Thursday, December 2, 2010

Steel Rails: A Note to a Friend


Dear Paul,

Your post this morning reminded me of a short poem I shared here a little over a year ago. It’s called “Regret,” and it goes like this:

Heavy clouds
on a locomotive’s back

a cry at every
crossing.


You are that locomotive. We both are. So are Robert and Erin, whose words of friendship and wisdom show just how powerful this blog medium can be.

Consider, Paul, a locomotive’s strength.

And, until we meet,

What if we think of words as bells,
each with a sound that’s just arrived
from a great distance — across fields,
down mountains, over graveyards,
swept along alleys and streets,
and of we who ring them
as angels without
names?


When one of us hurts, we both do. We all do. That’s why we must be angels for one another — not to take away the pain, the anguish, the regret, but to absorb it, feel it, and understand it. Our humanity demands that we do no less; our worth depends on it.

A mistake today is a triumph tomorrow.

Some of the greatest minds this world has known have struggled, questioned, and seen themselves as failures. I say you are in good company. I say you are blessed, because life is challenging you. I also say, as my dear father so often did, that life can be the “royal shits.”

Look me in the eye, Paul. That’s a smile you see. Not many are able to discern it. Don’t be afraid to return it.

6 comments:

Old 333 said...

I thought the Royal shits were when the stuff was purple. Shows what my mother knew.

William Michaelian said...

Well, it’s not the comment I would have made, but as there’s a smile in your eye too, we shall let it stand.

Paul L. Martin said...

William, your words about absorbing the feelings hit so close to the bone. They echo so much of what I have read of Zen philosophy. We do not dismiss or try to repress the feelings; we let them come and examine their scope and origin. Only when we know them, can we understand their purpose and learn from them.

And of course, your poetry always crystalizes the essence perfectly. We often seem to be responding to the same bells heard in the distance. You remind me that we are all embroiled in the human condition, and that to be alive means facing the struggle, the questioning, the failures we cannot escape.

For some reason, the picture on your blog of you looking through the "bars" of the chair makes me smile. You are not smiling, but I find the picture captures both your sense of play and intensity. So I look at you there and I smile. Thank you for everything, my friend. Angels, indeed.

Two Tigers said...

Many thanks, William for these words to Paul. I've just read his post and it moved me deeply, as did your response. I am on my own journey of uncertain destination, always have been, but the uncertainties are enhanced lately, and the stakes are way higher for getting it right or failing disasterously. Maybe those who are not bothered by or never take any risks are spared these mental and spiritual agitations, but maybe they never know our depth of experience either. I have no advice on how to keep the faith and believe that we are all going where we need to go, including the detours of doubt and fear along the way, not to mention outright mistakes that sometimes hurt others. But regrets I have none. If something bad has happened, at least it means I tried, can learn from it, and that little shift will prove an essential part of the whole ongoing journey. Nuff said. William, your locomotive image touches me especially because I am right now working on a post about train travel, figurative and literal! Interconnectedness indeed. For me forward movement is always a joy, a sign of life. We fellow travelers must take care of each other. All the best to all of you!

William Michaelian said...

Paul, I thank you. We can say, I think, that the art of questioning lies in not seeking an answer, just as the art of suffering lies in not trying to end it. In life, those who suffer well are those we admire most. I don’t mean those who suffer silently, or nobly, but, rather, those who suffer like trees through lightning and drought, and whose very scars become instructive and beautiful.

William Michaelian said...

Gabriella, my sincere feeling is that there’s no sense in gambling unless we’re willing to lose everything — ourselves, our beliefs, our notions. The rest is just a pose. Life should be frightening and challenging, even if we happen to have money and the illusion of security that comes with it. A single day in the life of the mind can be a journey of discovery into the uncharted and unknown, or it can be spent in a blindfold re-thinking the same tired thoughts. The choice seems obvious, but fear holds us in place. We choose misery because it’s what we know. We’re even afraid of peace and how it would drastically change our world.

Thank you, Gabriella. Like Paul, you are an inspiration, and I’m amazed at my luck in getting to know you both.