When Things Don’t Add Up

Society has so many fears, boxing them in with rules and similar ways of being. They fear anything that differs from their own. It is sad to sum up other lives with simple mathematics or to cancel them out as unworthy of even doing math.

How many of us have actually seen the stranger for who they are, without our goodness attached to it?

Oh yes, heed wisdom; read the sages and the words passed down through the centuries. Your life will be better for it and you will cease to build up the flesh into strongholds that must be conquered. How many of us get invited into our neighbor’s house to share our stories with them? Too many lives are offensive and judged not to be in alignment with correct ways of living. Our neighbor has straitened his life beyond blemish and he fears for those who are shaky; they are not under his control.

If we remove ourselves from society, from the mechanisms of exchange, and we spend time near things that seldom change, we begin to see our value.

Part II. A Tower in the Sky

A train whistled in the distance, like a warning to what I was about to witness. We can’t protect ourselves from the horrors of existence, a sudden or protracted death, and all the while I was walking the tracks, staring at the sunrise like one hypnotized by morning.

“Here. This is the place,” Mike said.

“I don’t see anything special; no landmarks.”

“That’s because it’s hidden. It’s 10,032 trestle tracks from the bar.

“You were counting?”

“Numbers are always significant in magic.”

Suddenly, Mike seemed unusually sober as he took a harsh left into the woods. I followed after him and was half worried we might get lost. We followed deer trails for five minutes until we turned sharply into an overgrown canyon. Bricks rose out of the earth; perhaps, ancient pillars, buried by time.

“This is the spot,” Mike said. He barely tapped the wall and it crumbled, revealing a staircase that rose into the heavens. Each step was as solid as stone, even when we left the forest floor and ascended into the sky.

“Do you see the world down there?” Mike asked.

“Yes.”

“All of that can be yours and most men are driven mad by it, especially when they get it. The trick is to know you can have it and not need it.”

I couldn’t see the steps, but Mike could, and we ascended higher. I was standing in mid-air, suspended by nothing and Mike walked into a small room with a crystal pool at the center.

“This is Merlin’s Tower. Each year I come here to renew my strength and power, but the time has come to give up my life.”

“Why? Why would you give up your power and your life?” I asked.

“It takes on a repeat; you’re too young to know that; even with all the power under the sun, the fact that I can’t change people is the greatest disappointment. I can amuse them; I can control them; but I cannot accept their inability to accept themselves. They want things and they are driven mad by them, distorted by their desires. They kill for what they cannot have; maybe not literally, but murder is in their hearts.”

“Mike, are you okay? I’ve felt that way before, but usually I can solve any problem with a pizza and a good movie.”

“That works for a while, but once you have tasted power, it is harder to escape from the world; they come knocking on your door. I’m no longer going to baptize in Merlin’s pool; I’m getting out of this; I wish you the best young man; you are indeed the best.” And with that, he jumped into thin air. I glanced over the edge and he was gone.

To be continued…

Part I. The Magician’s Secret

Most people never reach desperation, and if they do, they quickly forget the feeling and resume their lives. -Intellectual Shaman

I was a follower of passions because I thought they would set me free. I never understood how people could wait around for money, maybe if I was paid in change, but this is doubtful, as I would quickly realize how little I was worth to somebody else. Passion gave me feelings that I was rich and going somewhere. Maybe dreams make life tolerable, even if they don’t come true? Hope is addictive and I needed it like a drug. So, that’s how I got involved as a stage performer. I had this idea that magic might be real; after all, reality boils down to perception and people want to believe. They want to be lied to and it isn’t the lies they hate; it’s when they are revealed. They find out Santa Clause isn’t real, all over again, and their world remains the same, just spare change and not much else.

I was doing standup comedy, and quickly found out I wasn’t funny. It’s one thing to make your friends laugh, but it’s something else to make people laugh who don’t like you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty likable guy, but there are a thousand reasons the crowd won’t like you and once something is popular, look out. It’s not that you are bad, it’s that the crowd thinks you’re bad, and when that happens, nothing can save you.

“Johnny, get over here.” My boss was calling again. Yes, I have a boss. I thought show biz would be freeing, but they don’t care about creators like me and if they do, it’s to squeeze ever last drop of talent and transmute it into money.

“Michael wants to see you.”

“Magic Mike?” I asked.

“Jeez, you’re thick. Who else? And get me a latte while you’re at it.”

“I walked away as quickly as I could and found our magician. His sleight of hand was arthritic now, shaking like a toy out of sink and I felt sorry for him.

“Johnny, you strike me as someone who appreciates magic.”

“Well, I… I’m interested in bending reality.”

“You’re good with words and I’ve seen you change how people feel.” Mike’s eyes were blue and they were looking through me now; it was an eerie feeling, like he could see into my soul.

“Mike, thanks, but people don’t think I’m funny.”

“Nonsense; contrary to the crowd, you can’t trust your feelings; you have to create them; this is what a magician does. Now, I understand you’re a young man, and you’re chasing success, whatever that might be, but never underestimate the power of sticking with something; it’ll always do you more good than harm, even if things don’t work out the way you want them to. Take me, for instance, I hung around magic until I learned a few tricks and I never shared them with anybody. You have to hang around to find what works; when you find it, keep it a secret. When people trust what you are about to show them, well… the magic has already happened. Don’t believe what society says about liars; they just hate to know they are being lied to. What they don’t know gives them belief in something they don’t understand. Magic is the anticipation before the BIG reveal, and a magician never shares his secrets, or let’s just say, he only shares them once, at a very special time.”

“When?” I asked.

“When he retires.”

“Why are you telling me, Mike?”

“Because I’ve chosen you. You’re 21. Let’s go have a drink.”

The bar was full of broken-down fools, clowns, and people who don’t belong in society.

“Whiskey,” Mike said.

“Say, are you…?”

“Not anymore. Now get me a drink, please.”

“Aye, Aye, Magic Mike.”

“And don’t call me that.”

Mike took a sip and relaxed. “Here’s a rule about people, they don’t believe, unless they see with their own eyes. You can tell them and they won’t believe, but if you show them… that’s something else. Being a magician is about how you carry yourself. If you believe your own lies, you can be more convincing.”

“Mike… why me?”

“Because you’re a believer and I haven’t shown you anything yet.”

“You’ve told me plenty.”

“Yeah… and you aren’t easily fooled, maybe because you don’t want to be, and you still consider what you can’t see.”

The evening burned low as Mike waxed eloquently. He was getting drunk, with no great revelations of magic and a philosophy that could not be put to personal use. Right when I felt compelled to go, Mike froze, as if in a trance.

“I’ve talked too much and it’s nearly midnight. The woods and the mountains are a haven from disbelieving society and I’m in no state to be your navigator, but the train tracks should take us a safe distance from here.”

“What?” I asked.

“A Walk; there’s nothing better after a few stiff drinks—clears the head, as much as a guy can want.” He leaned over to me like he was about to tell me a secret and then changed his mind and our evening stretched on, like shadows in the moonlight until I was too tired to stay awake; maybe I was sleepwalking; who knows? But the dawn broke and I was nowhere near to discovering his secret.

To be continued…

Where I Want to Be

Every man that I know

is weaker than the first

these beta men

are tired of pretending

but the alpha

never needs to pretend

this is a universal truth

when understanding power

women can sense when a man is faking

I don’t want to pretend

I want to make it real

so my actions can’t be denied

so my heart can’t be questioned

why? why would I retain?

if not for love, then what?

respect?

Yes; most definitely. Respect.

I want freedom; and this includes freedom from addictions

of all kinds

to know the truth

is not enough

it must be practiced

put into action

it must be reaffirmed

every day

I remember when I was writing in the mornings

just writing words to myself

that had no meaning

indulgence

does not matter

unless it is accompanied by great success

now, I’m stumbling around in the dark

wishing for things I don’t have

not sure how to get them

not even wanting them

magic eludes most men

it’s not even that I want what magic brings

it’s that I just want magic

if we indulge

we lose it

abstinence

will increase it

all things

want control

so, how do I remain free?

this obsession

has been following me

Only Power

the cultivation of power

will take me

where I want to be.

this allure

for fields without fences

is the kind that forces new awareness

an empathy

with misunderstood men

Solitude

motivated by selfishness

Answers

in the silence

saying things

that can’t be known.

In every man

is the desire to throw off authority

to listen

to his own heart

Few

see the top

before they reach it

if they do, their spirits falter

what are we doing

walking well-worn paths

asphalt assumptions

suggesting freedom

what if we did

what we wanted to do?

what if we wanted

different things?

perhaps we don’t know what we want

but I venture a guess

that we do

it takes courage to admit it

Power

to follow after it

Strength

that can’t be measured

by other men.

Forever Friends

If a man has good friends, he can live forever. -Intellectual Shaman

The sun was barely awake when I opened my eyes and the smell of black coffee lingered into my nose like a foreign woman. At 80, I had to find different passions; my latest enthusiasm was being a connoisseur of coffee. I drank the stuff that came out of civets and sampled the grounds gargled by working men; soon I found each variety colored my day.

Brad wanted to play golf, or was it that he wanted to win? The only way to do so, was to beat me, but I wouldn’t let him. I was blocking his joy, and it was pure delight.

The golf course we played hadn’t changed in 60 years. It was the only piece of land in that god forsaken county that loved the people who walked on it. This love is rarely felt on city streets where men walk to jobs they wish to avoid and the city screams without a word.

Brad never owned a car; he didn’t believe in them and perhaps I enabled his faith because I always picked him up.

“You ready to play golf?”

“I’m ready to beat your ass.”

“You’ll always be ready, but it’ll never happen.”

“It happened last time.”

“Last time? Are you kiddin?”

“Somebody has dementia.”

“Well, I still have my license.”

“Yeah, which woman at the DMV did you sleep with to keep it?”

“Alright, you’ll have to show me on the golf course.”

Walking where I had walked the last 60 years was a lot like retracing my steps; the past remained like a well-wore path, reminding me of who I was.

CLOSING was tacked across the pro shop in red letters.

“The last bright spot in this county is being rubbed out, I guess. It says, housing developments are coming. I always hoped I would die before everything around me changed because when you live in a place, you become that place, and when it changes, you have to die.”

“I say, bring on death,” Brad said. “Life takes on a repeat. I’m tired of playing this golf course and you’re depressing to listen to; I like change. In fact, I hate this stretch of land. You know what, I’ve never shot par here, not once.”

“That’s because you suck.”

“I’m better than you.”

“Okay, prove it.”

“Dollar a hole?”

“That’s a bit steep for me, but my social security should cover it.”

Brad teed it up and hooked his shot into the woods. “That’s my mulligan.”

“Okay, but I can’t give you a mulligan on every hole.” I struck my ball with pure power and it launched up the fairway 150 yards. Brad walked into the woods. One minute later, his ball shot out of the trees.

“Nice throw,” I said.

“You know I can’t throw that far; it was my 60-degree wedge.”

“Whatever.”

We played into the day and triumphed over the evening.

“What are you going to do on 17? You know that hole messes with your mind,” Brad said.

“Is it the hole that messes with my mind or is it you?”

“Hey, what are friends for?”

I slugged my shot under some storm clouds and Brad teed it up.

“Be sure to avoid the swamp on the right side of the fairway.”

“You’re so considerate,” Brad said. He swung. “Damn.”

“That’s out of bounds. Looks like you’ll have to tee it up again.

Brad Teed it up again and swung. “Damn.”

“Third times the charm,” I laughed.

Brad glared at me and teed it up again. “Damn.”

“I think you might have to pick up.”

“Say, has anybody ever been murdered on this golf course?” Brad asked.

THE END

To all sojourners of truth…

To all sojourners of truth

this journey will test your limits

because most

don’t even want to look up

at the light

Climbing out of a deep dark well

where the bones are buried

under pounds of rotting sludge

is the curse of any spider

and the ascent to the summit is merciless

fraught with rain

and little boys who don’t like spiders

Shadows struggle with their own weakness

an inner cord

that trembles at the truth

taking them to the sunrise

where webs are spun in the morning

glistening with precious jewels

Who will compare one design to another?

Do critics know the cost of thread?

it came from within

each sinew of line

saving the life

on the other end

When people gaze at beauty

they don’t know where it came from

much was overcome

expressing something that could not be said

it’s not vanity

but the thing that keeps us going

our precious thread.

This Wonderful Feeling

Not all feelings are created equal

and when we’ve felt one long enough

sometimes we wish for its opposite

I can’t go on feeling happy forever

soon, I want to feel sad

boredom gives way to most of my feelings

and I long for excitement, adventure, and new faces

the prospect of failure is better

than crushing monotony

these feelings come and go

in the same way that fickle fortune favors us

many would love to be cursed by good luck

but if life made their lives easy

it could drive them insane

no challenges

no effort

no will

exerted

desire is absent

when everything is gained

no hope

when we hold the world in our hands

There is a feeling, I feel, trumps all others

it is better than luck

higher than love

nobler than sacrifice

it comes and it goes

believe me

it goes

it doesn’t stick around for very long

I felt is yesterday

for one hour

trust me… I wouldn’t trade it for a Ferrari

its more freeing

than hiking in the woods

across mountainous countryside

Strangely, I’m not sure how it comes about

I wish I could bottle it

like a drug

gulping it down

at the appropriate time

it has no opposite

it stands alone

it magnifies pleasure

expanding clarity

offering sophistication and style

going to the grocery store becomes an art

sipping dark coffee

I become a connoisseur

problems laugh at me and I laugh back

the universe tangles me

and I play twister

like god, himself

I’m weak

not in control

and this feeling alights on me

like an angel

allowing, effortless appreciation

for shiny golf clubs

the perfect shot

sweet sounds

walking across greens of heaven

pouring another glass

enjoying another round

spending time with friends

books

or flesh and blood

I know this feeling

gets tired of me

but while it lingers

like a floating leaf

I enjoy its coloring

like autumn

before winter

and I taste,

breathe,

and worship

this wonderful feeling.

The Little Big Man Sleeps Through World War II

Few are big

when they are small

and the little big man

sleeps

during the chaos of war

clutching his teddy bear

and warm milk

admiring his Thompson

on the shelf

it isn’t his fight

despite

those who want him to die

and they preach peace

with violent hatred

dangerous

in their love

unable to define the word

the building is shaking

as the crowds amass

and through it and into the next war

the little big man

snores

dreaming

of fields

without battles

and

butterflies

resting

in the grass.

Into the Next Fate

If you lose where you are

because you have ventured far

that is the destination

to have the good opinions of others

at several moments in our lives

and the bad, just as well

some will go far

they will live beautiful accomplishments

and rally their hearts with song

Strangely,

the vacant and the lost

may have

more satisfaction

wandering into deserts

expecting them to be dry

until the rains come

we want things

we gather them up like mana

and then we realize that what we wanted was foolish

without flavor

I feel a pulse,

this truth,

and revelation cleanses me

there is no great journey

only the one we are living

by all means, take a few steps, somewhere

Absolutes

are rare

those who live by them

move

in one direction

their finish line awaits

just like mine

and yours

We cross over

into the next fate.