All posts by Mark Rushing

A Message to My Friends

Random FountainToday as I was driving home, I stopped at a light near a building. The building’s side nearest the road has a little park in which a giant round area exists which contains random shoots of water that spray in a great steady stream high into the air. It’s impossible to predict when a given shoot of water will erupt – and the little park makes no distinction between the safe cement and the uncertain eruptions of water, other than the giant round circle on the ground, which is completely flat and flush with the normal pavement.

Two boys were running about in it today – one much taller than the other – in his early to mid teens, and the other boy just nearing his teens. Their shirts were fairly well drenched from the play. They would walk out into the circle, waiting – then dodge and run as eruptions occurred, laughing and yelling. They were of the same mind in this – pure enjoyment of the uncertainty, of the exhilirating feel of sudden cold water, and of the novelty.

I remembered a dear friend’s children whom I had begun to know. The oldest was two. I remembered the shape of what she knew, and could perceive, and the grand journey of her explorations. I would allow myself to enter into her sphere, allowing to dissolve all the many periphery things we grow accustomed to, and take for granted – and I would listen to her, and speak with her. It truly is incredible all the things you can learn, from anyone, when you truly allow yourself to listen, and when you truly listen to what you say. And in this time before Rules or Law, before right and wrong, before knowing the greater challenges of existence, before we are handed our eyes upon the world, in large part by the people who raise us – all possibilities exist.

A couple days ago I received a mail from Ian, commenting on the technical nature of a letter I sent to my friends – how it reminded him of Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica. Then I remembered something I had forgotten, yet have almost always known.

The people whom I have called friends, and who have allowed me to call them so, are not easily grouped together. It has historically been a very rare thing for any of my friends to get along well with each other. Each is so vastly different. It leaves me wondering, what is it that somehow draws us together?

Upon entering each person’s sphere, it is so simple to see the amazing circumstances that have led them to become the being they are – when each of you listen, and each of you come forth with honesty and trust. And what can possibly be more incredible?

Yet why is something like this so rare? What is it that causes these individual spheres to so often react badly with one another, when the beauty in each is so apparent?

I told Ian about a party I once had where I had invited many of my friends. I’ve learned this is not always a wise thing. They clustered into similar groupings, and the interactions between the members of the groups were not always good – yet there was a good deal of curiosity, which often led to some humorous events – and a couple disturbing ones.

I realize now that even in high school and college I “moved between worlds”, and these “worlds” rarely overlapped. Yet somehow I remained the same. Somehow, I fit into each, yet was simultaneously completely apart.

And I have to ask myself, have I worn masks as I travelled, altering my image to conform to any sphere encountered? Have I lied to people, to friends, about who or what I am, so that I might be accepted. Have I sacrificed parts of myself to gain the love or understanding of you, or another?

But I can’t imagine I have. I know that interacting with some of you can be challenging, and others of you it’s just pure comfort. So I wonder, is it the dynamic between us, or is it simply each other? I imagine it’s both.

So I think of this little girl, so distant in her awareness, yet the same, and I can see myself. I speak with you, about many one things or anothers, and we always find ourselves silent, somehow, in the end. Understanding, and feeling – knowing. But silent, in the end. In each of our spheres.

And I cannot help be wonder, this place, where all things come to, for each of us, eventually – how is it that my friends cannot find this with each other?

On the surfaces, we all make decisions. Decisions that will empower us, isolate us, confuse us, protect us, hide us, exhault us, liberate us – decisions that perpetuate us.

Louise Gluck in her poem Midsummer says:

You were not intended
to be unique. You were
my embodiment, all diversity

not what you think you see
searching the bright sky over the field,
your incidental souls
fixed like telescopes on some
enlargement of yourselves —

Why would I make you if I meant
to limit myself
to the ascendant sign,
the star, the fire, the fury?

Which makes me remember, I know that each you are very strong people. And in some ways, very weak. Just like me. I think that humility is certainly a characteristic that each of you has in abundance – though I wonder still, why the problems getting along. Challenging, yes, each of you. And perceptive.

I wonder if judgemental erodes humility, or clouds perception?

If so, I have to thank you very much for being less judgemental with me!

Heh. Maybe I’m being challenging right now. But I’m isolated away out here in Kent just now, and there’s nobody around to say this to, as might normally ramble on about. But, for me, it’s a nice alternative to coding for a while… 🙂

Cya soon…

Federally-Sanctioned Love

I’m just drained on this topic. There is a vote on a two-sentence Constitutional Amendment coming before Congress this week. It is Senate Joint Resolution 40:

This is how these two little sentences read:

`Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.’.

Here is a letter I sent out to my friends regarding this absurdity:

Hi – please forgive me for the political message – this isn’t something
I normally involve myself in directly.

Apparently, the constitutional amendment that would bar marriage between
people of the same sex is coming to a vote very soon.

This is a very strange thing to me – thinking that our constitution
would be used for such a silly, yet horribly mean-spirited thing.

If you’re interested, there’s a site you can go to and submit a letter
before Wednesday’s vote.

This is what I wrote:

The Constitution of the United States was conceived to lay a framework
for freedom – for all people. To alter it, introducing prejudice, is an
unconscionable and debilitating act. Do not allow that erosive process
to begin.

It’s at http://www.moveon.org/unitednotdivided

Again, I apologize for the political email – and one of these vote
thingies – but it means a lot to me, and to many others. Yeah, yeah, I’m
not even really seeing anyone right now, I know… but still, if I do
ever hook up right with someone, I’d sure like to be able to be married.

And also, it _really_ irritates me that people who profess love can, at
the same time, go out of their way to squelch love. Double-talk and
duplicity are a pet peeve for me that runs very deep.

AND, more than anything, America was founded in large part to find
freedom from religious tyrrany. Spirituality and religion is a wonderful
thing – and I believe everyone would benefit, especially all of us
collectively, from focusing more upon the spritual. But sprituality IS
NOT TO BE IMPOSED.

Thanks for listening….
Mark

———–

With all the troubles men experience when they start to love another man – it’s so stupid to try making it even moreso. Isn’t it that we need more love? Particularly between men?

Graffiti in Space – Kilroy Was Here

Kilroy was hereWhen I was a very young child, I remember getting in trouble once when I took an ice pick and carved my name into the steering wheel of a new van my parents had just purchased. It wasn’t an easy task – especially the rounded letters, like an ‘a’. But I persevered, and was successful.

When I think back to it, I’m not really certain why I did it. The van was quite a new addition to our family – it was large, and well, just nifty. And it was ours now. I was never prone to carving my name on things, or doing any of those “i am here” things. Perhaps I just needed to claim the loved machine – to somehow link us together by inscribing my name on it, like tattooing the name of your loved one on your flesh.

As we begin venturing further into space, not only through our large governmental missions and even the occational well-funded private sector endeavor, we must not forget what has lifted us to such pursuits – what has propelled us beyond the gravitational forces that bind us here together in state.

And that is our imaginations. The wanderings and longings within the poetry of the mind and heart that cause us to dream beyond what we encounter in our daily lives – the uncertain yet powerful forces within that compel us to invision and move toward better landscapes, unexplored territories and limitless possibilities.

The Cassini Probe, its bizarre path through our solar system, and its arrival at one of our most exotic local planets, represents to many the continued and measurable manifestation of our collective dreams and curiosities that extends beyond our incidental lives, moving out into the far greater vastness of all possibilities – the unknown – where what we hold as true may be challenged, and what we feel must be impossible, is instead discovered to be utterly commonplace.

For millennia, all humanity has known and lived beneath the sun and moon and stars. And when we did not know, we imagined and invented. How is it that we have lifted ourselves up from the earth, travelling through a still and lifeless void, to touch down upon and set foot upon that great, silvery globe of the evening light – that icon of the mystic power in the unknown?

The race to the moon was much more than political maneouverings. Just as the understanding and ability to unleash the energies of the atom were much more than desperate races to achieve dominance. In our selfish undertakings, compelled out of necessity or control, sometimes we stumble upon things that are so much larger, or reveal such immense depths beyond our current understanding, that we become transformed, both individually and collectively, in ways we cannot predict or even hope to control.

It is an irony, don’t you think, that we creatures who affix such importance to order and control continually seek out that which oftentimes shatters this order at its very foundations, and sends us reeling out of control. Is this simply the love of roller coasters? Or is it more like a plant, growing toward the sun, bending and twining itself around and through the obstacles along its path to achieve closeness to the source – though the source is millions of miles away?

The Cassini probe contains a small disk within it, contained in a small aluminum box, mounted on a pedestal. This disk contains the written signatures of over 600,000 people on earth. These people have etched their name onto this craft which now circles around our great ringed planet. I couldn’t really say why these people want their names etched into this machine we’ve hurled out into the universe, but I think that I may well understand.

Giovanni CassiniGiovanni Cassini looked out to Saturn about 300 years ago and discovered a gap within the rings. He also discovered a few moons. But Giovanni never could bring himself to believe that Earth was not the center of the universe, rejecting the maddening Copernican model that said the Earth revolved around the sun.

Nor could he bring himself to believe Newton’s theories of universal gravitation, in which all objects in the universe exhibit gravitational forces upon each other.

But that’s ok. I still think he would be quite thrilled, and more than a little overwhelmed, to learn that his name is on the exploritory vessel we’ve sent to visit, and fly amongst his rings and moons.

Normality and Expansion

Maya - illusionWhen one looks at something – an object, an idea, a shared concept, or perhaps a Truth – so much of ourselves comes along with it.

When one looks at another person, listening to them speak or watching their motions – sensing their feelings and intentions – so much of ourselves comes along with it.

It is so easy to generalize in the interest of expediency or the self-preservation of what we hold true. It is so simple to laugh about or dismiss something that challenges something within ourselves, something that we claim as a Given – a prima facie definition that lends us comfort or security.

Yet we all experience those unsettling periods – sometimes lasting only moments – sometimes for hours or days – where all the world around us shifts into the Unreal, leaving us exposed to the terrifying vastness of all possibilities that exist beyond the small little shells we have constructed to contain ourselves within.

In our days of perfect order, where the mechanical certainty of well-ordered events and schedules are disrupted only to small degrees, we take comfort in the mundane. We improve ourselves, or gather more for ourselves by means of the tools and processes given us by the histories of our progenitors. Our long history of agreements, or rather, prevailing doctrines, guide us and help insure our prosperity by the adoption of normalized behaviour, and even moreso, by the adoption of normalized attitudes.

Religious people throughout history, bound together by common beliefs, have established institutions, both great and small, that revolve around canonical self-reference, if not, canonical solipsism. Depending upon how powerful any group was, the people not within that group must either fear or desmonstrate a “healthy respect”.

More recently, as priests are replaced with professors, a new canon has emerged. This canon, though in most ways a marvelous, powerful, and potent force toward the benefit of all, easily becomes twisted and exploited by those coming in contact with it just long enough to extract what information and resources they require to achieve their hedonistic objectives, and to promote doing the same to others in justification of their exploitations.

It’s an odd thing, this “modern” cannon – rife in detailed empiricism, rich in the artistic accomplisments of the spirit, seething in the techniques of human control – both individually and collectively, deluged with both contradiction and resonance, and framed immaculately in hope and despair – desire and self-sacrifice.

In such a glorious place, how do we so rigidly cling to the illusory safety of what we feel we want or need – when what we want or need changes, as quickly as a commercial? How is the ideal we maintain for ourselves, which most people cannot even fully grasp, yet knows, limits them to a role of unfulfilling minor achievements while, with certainty, so much more could be achieved.

From where does this fear originate – this self-doubt?

We tell ourselves that as we grow older, certain realities become apparent. We tell ourselves that we must make compromises – and begin making them – then the best of us wonder when we should stop compromising – but the majority never do.

Some rebel after hitting a breaking point, and nearly anything involving others becomes a compromise of themselves – regardless of whether that other is beneficial or detrimental. They will dominate, or perish.

Some learn that compromising is no big deal at all – it leaves them with what they really want, and they never have to put themselves on the line. They become the fertile ground for the powerful to root themselves within.

Some never compromise – not out of anger or rebellion – but because they know what is important. And these people move Outside, often in obscurity, simultaneously admired and disliked by others.

Considering the great mechanics of our many interconnected systems – the great collaboration of agreement, bound together by greed, that keeps our very lives functioning – the notion of Compromise is a key issue, as long as our souls survive.

Shiva - the danceAt universities, Philosophy departments dwindle, often relegated to the smallest corners and basements. Literature and arts, studied by only by the lazy and freaky people, is held in disdain by the majority – a simple requirement they must fulfill. The jocks, swarming to the schools of business and commerce to achieve the greatness they never could within their sport. And finally, the monsterous quantities of money flowing into the technical sciences where the lure of financial stability and the hypnosis of many little things can occupy most of our greatest minds.

And then the greater hordes that never even enter a univerisity — utterly untouched by the higher forces, who will work in regularity toward whatever ends are provided to them — live out their days in whatever entertainment or momentary undertaking catches their fancy. Ironically, these people often become the most judgemental and self-righteous of all, finding pureness and absolution in their simple choices just made to survive.

While each, no matter where, as they wake in the morning, can feel the humanity within their hearts – have felt the same pains and longings, to varying degrees, and have known great lonliness.

And so I look at this person I see in front of me, knowing so much about them, and so very little. All of us, just standing, or sitting, or laying, or fucking, or staring off into some place that is just our very own, where nobody else can go – all of us, just right here.

And I remember a commercial I saw a few nights ago, asking if I had ever felt detached, anxious or uneasy around others – if I found it difficult to focus on the tasks I needed to complete. If I felt tired, or withdrawn. And they offered me a pill.

Kali - death and awakeningThe cannons of Science, Psychology and Sociology, intermingling in this tiny capsule. Strange how they all grew out of Philosophy – and how Philosophy is dwindling. Perhaps this is the result of the marketplace – the Laws of supply and demand. Perhaps the canon of Philosophy has swallowed wholly its own tail.

I imagine a feeling – and confusion – of knowing something, and being uncertain in that knowledge. I see my friends and family, and I speak with strangers. I notice the common threads. I watch explore the strenghts and weaknesses, the certainties and the doubts.

A Philosopher visits a Psychologist, in weakness and despair, knowing full well the foundations of their disciplines, and asks a question – what is wrong with me? The psychologist answers with a question – forcing the philosopher to examine himself. Then the philosopher looks outside, back to the psychologist, asking if the answer is within him. The psychologist answers with a question, leading the philosopher back within. The philosopher grows angry, saying, is this all you have learned from us? This circular solipsism? Why should I not just see an Psychiatrist and get a pill? The psychologist says, this anger is good – now carry on.

In the functional sterility of interactions, no true risk is assumed. The egoism of knowing that you do not know, and the paralysis of fearing that you do not. And worst of all, the foolishness of believing that you do, or that it does not matter.

So I imagine Normality and Expansion – a pill and a sacrifice – a death and a rebirth. And I imagine a poem – a combination of words – words that each of us knows, words brought together and arranged in a way that we cannot understand — yet, somehow, we know and feel to be true.

Then I look at this person here, once again, seeing so many things. And he is looking at me, with all his histories, decisions, accomplishments and disappointments – all the joys he has discovered, all the fears – and all the tendernesses and strengths – his loyalties, and his betrayals. And then I compromise: I do not hug him, and cry – I smile, and shake his hand.

Krisha - wisdom, joy and love

Virtually Being Yourself

For those of us with imaginations that become easily immersed in works of fiction, the notion of role playing games fits like a warm blanket. Whereas reading a long story, or even a long series of books, where the story lines follow the many developments of characters, their acquaintances, and their various adventures, can be a highly enjoyable way to “vacation” without actually physically travelling, role playing games can be a way to directly participate in the unfolding tales and adventures that you are not just living within, but creating as you go – through all your interactions with other characters, places, allies and enemies.

There are so many different types of role playing games online – many of which focus on just the high-powered, fast, first-person view of your world, where the object is merely to KILL KILL KILL as many enemies as you can, as quickly as you can, before you are killed. These games sometimes offer the ability to meet and team up with friends, watching each other’s backs as you go on your rampage. Or, more interestingly, go up against whole other groups of people who have allied themselves with one another, and who want nothing more than to kill you, and all your friends.

These are “worlds” where the meekest person can become an agressive killing machine, finding power and dominance over this virtual world he’s participating within. It is fast-paced, action-packed – live or die.

You learn and develop techniques to stay alive, and to kill. You toy with adversaries that are weaker, or less aware of their surroundings. You require perfection of your friends – that you all become single-minded in your approach to situations so the victory of the pack will be assured.

Some people will always take reckless and agressive tactics, gaining a reputation for themselves as fearless and strong. Others develop a silent and deadly stealth.

These are the role playing worlds for the most raw, survivalist, cruel and absolute parts of our psyche. A place where we can become victorious through mindless, yet cunning forces of dominance.

However, other types of RPGs (Role Playing Games) do exist. Ones that allow you to pay much more attention to who it is you want to be, and appear as – how smart you want to be, or how strong – how sturdy or wise – how charismatic. How evil or good, or lawful in your evil, or chaotic in your good – how, with the elf blood flowing in your veins, you are able to see much better than others in the dark places, and how, being a smaller, dexterous halfling, you are much better at hiding in the shadows, or stealing a needed key.

In these more subtle and rich worlds, you gain experience with each of your encounters. You learn to use a longsword, grow stronger, and are able to fight much better with it. Or you find new spells along your adventures, and with your growing knowledge, the spells you know become more powerful.

When adventuring with friends, you mix your strengths and weaknesses. The strong fighters move out front, taking the brunt of an onslaught, while a sorceress stays in the back, protected from attack so she can work her magics on the enemies, while the clerics fight when necessary, and call in the powers of the divine to aid in battle, or heal the wounded.

Online gaming has become extraordinarily diverse – and complex. It allows you to assume a character, “become” it, and interact with others in a completely fictitional world. It is very interesting to see how people react – what becomes important to them, how they feel about helping or hurting or taking or giving. In many ways, it allows people to explore a life that they will never lead, but somehow still, can live.

And I think that not all of what is experienced within these worlds remains just there. Real or not, these are experiences. And like all experiences, we learn and we grow from them.

In our “real” world where everything is so defined – our roles that become a solidification of the definitions we have for ourselves, or others lay upon us – how nice it can be to sometimes just utterly destroy or overcome an obstacle. Or even moreso, how wonderful it can be to have the capacity to offer a great act of pure kindness to another.

Even though it is not real.