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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we have met the conspirator and he is us

But as I traveled hither through the land,
I find the people strangely fantasized,
Possessed with rumors, full of idle dreams,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.
       — Shakespeare, from King John

Shakespeare seems to be talking about the USA in 2017…

We too are “strangely fantasized” and “full of idle dreams”…

…despite the influence of The Enlightenment…

…despite the acceptance of scientific methodology…

…despite the expansion of public education.

We still embrace outlandish conspiracy theories.

What’s going on?  What does the conspiracy theory do for us?

Well, the conspiracy theory does add a sense of mystery to our world…

…and at the same time, lifts the cover of that mystery for us.  Everyone else is being fooled, but not us.  We know the secret truth.  The conspiracy theory can be a pump for the ego.

We’re in the know, yet relieved of the responsibility of acting on what we know.  After all, the forces at work in the world are beyond our control.  If you try to take action, “they” will crush you.*

The conspiracy theory says: the best you can do is be aware and do what you can to protect your own hide.

It’s ironic…

In our efforts to make sense of this absurd, convoluted world, we consult the convoluted, absurd conspiracy theory.

By escaping into its fanciful alternate reality, we can avoid certain painful truths of our current situation.  Thus, we’re willing to ignore the flaws in its logic and the absence of hard facts.

In Shakespeare’s time, ordinary folk were pretty much at the mercy of the winds of change…

…as are we, to be honest.  But certainly not to the same degree.  We have much greater freedom to act.

So, I’m disappointed when I see how we put ourselves into boxes made of conspiracy.  In so doing, we surrender so much of our power.

However, I take heart from some “non-conspiracy” messages I hear in our public discourse…

For instance, this quote from the comic strip Pogo by Walt Kelly:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

That idea is so anti-conspiracy theory.  We’re telling ourselves where the real problem lies.  Not in some distant hidden chamber, but within the dark chambers of our own selves.  Yes, we should fear the conspirator—the conspirator within.

I meet that enemy every darn day.  He leaps into my thoughts; he leaps into my actions.  He leaps before I can catch him.  And when I see how he has leapt, I’m disappointed in myself once again.  Why do I subvert my better nature?  When given the choice between tall and small, why do I so often choose the later?

I feel so weak against that enemy.  However, by accepting responsibility for the state of my world, I actually gain in power.  Though the work be hard and slow and tedious, here’s something I can definitely change: myself.

Don’t get me wrong—I want to do more to change the larger world, the world outside my skin.  But I can do a much better job of making peace out there if I first make peace in here.

By rejecting conspiracy ideas, I lose the ego inflation…But oddly enough, wrestling with painful realities gives me an sense of satisfaction.  I feel like I’m doing some real work.   Building emotional muscle.

In doing that work, I explore the mystery of my dark depths, our dark depths.  I explore a true mystery—not the fabricated mystery of the conspiracy theory.

With all this in mind…

…I think we would do well to include the Kelly quote in our new mythology.

But perhaps we should add: having met the enemy, we can now make peace with ourselves.

(* A wise man (or woman) once said: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”  Point taken: there are some shady manipulators in this world.  But those who try to control can’t predict with certainty what the results of their actions will be.  So is anyone really in control?  Nobody here but us blind mice.)

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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the box rebellion

The last time I tried to create my own reality…

…I got my foot stuck in a toaster.

But seriously…

I think “creating your own reality” is a useful concept.  But maybe not for all of us.  Maybe not even for most.  For the unlucky majority of this world, the pre-existing reality may be too much to overcome.

For instance:

What if you grow up without the benefit of education…or even the benefit of food?…

What if you live under the constant threat of violence?

What if your country is invaded and occupied?

What if your government is savagely corrupt?  What if it controls its people with an iron fist?

What corporations poison your environment?  What if they destroy your way of life?  What if they control your government?

What if you know you’ll be crushed if you speak against such injustices?

Under such conditions, can we still create our own reality?

Well, actually we can, to a degree.  Even if I’m in a box, I have a degree of control over my reality.  If nothing else, I can control my response to being in a box.  I can say: no one can make me feel one way or the other—my emotions are my own.

In so doing, I’ll experience at least a small degree of power.

Yes, I’ll probably still be frustrated and angry.  But by owning these emotions, I can keep them from owning me—keep them from consuming me…

…from driving me to acts of destruction.  I’ll be the driver instead.

I can then use these emotions as a positive force—a positive motivating force…

…as I work to improve my world in whatever small way I can.  Actually, if I can realize this ideal just once a day, I will be improving our world.*

Those who are trying to create their own reality want to take control of their lives.  They want to feel a sense of personal power.  They’re saying: I’m going to realize my own version of “the good life”.

But often, due to circumstances beyond our control, that good life may denied to us.  Nonetheless, we can still live a great life.

If we expand to the limits of our captivity, how can anyone say we’ve lived anything less?

(* Right now, that’s probably my rate: once a day.)

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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to a future generation from a pessimistic optimist

This message is addressed to a future generation…

…the generation that will clean up our mess after we’re gone.

Dear Future Generation...

Right now, you may be asking yourself, “What were my ancestors thinking?  Didn’t they see that was bad was only going to get worse, much worse?  Why didn’t they change their ways?”

Well, we were thinking and we did see.  Despite appearances to the contrary, we did try to change.

But change is so very difficult—I’m speaking from my own experience.

Change is hard, even when I clearly see how I need to change.

Even when I have the tools to help me, change is hard.  Even when I have outside support.  Even when I have access to the best minds, past and present.  Even when I believe in myself—in my inner strength, my will.  Even when change is my deepest desire…

…it’s incredibly hard!

So…if change is difficult for a single individual under optimal conditions…

…imagine how hard it would be for an entire world of people to change under less-than-optimal conditions.

Change is scary.  Change, to a greater or lesser degree, feels like death.

Well, it is death—death to an old way of life.

Eventually, we were willing to undergo such a death…

…when the change we feared seemed less of a threat than the danger of remaining the same.

Of course, by then it was too late.

Ironically, many died because of our fear of death.

Nonetheless, you should not lose hope in what humans can do…

Again and again, I witnessed people rising above their fear.  Communities too—even nations.  I achieved a few personal triumphs myself.

No, we didn’t rise enough.  But I believe you can, Future Generation.  After all, you have this added motivation: while we could see what might happen to the human race, you can see what did happen…

And what could happen again, if human beings don’t drastically change their ways.

I believe, stubborn as we humans are, we’ll keep working at it, until one day, we finally achieve some semblance of the dream.

It’s up to you.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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