable Snowman.)

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
the truth of the dream: poetry ebook

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Island of the Lotus Eaters, revisited

I’ve revised a story from Homer’s Odyssey: the brief episode on the island of the Lotus Eaters.

First, consider the book version:

After Odysseus drops anchor at that island, he sends forth three of his crew to investigate…

The three soon encounter the peaceful-seeming inhabitants, who give them the Lotus fruit…

Under the influence of the Lotus, they fall into a dreamy tranquility and lose all motivation.  When Odysseus finds these men, he has to drag them back to the ship.

As the island diminishes to a mere speck in the distance, the stoned crewmates weep profusely, mourning the loss of their artificial paradise.

A good story for our times—especially if tweaked a bit.  Consider my new version:

Odysseus, following his adventurous spirit, decides to try the fruit himself.  “How could this little tidbit render me useless?” he thinks, eyeing the red fruit in his hand.

But with the first bite, he falls into the honeyed pool of a floating world.  Cloud reflections seem as real as the clouds.  Well, maybe they are.  I say: good to shift your perspective occasionally.  Good to loll in the deep moist grass on a sunny day.

But as the sunset bleeds across the waves, Odysseus’ high begins to fade.  In keeping with his strong hunger for life, he craves an even higher high.

The Lotus Eaters are pleased to add another to their club and give him two more of sumptuous fruit.

But alas, this additional dose does not lift Odysseus higher than his initial peak high.  So he asks for a fourth fruit, then a fifth.  But still he goes no higher.  Nonetheless…

…with the coming of dawn, he reaches for another Lotus fruit.  Now, he no longer cares about the higher high—he just wants to maintain the soft buzz pervading his body.  His mind has dulled, but he feels comfortable.  Odysseus believes this state of being must be contentment.

Members of the crew, in groups of three or four, do go in search of him.  But all fall to the temptation of the Lotus fruit.

And so, Odysseus lolls for another day.  By ingesting Lotus at a steady, but measured rate, he keeps that fuzzy hum going in his body.  At this point, he desires nothing more in life.

But no, that’s not quite true: Odysseus has not killed his higher drive, only buried it.  During the second night, this drive begins to manifest as an itch—an itch in the mind: an irritation working to penetrate his thick twilight dimness.

For awhile, Odysseus manages to ignore that itch…

…but a little itch that goes un-itched eventually grows into a big itch.  In frustration, Odysseus starts to stir from his Lotus-slumber.

Suddenly, an image cuts through the dense mental fog.  He sees the bow of his ship slicing through sun-gold waves.

Then he sees the shoreline of Ithaca, his island home.  Odysseus’ wife and son stand on the beach with arms extended, yearning to embrace him, yearning to make their circle whole again.

Odysseus now awakens to his true desire.  He doesn’t want to loll and lag, stoned on Lotus.  He wants to return to his home, his family.

Following this higher impulse, he tries to rise…

…but discovers he’s become mired in a lassitude of body and spirit.  “Come on, damn it, get going!” he yells in his mind.  He begins to fight that heavy weakness, fight his inertia—he fights the desire not to fight.

He fights the secret irony, which is:

On the other side of the warrior coin is the wish to abandon active life with its conflicts and vicissitudes.  A desire to let it all go and float among the clouds.  I say: maybe not a bad impulse to follow occasionally—as long as you can stop before you flip all the way over.

As Odysseus struggles to flip that coin back again, his strength rises and falls—rises a bit, then falls a bit, then rises again—rises again because with each fall, he presses the fight even harder.

All the while, a little man in his heart moans and sobs.  Odysseus empathizes—he feels the little man’s pain.  But he also hates that crybaby—the whiner wants to keep him down.

So, I suppose hate does have its positive application—because the force of his hate seems to give Odysseus the final push he needs.  After a long back and forth battle, his higher instinct finally gains dominance over his lower.  His journey from prone to upright—so slow, so arduous—ends suddenly with a snap to: Odysseus pops to his feet and gives forth a heart-rending cry of joy.

This victory is perhaps his greatest act of heroism in an epic filled with heroic acts.

Revitalized, Odysseus now hauls the others back to the ship and sails on before anyone can jump overboard.  As the island of the Lotus Eaters diminishes to a speck, our hero weeps tears of humility, realizing how he nearly defeated the best of himself.

Here’s another irony: through this ordeal, he’s become even stronger—and even more determined to find his way home.

I believe my new version of the Lotus Eaters story better serves our needs today.

Today, so many are surrendering to the seductive Lotus.  We may not even recognize the Lotus when it first enters our life—the fruit can assume many different addictive forms.  Different, but with this feature in common: they all offer us the escape we think we want.

Yet another irony: by seeking that escape, I may fall into a trap.  A trap of my own making.

We should do what we can to help the fallen.  But in truth, the lifting up is up to the fallen one.

This version tells that truth.  This version says: you find your true strength when you’re at your weakest.  Says: lifting yourself up is an act of heroism.  A victory over your worst enemy.  A journey.  An education.  A test.

This version also tells me:

With each test that I pass, I’m that much closer to finding my way home.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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not fighting Mercury in Retrograde

Recently, while watching a program on the mysteries of the Universe, I began to wonder…

…when is the next Mercury in Retrograde period?

The scientists on that program would certainly say: Mercury in Retrograde is bunk.  During those three-week periods, the planet Mercury only appears to be going backward.  In truth, by following astrology, you’re the one going backward—back to Medieval times.

In response, I’d quote a line once sung by Bobby Fuller:

“I fought the law and the law won.”*

In the past, I’ve fought Mercury in Retrograde and lost.  Miserably so, on occasion.  Projects begun during that time fizzled and flopped.  New moves seemed to hit invisible roadblocks.  Connections made never lasted.  Mere coincidence?  Maybe.  Does Mercury in Retrograde defy scientific logic?  Definitely.  Nonetheless…

…from July 7th to July 31st, I will not push ahead with any new plan, major or minor.  No, I’ll take a step back: I’ll organize, I’ll throw out the old and make way for the new.

I say: what if the scientists are right?  What if Mercury in Retrograde is just superstitious hogwash?  Isn’t it still wise to step back occasionally?  To take a few days to regroup…reconnoiter …reassess our goals…

…to clean house—both literally and figuratively?

We can use this time to gather our forces together.  Then, when we again sally forth, we’ll go with renewed strength and clarity of mind.

So I’m keeping Mercury in Retrograde in my toolbox of beliefs.  And not just for purely mundane purposes…

By accepting Mercury in Retrograde as real, I accept the idea that there’s a grand pattern in our collective human existence.  An idea that boggles my mind—that lifts me up, while keeping me humble.

Ironically, that’s why I watched that program on the mysteries of the Universe—I needed that type of boggling.

(* From “I Fought the Law” by Sonny Curtis.  A hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966.)

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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fable of the angel, the ship, and the big step

An hour before departure, I stood gazing up at that monumental ship—that grand silver tower—knowing it would deliver me to new worlds…faraway lands…beyond old borders…

This voyage of exploration would expand my mind, my perspective in ways I couldn’t conceive.  Oh, I felt such joy.  The joy of the naïve child.

But then, as I lifted my foot to take a ceremonial first step onto the walkway…

…a flash of light shocked my eyes.  Stunned, I stepped back.

An angel stood before me, its glowing white form defined by lines of turquoise blue.  The halo hummed with gold light.  Such strange energy!—the power of a stone monolith emanated from what appeared so ethereal.

Its blue eyes gazed down upon me with a kindness I could feel through my whole being.  I was helpless–awed and confused.

“Before you take that step, I will warn you of the hardship to be endured on this trip,” the angel said in a voice both stern and empathic.

“You’ll travel through hazards and calamities beyond imagining.  Spiraling storms will spin your mind into states of wild uncontrollable vertigo.

“Without the anchor of the old familiar, you’ll feel adrift, untethered.  Your own face will appear strange to you.  The home you wanted to escape will seem like a paradise lost.

“However, when you finally do return, old comforts won’t give much comfort.  Everything will seem so alien.  Worse yet: you’ll carry the suffering of your dark journey with you wherever you go, whatever you do.

“Only a long painful process of catharsis will heal your pain.  Hard work that, in truth, will never really be complete.

“So…you still want to board this ship?” the angel asked in conclusion.

I felt weak with disappointment.  I’d imagined a happy adventure.  This voyage was supposed to launch me into a glorious new life.

Well, if I stayed behind, I could take the initiative and create that glorious life on my own.  Instead of being pushed by circumstances beyond my control, I’d take control of my life and push myself.

I wanted to love that idea.  But it left me feeling cowardly.  Mediocre.

I realized I still wanted to board that ship.  Staying behind was a wish of the mind; going ahead was a desire of the spirit.  Yes–I actually wanted hardship.  I wanted to go through hell and come out the other side and then put myself back together again.

Yes, I’d be pushed by outside forces beyond my control.  But I’d have to use great self-control in order to deal with those forces.  I’d have to push myself beyond instinctive terror.

“I’m getting on board, angel,” I said.  “No matter how much pain this voyage brings, the worse pain would be the regret of having stopped because of fear.

“But before I take that step, I’d like to thank you…

“You gave me the chance to choose in full awareness of the consequences.  Now, when the ride gets a little bumpy, I won’t bemoan my decision.  Braced for the worst, I’ll do a better job of coping.

“Yes, life will seem painfully strange, both before and after.  But with that shift, I’ll see the world and my own self anew.  I’m not just exploring unknown lands, I’m exploring myself…exploring this human life.

“Later, if I can express just one iota of what I learn, I might help humankind.”

With that declaration, I again felt joy—the joy of the trailblazing knight.  I finally took that step forward.

In a flash, the angel vanished.  As my eyes adjusted to the sudden absence of light, a subtle misty energy lightly dusted my arms and face.  Then nothing.  The way lay clear ahead.

Had I hallucinated an angel?  I didn’t know…

…but I could still feel that infusion of loving kindness.  A blessing–that feeling became a stone to hold during my wild wonderful horrific journey.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: an ebook

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fable of the little bird who died happy

One afternoon, a fledgling bird, fresh from the nest and still unsure of its wings, came to rest on a wire strung between two tenement buildings…

As the bird took a breath, it suddenly felt an odd stirring in the pit of its stomach…

This energy rose, stretching the tiny chest ’til the bird thought it would burst.

Then suddenly the impulse shot up the bird’s throat like a geyser blast, forcing its beak wide open.  That impulse was song—yes, for the first time in its young life, the bird began to sing.

“What a relief!” the bird thought.  “I don’t know what I’m doing but it feels like something I should be doing.  Anyway, I’m not sure if I have much choice.”

Initially, it produced just a screechy weak warble

But each new day of song both loosened and strengthened its vocal cords.  Soon, as if by miracle, graceful playful melodies flowed from the bird.  As the little musician listened to itself, it was astonished at the variety of sound.  “There must be more to me than I imagine,” our singer mused.  “I always felt so dumb and clumsy before.”

As the bird’s lung capacity expanded, the decibel level increased.  In short time, its incessant song notes became a distinctive presence within the cacophony bouncing between the two buildings.

High up in one of those tenement apartments, a working man liked to listen to opera on the radio every Saturday afternoon while sitting naked in his sofa chair…

He had long ago adapted to the ruckus of noise coming through his window.  But as he sat back in his chair on this particular Saturday, the bird’s song registered as a new unfamiliar intrusion.  It prickled his ears.  A small irritation, yes, but perceived as a threat by someone overly-tense after a week of hard labor.

And so, the hairy fellow felt justified in hurling a hard sharp object at the bird.

The object missed the mark—but not by much.  The little bird saw the flash and felt the rush of air.  Shocked, it leapt off its perch and fluttered to the ground.

The man then shouted from his window, “Shut the hell up or I’ll kill you.  Next time I’ll be on target.”

No, the bird didn’t understand human words, but it could feel the animosity behind what the man said—it got the message.

The bird then tried to lower its voice…

…but experienced a choking tightness in its throat.  Before, it’d known its strength.  Now it felt diminished—less than itself.

“I can not—will not—squelch my song,” the bird decided.  “I know what—I’ll look for a new neighborhood!

“But no, that idea’s no good—wherever I went, I’d likely draw the ire of another crazed human.

“But what about that place spoken of in stories—a place where many birds live and very few humans?  A place of trees instead of buildings.  Why not go to that free land and sing in peace?  I’ll search until I find that paradise of song.”

Then, as it prepared to take flight, the bird thought again.  “I’m letting that angry man dictate my life.  Yeah, he might eventually kill me if I stay—him or someone else.  But if I’m not doing what I want where I want in the way I want, can I ever be truly happy?  No, I won’t let anyone drive me from my home.  No one has the right to stop my song!”

And so, the bird continued to sing from its perch on the wire every afternoon.

Yes, sometimes the opera man responded by hurling an object.  A few others also threw at the bird.  Usually rocks.  Occasionally, a crushed can.  Once or twice, a shoe.

The bird did try to keep one eye open.  But it often forgot as it became lost in song—completely lost—loving the feeling that filled its being.  An ecstasy that overwhelmed and yet, was never enough.

But despite being frequently lost in ecstasy, the bird survived through the summer…

Then one chilly fall afternoon, it finally paid the price that many have paid because they chose to sing out.

Again, the bird was lost in song—again overwhelmed by that feeling.

As a result, our winged hero did not see the hard sharp object whirling through the air, aimed with the intent of destruction.

I won’t describe the carnage out of respect for that master of song…

I’ll simply say: as the final high note hung in the air, the blue feathers floated down to the ground like the last leaves of autumn.

A tragedy?  Certainly not!  After all, the bird had long accepted the inevitability of that ending.  It knew that what gave it life would probably be its death.  But it also knew: having answered its deepest desire, it would die happy.

So let’s celebrate the little bird!  And remember…

…though it did irritate some with its singing…

…many more in that neighborhood loved its deep song.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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Icarus & Daedalus, revisited

We know the story of Icarus well…

We know how the boy flew too close to the sun…

…which caused the wax on his wings to melt…

…which caused the feathers to drop off…

…rendering his wings useless.

And so, he fell into the ocean and drowned, as his father, Daedalus, watched in horror.

A poignant story, yes.  But I believe a less familiar version serves us better…

Just as he does in the first version, Icarus flies too close to the sun.  But when he begins to fall, his father feels compelled to act.  Risking his life, Daedalus dives sharply down and grabs Icarus by the tunic as his toes graze the water.

The boy clutches to his father, wrapping his arms so tightly around the man’s midsection, Daedalus has to gulp hard for air.

Nonetheless, he keeps working his wings and manages to ascend and then continue his flight—not too close to the sun, not too close to the water.

When the two finally reach the safety of Sicily, Daedalus flops down on the beach, exhausted in body and mind.

Icarus, on the other hand, bounces to his feet and standing with arms akimbo, beams down at his father.  He feels joyous and grateful in survival.

The older man still lacks the wind to speak, but the glint in his eyes clearly says, “I’ll deal with you later.”

Yes, I prefer this second version.  Maybe I’m trying to avoid the sadness of tragedy…

…but why should Icarus die for a single moment of folly?  We all make youthful mistakes—and usually survive them.  How can Icarus learn from his mistake if he’s dead?

Daedalus knows he may die if he attempts to rescue Icarus.  A little water is all it takes to ruin his wings.  “No matter,” says Daedalus in this version.  “I’d rather try and perish than live with the shame of abandoning my son.”

With that decision, Daedalus becomes a true hero.

I myself was saved, more than once, from youthful folly.  But the Daedalus who rescued me was actually myself—some wiser part of myself.  Some part behind the foolish conscious me.

Fortunately, the fool eventually became wise enough to realize the danger of his folly…

…and acted on what he saw.  Here‘s the irony: to save yourself—to change your life—requires risk.

The second version of the Icarus story says: there are good risks and bad.  As I see it, we’ve flown too close to the sun.  So now, will we risk in order to save ourselves?  Will we risk in order to save our world, our future?  Or will we continue the folly of our ways?

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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