The Skull In The River

by Ingrid Dean

skull-517599_1280As a forensic artist and road patrol trooper for the State Police, I have worked on many interesting cases. Little did I know that a cardboard box placed on my desk one sweltering August day would contain one of the most challenging and emotional cases of my career. A year earlier I had completed a facial reconstruction course at the FBI Academy in Quantico.

The box contained a human skull and was my second skeletal case. The first case I worked on was still unsolved—the charred body of a black female was still at the morgue, waiting to be identified. This new case held little more promise. It had already sat on a property room shelf for nine years.

As I leafed through the police reports, I learned that the skull had been dredged out of the Clinton River, which runs through Mt. Clemens, Michigan, in 1992. A construction worker on a bulldozer thought he had found the “biggest mushroom he had ever seen.” When he jumped off the earthmover to kick it from its position in the soggy marsh, he was shocked to discover it was actually a human cranium. The rest of the body, including the lower jaw, was never recovered.

Although missing person reports were carefully checked, the skull remained unidentified and was packed away in a property room at the sheriff’s office. In the summer of 2003, the property room was cleaned out and the skull was sent to a Michigan State Police crime lab for possible DNA and comparison purposes. One of the senior members at the lab suggested it be sent to a forensic artist to do a reconstruction. Several weeks later, the skull was placed on my desk.

First I took it to the Michigan State University Anthropology Lab, where I asked the anthropologist to examine it and give me a biological profile of who the person I would be reconstructing. He told me it belonged to a Caucasian male, between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Since I wanted to do a three-dimensional reconstruction with clay, the missing mandible posed a huge problem. The lab was nice enough to let me borrow a specimen from a body that had been donated.

I fished through several boxes of bones in the lab labeled “Caucasian males” before finding one with a similar bite pattern. With my borrowed jawbone and several x-rays of the seven teeth that were left in the cranium, I took the skull back to my post to start work.

For the next eight months, I juggled the reconstruction in between normal working duties. As the face began to emerge, I began to get a feeling about what this man must have looked like. For instance, I could see that his teeth had been extremely well cared for. He could afford a dentist and he took good care of himself. From this I assumed his socio-economic place in life.

I also surmised that he was good looking. Since the skull was dredged out of the river in 1992, I figured he must have been in the water for some time to become completely disarticulated and skeletal. Therefore, I guessed his hairstyle would be from the late 1980s or early 1990s. I decided to sculpt a longer, falling-behind-the-ears hairstyle, in brown, since that is the dominant hair color of the Caucasian race. I also gave him brown eyes—both an intuitive and practical guess. I reminded myself that a reconstruction doesn’t have to look exactly like the person—but there has to be something about it that triggers a sense of recognition in just one person who sees it and thinks, Hmmm, that might be so-and-so.

Finally in April 2004, the reconstruction was ready to be released to the media. I held a press conference and was shocked to find that almost every media source in the metropolitan-Detroit area showed up to get the story. The following days were filled with newscasts, phone calls, and interviews.

About a week later, a District Sergeant who worked as an accident re-constructionist in my district phoned me. He had seen a photo of my reconstruction in the Detroit Free Press and it reminded him of a young guy who had gone missing from the Algonac area when he was a road patrol officer there. He said the guy’s name was Shawn Raymond.

Since this was my first real tip, I didn’t have any particular feeling or hope that this was going to go anywhere. I went to the Clay Township Police Department and asked if I could see the Shawn Raymond case. The officers were all too familiar with the case. Shawn’s file revealed that his mother had reported him missing after he was not seen for two days. Shawn was nineteen at the time and a recent graduate of Algonac High School. There were several photos of Shawn in the file, including one of his high school yearbook photos. I noticed he was an incredibly good looking guy, with feather-brown hair and a glowing white smile—just like I had imagined.

I didn’t immediately see a resemblance between the clay sculpture and Shawn, though I did notice Shawn’s dental charts. There was crucial information on these charts. The skull and Shawn had the same two bicuspids removed for orthodontic purposes. This was a clue I could not ignore. I immediately took the case back to my post and began calling to locate Shawn’s dentist to get x-rays for comparison.

The first dentist led me to a dead end, literally. His wife sorrowfully informed me that her husband’s practice had closed after his death and she had destroyed all the remaining records, including the x-rays. My stomach lurched. I thought, Is this the end of my investigation?

I feverishly pressed the keys on my telephone to call Shawn’s orthodontist. Amazingly, he was still practicing in the area. And, yes, he still had Shawn’s file, which included panoramic x-rays of Shawn’s teeth. I picked them up a day later.

I was ready to put my anthropology degree to the test and compare the dental films. As I drove the x-rays back to the post, I phoned my dad, who has thirty years experience as a trooper, detective, and forensic artist. I chatted with him nervously, telling him, “It’s got to be him. There are so many coincidences!”

My dad urged me to be calm. “Now, settle down. This is only your first tip,” he said.

Back at the post, I scotch-taped the bite-wing x-rays I had taken at MSU to my office window and then, with hands shaking, taped the panoramic film from Shawn’s orthodontist file underneath it. Undeniably, even to my little-trained eyes . . . it was a match! Now all I needed was the final okay from an ontologist—a forensic dentist. I sought one out in the area and made an appointment to meet with him at his office the following day.

Morning seemed like it would never come. I had several conversations with my dad, who continued to tell me, “Don’t get your hopes up too high.” But I was beyond help. In my mind, I knew it had to be Shawn. There was nothing that was going to convince me otherwise (except, maybe, this expert I was about to meet).

As I drove to his office, I tried to calm myself down. I had thoughts like, What if it isn’t him? What if I have to start all over again? My stomach was in complete knots. A soft rain was falling as I approached the parking lot and turned in. I made one last call to dad and told him, “I’ll phone you with the answer as soon as I’m out!”

When I met the dentist, I sized him up to be on his last year or two before retirement. He was elderly. He had me set the reconstruction on a stool and took his own panoramic films of the skull through the clay. I guess he didn’t like the bite wings I brought with me as proof. When his x-rays were developed, he held up Shawn’s films and the freshly taken films to the fluorescent lighting above him. He nonchalantly said, “Nope, that’s not him.”

I was dumbfounded. My heart sank. I fought off tears and began to tremble. Here I was, in my professionally tailored uniform, holding a human skull encased in twenty-five pounds of clay, and I was fighting to choke back tears. I mumbled to him, softly at first, “No, you’re wrong . . .”

As my vision cleared and I regained my composure, I took a quick glance at the films he still held in his hands. Still fighting tears of disappointment, I stated clearly and louder, without reservation, “No, you’re WRONG!” I snatched the films from his hand. He had been holding one of the films backward! I handed them back to him the correct way. He raised the films toward the lights again and—without hesitation—said, “Yup, that’s him!”

The trip from his room to my car seemed like I was running in slow motion. Once I was in my car, I dialed my phone. “Dad, it’s him!” And, for the next half-hour, I sobbed. At least my tears were of joy and not sorrow. I was so glad that Shawn was found, and I was thankful that his family would find out that he was no longer missing, that his remains had indeed been identified.

Note: Facial reconstruction requires both scientific and intuitive work to successfully identify someone. Features such as the nose, lips, style of hair, etc., are almost strictly intuitive guesses.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain

Creative Commons License

by DCH Park

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”
– Michael Jordan

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
– Alan Watts

The other day I was coming up some stairs and overheard someone talking on the phone. What I heard was remarkable. The person was apparently celebrating something bad. I gathered that the other party had just shared something that had happened to him or her, probably expecting sympathy, blame, or some other standard means to enlarge the pain.

To her credit, the person whom I overheard did none of those things. Instead, she celebrated it. I doubt that she was trying to encourage more painful experiences with her celebration. Rather, she was remembering that there are no bad things. What she said about it confirmed that this was her attitude.

Rather than ask why a benevolent God (or Universe or whatever) could “let” “bad” things happen to “good” people, consider that there are no bad things. There are painful things (You can substitute any emotion you want in that sentence to replace the word “painful.”) but there are no bad things. The pain serves a purpose. It leads you directly to the wound.

Consider a splinter. You might not notice it at first but as time goes on, the damaged area becomes painful as infection sets in. As more time goes on, it becomes more painful. You can bandage the splintered area and try to cushion it. You can take analgesics to numb the pain (and all sensation along with it). That way you can continue to ignore it. However, the pain is doing you a service. It is showing you exactly where the splinter is. Whereas it might have been too small to notice at first, the pain shows you exactly where it is. As soon as the splinter is removed, healing begins and the wound feels better.

On flights they always say, “Please affix your own oxygen mask before attending to small children who may be traveling with you.” It is a reminder to take care of yourself first. The message conjures images of a small child who has collapsed for lack of oxygen. The well-meaning parent is slumped over for the same reason. The parent has collapsed in trying to get the child’s oxygen mask on first and failed to do so. Even if successful, I wonder, would the child be physically able to attach the parent’s mask? Would the child even be able to reach the dangling mask?

Another common example is found in the advice we give to drivers who are learning to deal with a skid. When the car is spinning out of control, we are told, the thing to do is to turn into the skid. The same advice is given to pilots. Similarly, seamen are taught to drop anchor (and if they have sails to trim them) if they are caught in a storm. They are taught to turn their bow into the storm and “ride it out.”

Individuals who have gone through military training will recognize the advice to run toward the explosion if your unit is targeted by artillery. The “natural” tendency is to run away from the explosion but artillery marksmen find their range by “bracketing.” They deliberately fire down range of their target and then deliberately fire up range of it. That way, they establish their range and they know that their intended target lies somewhere between these two. Then they fire succeeding shots within that range, first down range of the target, then up range of it, each time coming a little closer to the middle. When they hit their target, they “fire for effect.” They let loose with everything they have on the target.

Thus, while on the battlefield, you are actually safer if you run toward the first explosion. That will ideally get you outside of the field of effect. If you run the other way, away from the explosion, you might be running directly into the next blast. It is almost guaranteed that you will run into a blast if you continuously run away from the last explosion. This is counter to popular wisdom but it is in keeping with the advice given to drivers, pilots, sailors, and those seeking oxygen masks on a plane.

The advice that runs through all of these examples is that we heal, we (re)gain control, when we turn into the thing that brings pain, fear, etc. Indeed, it is never as bad as we expect it to be and the storm, spin, explosion, or whatever, is always worst before we go into it. It is never as bad as we imagine it will be. The shortest way to the other side is straight through.

The case of the oxygen masks may seem obscured compared to the other examples, but it is an excellent metaphor. There are people who put the happiness and fulfillment of others before their own. Such people often even define their own happiness in terms of others’. They often see themselves deriving their own happiness (satisfaction, etc.) from that of others. This means that they see themselves as having to make other people happy before they can be happy themselves. Similarly, there are whole industries devoted to creating and selling pain killers of various strengths. The benefit that such pain killers promise is a resumption or intensification of the same activity that caused the pain in the first place, usually in order to continue working! In both cases, the advice is to turn away from or ignore the pain or whatever is coming up within yourself and focus on something outside of yourself.

Thus, we are in an interesting situation. In cases in which lives are not seen to be in immediate danger, we are advised in one way. In situations that are seen as immediately life threatening, we are advised differently. The advice in the two situations is directly opposite. It is also fairly uniform within them. It does not seem to be affected by culture or other factors. Which one do you feel serves you and supports your further growth? Which one would you accept as being true?

I have found that in turning into the pain (fear, etc.) I was not only able to find the center of the wound, I was able to hear it and thus to heal it. In other words, the wound itself tells me what it needs, what it is crying out for. Filling the hole, providing what is missing, constitutes healing the wound. Once it is healed, it goes away like a vanishing fog but you need to listen to it to find out what it needs. In order to listen to it, it helps to be aware of it. That’s what turning into the pain, fear, etc. does.

For whatever reason or reasons, much of society is structured to encourage us to turn away from our pain unless a life threatening condition exists. Consider over-the-counter pain relief. This assumption – that pain, fear, etc. should be taken away without your conscious participation or even understanding – is common on many (perhaps all) levels of “mainstream” society as long as a life threatening situation does not exist. Why are there two conflicting messages?

I have learned over and over in science that if there are two messages about something, either there is something(s) that is(are) not well understood or one is a lie. In the first case, what generally happens is that one situation or both are eventually discovered to be special cases. What appeared to be two situations (or messages) are seen to be one simple one. The unions of quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and relativity are good examples. Newtonian physics is seen as the special case of quantum physics where things are very large. In the same way, Newtonian physics is seen as a special case of relativistic physics wherein things are extremely slow.

Is the advice to turn away from pain a special case in which lives are not threatened? In special cases, the rules are not changed – only the values they operate over change. This can be seen in the cases of Newtonian, quantum, and relativistic physics. It can also be seen in the case of squares, which are special cases of rectangles, and mammals, which are special cases of animals. However, in the different messages about how to deal with pain, rules do seem to change. In one case the suggested rule is to turn into the pain. In the other, the suggested rule is to turn away from the pain. This would seem to imply that one of them is a lie.

(Please note that it is a lie in that it is a delaying action. The Universe is good. There is no “bad” or “evil” as they are commonly understood. There is nothing to resist. The lie does nothing more than encourage a perception of separation between you and your divinity. It slows down your personal growth or even brings it to a standstill. Typically, other forces are accepted or inserted into that separation to be supported or profited. A clever lie even furthers evolution or ties itself to a fundamental truth, the way some gristle might be interwoven into the meat. But sooner or later, the lie will be revealed and further evolution will be stymied.

If, by that point, the unwanted delaying lie has been incorporated into the fabric of what you accept as the fundamental nature of things, you may not even see it.)

By turning into the pain, you can find the metaphorical splinter that causes the infection, remove it, and begin to heal. On the other hand, if you turn away from the pain, no matter where else in the Universe you turn, you will not find the splinter, the cause of your wound. By moving into your discomfort, you move closer to the cause of your wound. You move closer to healing it. By moving away from your discomfort, you move farther away from your healing.

Furthermore, removing a splinter is hardly a life threatening condition in most cases. It would seem that the advice to turn into the pain can lead you to the center of the wound in more situations than life threatening ones. On the other hand, turning away from the pain definitely does not apply in life threatening situations. Perhaps it doesn’t work at all. Perhaps it simply delays the consequences of the wound, allowing it to become even more exacerbated and (as in the case of over-the-counter analgesics) creating an opportunity for even more profit. (“Who is gathering that profit?” is a good question.)

Nature is so marvelously constructed that pain, fear, etc. is not only acutely felt (so it is hard to ignore), it tells you exactly where to look. “As below, so above.” The truth is the truth. Understanding it in one realm leads directly to understanding in other realms. If the realms look unconnected, it’s because one or the other or both are not well enough understood (yet). In other words, their commonality is not yet understood. Their connection to each other or to the truth is not yet understood or not understood well enough.

The only thing that blocks the discovery and articulation of truth is willing blindness to what is there. That’s what pain and other emotions do for us. They indicate our blind spots. What we do, whether we numb ourselves or turn into the pain, is up to us.

When we numb ourselves, we practice being blind. Such blindness or unwillingness is often a function of belief. Wherever such belief might come from, however, it encourages us to get things backward. Rather than being open to what is there and using that experience to lead to truth and further opening, such belief defines or declares what is “true” and shapes observations to fit that expectation. In other words, such blindness leads to less openness, less truth, which is only possible because you’ve numbed yourself.

How open are you to possibilities outside of the things you expect and assume? How do you find your blind spots? Do you turn into the pain or do you turn away from it?

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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This Time, I Was the Victim

by Ingrid Dean

robbingIt was the beginning of the 2003 holiday season when my wife and I were invited to a holiday fundraiser at a posh restaurant in Detroit’s Indian Village area. The purpose was to raise money for less fortunate inner-city kids so they could be supplied with shoes for the upcoming winter.

I did my homework on the event. The mayor and some federal judges were also invited, so I trusted that their security details would have things well in hand. Thus, I did not fear for my wife’s and my safety or that of the other guests, including a police lieutenant from my department and his wife.

The entertainment, food, and drinks were fantastic. A very nice evening, even though the mayor never showed nor did any of the federal judges or other celebrities as promised.

Things were winding down for the evening. The valet girl found me and gave me the keys to my vehicle, saying she was going off duty and would no longer be responsible for my truck. Then, she ran out the door. I went to the door to look for my truck, saw it, and was returning to the restaurant when two gunmen broke in, rushed me with a gun pointed directly at my face, grabbed me by the necktie, and forced me into the dining room. One of them fired a shot next to my head and announced the hold-up. I went to the ground and a second shot was fired, fragmenting when it hit a $40,000 grand piano. A fragment of the slug struck a lady.

I was not armed, as I believed the mayor’s security detail would be present. It’s a good thing I wasn’t because if my weapon were seen I am positive I would have become another Detroit
homicide statistic.

I believed I was going to be shot in the head as I lay face down on the floor. I threw my cash on the floor, as the gunman demanded everybody’s wallets. My wallet had a badge and police ID in it. If that were revealed, I most assuredly would have been shot.

For some unknown reason, I envisioned a crime scene photo with me lying face down on the floor with my brains spilling out of my skull. I was not about to allow that to happen. My wife was only a few feet away, hiding underneath a table. She appeared to be okay.

I began to pray, and I felt the presence of a guardian angel. The fear left me and I was able to focus on the criminals’ actions so that I might become the best witness and see them led off to prison in handcuffs.

I threw my wallet under a table and it landed face open with the badge in full sight. I flipped it closed. How they never saw this had to be the work of an angel.

I was kicked in the groin as the number two gunman gathered up the cash and wallets. They went to a second dining room and I heard screaming and another gunshot. Then all was silent. I immediately called 911 to report the armed robbery with shots fired. I was still on the phone when the first patrol officer arrived, calming everyone and checking for injuries. Before I knew it, there were uniformed officers all over.

Suspects were being picked up in the neighborhood and brought back to the scene, but I couldn’t identify any of them. My wife and I were thankful to go home alive that night with only relatively minor injuries.

About a week later, we were sitting in our kitchen having our Saturday morning coffee, watching the local Detroit news program when I saw a story about a major arrest having been made by the Violent Crimes Task Force, a team comprised of FBI Agents, Michigan State Police Troopers, Detroit Police Officers, and some suburban Detroit officers. The number one gunman’s mug shot was displayed and I immediately recognized him as the one responsible for the armed robbery where we were victims.

All weekend I telephoned the investigator assigned to our case, with no reply. Monday morning, I was able to contact a member of the Task Force and told him our story. The bad guy had been arrested with four others responsible for murder, armed robberies, and carjacking. A fifth suspect, a juvenile, had fled to Alabama, and the FBI was after him. Their specialty was robbing patrons at fundraisers.

Weeks later, I was able to pick him out in a line-up at the Wayne County Jail. Although I never saw the case go to trial, as the number one suspect had already been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, I believe it was the intervention of an angel that saved my life that night. And also some Divine Intervention that led me to watch the local news channel and see the scumbag’s mug shot.

 

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Bower’s Harbor Inn

by Ingrid Dean

By Lester Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My partner and I were working the midnight shift. It was a cloudy, windy night. He was telling me about an encounter that he and another officer had with our local haunted restaurant, the Bower’s Harbor Inn. The fact that we were driving on a stretch of road on a peninsula that was directly across from the restaurant reminded him of the story.

In the middle of his monologue, Central Dispatch called for available units to respond to an alarm—at the Bower’s Harbor Inn! Of course, we were the closest unit, so we responded.

When we arrived at the restaurant, my partner went around one side of the building and I went around the other. I noticed a stairway leading up to a door on the second floor. I climbed the stairs to check the door. When I turned the handle, the door opened. I gently pulled the door closed so that it rested on the casing—but it wasn’t completely shut. I notified my partner that I had discovered an open door.

When the key holder arrived, he let us into the building. My partner and I cleared the first floor of the restaurant and then proceeded to the second floor. When we reached the door I had left open, it was completely shut and locked! In order to open the door again, we had to use the key.

There was nobody in the building.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Spirits Of The North

by Ingrid Dean

ghost-35852_1280

I’ve never been what you might call “poltergeist inclined.” I enjoy a good horror movie as much as the next person, but I always dismissed alleged true tales of wandering spirits as figments of overactive imaginations. I always believed each strange occurrence had at least one logical explanation.

This was, of course, before I began working the late-night shift in City Hall at Skagway, Alaska.

Skagway’s City Hall and police department are housed in the McCabe College Building. The local court, Magistrate’s office, and Trail of 98 Museum also share the space. This grand old structure was built in 1900 as a woman’s college and was, for a time, the only granite building in Alaska.

As with any old building, it had the obligatory creeks, groans, and murmurs. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell me it was haunted. I say this now with some certainty, even though it may damage any reputation I have left as being a practical man.

After a break-in period, my first duty assignment was working the midnight shift. Sitting in the office during the wee hours, I would occasionally hear a few strange noises, but never gave them much thought. One early morning, however, changed my perception of what goes bump in the night—forever.

I was working on some much-neglected paperwork at my desk. The building was silent except for the faint hum of the Macintosh computer and my fingers performing a slow dance on the keyboard. Fighting off sleepiness caused by a daytime person trying to be nocturnal, I struggled with a rather boring theft report.

I had nearly completed the narrative when I heard a door close. The door was in a rear hallway off of the court chambers. I recognized this door because of the many times I’d heard it close before. It was attached to a police storage room where uniforms and other equipment were kept. The solid oak door was at least two inches thick. An ancient brass knob and lock-set hinted at its age. The door would not stay open on its own and, if not held, would quickly slam shut behind you. As the door was swinging it made the most hideous screeching sound.

After hearing the door close, my first thought was that someone was in or had been in the storage room. This idea was quickly dismissed because the entire building was dark when I arrived. My second thought was that someone left the door propped open and whatever was holding it gave way.

I wasn’t the least bit nervous as I rose from the desk and confidently walked through the dark courtroom and into the even darker hallway. After some fumbling around I turned on the hall light and approached the storage room door. I pulled on the knob and found it properly latched. Upon opening the door, the equipment room was dark, as it should be. I turned on the light and all of the contents seemed to be in order. I turned off the light and let the door shut on its own and was treated to the loud screeching and confident slam. Before walking away, I pulled on the knob one more time. It was locked. Satisfied, I returned to my desk and began making finishing touches to the report.

A few minutes later, I again heard the loud screech and the finality of the door slamming shut. This made the hair on the back of my neck rise to attention. Spooks were not on my mind at this point. I knew SOMEONE must have opened the door.

I pulled my weapon and made my way back to the dark courtroom using my best there-might-be-a-bad-guy-on-the-premises stalking maneuvers. I listened for signs of an intruder. As I crouched outside the door, all was silent in the hallway. My left hand reached for the light switch and the bulb snapped into action. I pounced forward, gun pointing down the hall, prepared for whoever was breaking in or out.

The hallway was empty. It then occurred to me that whoever opened the door must be hiding in the storage room. Using the before-mentioned police maneuvers, I opened the storage room door. No one.

I carefully looked around the assorted boxes and racks, satisfied that I was, in fact, alone. Somewhat relieved, I stepped back into the hallway and secured my weapon. I opened and closed the door several times, performing the “this can’t be happening” test. Each time the door securely latched and held.

I even tried leaving the door shut and unlatched, and discovered that it would stay resting against the casing. Then, shutting the door with a forceful push, I pulled the knob as hard as I dared, making sure it was properly latched. I returned to my desk feeling confident all was in order. As I settled into my chair, the door screeched. This time, I was scared. My previous search had confirmed that no living being was stalking City Hall, which left only one possible explanation. Since the door could not have opened by itself, some thing had caused this to happen.

Ever so slowly, I walked toward the hallway, with my gun secured. Whatever was opening the door would not be stopped by bullets. The door was, of course, closed and securely latched. I stood in the hallway for awhile, carefully listening and watching for signs of movement. Nothing happened.

Completing the report was the last thing on my mind, but I decided to finish the task. All was quiet as I returned to my desk. I sat stiffly in the chair, determined to not be chased from the building.

Minutes ticked by as I waited for the next occurrence. All right, I thought, if some sort of supernatural phenomenon is going on here, it will have to deal with me. I will not be run off by some annoying spirit held over from the Klondike era. Not Alan White, no sir!

You might say my sitting and listening while encamped behind the desk was admirable; after awhile, though, it became boring. I was about to write the whole episode off to midnight shifts, when the door screeched shut. Once again, I got the familiar feeling of hair leaping to attention on my neck; however not as bad this time.

Is that the best you can do? I smugly thought. What’s to closing a door? Any old spirit can handle that, you two-bit piece of suspended animation! As I considered additional insults, a two-bit something began to walk across the creaky wooden floor of the museum above me. I was familiar with the sound. I thought this new noise might be a result of my over-active imagination, but the footsteps were, well, hauntingly real.

When my heartbeat slowed to a reasonable level, I studied the new sound. Definite footsteps could be heard crossing the floor from east to west. They would stop for a time, and then return to where they had begun. Having no intention of going up to the museum, I chose to remain at my desk, in a cold sweat.

The door screeched again. I threw up my hands in disgust. Great, this is all I need! Everyone thought I was nuts for coming to Alaska in the first place, and now I find myself in a haunted department. I sat in my chair for another half hour, listening to the supernatural activities. Then anger set in. I didn’t need this. What had I done to deserve this phenomenon? I was now totally disgusted.

The door shut again. I jumped from my chair, just as whatever was walking around upstairs bumped into something. I began my first attempt at ghost-busting. “Now, knock it off!” I yelled as loudly as I could. The sound of my voice startled me and, apparently, the spirits moving about. There was absolute silence. Ha! They’re intimidated by me! I thought.

Then continuing my tirade, I strutted around the room. “I did not travel over three thousand miles to be haunted! Why don’t you guys, or girls, or whatever, find some other building to run amuck in? Hey you, upstairs! You bump into something? Good! I hope you stubbed your, ah … thing! Now, go back to wherever you go during the day and leave me alone! You’re really starting to tick me off!”

Returning to my chair, I enjoyed the new peace and quiet. My fit seemed to have worked.

Later in my shift, I went back out on patrol, feeling rather good about myself. Told them a thing or two, I smugly thought as I drove down Broadway and checked out a few buildings.

Larry relieved me at the shift change, but I said nothing about ghostly wanderings. A bright sunny day had dawned and now it all seemed like a dream. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share an experience like this. I had no idea how common it was for someone who carried a weapon for a living to experience strange night moves.

Luckily, the City Hall spirits left me alone—most of the time. Every few weeks though, the midnight shift would get weird. After listening for awhile, I would yell, “Knock it off!” And all would be quiet for the rest of the night. I became so used to this procedure that I started to be rather matter-of-fact about it.

On one of the few days Larry and I had off together, we were sitting in his living room. “Hey Larry,” I asked, “you ever hear anything, you know, strange, working in the office late at night?”

The look on his face was telling. “What do you mean when you say strange?” Larry asked, choosing his words carefully.

“Ah, you know, doors closing, footsteps overhead in the museum, that sort of thing.”

“Oh, thank you,” Larry sighed. “I thought I was going insane or something.”

Larry and I discussed the situation for some time. “Just yell ‘Knock it off!’” I said, feeling like an old pro. “They hate that.”

Excerpt from the book Alaska Behind Blue Eyes by Alan L. White.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Big Storm

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by DCH Park

monsoon-390944_1280Kiran woke to the sounds of rain and wind. He was still a little guy – much smaller than he would be as a full grown human – but it was obvious that the storm was a bad one. It had been raining for seven days and who could tell when it would end? Through his window he could see that the sky was dark and grey. Thick clouds hung very low and an unbroken pall hid the sun. There was rain and mud everywhere. It even obscured the roadway as water flowed over the roads. He guessed it emptied into the river. They said on the radio that the reservoir was completely filled. He eyed the hills above the town nervously.

He ate a hearty meal of crackers and peanut butter which represented the last of his food. “At least,” he thought to himself ruefully, “there’s plenty of water!” He quenched his thirst with a long, deep drink of cold water, relishing the feeling of refreshment and aliveness that sparked through him. Then he busied himself packing some clothes and rain gear, still tasting the water in his mouth and relishing the sensation of wetness.

“How ironic,” he thought.

He would have to seek out shelter at the nearby school. It was on a hill so it probably wouldn’t be flooded. The various animals and humans from the town all knew to go there in an emergency and this was shaping up to be one. He remembered how strange the sky had looked just before the storm. It had been green and clouds had slowly filled the sky, blotting out the sun. Then the rain started.

He brought himself back to the present moment and finished packing his pack. The school promised plenty of food, blankets, and cots. Surely the different creatures from the town wouldn’t eat each other. There wouldn’t be a need to hunt because there would be plenty of food. Besides, they needed each other. The storm made that abundantly clear. He doubted they would fight but he wasn’t sure. He would have to go to the school to see.

It was just as well. He had been getting a little anxious waiting for the storm to end. There had been nothing to do about the house. This way, he could get out and maybe help others. He finished with his bundle, made sure all the lights were off (even though the electricity had gone out the first day of the storm), blew out the candles, and strapping the pack on his back, headed into the storm.

It was wet and blustery but not as bad as it had been a few hours ago. Then the wind had raged and rain blew sideways. Now it was still windy but it wasn’t as windy as it had been. He could negotiate the walk to the school.

Crossing the road was another matter. The water wasn’t as swift as some rivers that he had seen but it was fast and muddy and the road beneath it was slick. He had to walk carefully so that his feet stayed under him. When he finally reached the other side, he sighed with relief and was glad that he didn’t have to cross more streets on the way up the hill. After crossing, he was on the same side of the street as the school and an unbroken sidewalk led up to the school property. The raised sidewalk was relatively clear since rain spilled into the street.

When Kiran got to the school, he was checked in and someone showed him to the cot that was assigned to him. He dropped his dripping pack and headed out to the communication center to see if he could help anyone. He quickly found a group that was headed out and attached himself to it. Apparently Lion had gone out by himself some time ago to rescue a stalled bus.

The bus had been headed for the school when it had gotten lost a few hours ago. Apparently it had gotten swamped or stuck in the mud. Lion had gone out to rescue the bus passengers, which apparently included some children, but no one had heard from him for a couple of hours. The rescue group that he joined was composed of Wolf and a few of his pack-mates and Frog. Being amphibious and a keen observer, Frog naturally led. Wolf and his pack-mates were content to follow Frog. Kiran was, too.

Frog had noticed the direction Lion had headed off in, so he knew which way to start in but moved slower and slower the farther they moved into the storm. It wasn’t that the storm itself was fighting them. In fact, it was gentler than it had been when Lion had gone out. What slowed him down was that following a trail through the storm was hard. It would have been impossible to make any progress at all if they didn’t know the general area that the bus was going through.

None of the others complained. Nevertheless, after a particularly long stop, Frog turned to the others and admitted that he didn’t know which way to proceed. Wolf said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take it from here. With all this rain, smells are pretty faint, that is, the ones that haven’t been washed away completely, and you have to get your snout really close to anything to pick up a scent but we have eyes and there are a few of us. We’ll find him and the passengers, including the little ones.”

With that the wolves spread out, being careful to keep each other in sight while they searched for any clue. There weren’t many wolves in the group but they separated to increase their search area as much as possible. Without a further word they swept first left and then swung right, covering the entire field.

Finally they all came back to the porch they were using to get out of the worst of the falling rain (though it did nothing for the wind or splashes) and Wolf said, “We don’t know where he is. We’ve looked everywhere.”

Kiran said, “We can’t give up on him! He wouldn’t give up on us!”

Frog replied, “No one is suggesting that we should but what else can we do?”

Kiran said, “I don’t know.”

They all sat, cold, wet, and miserable, staring at the rain in silence. After a while Kiran said, “Let’s spread out and listen.”

Wolf said, “We listened, too, of course. We heard nothing. Besides, the roar of the rain and the wind and the thunder makes it hard to hear anything.”

Kiran said, “Is there anything else you can think of? Anything else to do?”

“I can’t think of anything.”

So they formed a circle around the porch and spread out. As each one sat down in the rain, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the sounds that came to him.

They sat that way for a long time, listening to the sounds and rhythms of the rain and the wind. They got soaked through and Kiran gave up all hope of keeping even his underwear dry. They accepted this in stoic silence. They sat and listened some more.

When they were shivering and so chilled that hypothermia was looming, one of Wolf’s pack-mates raised his paw to beckon them over. They silently gathered around him and he said, “Do you hear that? It’s faint but I can just make it out.”

Kiran listened. He could hear nothing but the other wolves could. Wolf said, “Good job, brother!” He loped off in the direction of the hills. The others followed, happy to be moving because of the measure of warmth it promised.

As they followed the sound, it grew louder. Eventually even Kiran could hear it. It was definitely Lion roaring to be heard.

They eventually found a deep ravine but could see no bus. The roaring was definitely coming from the ravine. Kiran looked at it. He could see signs of a recent mudslide, which wasn’t too surprising given all the rain. He said, “It looks like the bus fell or was washed into the ravine and then was buried in mud.”

Frog said, “How do we get to them?”

Wolf said, “We dig them out!”

So they started calling for Lion. Once he had indicated the best place for them to climb out, they started to dig through the mud. Luckily it was relatively soft and a lot of the water had drained out of it so out was fairly solid.

Still, it was hard and dirty work. When they reached the window and had pulled the youngsters and other passengers and Lion to relative safety, they felt like celebrating. They did a quick headcount and after verifying that everyone was present, they headed back to the school. When they got there, everyone was dried off, given a blanket, and hot soup to eat. They could feel the warmth spreading through then as they ate.

Soon they felt much warmer and the children felt gratitude for the efforts of their rescuers and the rescuers felt grateful that they could help everyone feel more secure. It was the best time ever even though the children couldn’t hear a thing. They were nearly deaf from all the roaring.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Big Storm” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Dad’s Watch

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by DCH Park

Montauk Point Lighthouse taken in the early morning hours of 12/10/2005

by Wolfgang Wander (GFDL 1.2)

My dad died ten years ago. I still have his watch. It’s a heavy thing, gleaming and golden, with a raised square on the crystal over the date. It sits, quiet and weighty. A silent communion with ghosts.

I’m sure it still works, though I’ve never tried it. Never wanted to. I remember seeing him adjust it on his wrist years before he was injured by the strokes, before his long slide into shadow.

As he told it, on the morning of his first stroke, he woke up feeling odd. He wanted to go to the doctor but my mother objected. She told him to take some aspirin or a nap. When the next morning came and he was no better, they did go to the doctor but by that time, the damage was done.

Years later, long after they had both passed away, I told that story to my brother. To my surprise, he had heard the same story, but in his version our mother wanted to go to the doctor and our father had objected. I assume that he had gotten his story from our mother. Two versions of the same story but with the roles reversed. Since they were both long gone, there was no way to tell which one had been telling the truth. Maybe it didn’t matter.

In the final analysis, we judge by the feeling we have. Whether feeling leads to belief or belief leads to feeling is immaterial if it ends there. However, it rarely, if ever, does. Beliefs can be adopted from the people around us regardless of how we feel. Which path we follow has effects that continue to ripple out from the initial decision, like a stone thrown into a calm lake.

After his first stroke, dad began to give his life up a little bit at a time. He shuffled about with a cane at first. He laughed as I teased him to keep him working and walking. My mother and I would take him out for lunch or to be among people or just to get some air and sunshine, even though it took thirty minutes or more to get him dressed and out the door. I didn’t notice at first how trying the whole process was for him but it grew minutely more arduous over time. Eventually, he gave it up altogether.

He stopped wearing his watch after that first stroke. It was heavy and he didn’t have a reason to know the time. He always intended to put it back on after he got better but he never did. Instead, his hand withered into a claw. His whole left side became a remnant. A golden watch dial had little meaning, no matter how much it gleamed. Time was marked instead by his creeping descent into disability.

I am left to remember two fathers. I know they are both the same man, but they seem like different people. One is resigned to dying. The other is busy living. One is letting go of life by degrees and the other is remarkably robust. They hardly seem like the same man. Yet at the end of his slow fade, he held onto the final shreds of life with the same fierce tenacity that marked the living man.

I remember one time, when I was a young teenager, I asked him directly why he stayed with my mother. They seemed like a mismatched pair. He was calm and nurturing, if a bit exacting and proper. She seemed harsh and demanding. She literally yelled at him for days whenever they argued or something didn’t go as she’d expected it to. When she yelled, he would sit silently, close his eyes, and listen to it all, even if it went on for days.

He responded to my question without hesitation, as if he’d been thinking about it every day with no one to talk with. He said that she had an ability to do amazing things. Her energy and joy were incredible. He loved that about her. In fact, he had fallen in love with her because of it. This was a side of her that I had rarely seen. His voice shook with the intensity of his feeling.

But he also said that she was afraid. She couldn’t always reveal that energy and joy because of her fear and she most feared those closest to her. He hoped that one day she would feel comfortable and safe enough with him to share her energy and joy again, so they could both revel in it and dance together again. He cried. We held each other for a long time afterward.

Listening to him, I flashed on a memory from years before. I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old. Both of my parents were doctors and we were living on the grounds of a sprawling hospital complex in a separate building for the doctors’ families. My parents had to drive a couple of miles to get to work.

One day, it snowed so hard that the hospital shut down early. My parents were stranded at work. They had to walk home. I remember eagerly watching for them through the window and how happy I was to see them tramping through the snow. They were walking with a neighbor of ours, apparently enjoying themselves. They were talking and laughing. My mother seemed animated.

For me, that helped to explain a lot. It explained the infinite patience he showed her and the countless moments he spent with her, listening to her rant. I don’t know what passed between them in their private moments, but in the end, he literally gave her power over his life. He gave her what she asked for.

When his time came, the doctor called from the hospital saying that we should get there immediately. I don’t think he realized that we were a continent away. I notified my brother and we got the next flight to New York. I hadn’t even known that dad was in the hospital. It happened that quickly. We had left him in a nursing home to get better so we could move him to the west coast to be with us. When we left, he was getting stronger, or so we thought.

We had barely gotten back from our initial trip when we got the call to return. We flew over night to get there and drove straight to the hospital from the airport. He looked shrunken and alone in the sterile room. Everything seemed unnaturally white and bright. He was silent except for his breathing. On top of the bedclothes, his hand was warm but stiff.

He had acute kidney failure. The nurse in the home had said that he’d stopped eating and drinking. “Come on, Dr. Lee,” she had said. “You’re a doctor. You know what’ll happen if you don’t drink.”

He’d looked at her and nodded.

He’d stopped trying to live. He had chosen to die. He had shared the last fifty years of his life with our mother. After she was gone, he had nothing to do, or so he thought. So he went about dying.

He had a clause in his living will against intravenous feeding, so none was provided. By the time we arrived at the hospital he was unconscious. We set up a vigil. We took turns alternating between sitting with him and trying to catch some sleep in the second bed. He was alone in a semi-private room so there was no one to distract us.

When my turn came, I was exhausted and laid down but sleep was impossible in that room, even after the flight. I don’t think either of us found the room very hospitable. After the first night we gave up trying to sleep.

I had one sided conversations or silently remembered with him for hours. Sometimes I sang to him. I remembered the way he used to sing Korean love songs when we were out driving. I was no more than ten or eleven years old. I had no idea what the words meant but they sounded sad. It made him feel happy to be able to share them. Afterwards, I always felt closer to him, like we shared something that only we knew.

Sometimes we would talk or argue on those drives but most of the time he sang or we listened to financial news radio or sat in silence. At such times, he would often raise his hand and slap me on the knee, once, twice, three times. It stung. He always had a big smile on his face. It was his way of saying, “Thank you for being here with me.”

I remembered those songs and knee slaps as I sat with him in the hospital. I said, “Thanks, dad. I know you’re tired. Thanks for everything. You can go now. It’s alright.”

He visibly relaxed. The talking and singing helped. He was comforted by our presence. But he didn’t die. After thirty-six hours at his bedside we were exhausted. We decided to go to their house to get a few hours of rest. The nurses promised to call us immediately if anything happened.

The drive to their house was no more than thirty minutes long. As we were pulling into the driveway, we got the call. He had passed. My brother hung up the phone.

“I guess he wanted to be alone,” I said.

“Yeah. It happens that way sometimes.”

“It’s funny. We come all this way and go through all this so he wouldn’t be alone and in the end, he waits for us to leave.”

“Some people want privacy.”

“Hm. I don’t feel sleepy now. I think I’m going to go the watch the sun rise over the water. Do you want to come?”

“No. I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep.”

“OK.” I restarted the engine and he got out. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

I drove with the windows down and the heat up as the winter wind rushed past. Without thinking about it too much, I found myself at the easternmost parking lot of the little island that protected the big island from the ocean. The small island was little more than a large sand bar but it held a gorgeous beach. Surprisingly, the parking lot wasn’t deserted, though the inhabitants of the few cars were not in evidence.

A lighthouse was set back from the water. A sandy path snaked through the tall grass, connecting the lighthouse with the beach. Small patches of snow were scattered about on the leeward sides of dunes. A few intrepid gulls wheeled about in the rising sun, searching for scraps.

The ocean was choppy. I had never come to the beach with my dad in winter before, but he loved the water. He’d been a champion swimmer in high school. I remembered watching him swim at the beach. He’d go out in a straight line for about a mile. Then he’d turn and swim as far parallel to shore before turning again to swim back into shore. He’d walk the distance back to us from where he’d landed. A huge square. He used to make the lifeguards nervous.

I laughed at that, remembering the man. He didn’t solve problems, he dissected them. We would often spar with each other late into the night. It didn’t really matter what the debate was about. We debated on any topic that came up. We even argued about debate.

It was such an odd way to have quality father-son time. I challenged him on it. He explained his belief in Hegelian dialectics. He said that each side had a sacred duty to argue as forcefully as possible. If he was so forceful that he happened to steamroll over an opponent, that wasn’t his problem. It was his duty. It was his opponent’s duty to be even more forceful if he could be.

Arguing as forcefully as he could was his way of honoring his opponent. Arguing with him was like standing up in gale force winds. He debated with religious intensity. And he was always debating. He loved debate. But that meant that he also loved his opponent. To him, it was obvious that debate and love were bound up together. He loved fiercely. He debated fiercely, too.

He loved ballroom dance. He would escort my mom to the dance floor and together they would amaze everyone. They moved with a lightness and flow that carried them around the floor effortlessly. It wasn’t just that they moved so well, it was that they enjoyed it so much. I never saw her look happier than when they danced. I never saw him look more elegant and poised. It was as if they became magical incarnations of dance itself. But, of course, that all ended.

As his horizons shrank to the size of his bed, we expected each Christmas would be his last. Yet every year, he would go on to see another. He survived over eleven years that way. In the end, he survived my mom, which surprised us all at the time but perhaps it shouldn’t have. She took care of him but in a way, he was also supporting her. They both took ill one January with pneumonia. He survived and even put on weight. She did not. She never woke up. He accepted the news of her death in silence. He died less than two weeks after she did.

The wind had penetrated my coat and left me thoroughly chilled. I left the crashing waves behind and hurried back to the car. I looked at the sand and the hardy, salt-loving plants growing beside the wooden planks that defined the path. Looking up, I saw that the sun had risen a fair distance into the sky. It wasn’t red any longer. The stony lighthouse overlooking the parking lot stood, resolute and apparently unchanged.

I suddenly realized that being the older brother, I was now the “patriarch” of the family. It was a strange and unnatural feeling. It felt like a set of too-baggy clothes.
As I played with this, I climbed back into the car, turned the heat on high, and headed back to the house, the windows closed this time. I wanted to get some sleep before I turned to the tasks ahead.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Difference – V

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by DCH Park

What is the value or importance of going into what hurts you? Why would you run toward metaphorical explosions? What possible reason could you have for seeking out the pain, fear, etc.? Is there a benefit to turning into the storm?

In a word, yes, there is. There is a reason that we are taught to turn into the spin while driving a car or a plane. There is a reason that we are taught to turn a boat into the storm. It is the same reason that we naturally press into the soft, spongy spot left behind by a lost tooth. Survival.

In extreme cases, like in spinning cars or planes, the choice between life and death, between truth and illusion, may seem particularly clear, but it is always there. It is present in every situation, although it may seem cloaked by other concerns in some situations. One thing that I have learned as an engineer is that principles that work on one level work on other levels. If they don’t seem to work, I find that I don’t understand the level as well as I thought I did, I don’t understand the principle as well as I thought I did, or both.

As an engineer, my job has been to understand what’s going on well enough that I can apply the right principle to generate the desired outcome. In fact, this idea has been widely enough recognized that it has given rise to a popular series of books in engineering circles that talk about “patterns” that can be applied in a variety of circumstances. In fact, about a dozen or so patterns are used to account for the majority of all needs that arise.

What’s interesting in this case is that the idea itself. It is noteworthy that you can exercise power in a situation through your understanding of it and application of the right pattern. The process itself – of recognizing patterns and applying them across situations – is powerful and what we are talking about here. It has been in fields as diverse as programming and architecture.

A mundane example is fire. Open fires that burn wood seem primitive, yet they give rise directly to closed fires and burning other things, such as coal, oil, and gas. Building devices that can contain and burn such fuels requires an understanding of fire. It requires an understanding of the combustion that goes into fire and that understanding allows a level of prediction about the behavior of fire in different circumstances, such as standing upright, large acceleration, and zero gravity.

Understanding fire has led directly to the creation of many modern technologies. They may not seem to, but modern automobiles, boats, and planes all rely on a form of fire directly to make them go. Most forms of power generation in use today have fire at their hearts. Other forms of modern technology rely on fire indirectly.

Almost everything found in the modern world relies on fire. In fact, it has been said that modern technology, as we understand it, would be impossible were it not for fire.

This principle – that what is true on one level is true on others (and possibly on all levels) – is interesting. Coming back to the question that we started this inquiry with, we are taught two different things about pain, fear, etc.. Can they both be right?

The lesson from engineering is that they can’t both be right. In one case or the other (or both), we don’t understand things as well as we believe we do and that lack of understanding leads to the apparent contradiction. However, the implication is that as we understand the issue better, the apparent contradiction will disappear and our best path forward will become clear.

One possibility that an archetypal “angry young man” might embrace is the possibility that one of these views (or both of them) is (are) wrong and we are better off in the end rejecting it (them) in favor of the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that truth may seem to be.

One thing that we are taught is that when life and death are on the line, as when a car spins out, or when the stakes are relatively small and personal, as when you lose a tooth, the thing to do is to turn into the pain. We are taught that it makes sense to turn into the spin. Who hasn’t found him/her self attracted to a missing tooth and tonguing the soft spot?

In fact, it is taught by many psychologists that the core of pain, fear, etc. is healing and the only way to come to that healing is through the pain, fear, etc. Not only does that emotional reaction depend from that healing, it whispers what it needs to realize that healing.

In other words, the emotion tells you what it needs to be healed. However, the only way to hear such whispering is to sit with the pain and let it be and say what it will. The only way to hear it is to shut up and listen.

The other thing that we are taught is in less severe cases that arise on a more everyday basis, the thing to do is to turn away from the pain, fear, etc.. There are a plethora of attitudes, techniques, and habits to do this that are recommended from various corners. They range from such apparently innocuous things, such as certain attitudes and expectations to intrusive interventions, including chemical and surgical techniques.

It has amazed me in the past that a chemical intervention, like the administration of so-called “painkillers,” can lead to a reward defined by a resumption or increase of the same activity that led to the pain in the first place!

It is unlikely that both perspectives are true. Either you are benefited by turning into the pain (etc.) or you are benefited by turning away from it.

When I am faced with this kind of dilemma, I am reminded of the old investigative reporter’s razor – “follow the money.” To put it more generally, who stands to benefit from which perspective?

Leaving the definition of “benefit” aside for the moment, does one perspective lead to benefits that accrue mainly to you while the other leads to benefits that accrue mainly to others or even produce effects that lead to your own suffering? Which leads to which?

Each person must decide for him or her self.

© 2014, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Healing – I

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by DCH Park

I have heard myself saying to different people in different ways over the last couple of weeks how to find the healing at the center of wounds. This is not a topic that I have been consciously pushing. Rather I have been consciously aware of it as a question or discussion topic raised by others. As I have explored this with different partners, I have heard wisdom in what was said. Most interestingly, I have heard wisdom in my own words.

This wisdom not only reflects the truth, it is immediately recognized as being truthful. What’s more surprising is that this truth is often not anything that either person has heard before. Nevertheless, it is there and it is true.

This is a practice, but it is also an ability that everyone has, like breathing. We can recognize the truth even when we have never seen or heard it before. This is not logical. Logically speaking, recognition is of a thing that we have been seen before. It goes to remembered experience of this life and truth is (at best) inferred from what is remembered.

However, this recognition (the best word available – it captures the right feeling, but it is not in the context we have been brought to expect) of truth goes beyond logic. Logic cannot explain nor describe it. To ask logic to explain it would be to make logic bigger – big enough to contain it and it doesn’t. Specifically, recognition is not logical in that we can recognize the truth even when we have never heard it before. We can recognize something even though it is the first time we have seen it. This is not logical.

It is possible to recognize the truth even if we have never seen nor heard it before. We do it all the time. In a sense, this recognition goes to the future. One sense of the word “recognition” goes to the past while another goes to the creative future. One relies on logic while the other relies on something else.

Some people expect specific practices or behaviors that they can adopt. The more aware of these ask for such practices specifically. There seems to be an expectation that it is possible to know your destination before you are there. This seems logical and it may have led to widely accepted success in the past, but it is not true.

Many have been trained to logically define and expect a certain outcome. They have been trained that the means are shaped to bring them to the desired end. As I write this, I realize that I was like this. I was trained as a logical scientist throughout my high school, college, and graduate educations. I was led to expect logical outcomes to specific problems and situations. I expected to be able to know where I was going before I got there. I found it frustrating when such logical predictions were not forthcoming.

What I realize now is that we can never know what shape will manifest nor from where it will come. This has been demonstrated over and over again throughout history. Therefore, to maximize chances of success, it makes sense to keep as many possibilities open as possible. Further, it makes sense that whenever it becomes clear that another possibility exists which is closed or defined negatively, I benefit by at least understanding this negativity and where it comes from. If/as I can heal it, a new possibility opens to me.

This means in turn, that I can benefit by noticing the things that I define/react negatively to and healing that negativity. This is a practice. I am changing my habits so that instead of running away from negative things and things that hurt me, I run toward them.

I remember psychologists like John Welwood, who says that sitting with your rawness – those parts of you that are literally uncooked – the raw parts soften and open up to you. They tell you what they need.

In other words, the area of growth for me has been in applying the lesson from life in my specific case. What are my wounds telling me? What are your wounds telling you?

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Way of Machines

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by DCH Park

We have a love affair with machines. I partly recall a story from my youth. It may have been written by Issac Asimov, I’m not sure. In the story, young people were romanticizing becoming robots. Their ways of dressing, speaking, and moving, even their way of making love, were all designed to make the viewer, and most importantly themselves, think he or she was looking at a machine.

The story had a surprise ending but this image of embracing machines has stayed with me. When we admire someone, we are taught to liken him or her to a machine. It is considered a complement to say that someone is “like a machine.” At the same time, it is an insult to liken someone to an animal unless the resemblance that he or she bears to the animal is “machine-like.”

However, such comparisons are inherently dehumanizing. Is not the apparent “power” of machines in that they treat all inputs the same way? Is not this “power” in that the machine can only take in a small subset of reality and thus it forces reality to conform to it? Do we not throw machines away and replace them as soon as their inputs no longer serve us?

Nevertheless, many in society embrace the idea that machines embody power and many schools teach it, but is this really power? Wise men and women down the ages have taught that it is the strong who change because they are the only ones who can change.

I remember growing up with the image of a conquering race learning and using the language of the conquered with their vanquished foes because that way they could keep their own language private as a source of power. Flexibility is a hallmark of life, of humanity. As machines gain more power, they gain more flexibility. It is ironic that society teaches us to value machines and their inflexibility so highly.

I heard myself say to someone once that in Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin (as artist) said that the “beginning of the end” was marked by machines feeding people. In an early scene, Charlie is shown as a factory worker – one among many. Then he is fed by machine disastrously. In the next scene, he is out of work because the factory is closed. He goes off into the Great Depression as the Tramp.

In Modern Times, the connection between the demise of civilization and the dehumanization of people is pretty clear. However, it is arguably less clear in real life. A change from one scene to another is nearly instantaneous on the screen, however, in life, it is much slower, although the connection may be no less real. Why else would the manufacturers of various foodstuffs that are made in factories, often with no human touches at all, try so hard to conceal the fact that everything they offer is all made by machine?

This is also true in other areas of life. There is often a difference between services in which people make decisions and those in which decision are dictated by machines. You can usually feel this difference. This is why so many businesses are trying to make their offerings seem to come from people rather than machines or why they charge more when they come from people.

There is no good reason why machines should feed people or in any way limit or control people or their choices. The only reason that such things are possible is that people assume that they have no choice. But they do. That is why so much time and energy are put into getting them to believe that they don’t have a choice and into concealing the facts.

What is in your life that is made by machine? What comes from machine? How many of these things would be better if they were made by people?

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Way of Machines” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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