Loch Lomond

The pain of the loss of love feels endless to the heart because the heart has no sense of context and can not tell time. It just pumps and only knows how to love. It does not respond to reason and, in fact, it can be very cruel to our hearts, in my experience, when they are gauzed up by the dings of life, to demand it to be rational or linear and impose anything on it beyond gentleness.

When love breaks us, it breaks us open. And that openness makes us more willing to receive. The poets would write about lovers being transformed by grief into mulberry trees and cows and birds and the whole night sky because it is only these things that can contain us and sustain us amid the crazy storm of loss that rips us apart from the inside when we lose love, or appear to. But again, the heart can’t tell the difference.

In those states, we expand because we have to. All of life bursts open and carries us into the Wild where we are bathed in the divine and learn of the great source of this love we have but a dull glimmer of when we hold our dog,  or our lover’s hand or …

It makes us mad and bold and capable of doing the impossible. This love. It is the nitro that propels all great human achievement and mothers or fathers to take on a second job and live in their car as they commute between the two. It makes the stars closer and the agony of being and fear of nothingness vanish under its pure light.   In the end, it is all there is.  As Dylan says on Nashville Skyline, “it makes the world go round.”

But when that light goes out it can be dark. And in that darkness, even more is revealed. The ocean is deep, yes, but not as deep as that dark. There is no dark darker.  According to other interpretations of the Bible, it is the absence of love that is hell.  And that was Satan’s punishment for loving God too much:  To be cast into exile. Into permanent night.

So we learn to light a candle and fumble on. We learn that love can be a deceiver. That it can betray our hearts and attacks our belief. When the lover is apart from his or her beloved.

Modern days society likes to diminish the profundity of great love into clinical terms and things that make us feel like we are even more broken because we love poorly or too much or not enough… or whatever other buzz word we use to feed our own fear of inadequacy or myth of unlovability or yadda yadda … There’s no drama in it, just fact. Our hearts are dumb. And there is no flaw in that. If they were not dumb we would never populate the human race.  Or attend an opera.  Or read a poem.  Or …

It’s what makes us alive. It’s the price of being human. This thing in our chests that beats. For that which we love or hope for or… share.  It is the very drum of life itself.

That’s why them poets talk of gods disguised as beggars and the forest coming alive by the pain of grief. Hell, it’s why birds sing. Cross oceans and take up homes in strange lands.  But our society teaches us to run from pain, to deny it, to narcotize it, dull it. But If we allow ourselves to make love to the pain itself. Not in a gimmicky or self
Indulgent or victim way- but simply feel it, we are transformed like all lovers into something greater.  The heart can’t help but expand.  And love.

It is the only thing that has ever inspired anything of great worth. To live fully, you must love fully. And to love fully, you will lose greatly. Or feel like you have for a time.  But to love without attachment, freely, that’s the target, the moving target Cupid sets his bow on.

I am of the belief that love is our natural state. Pure consciousness expressed as love. But we forget it so easy. We get pulled into the day by day and the bells and whistles and demands of us as House holders and lose perspective. These are things that lovers know. About each other and the world. Those common secrets that when whispered we steal from one another and don’t miss till they are gone. The little things. And the moments shared in the intimacy of our lives and when that ends, or rather changes – it leaves a void. Memory haunts for a time, but sooner or later we begin to feel whole again. The heart is a resilient thing. It can break a thousand times or more and still go on performing its function. Thank god it was designed perfectly to compete its single task; to make us not feel so alone on this earth as we move from day to night.  It is less than a yard from our brains but sometimes it takes a trip around the moon or more to travel that span and return home to ourselves.

O gracious love you teach us always to emerge and rise with bigger hearts more capable of loving. And more willing to share that love freely. It is the one great commodity in the world and the only true inexhaustible resource.   There is love.  And there is fear.  Period.

So here’s to all us crazy fools out there risking love with full knowledge of the cost of it all- the promise of loss. Let us not contort ourseles into formulas to self-improvement, but simply let our cups overflow.   Isn’t that what the prophets ask us from time to time?

What a divine comedy it all is.  The promise that we will all let each other down and yet, the real hidden miracle is that we can go on loving. After loss. And more loss. And disappointment. Without cutting ourselves off or deluding ourself with some proxy. That takes courage. Great courage and faith. And a dumb heart with a poor memory. Without which we would be surely lost.  That’s what Zorba would advise as he plants trees he will not ever see grow.   Sir George Harrison I’m sure put it better, but I think he sung in praise of that same kind of Blake-like innocence love returns us to. It admits us back into the garden for a time. But as guests only.

Maybe that’s why we sing in praise of it for as long as we have.  The song keeps the melody alive in our hearts long after the bruises vanish.  I haven’t been able to pick up my guitar.  But I know I will.  In the meantime:

I’ll take the high road or you take the low road and we will meet somewhere in Scotland on the Bonny Bonny banks of Loch Lol…” as the folk song goes, and goes ,and goes… on and on– while the world spins and somehow doesn’t fall out of gravity and collapse by the weight of all our dreams. And so we love on, and on. And volunteer.  Show up for those in our lives with our missing parts.  Or we get a dog. Maybe all great lovers return to us as dogs … I think Ovid touched on that in his Metamophasis. Or should have.



This life.  This modern American life is based on acquisition.  We are taught to acquire from early on.  To get more.  To go for the direction of our dreams, to strive, to not settle; and to learn ways to streamline and leverage and take that more and parlay it to even more – more.  But, we are not taught how to lose.  And so much of life is about coping with loss.  We lose everything in the end. If we are lucky.  I’m talking about grief – the cost of love.  And the secret bridge between love and grief is time.  A commodity to be valued above all else.

What a lovely little life we have and how little we see of it.  Every once in a while, circumstance grants us a glimpse into seeing things from that brilliant perspective and we can ponder a taste of what and how God sees, and maybe, if we are lucky, feel what he/she/it must feel.  Compassion. Endless compassion.  And powerlessness.  But then we return to the way things are and forget our excursions into the great reality.  Pain can teach us that.  Loss can teach us that.  We need to get good at losing if we are to make a success of this life.

And then we settle back into the delusion and forget how fragile it all is.  But in truth, all of us are coping with loss, all the time.  It is built into the fact of being human, being here.  We lose the use of an arm from a surgery, we lose a pet, or a loved one, or a career, or what we think we are, or a relationship.  And with that loss comes the feelings associated with loss.    The ones that rip us apart and break us open not apart.  And that gap between the finger of man and the finger of god stretches.  I don’t know much, but I do know that there is a seduction built into our society to distance ourselves from the very aspect that we are only here for a short while.  That everything we hold dear and near is passing.  Right?  I don’t want to get all zen-lite here, but it is truth.

Some people hang on more than others.  Tell me what you hang onto the most, and that is the very thing that you might need to let go of.  For many of us is our career, or our partners, or our children.   Some of us hang on to old subscriptions to National Geographic, or baseball cards, or locally sourced honey.  But, we also hang on to identities.  Things we let define us.  And then sometimes life has a way of ripping that from us, just so we can lean in and grow closer to whatever it is that we define God as.  I have always been an alchemist.  I can’t help but try and forage from the shipwrecks of various periods in my life and make something beautiful out of them.  Groundlessness can be very fertile ground.  It is the mulch of change.

I recall a time way back… maybe fifteen years ago now, when I was just a beginner in a spiritual practice and some of the crusty old timers were saying things like… “Matt, all you got to do is hold on, man, just hold on.”  And then that grey-haired silver back would limp off with his hip problems and another would come around and say, “just let go, Matt.  All you have to do is let go.”

Yeah.  That’s the deal in this thing beyond the Costco parking lot and the Instagram likes – we are asked to decide what to hold on to and what to let go of.

I had a wise friend who  retired to North Carolina that liked to say, “life is a series of surrenders.”  No wiser thing has ever been said about freedom.  And independence. True independence.

I think of these things today as the Painted Ladies flap their chaos wings north from Mexico en masse weaving in and out of our suburban existence with a flight and fancy all their own.  It is spring again.  A time of transition.  And rebirth. A morning for the whole world.  But spring itself can’t make up its mind. It bounces between winter and summer and makes fools of us all.  It grieves it’s own passing.  No wonder all the world wants to make babies in it.  After a thaw. And the green grass.  We get a glimpse of the perfect timing of all things and think we can catch the trick of hand.  And we pause.  Or I do.  It transforms us. And reminds us we are change.

Maybe that’s why the cherry blossoms are so revered.  I’d like to think so.  It makes making friends with the totality of life that much sweeter.

These Strange Days

So Facebook found out I was single again before my family did.  I was scrolling during my morning quiet time a few days after we traded keys and saw those ad windows in my stream announce: BEST THREE DATING APPS for RECENTLY SINGLE dudes.  To blend in among posts and camouflage their intent, the links were liked by three of my “friends” I couldn’t pick out in a line up without looking at their profile first.

I thought… maybe a coincidence…  Clearly Artificial Intelligence isn’t that intuitive…

But then there was the ad for EUGENIX testosterone enhancement and of course HIMS E.D. pills.  Followed by some kind of link that claims the statistical happiness quotient of meeting Slavic women and where men can find Asian ladies.  Or dating mindfully.  In among fake news and pictures of food and fiends from college with their kids doing gymnastics competitions and  whatever appalling piece of injustice trolled from the world-wide webs, I saw the sinister truth in clear black and white.

When our trends change, when life makes an abrupt turn… there used to be a lag.  A glitch in the Matrix, but now it’s woven in.  We’ve become this.  Advanced search configurations and tracking can probably predict what I may have to eat tonight based on trends to some degree of accuracy.    This is the cost of having toilet paper delivered to our door in the middle of the night.  The real question is, did the sneaky math machine know it was coming before I did?    Were they able to tell by the Netflix streaming options, and the diminishing curve of good night texts and the pause rate in between.  And how does facial recognition software fit into all of this?

So, Facebook figured out I was single.  I didn’t touch my status.  I don’t think I ever have.  For all I know, I could still be married to my ex-wife from way back.  I mean, the pictures of our story book wedding are down in my photo stream.  We joked about it the other day as she went back to Sweden, “The bigger the wedding, the shorter the marriage.”

I wonder if buried in the service agreement is some kind of key word trigger that activates Agent Smith when we drift too far from our predictable behavior to charm us back in line.

A small price to pay for freedom, right?

But it baffles me just the same.  And besides…the puzzle keeps me occupied while my heart heals up, and I get beneath my feet again.  I’m no sleuth, and I certainly don’t know advanced mathematics, but, this is what I got:  all the meta data harvested from my cellular device must have concluded — since I no longer send bit emojis to a certain number in the 310 area code- that it was time to change my target-based-ad-stream to show me TEN WAYS for NICE GUYS TO NOT FALL INTO THE NICE GUY TRAP.

Jeez, now the book of face knows I’m a nice guy, too?  That’s it.  I’m buying a Harley and getting a tattoo just to break the code.  Or I should join the Republican Party or a taxidermy convention just to cause it to think its got me pegged.  What else does this thing know about me that I don’t?

We give it away, we give so much away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit my own hypocrisy here.  I just… I much preferred it when the 0101001 sent travel packages, hiking gear, and things to do with writing sites.   The status quo that lulls us into a false sense of security whispers such a sweet melody to distract us, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t quite cloud out the real:  we are the product and the consumer.  And that mean I guess, we are ever so gently guided toward eating ourselves.  We interface on such a deep level with the system.  It becomes a part of us, much like a digital saddle.   But the imperfections in the binary code shine like glass in the sun when our behavior patterns shift.  The system can’t quite adapt to the inevitabilities of life.    Ask anyone who is coping with loss.  In any form.

But when these patterns shift, I also get to see how much power I gave away.

For example, every time I get in my car and turn on WAZE navigation, it boots up and starts to load me in the direction of where she lived; if it is between the hours of 4-6 pm.  Or after I leave a meeting on Thursday at 8.30.  I have to manually over ride it.

We have to manually opt out.  And then when we do, we get to see it with that quiet sense of detachment. And it becomes what 0100100 it is;  the homogenized privilege of convenience — 0011100 – where we get shepherded to our likes and only see what a set of zeroes and ones filters based on our prejudices.  But I see something else in this period of reflection.  110001001 I see how we  narrow 0100100 ourselves.  Or I do.  And think I see #0101001 more than there is.    But it blinds.  And sours.  And keeps us isolated.  This hybrid wheel of trending that uses our disgust and outrage at base inequalities about things like fairness and law and reduces it to a share and a button and a profile.

A profile.  Look the word up.  It means many things but it also means: