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Archive for March, 2010

Wife and Husband

not the best photo! I will work on this

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Remembering The Salon That Shaped Me

On my way into work today, I started thinking about the idea of will, as in “God wills this to happen” or “He had the willpower to stay alive.” It came to me that everything an individual studies, say in college or just in the practice of living, is somehow linked to this idea of will. Even in the physical sciences we want to know the will of the world: how things operate, what makes reactions happen. I could go down the list of other disciplines that are all about exploring what wills things, but the list would take the entire article. Instead, I’m going to turn this question to something that’s been a hot button topic in Huntington lately: the great smoking ban.

A blue haze morphs through the dimly lit bar restaurant called Calamity Cafe. The evening is beginning, and the artists and poets, singers and songwriters all line up their beer bottles, wine glasses, and liquor glasses across tables. Questions of the purpose of art, the state of the economy, and the merits of social reform buzz from ear to ear as songwriters take to the mic to spill their creativity like honey, sticky across the sound waves. The flashes of colour from multiple cigarette butts mesmerize me. The blue smoke reminds me of Alice’s interaction with the Caterpillar. His words echo off the walls of this restaurant as wise, melodic maps for what my young mind took as a great gathering here in Huntington, West Virginia. A gathering which, I believe, prepared me to be able to write, read, and paint on so many diverse topics.

I was 20 years old, maybe even a bit less, when I first pushed my way through the doors of the Calamity Cafe. It was a place where my true education took root. Over its food and with its patrons, I formed lasting ideas of the world, and all the time these discussions occurred through a purple haze of cigarette smoke. Now, as a young man, I chose to go into that building and to be wrapped in that smoke. I did this under my own free will. Note that I am not a smoker, unless I’ve been drinking. Oh, and I occasionally like a bowl of good pipe tobacco…but otherwise, I am extremely healthy. Knowing my health risks through exposure to second hand smoke, would I go into the Calamity Cafe today? Being that I am older and wiser, would I make a different choice? No. I think that smoke was in fact a part of the ambience and like any painting being constructed, all of the elements must be in place for it to be successful. So, I would choose to endure second hand smoke to be able to experience the intellectual growth that Calamity Cafe provided.

Notice that in the above paragraph I said choice. I think that all people choose their path. If you know that a place is smoky and you can’t stand smoke, don’t go there. Now, are you missing out on something? Great food? Good company? Yes. But that is a choice that you are making. That’s a sacrifice that has to be made for your health. For my critics, let me admit that there are many things that I would choose to do but I can’t, due to the fact that I am physically challenged. At the same time, I will myself to look beyond that, to look beyond the limitation and adapt. I think in the long run the smoking ban is a healthy move for Huntington, and will, in fact, pan out to be positive. However, the idea of the ban raises some deeper questions for me.

Should the state/city/country be allowed to enforce such prohibitions as an anti smoking law? That is a big question, because I think that in essence the decisions of the state, while well meaning in some cases, take away from not just the rights of people to make their own decisions, but the very ability to make those decisions. Many years ago I asked my mother if she was going to vote for president and she said that she did not feel connected to Washington and its decisions and that she was not empowered enough to see her vote as counting. My mother is a very civically active person. In fact, it is inspirational. But her actions are localized so that it lets me know that she has an adept understanding of the effect of will on a local level. This gets me thinking that if the entire country was made up of Margaret Worths who were each addressing their local issues by applying their will on the system, the national landscape of politics and political practice would be changed for the better. It would more reflect the people. For too many years, government in West Virginia has dictated the will of the people. I know someone is going to say, “West Virginians are very strong minded.” And this is true, but too often I hear, “Well, you can’t fight the system.” I think that many people believe, and this is true not only in West Virginia, that the government knows best when in fact I would like to scream down from the mountaintops that we are the government! Our will, collectively, is the system. The way it operates now, however, is like a person who has suffered a spinal cord injury or a stroke and one part of the body is the dominant voice in the system.

While I am not against the smoking ban, per se, I am against people who sit and complain about an injustice but don’t at least make an effort to change their circumstances. I don’t believe that any government system has the right or (technically) even the power to enforce a moral code. I am also aware that there is a great body of people, due to all sorts of circumstances, that cannot rise up from oppression without assistance. That fact may make it hard for people to see how they could change a system, yet I think that if a community began speaking as one voice, if we went out and stated the issue at every public forum provided, then slowly we would begin to see something happen. We would begin to see a change in the paradigm if we stood up, metaphorically, by physically marching not just for peace, love, and happiness, but also for true physical change. We would begin to see it. For what it’s worth, when I can’t get into a place that I want to go, I crawl up the stairs. In order to do that, I have to get out of my chair and let people see me at my most vulnerable. But therein lies the root of will. It is in that weakness that I will myself to be seen as an equal compared against anyone else. We must strike out and be uncomfortable for a moment in order to find true balance and will our own destiny.

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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: A Roll Into Consciousness (part 5 in the series Speaking of Multiple Realities)

By Christopher Worth

The sound of traffic whirling by. The screeching of brakes, the smell of burning rubber, the glance of an eye as I briskly move past them. In that moment, my nostrils catch the smell of a perfume. I feel the fabric of a person’s shirt as they move past me, slightly nudging me. The traffic robotically hums along. I feel my heartbeat, and my awareness of the need to keep moving. Past pizza shops, tshirt stands, newspaper men, the lights flashing red and green and yellow, and I stop for a brief moment to hail the bus and then push on.

A constant thing that’s on my mind is how moments of interaction play into our understanding of self. How much does brushing up against someone tell us about someone. Does that moment of action affect what happens seconds, minutes, hours, days, or years later? Is every moment of our history, past present and future, connected to our present self? In previous writings within this series, I have attempted to draw the picture of humanity’s consciousness as an interconnected system. The description of this became very abstract and fanciful. But I argue that 90% of consciousness, true unadulterated consciousness, exists on planes and in worlds which we create, and to the outside world they will seem fantastic. But in order to explore any question of man’s being, one must be able to engage in the building of pictures and the shaping of consciousness. All humans do this, but not all are aware that they do it to the point where they can exert power over the shaping.

When I am moving down a busy street and come across new sensations I am aware that I am collecting and gathering from the world around me in the construction of my reality, so that when I brush up against someone, glance at someone, or yes, even stare at them, I am entering that person’s sphere of influence. I somehow begin to know them in that brief moment of passing. My world, the shaping of time to come, is affected. Note that I think that even the past is affected. If the interaction with a person/place/thing is substantial enough, It can affect my view of all my life and change the course of the path that I am on.

Almost two years ago now, I was run over by an SUV. That morning started out as any other. I did my exercises, ate my breakfast, took my shower, picked my clothes out and dressed with the help of my aide…life ticked along. As I was headed toward the door I can remember thinking about my abnormal psychology class and how it was going. As I moved away from my house my helper called out to me to be careful I can’t remember anything beyond that, because that morning I almost died. He didn’t see me as he turned the corner. In fact, he couldn’t even feel me. He dragged me for 20 feet. My interaction with that man, his vehicle, his guilt, my recovery, and all the people I met along the way who helped me in that recovery changed my life. I got a glimpse at what it takes to live a life and how difficult it is to begin again.

It was said that when I was rolled over by the first respondents, my eyes were open. They asked me my name and if I was okay. They got no words in response, just a river of blood. Something about that morning changed my life, but it’s not the accident or where the accident put me physically. It’s the moments of interaction that have built a new stream of consciousness for me, allowing me to be more relaxed, more engaged, and in that engagement more self aware. I sometime think about those first hands that touched me while laying in that pool of blood and how much of them I am carrying with me. The thing is, these days I think that about most everything I do. How does that glance affect me? What is that person going through? It’s as though I roll around the city of Huntington completely aware of the electrical impulses shooting through my body. Aware of the cosmic charges…aware of what each glance, what every interaction provides me. I’m quite sure that every person on this planet has a connection to me. Note that this is not a religious idea, a social idea, or a psychological idea even though all those things play into it. More importantly, it is a physical truth.

That’s where we begin. The physical world is the only thing we have to help us construct our interior realities. Now, interior realities can in fact become just as physical as the hand brushing up against me. We must start, first with the idea that we are the salt of the earth, and then it all spins out from there. My brother, who I became very close to especially after the accident, always says that I am not physically challenged, that I do not have that normal frame of reference, and that because of that fact I move through the world with more ease than some people that have cerebral palsy of my severity.

It is too easy to say that it’s all about my state of mind. Although I’ve heard that many times, the truth is I get bogged down like anyone in my situation who has to deal with wheelchair issues, physical issues, social issues, etc. Where I think I differ is not that I am always looking on the bright side, but that I understand the power of the mind to shape reality. Note that I do not have a complete understanding. That comes with time and/or age for anyone. What I do understand is that this body I am born into is not my full self. This city that I live in is not my full self. And the people that I hang around with? Even those whom I deeply love do not define me fully. The thing that makes me different than other people in my situation is that I seek a life that connects me to all things and that I understand my value in the world beyond the mundane everyday.

For what it’s worth, even I have had to be woken up to this fact. But upon awakening, I understand that if people saw the value in the every day, if they understood their power in interacting in the world, we would have either great systems of tyranny (which would take over our lives) or the great systems of liberation and self determination would flourish. Because in the end, our connection to everything is more powerful than we are as individuals standing and/or sitting alone.

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