the fable of going from well to well

A woman of natural curiosity went from well to well over the course of her life.

Though many didn’t care what she did…

…there were those who said:

“Why can’t she find what she wants in any of those wells?  She refuses to be satisfied.  It’s like she wants to be unhappy.”

But in truth, the woman was not dissatisfied with life, was not unhappy…

She wanted to explore, to discover.  She enjoyed going from well to well.  Did she always like what she found?  No, probably not.  But because she was doing what she wanted to do, she never felt disillusioned.

Some of those who believed she was unhappy based their belief on their own experience:

They had gone from well to well, without ever finding that which they sought.

To be honest, some of that some couldn’t tell you exactly what they’d sought.  They just felt they’d never found it.

I’d like to think that at least a few of them eventually realized:

The best approach to this life was not to search, but instead to discover.

Maybe they also realized: that in fact, they’d been exploring, experiencing, experimenting, and discovering all along the way.  So even if they hadn’t found that which they’d sought, they had found a lot!

Maybe they then realized: what they’d done is what everyone’s doing all the time—exploring, experiencing, experimenting, discovering.

So perhaps that’s the true purpose of this life.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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protest plan

A year later and I’m still working on my behavior modification program…

…still trying to train myself to respond to our president’s negative words and actions with positive words and actions.

Here’s the idea:

When he insults a human being, I respond by praising a fellow human being.

When he indulges in conflict, I do what I can to ease conflict.  If not a conflict out there, then a conflict in here.

When he does something to abuse the environment of this planet, I do something to heal the environment of this planet.  Maybe only a little something, but a something nonetheless.

In other words: when he acts small, I’ll act tall.

A good plan, but so hard to execute.  So hard to be aware—to catch myself before I fall into an old pattern of behavior.  And that would be: to growl…to howl…

….which doesn’t do anything to help anyone.  Including me.

But I think I can improve on my progress—by applying what I learned in Psychology 101: the desired response must be reinforced with a reward!

So what reward can I use?  A bit of candy?

Maybe the best reward—the most satisfying reward—is to simply tell myself: you’re getting this life right.

I can remind myself: by becoming a better person, I’m helping to create a better nation, a better world.

Yeah, the scales of power are tipped in favor of the president…

…but if I stick to my plan, who’s the real winner?

sky rope poetry blog
© 2018, Michael R. Patton

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the fable of the woman, the man, and the educational waters

Their relationship was balanced…

She washed him with her tears.  And he washed her with his.

But then one sunny morning…

…after they’d wept together a good while…

…the woman suddenly knew they were done.  She didn’t know how she knew, she just knew: whatever they’d come together to do was done.  She didn’t know then exactly what that was.  She just knew they had to part.

The man also knew.  He didn’t know how he knew.  He just knew.

Only later would they understand about the washing.  Only later would they both see: they’d been cleaned as much as they could clean together.

Only later would they understand…

…that blessed though tears may be…

…we need other types of water.

Many years passed before the couple met again.  By then, they’d both known many different types of water.

Rain water.  Cave water.  Spring water.  Distilled water.  Water from a well.

And of course, the most common water of all: muddy river water.

Each had spent much time swimming in that muddy river…

…with periodic stops to wash in the water of tears.  But on those stops, they usually washed in solitude…

Having taught each other how to wash when they were together…

…afterwards, they were able to wash on their own.

That muddy river had been a good teacher.  However, they’d also learned a lot from those other waters.  Maybe they’d even become wise…

In any case, when he saw her again, the man was wise enough to see how much the woman had learned, had grown.  And the woman was wise enough to see how much the man had learned, had grown.

They both understood: if they’d stayed together, neither one of them would’ve learned as much, would’ve grown as much.  They don’t yet know why that is.  For the time being, they just know.

When they met again—when they saw—they wept again.  But this time, tears of joy.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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purple people

Political analysts talk about blue states, red states, and purple states…

But by definition, their purple states aren’t actually purple.

Blue must mix with red in order to create purple…

And in so-called purple states, blue remains on its side and red remains on its side.  Some voters swing to one side or the other, depending on the candidate.  But there are still sides.  Red and blue don’t mix in those states—they fight!

So it’s more accurate to refer to them by their other name: battleground states.

But in another way, they are purple.  Because we’re purple.  You, me—we’re all purple.

I’m not saying we’re both Republican and Democrat.  I’m saying: we’re a mix of red and blue.  In all of us, the blue of heaven and the red of earth meet to create purple.  Though we may swing back and forth, from one color to the other, our true color is always purple.

I accept that idea as an intellectual belief.  But in rare moments of realization, I feel its truth.  At such times, I’m not stuck in the red mud of basic physical survival.  Nor am I floating in some blue ethereal daydream.  No, I’ve elevated myself while keeping my feet solidly on the ground.

Ironically, this accomplishment may come after a defeat.  After I’ve exhausted myself in battle.  The battle within.  Me fighting myself.  One side fighting the other.

Usually that battle is a mere skirmish.  But sometimes, it’s all-out war.  In any case, it’s an on-going fight.

My struggles have taught me the obvious: when we don’t want to deal with an inner conflict, we’ll project that conflict out there. Yes, I realize political red and political blue disagree on fundamental issues…

Nonetheless, their fights reflect their inner conflicts.

But whether I fight in here or out there, I eventually exhaust myself.  The result: a feeling of emptiness.  And not the good meditative type of emptiness.  It’s the feeling that there’s nothing left inside.

When I can no longer ignore that feeling, I stop.  I stop the argument I’m having with the world, with myself.  I rise above the inner conflict.  I’m no longer divided against myself.

If I’m able to stop long enough, I will realize my purple-ness.  And in realizing my purple-ness, I also realize our purple-ness.  After all, I’m not a separate species.  How I truly am is how we human beings truly are.

An irony: to be as I truly am is not so easy.  It seems natural to be divided, to be in conflict.  Isn’t that the way of the world?

But if I’m in pain, isn’t it natural to try to find the cause and then try to find a cure?

So in actuality, it’s natural to try to heal the split, to try to resolve the inner conflict…

…and in so doing, realize our purple-ness.

I think most of us have moments in which we realize our purple-ness.  But obviously, we need more such moments.  I think purple, used as a symbol—used accurately, that is—could help get us there.  Purple could remind us of our purple-ness.  We’d see the symbol, then think, then feel.

We’ve all witnessed the power of symbols.  An occasional shot of symbolic purple could awaken us to our truth.  If we don’t experience that truth more often, I believe we’re doomed.

sky rope poetry blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

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the un-thief: a Christmas story

After being robbed himself, the thief finally saw how he’d caused so many people so much pain…

Thus, from that moment forward, he decided to be the un-thief.

As the un-thief, he returned to all those houses he’d burglarized.  Entering at night, quiet as a cat, he gave back that which he had stolen—or an item of equal value.

Altruistic, yet at the same time, a bit devious.  He still desired that thrill, the thrill of secrecy and danger.  But henceforth, he would use this desire in the service of good.  He would be a giver not a taker.

That man—the un-thief—is the one we now know as Santa Claus.  Yes, St. Nick wasn’t always such a saint.

So why was first part of his story lost?

Perhaps in our immaturity, we rejected the idea that someone so pure of heart could also have a dark side.  We didn’t want to look behind that twinkle in his eye.

In any case, I hope the full story can now become part of our Christmas.  By making this character whole again, don’t we come that much closer to making ourselves whole again?

At the very least, the full story shows how we can flip a negative behavior to its positive side…

…without losing the excitement of life.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

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fable of the man who atoned by pushing a stone

Perhaps I’ve become too cynical…

…but I’m usually skeptical of public figures who tell us, “I’m sorry.”

Seems like such a easy thing to say after being caught in a dastardly act.

Maybe such apologies would be more believable if the apologist added an act of atonement…

…as in this short fable:

I told the man I was sorry…

…not just once, not just twice, but three times.

Though he said he accepted my apology, I sensed he doubted its sincerity.  I couldn’t blame him.  After all, “sorry” is often said by those who only want to calm criticism and escape retribution.

I saw no other way to make amends.  And so the painful weight remained on my heart.  If only the fellow would punch me in the nose!  But I knew he would never act so small.  I’d wounded a kind person!  Thus, I hurt even more.

Crazy with frustration, I could not sit still and went off down the street at fast walk.  How could I relieve my guilt!—the tension within was nearly unbearable!

As if to answer myself, I then spied a big rock by a slide in the park—maybe not a boulder, but damn near that size.

On impulse, I strode forward, lowered my shoulder and began to roll the cumbersome stone up a steep slippery hill.

Though I soon began to ache and burn in bone and muscle, I refused to stop—I wanted so badly to punish myself!

Finally, after much huffing and heaving and grunting, I reached the top.  Spent in body and mind, I leaned against the rock and wept.

I wept for myself.  I wept because I’d just pushed a boulder up a hill, yet still felt guilty.  I wept because I was yet another example of a sincere person who, despite his avowed beliefs, does harm to his fellow human beings.  More pathetic than a brute, I was.

That night, I again went to the man.  What else could I do but beg for forgiveness once more?

Fortunately, he’d already heard about the boulder.  Heard how I’d bloodied my hands and bruised my shins.  So when he opened the door, he saw someone who suffered as he suffered.  Perhaps even more.

And so he wept.  And then I wept.  He wept for me.  But also for his own pain.  In my pain, he saw his own.  He finally confronted his own, full-face.  He finally wept for the way he’d suffered!

And why did I weep?  Because I now felt such relief.

sky rope poetry blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

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something to regain

“Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose.”
      — from Me and Bobbie McGee, by Kris Kristofferson

When I first heard that line, years ago, I thought to myself, “What a beautiful idea!”

But I now see a dark side to that equation…

In some ways, the hippie hitchhiker of the song is not so different from the gunman who entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine people*…

…or from many other young men like him.

Like the hippie, they’re rebelling.  Seeing no place for themselves in the world they’ve been given, they’ve rejected that world.  They’ve rejected its values, its beliefs.   They’ve leapt from the established foundation.  It means nothing to them, so what have they to lose?

Unfortunately, like the hippie, they lack a solid replacement for that foundation.  Thus, they dangle in midair.

But here’s the difference:

The hippie hitchhiker doesn’t just love Bobbie McGee—he loves life.  He may be lost, he may be searching, but wherever he goes, he will see love, will experience love.

Even though he’s rejected traditional religion, he will enter a Black church and join the choir in a gospel song.  Their love stirs his love.  He wants to engage with the world…

…and those other rebels do not.  They see only the ugliness and falsehood of their culture.  Everything’s a sham.

As I see it, they haven’t yet made peace with the contradiction.  The dilemma we all face…

As an individual stumbles into adulthood, he must come to terms with the inescapable contradictions of living in a civil society…

How do we reconcile ourselves to a society that espouses one value, yet rewards the opposite value?  That honors criminals while punishing honest folk?  That cheapens beauty and worships trash?  No, everything isn’t a sham, but too much is.  How can we live in such world without giving in or being eaten alive by our outrage?

Maybe our hitchhiker still struggles with the contradiction.  But I think he’ll soon make his peace, because he hasn’t lost his love…

He’ll realize, that though there’s so much wrong with the world, there’s just as much that’s right.  So much honest grace and beauty.  True voices to be heard amid the hypocrisy.

That love may not put a foundation under his dangling feet, but it can act as a solid cornerstone.

Those other disaffected men lack that cornerstone.  So they’re even more desperate for some type of foundation. So desperate, they may accept this blatant nonsense:

Why is the world as it is?  Because of those other people!  They’re the source of the trouble.  They’re the cause of your pain.

That’s what these rebels find online.  And it seems to make sense.  After all, somebody must be` responsible for all the problems in the world.  And that somebody certainly isn’t them.  So it must be the others!

The next logical thought is: we should get rid of those others.

Though our hitchhiker may blame certain people—or types—for the ills of the world…

…his love of life will keep him from destroying life.  His wild ideas are more likely to be beautiful visions.  Maybe one day he’ll bring them down to earth.

I can’t say how those like the Charleston gunman lost their love, their love for life…

But I can say: in this crazy culture, in these crazy times, we’re asked to deal with too much too soon.  And often without much help from those around us.

In such an environment, it’s easy to lose your sense of feeling.  It’s easy to become numb.

Quite a loss.  No wonder they’re is so angry.

That said, it’s up to any potential gunman to heal himself.  No one can return that sense of love to him—no matter how much the person cares.

But maybe we can help jump-start the process.  To solve this problem as a society, we must become aware of the problem.  So let’s shout it from the rooftops: we’ve become numb!

Then, after we’ve gotten everyone’s attention, we should add: but only our surface is numb.  We can regain our sense of feeling if we’re willing to go deep.

My hope is: through such digging, we’ll eventually find that solid foundation.

(* I’m referring to the shooting that occurred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015.  I chose this particular incident, because the killer lived to make his motives and influences known.)

skyrope poetry blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

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