What’s Past is Prologue 

“What’s past is prologue” is an old phrase now in vogue. Overused, and often truncated, it has moved from the venerable Shakespearean reflection on a man’s perceived destiny into the realm of vernacular I deem too commonly used to be clever and orignial, but also a concise and compact phrase with deep meaning.

I like it. It is brief, and in four simple words, expresses an abstraction that has as many layers as one chooses to explore, if not by a purist.  

Some use it now in a manner to express or suggest that one cannot escape the past; their reputation precedes them; people don’t change who they are; their history is part of the luggage they will forever carry; what happens next is just another link in the chain.

I’ve heard it used in a way that is dismissive of the past; to say that it is irrelevant to now.

I prefer the luggage analogy in my adaptation (or usurpation), but in a more forward looking way; one that is far more positive than it’s original connotation of “all that has happened has led us here and to what must happen next”. (Shakespeare experts, grant me forgiveness if I interpret that incorrectly). It has components of “lessons learned”, along with wisdom from having lived a full past. It is the set-up for things to come.  Layers of the past make the person of the present.  

Prologue sets the stage for a story and serves as important context only, not destiny. This is NOT how it was meant to be taken, I understand.  But then, my (private) misuse fits perfectly within its own self. Significant and undeniable indeed, what’s past is only prologue.

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Physical

I sat looking at me.  My beard has grown a little, but not enough to disguise the straight and square jawline. A short cropped top beaded, sweat glistened at the tips of grey and bronze.  Around my moustache and chin, shadows indicated sunken areas, forming mean corners below my eyes, which were circled by lines and folded flesh.

I looked mean, serious.  I was heaving and red, having just sat up, barbells in hand.  I sucked in my stomach to complete the picture of an aging athlete.  Lifting my legs, I propped my toes against the mat, and watched the calf muscles breathe, inflating and deflating with each rise and fall.

To my right, the twenty-something lady performed squats inside the heavy welded rack.  To my left, a man my age was rowing at a controlled pace.  Others walked from machine to machine without talking.

I stood and took notice of myself one last time, puffing myself up intentionally.  When it comes to feeling powerful, effective, or even valuable, confidence in physical strength is sometimes a substitute for mental and emotional fortitude that seem shaky.  More often than not, it is the boost that energizes the others.

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Complicity

Complicity.

The word rings uncomfortably. 

A vice of inaction for those able to act. An abdication of a duty, a dereliction of all that is inherent in a position of ability.

It isn’t an action, but creates collateral actions and schema: rationalization, volitional amnesia, agnostic safety, and anonymity.

Complicity is easy and pervasive, in the workplace, in relationships, in unquestioning belief to the right, left, and center of our outward and inner worlds. We become compliant adherents to our own narratives, or we adopt others’.

Complicity closes doors to compromise in its creation of confederacy.  Stubbornness, at least, chooses a side, right or wrong, and has a face – something to believe or refute. 

Complicity creates strength out of a collective of weaknesses or disinterest, summing and multiplying the power of negative space – harnessing muted ability through its absense, growing in its vacuum. It delivers that power to the loud, the bold, the malevolent and magnanimous benefactors, the stewards of a status quo, in exchange for “just enough” to keep the herd behind the fence. Complicity is the opiate, caffeine, television, and a bottle of beer.

Complicity costs, but across the masses, the price of a few injustices is amortized; except for those at the margins, where the bill actually comes due. It is a tax for kept lawns and polite conversation.  For safe streets, speed limits, and security.

It is a current and an undertow. 

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More

More days just like today.

More friends like the handful I keep close, and the score I keep a bit farther out.

More time to spend in these pursuits that have earned my time.

More returns, deserved or not.

More memories that conjur laughs.

More doors, public, private, and secret.

More pain in my muscles, more sleeping it away.

More family, home, and community.

More patience to appreciate all these “mores”.

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Passing through

Unexpected mist and a mercury drop
under a blue carpet and bold beams
of sun, she swept through me.
Tired muscles and exhausted posture
did not intercept the invasion,
barely registering the trespass.
The messages and comments of friends
buzzed my phone without pausing,
no genuflecting, no decelerating,
no lane changes to allow a pass
or a cut in line.
No hush, no pause in the hum
of new voices and old machinery
asking questions, seeking exchange.
She, right through the crowd, to center stage,
absorbing every inch of spotlight,
for just a second, no history, no memory, but
a moment, a beat where my mind stopped and
was captured, absorbed.

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Improvement: Action

StructEval2_edOpportunities are surfacing, though sometimes it feels like swimming against the rotation of the vortex.  Staying in stride, even with unplanned upheavals and predictable nuisances.

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Easy

Facing uncertainty is simple,
like pulling sutures out
of my own beating chest
by hand.

Easy as stiching two mountains
together with spider thread
as the wind begins
to pick up.

Routine as taking a pulse
during an earthquake.
Just keep fingers pressed
against the vein.

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Re-reading

Diarists, journalers, memoirists, 

What do you feel, learn, and change in your present mind when you re-read your thoughts from the past? 

If you are like me, you:

  • cringe a little
  • cringe a lot
  • reminisce
  • feel wiser now
  • feel you were wiser then
  • see growth
  • see stagnation
  • find old knives dulled
  • re-live old arguments with yourself
  • forgive
  • un-forget

Mostly, I feel a sense that I am reading a different person’s mind, but with the familiarity of a character that has been artfully developed over many pages, many volumes.  He is a person I know, but not quite me.  Still, the connection to the person I am today remains elastic, and a sense of almost vicarious embarrassment or accomplishment rise up from deeper wells.  It is strange, living vicariously through yourself in “delta T”.
Continue reading

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A full bucket

It is hard, or perhaps difficult (maybe both), to remember times when the sun shone so brightly as it has recently, while shadows are cast so broadly and deeply. 

The narrative of the moment is not one of natural balance of good and bad, evil and benevolence, but one of definitive resolve; is not saying “let it be”, but rather, “make it so.”

Focus, sobriety, and solemn purpose sit alongside joy, openness, curiosity, friendship, and a lightness fueled by hope and hard work. Bruises and sore muscles are welcomed into this body, giving blood and bone a chance to prove their worth, exercise their function.

Life is good because it isn’t perfect and never will be.  It is full, and a full bucket is harder to balance than an empty one.  

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Growth rings

New casts an old shadow,
a curtain that I pin to it.
Wisdom compels and cajoles me
to trace lines around the shade
early and soon,
and again in each season.
It marks a contour, not a boundary,
serving as neither containment
nor confinement, but the edge
of a history,
a warning not be enveloped,
and a call to shining a light,
setting the mantle aglow,
stepping forward to find
in illumination a new wisdom
hiding in the dark.

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