family plan

Most of us are born into a family, are raised by a family…

But during the course of our lives, we develop another family.  A family of friends and associates.

Though the members of our second family may seem to come into our lives by chance…

…I believe they’re there by design.  As are the members of our first family.

I believe we work out these family arrangements before birth.  Such a plan would be incredibly complex, you say?  Well, yes.  But something can be beyond the bounds of my small mind and still be possible.  In any case, this isn’t science.  This is belief.

And good belief, I believe.

If I believe I chose my families, I’ll likely ask myself why a particular person is in my life—a question sometimes expressed as: “Why the hell would I pick that skunk!”

By searching for answers to that question, I may see what I’ve learned, what I gained from knowing that person.  I may actually see benefit in what before seemed destructive.

Those answers may not come to me quickly, easily, clearly.  But even when I fail to see the reason…

…the belief that there is a reason—that there is a grand plan—still adds meaning to my life.  And personally, I prefer more meaning over less.

I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
searching for my best beliefs: poetry ebook

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Fable of the Monkey King


 

THE MONKEY KING

Wishing to express
his secret self on Halloween
the man of aspiration planned
to go to the party
dressed as a warrior
or a king
or
a warrior-king

but the sales clerk said:
“Sorry, but it seems
  this year everyone wants to be
  either some type of warrior
  or
  some type of royalty

“so all we have left on the rack
  is this monkey outfit.”

“But I don’t want to be a monkey,”
  the man whined.

“Think about it,” the clerk reasoned.
“Can an armored knight
  scale one hundred foot of jungle vine
  in a mere minute?
  Can a king swing from tree to tree?”

Though not quite persuaded
the man of aspiration acquiesced.

At least, I’ll be unique, he thought.

But no!—
he arrived at the party house
to find
half the celebrants dressed
in the same monkey costume
he’d bought:
the shop had unloaded a truckload
purchased at discount.

That clerk made a monkey out of me
our deflated man sighed.

But in his humility
he said what the hell
and lowered himself down
to join that crowd
in their monkeyshines—

what a freedom of fun!—
those pretend-simians
flailed and hopped
in a dizzy giddy dance—
they filled the room
with their gibber-jabber—
occasionally bursting into
high-pitched hollers
that made the roof shingles shiver.

Some swung from the balustrade
and some kept putting banana peels
under the heels
of those with upturned noses.

But then
towards the end of the evening
that barrel of monkeys
calmed a bit
and paired off to pick
imaginary bugs from synthetic hair.

In this way, our man met
a woman who, like him
dreamed of wearing
both sword and crown.

A good match
aided, I believe, by its low-brow
beginning—
consider:

better I first see you as monkey
before knowing you as royalty
otherwise
I may feel disillusioned
when I discover my highness
sometimes slides
all the way down to the ground
on a grapevine.

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

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fable of the strong fearful woman

For years, our heroine—we’ll call her “Elizabeth” because she likes the name—had struggled to create security for herself.

She’d moved to area untroubled by tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes…

…then entered well-paid profession that promised future stability.  Her employer—a large but low-profile corporation—made fiscally-sound decisions.

Though her gated community was quite safe, Elizabeth still installed burglar alarms and built a tall fence around the backyard.  She insured everything that could be insured.

She did background checks on potential mates, potential friends, and even co-workers.  She never pet stray dogs.

She thought being an overly zealous health-nut might stress her body.  But she did eat healthy meals, avoid fatty snacks, and attend a low-impact aerobics class three times a week.

You know those big gold earrings so popular now?  She actually stopped wearing them, afraid one of those hoops would get caught on something.

She did all that and more.  Nonetheless, Elizabeth still felt insecure.

“What else can I do!” she cried to herself.  “Every moment—every step—a burden of fear chokes my breath.  Now, I’m worried that all my worrying might result in a heart attack.  I’m ready to die—that’s how afraid of death I am.  What agony!  How can I deal with this constant feeling of dread?”

Speaking that question, she suddenly—finally!—realized the obvious: security exists as a feeling.  Yes, she could feel more secure by making her environment safer.  But to create true security, she needed to go within and deal with her fear.

“Why didn’t I think of that before?” she asked her mirror.  “But of course—I was afraid of my fear.  Well, no more.  I’m ready for battle.  I’ll win this war!”

But how?  How to begin?

She decided she should examine the storm waters of her childhood.  In short time, she realized another obvious fact: hard for a little girl to build a firm foundation of security in such a chaotic ocean.  However…

…sometimes on a raging night, that child would dive down deep inside herself and find a solid kernel of gold to hold.

So Elizabeth now began to meditate down into herself every day.  Before long, she rediscovered that kernel of gold.  Small, but solid.  Perhaps the beginnings of a foundation.

However, when she resurfaced, that kernel seemed to slip away too easily.  What now?  She couldn’t sit and meditate all day long.

But she could repeat “personal peace” affirmations in her head every waking hour.  She also tried hypnosis and a type of yoga that was supposed to center you.  Well, she did center—at least, while doing the yoga.

Anyway, after a few weeks of this intense regimen, she actually did feel a little more peaceful, a little more secure.

However…

…her mind was still like a car on an icy road.  She’d be rolling along just fine…

…then an unseen patch of ice would send her slipping and sliding.  She’d fight to steer the car back on track, but once out of control, that mind had a will of its own.

“Accidents can happen in a flash,” her mind would tell her.  “One moment, you’re gazing quietly at a star twinkling in the night sky above…

…then suddenly—whoosh!—the ground collapses under your feet and you land in the dark slimy pit of a sinkhole.  That’s no exaggeration!  Big buildings and people have disappeared without warning!

“Even if you lock yourself in a bunker, you could wake up one morning with an untreatable neurological disease.

“That ain’t paranoia, girl—that’s the truth of human life.”

Despite all her work, Elizabeth—dear frazzled Liz—wasn’t able to rid herself of the deep dread that threatened to completely debilitate her.  So she surrendered—but heroically.

“I WILL NOW ACCEPT INSECURITY!” she wrote in her journal, using the red pen.  Those big bold letters blazed at her like fiery courage.

Fortunately, she had sense enough not to jump to the opposite extreme.  She didn’t quit her job, didn’t empty out her bank account or cancel all her insurance or stop eating healthy and exercising.  She knew she’d go into shock if she suddenly removed all her safety nets.

Nor did she stop the meditation and centering yoga.  Those activities might not be a cure-all, but she felt better with them than without them.

No, Elizabeth didn’t “embrace” insecurity.  But she did stop trying to destroy her anxiety.  She now accepted it as a permanent part of her life.  Something that she had to learn to live with.  Not a friend, but also not a foe.

With that shift came this shift in perspective…

If you’ve learned to live with your fear, why you should feel like a failure?  Like a fraidy cat?  If every new step feels like a death-defying act and yet, you continue to step, then isn’t every single step an accomplishment?  A success?  “If I’m walking a tightrope, I deserve kudos for my courage,” she told herself.

And so, her life now sizzles with the thrill of every new moment, instead of being weighed down by the dread of what might happen next.

She knows that high-wire walkers must constantly monitor their internal balance.  So as she steps, she goes past her head and listens to what’s happening deep within.  Nothing less than a centering meditation with every step!  In this way, she’s slowly begun to feel more stable, more secure—causing her initial intense rush to ease just a bit.  But that’s okay—too much adrenaline eventually exhausts us.  In any case, she’ll never feel completely relaxed.  But now, I don’t think she wants to relax completely.  For that matter, complete relaxation isn’t so safe, is it?

“Since I’ve learned to live with my weakness, I feel so much stronger,” she wrote in her journal, using the green pen.

By the way, in case you’re wondering…

…she did stop the background checks. After all, she’s learned: though some problems may remain, people do change.

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

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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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