Poetry/Prose

Great Glass Walls

Image credit: Mine, Beijing 2010

Image credit: Mine, Beijing 2010

Dear Anonymous,

I tried to write a note to you today but when I was about to send it, I thought of all the synapses that would fire in your brain and cause you to respond in the way that you would, because you think the things that you naturally do.

And I wondered in that moment, how many people I have loved had wanted to write to me but couldn’t because they knew the same …

… that some strange volition within me would take the purity of their words and feed an ego that just couldn’t know better at that time.

How many?

I wanted to tell you so many details. Things that would get lost on the way to your deeper wisdom. I have tried this before. I know. They will.

So now I will send you nothing at all–something more pure than the ego can touch. Something so subtle it overwhelms the world. Something that will never be said but somehow be known until the moment before we die or almost do–what is real, what is true.

There is no me. And there is no you.

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Poetry/Prose

We Always Find Out

girlwithblackgoggleswithtesttube

I am

Amused

Beyond a PhD in

This thing

Boys

Wishing to be men

Do

Even as

I prepare to retire

I still research

Now and then

Behind goggles

Sometimes surprised

Always amused

And it’s funny

The chemical

Physical

Biological

Types

That we draw

To this lab

To watch

A few words

Some body language

A hypothesis

You think

That we think

It’s real

That we’ll cry

We think different

And we prefer to laugh

We are scientists

We always find out

Read up on things

Exchange research

We all study

We all share

We all talk

We. all. talk.

Observe

Divide

Mimics from real

The tapestry

The venoms

Potent

Impotent

Of wildest dreams

Woven

Specimen after specimen

Slide after slide

Microscopes

Beakers

Bell jars

Tattered radios

In corners of labs

Play music

Sometimes our favorite songs

As we spank our hands together

Wink at each other

Slough off our lab coats

Call it a day

Go out for a drink

Celebrate results

We are scientists

We always find out

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Poetry/Prose

Lucid Dreams of Liberty

Tycho Dive Album Art

Tycho Dive Album Art

This might sound weird to some people, but I like going through things–all kinds of things.

Every day I say thank you for this life and EVERYTHING; every, little, thing, feeling, neurosis, worry, joy, happy memory, exciting upcoming event, strand of love extending over oceans, unresolved regret, etc., etc., infinity.

It’s all invited, it’s all at the table.

And I cherish all of it for a few minutes a day, because it’s my process, all of it.

Yes, I like going through things–not around them, not avoiding them, not locking them away.

And I like when my friends, life coach, healers and family call me out to help me do this … to help me see what’s what, what is a load of crap worth no attention whatsoever and what is worth concentrating on.

This process is like turning the light on in the attic of life.

Taking time; sifting, sifting, really looking at stuff.

Deciding what is useless and throwing it away.

Keeping what is useful and integrating it into my person.

Otherwise, all that crap we don’t look at, sort through, really attend to, sits in unlabelled boxes, lives up there, mixed, acting out, through us, unconsciously.

I want to know all the things in all the boxes, where they are.

I want to clean them.

Sort them.

Find the gold that the experiences left me, throw away the load of crap ego-bate it was buried in.

If I really want to help others in the future, I have to look through this stuff closely, consciously decide I don’t need the ego-drama ride, consciously throw it away.

With every box unpacked, I come out in a more meaningful place, with more people to relate to, more deeply.

People I can look at and say “hey, I see you there, I know where you are.”

This way, I can meet more people, feel more life, experience more connection, less judgement, more clean, motive-free Love, less fear, anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

This way, I am truly free.

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Poetry/Prose

Keep Moving, Mapmaker

PS: Did you ever notice how  phallic the NYC metro map is?

PS: Did you ever notice how phallic the NYC metro map is?

You are a cartographer
Your life is a map
There are ways to get places
And there are experiments that result in dead ends
No shortcuts
No guarantees, except:
Every day life gives you a chance to improve your resolution

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Poetry/Prose

Now I Finally Remembered–I Am Free

get-out-of-jail-free-card

Today I see

I risked my life

To save it

A lifelong quest

For what’s been

Between my lips

Candy for obsession

The last bar on the cell

Gleaming

Pole dancing spectacle

The past few years

People found it wild

The way my life slid

Round and round and round

Gain and loss

Trial and failure

They looked on

From the outside

(However!)

Inside’s different

Seeded garden

Watered with a love

Of daring fears

And I slowly grew

As anyone would

Who dares their devils

Cleans their attic

Stands in the dark

Of their silent basement

As fear’s wave wained

To acceptance’s light

Shining

The last bar in the cell

Holding to it

Slipping around and around

For the love of life

I began to look closer

At a reflection

Shining back

That light on metal

Movements

Automatic volition

And today

When I awoke

To meet my metal master

I would only hear

A hollow echo

As that last bar

Toppled to the floor

I stepped right out

Stretched my arms

Yawned

As if never trapped

By all the bars

Once held me back

All the figments

Divinely constructed

To demonstrate

Freedom’s means

Oh thank you

My willingness

To be a bad example

And a good person

To myself

To teach myself

With every willing desire

Every inevitable loss

All comes and goes

Except what remains

I only see that now

In everything

I am free

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Movie Reviews

The Bridge on the River Kwai–Review and Bonus Expat Confessions

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 1.50.35 PMCan We Escape Principle?

About a month ago, I watched a classic movie called “Bridge on the River Kwai.” This is both a review of that movie and of life as an expat. Because in reality there are so many parallels between this movie and living in a country where the society is so different, so … ad hoc.

River Kwai didn’t win seven Oscars for nothing. The slow build of the plot is dotted by scenery and acting that, for the time, was unprecedented in quality. The idea is that a group of captured British and American soldiers are held in a Japanese PoW camp in what is now Thailand. The conditions around the camp are so wild and infested that escape would surely be met by death due to impotable water and ubiquitous disease.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 1.52.07 PMOne American soldier named “Shears” (William Holden) escapes, however. Drama around his ordeal aside, this character seems insignificant for most of the film. Meanwhile, Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) experiences a special level of detention in the camp because he won’t cooperate with the building of a bridge. For months, he’s kept in a small doghouse, locked away from sun and fed like an animal. He develops a kind of rickets and looks awful. His acting combined with makeup and setting are edgy in terms of bringing you into the feeling of what it was like. It’s important that we feel how he did, too, because we need to understand the will power driving his actions–that he would volunteer for that experience based on principle.

(BTW: The jungle sets and attention to detail in this film are breathtaking for the year it was made.)

Anyway, the Japanese code of honor eventually overcomes the situation as Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) chooses to release Nicholson over killing himself—the bridge has to be built and he can’t figure out how to do it in time. But Nicholson can.

Upon his release, Nicholson is seized by a drive to make his country proud and defy the circumstances—he’s going to build the best bridge known to man and show all the Japanese (and in his mind, the world) what British leadership and workmanship is capable of achieving.Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 1.50.54 PM

This is where Shears comes back in. We find him recovering from a harrowing escape and near-death levels of disease in a military hospital setting along a tropical beach. He’s pulled out of a fling with a nurse to face Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) who calls his bluff about his rank and gives him an ultimatum. Either go back to the camp and help the Americans blow up the bridge or face imprisonment for lying about status.

Faced with this decision, Shears reluctantly joins Warden and a young officer (this character adds a dash of innocence and objectivity, as does the medic’s character … you just have to watch it) as they cut back through the tropics and find the bridge. This is where I have to stop the review because this is where the best part of the movie occurs. It’s kind of like an amazing song that just builds and builds and then ‘bam!’ it all comes together. The sheer choreography of the plot—the way that the characters dance their way into your interest and make you squirm in your seat, and the way they seem to stand aside to reveal the bigger idea being expressed—is worth studying if you have any interest in film.

When it’s all over, we see Nicholson, Shears and Warden in completely different lights. We don’t know what to feel at first. But eventually, we are kind of left with the concept of principle.

We realize that Nicholson’s drive based on principle is one we all seem to live by. If we look inside ourselves, we are programmed according to principles. And yet, how does that work out when you are in an environment that is, in so many ways, over your head.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 1.51.16 PMWell, it’s easy, you just continue according to your program and then one day you are forced to open your eyes, wide. You see that everyone and everything around you is so much more complicated than it was when your program was developed, back in your hometown, in your school days, at your kitchen table, dorm, first office job, in your first relationships.

If you’re an expat, you’ve actually made a quantum leap. And this movie hit me so hard over the head precisely because it showed me through its artistic precision how that quantum leap renders many principles and programs obsolete. This is especially the case in Qatar, where the jungle is replaced by the unwillingness to leave a nice, comfy existence. The war backdrop and criss-crossing of cultures is replaced by a maniacal pace of human development and mass influx of people from all cultures chiming in their efforts. We are coexisting and it’s strangely similar to what this wartime film examines.

What I’m finding, after almost five years as an expat, is that I have fought this, hard. I insist on my principles and it’s killing me. However, what other principles and programs are there?

A big part of me wakes up some mornings and wants to scrap them all. But that’s not the key either. In fact it’s stupid AND impossible. It’s a very meticulous process to go through experiences with your programs in place, interact with people, discover that they don’t work, try again based on program modifications and find that they still need tweaking and on and on and on.

This is at every level of socialization and living as an expat–from conversations with a bank teller, to ordering sushi over the phone to explaining your standards to a lover and opening yourself to all of these people’s perspectives, sometimes too late, but at least in time to learn. Now, I don’t think a lot of people do this, actually. I think  a lot of people go into another country and say “this is me; this place is weird; I’ll make the best of it—neither are changing.”

But I came here, I left the US, to be changed. I was tired of my insular existence. I was tired of being trapped in my original programs. So here I am–open wide. Looking at myself, tweaking, trying, growing, changing, at a pace I can’t even track, from a person I don’t think I’d recognize if I met her.

I study Nicholson because he was so attached to principle that, well, you just have to watch the movie. I don’t want to end up that way. And so every day, I have to look at the lessons and make the modifications. In some cases, as with Filipinos for instance, I have to manage every situation, yet not so much that I’m cruel or cold, which, when I’m really tired of managing every single thing all day long, is a tall order.

Still, I have to. They come from a place and a lifestyle that is laid back and not as intricate and proactive. In fact it’s downright poor there and for me to critique them is really inhumane. At the same time, I have to forgive myself because I have my programming too … thing is, only one of us is ever in a mode to change it. Me.

I come from the opposite society. It’s like a bull running through a China shop when I get into a business situation with these people. But I see now that I am the one with the understanding of the dynamic. And with that understanding comes responsibility and the opportunity to get stronger, more resilient, more in tune, more dynamic, more present, more intuitive. Just plain more. Every day, it’s another onslaught of lessons, totally improv. I pass, I fail, I ace some, I fall on my face. But I’m in it, and every single time I’m sensitive to what happened.

Principle says: “they can see what’s going on, why don’t they think about creative and proactive ways to solve the problem in front of us?!”

Reality says: “they are present, participating in a system according to rules and either too scared or too new to understand how to take the situation to another level.”

In the movie, principle said: never give in, build the bridge to the highest standards, live off pride and shove it in the face of the Japanese.

But reality said something waaaay different. If you are an expat, watch this movie. Even if you’re not, it’s good.

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