A Special Spot

by Ingrid Dean

wolves-58998_1280Worried parents reported that their sixteen-year-old son was missing. They thought he had run away, but they had no idea where. When I arrived at their home, something didn’t feel right. I asked the parents more questions than usual. I asked if the boy got good grades in school and if he had any troubles he was dealing with. They said his grades had gone down recently and that he was on anti-depressants.

When the parents mentioned anti-depressants, I got a very clear thought: This is not a runaway complaint. I don’t know why the word anti-depressant triggered this thought, because usually it doesn’t mean anything to me. I know that anti-depressants are often very helpful to people, even children.

I looked in the boy’s bedroom and saw two unopened packs of cigarettes by his bed. I thought, What sixteen-year-old boy leaves two packs of cigarettes behind? Most teenagers carry their cigarettes with them, especially if their parents allow them to smoke. This was the second hint that the incident was not what it appeared to be.

I didn’t want to ask, but I did: “Do you have any weapons in the house?” The father said yes and that he had already looked. All of the cases were present. I asked if he had opened the cases, and he said no. I told him to go check. When he returned, he reported that a rifle, a Ruegar .280, was missing. I suddenly knew their son was probably dead, but I didn’t say anything. Not yet. It was the third clear thought that came through my mind.

I got the urge to take a look outside. Sure enough, I found footwear impressions in the snow that appeared to be the boy’s— and they seemed to lead into the woods.

The snow was patchy this time of year, so I called Dispatch for canine assistance. While I waited for the dog and handler to arrive, I telephoned the boy’s best friend. I asked if there were any special spots where the boy might have walked. I knew most teenagers have one. Because the snow was minimal, I knew that even with a dog, it might be difficult to track the boy unless I had an idea where to head. Sure enough, the boy had a special spot.

When the canine officer arrived, the dog picked up a scent. It was an overcast winter day. The canine handler, the dog, and I followed the boy’s scent toward his special spot. I was glad I had called the boy’s best friend for directions so that I knew we were on the right track. As we walked I realized how breathtaking this area is. The near-pristine woodlands, hilly terrain, and sand dunes of Leelanau County, Michigan, are absolutely gorgeous. The smell of the pines was pungent and pure. What a pity this young man has taken his own life, when there is so much to love about this land and life. I already knew we’d find him dead.

We continued to follow the boy’s scent. The trees opened up into a small open area in the woods. This was his special spot. We saw him. He had shot his head off with the missing rifle. I was so thankful I had trusted my intuition and hadn’t allowed the boy’s parents to come with us. The bloody scene was too gory for any parent ever to see.

Although it was hard and their grief unbearable, the boy’s parents were relieved I had found their son.

I thought about this case several times afterward. If I had treated this situation like a routine runaway complaint, the boy’s body might never have been found. Corpses are often eaten by animals—sometimes without a trace left—especially in this area of Northern Michigan known for its vultures, eagles, and coyotes. I am sure many of my fellow comrades also rely on intuitive thoughts. Most of us seldom, if ever, talk about it, of course. Policemen are expected to rely on logic and “just the facts.”

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

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Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes

Creative Commons License

by DCH Park

By Skip willits (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t remember what day of the week it was, but it must’ve been a Saturday or Sunday. I used to work a nine-to-five job back then and I remember spending the whole day with you. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t the weekend.”

Jefferson was listening to his father. It was getting late in the afternoon. The sunlight on the floor was decidedly angled and creating shadows that stretched halfway across the room. He looked at the window. He couldn’t see the sun yet but it would probably shine through the glass soon. He shifted slightly so that when it did it wouldn’t shine in his eyes.

“My boss wouldn’t have allowed that…” His father was still talking. “It’s funny though. I can remember spending time with you like it was yesterday. Even from something like this, from when you were a little, tiny person, but I can’t even remember his name…”

After a moment, he continued, “You’d think if I remembered anything, it’d be his name…” He thought about it, losing sight of the here and now.

“Hm. I guess that’s as good an indication as any of what’s really important. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend with someone or trying to do something. The things you remember, the things that’re important, stand out. They come back easily and clearly, even if they only occupy a single moment in time.”

They sat in silence as that unfolded. Henry’s eyes glinted a tiny bit. They were facing each other in a drawing room. Their over-stuffed chairs were soft and inviting. Jefferson saw his dad run his hand over the upholstery of the chair arm, admiring its texture. He noticed that he was rubbing his hand over the upholstery, too. How long had that been going on?

He noticed the smell that lingered over the place. It was like a palpable thing that had, for reasons of its own, moved into the house; an invisible resident of the house, always present, never seen. His dad didn’t seem to notice.

He supposed that every living thing had to have its own smell. After all, bloodhounds had to smell something and there were two people living in the house now – his father and step-mother. Did he have a smell? He supposed that he had to. That thought bothered him. “What about that weekend, dad? What stands out for you?”

“Hm…” Henry let the conversation dangle as he rummaged through his memories. He was silent for so long that Jefferson almost said something but just as he was about to speak up, Henry continued. “Sand. I remember sand. And the smell of the ocean. What do you remember?”

“I don’t remember anything of that day.”

“Yeah, I guess you were about 1½. Probably too young. It was before we moved across country. We were still in New York. I don’t know where your mother was that day. I guess I was already doing things alone with you, even though she and I were years away from the divorce.”

He paused. The divorce had been a sore subject once, but that had been a long time ago. Henry was fine now. He had been for a long time. He had gotten used to the fact that his first marriage had failed. In fact, that failure was a vital part of his growth. The divorce itself was a part of a healing process that had led to many important insights for him. It was an early part of the process but it was an important part.

For reasons of his own, though, Jefferson had been angry. He’d nursed a grudge for a long time – long after his parents’ divorce was final. He’d fed it and it had grown. As it grew, it seemed to consume him. He’d let it grow to the point that it threatened to eclipse his whole life. But that was over now. Maybe the anger was a necessary part of his growth. Either way, Jefferson had gotten to the point where he was constantly amazed with how life unfolded.

“Anyway,” Henry went on, “we were living in New York City and I took it into my head for some reason to take you to the beach. I don’t think you’d ever seen the ocean before. I didn’t bother trying to explain it. I just said that we were going someplace special and that you would enjoy it. That was enough. That was enough for you.” Henry’s voice trailed off.

“You had complete faith in me.” He was quiet for a long time.

“You used to love water. Any water, really, but especially moving water. Do you still?”

“I don’t know.” said Jefferson. “I hadn’t really thought about it.” He thought about it. Henry waited.

“… but I notice now that I don’t associate movement with water. When I think of water, there may be waves but the body of water is still. I have to remind myself that there’s movement.

“When I think of movement I picture people dancing across a dance floor or machinery moving – or their parts, anyway. Solid things. I don’t picture moving water.”

“Maybe that’s why moving water was so fascinating for you.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“You used to stare contentedly at a river or a lake. You wouldn’t budge. You could stare at it for hours. The larger the body of water was, the more fascination it seemed to hold for you. Maybe it was the promise it seemed to carry.

“You could gaze at a fountain forever. I remember pushing you through a mall in a stroller and coming across a fountain. We watched the fountain for a while. When I tried to leave, you complained. You didn’t want to leave! You were so disappointed.” He trailed off again, remembering the baby Jefferson used to be. After a moment he continued.

“So anyway, on that day we drove to Jones Beach. At least I think it was Jones Beach…

“It was late enough in the season that the beach was pretty much deserted. I remember a boardwalk. It was still fairly new back then.

“When you caught your first sight of the ocean, you stood transfixed. You were young enough that you didn’t have many words, yet, but I could feel your wonder. It seemed like you’d never guessed that there could be so much water in the world.

“You just stared at the waves and the vastness of the water. As I recall, you finally moved only because you wanted to stay with me.

“Together we crossed the parking lot and stepped onto the boardwalk. It curved to the right, out onto the beach and around the building where they sold snacks and drinks but the building was closed.

“We must have walked over a mile out along the boardwalk. You were a little guy, so that was a long way for you but you weren’t tired. You almost danced along, watching the water.

“After a while I noticed that the sand had gotten into your shoes and socks. I sat you down on the next bench that we passed with your legs pointing straight out. Even so, your ankles just cleared the edge of the bench. I took your shoes off and they were tiny in my hand. I knocked them against the bench. Then I took off your socks, turned them inside-out, and shook the sand out of the little loops and fibers. Then, after turning them back, I brushed your feet off, tops and bottoms but mostly the soles of your feet. I remember the feel of your feet in my hand.

“I even went between your little toes and into the crevice between your toes and the balls of your feet to make sure no sand remained. Then I pulled your socks and shoes back on before you hopped down.

“You smiled at me and watched me, the water completely forgotten. After that, you wanted to sit down on every bench we passed. You even got sand in your socks deliberately.” Henry smiled, remembering. He was quiet for a while. Then he said, “It was an extraordinary moment that we shared together although you don’t remember it. I never told anyone about it before…

“…it’s been a private memory. I wasn’t hiding it from anyone. It was just something that only I held…”

He sat silently and then said with a sigh, “I never thought about it that way before – as something private or just mine. I’ve only ever been aware of the care it showed. Of the amount of care that we both had for each other. I don’t know if you knew how much you empowered my life…

He caught himself, lost in the rush of emotions. All of his airways suddenly seemed too small and his tongue rolled to the back of his mouth but his mouth was dry. Nevertheless he made several swallowing motions to release the tension. When his throat relaxed enough for him to continue, Henry concluded, “…I liked it, too.” A tiny tear formed in the corner of one eye. Henry wiped it away.

They sat together for a while, each one seeing his own silent world yet each one keeping the other company. Then Henry said, “I can’t remember the walk back or the drive home but I remember walking along the boardwalk with you and you wanting to sit down on every bench we passed and give me your feet. I remember cleaning your feet.”

After a while Jefferson said, “Thanks, Dad. I never knew.”

Then he said, “Brooke is waiting for me. I said that I would meet her.”

He got up and headed for the door. He called over his shoulder, “I’ll see you next time!” Then he was gone.

Henry sat in his chair and savored the evening. At last he got up and padded through the door and down the hall. He entered the kitchen and switched on the light. The dogs were both in their crate, eagerly sitting up and vigorously wagging their tails. It was time for their walk and they knew it.

“Okay, okay, you guys. I haven’t forgotten.” Henry opened the door to the crate and they exploded out and bounded to the door. Chuckling, he followed and grabbed their leashes and the little strap-on rosin bag that they used to carry treats and bags.

Helen would be home soon. He clipped the leashes to their collars and followed them out into the gathering night. He smiled into the dark as they went on their walk together.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Feeding Time

Creative Commons License

by DCH Park

doggy-635408_1280Fitzwilly and Charley Girl came back inside with their person. It was morning time and they had just gone outside to relieve themselves. It was still dark out but the cold air hadn’t penetrated their cloaks of warmth, yet. They were still toasty in their cores. That was a benefit of being speedy. Now it was time for food!

As soon as their leashes were unsnapped, they happily scampered to the crate in the kitchen. Charley Girl was the bigger of the two and she was part Whippet, so she generally got there first. Sometimes on a turn she ran so fast that her body went one way while her paws went another and she hit the ground but that never slowed her down much. In fact, Fitzwilly wasn’t even sure she felt the hits. She always seemed to scramble to her feet right away and run off. For his part, Fitzwilly was a Yorkshire Terrier but he was plucky. He didn’t give up, not that he would over such a short distance.

Once they got there, they climbed inside, turned around, and laid down on the blankets, waiting for their person to feed them. He was maddeningly slow. Sometimes he was slower than at others though Fitzwilly wasn’t sure why. It was clear that he moved at human speed, not dog speed. He slowly walked from the door to their crate, retrieved their bowls, and filled them with food. He didn’t know why the human took so long but he wished he would hurry up.

When the food was finally sitting in front of them, they had to wait again for the command to eat! It was torture to wait. He could smell the food. Fitzwilly occasionally looked up to see what the human was doing but mostly he watched the food. He could imagine how good it would taste and how it would feel in his stomach. He only glanced up to let the person know that he was waiting. It didn’t occur to Fitzwilly that the person was waiting for him to look up.

Once he began eating, he lost himself in his frenzy. He was consumed in a symphony of teeth and tongue and swallowing. He didn’t even waste time chewing, like Charley Girl did. He simply swallowed the food whole. He felt that it was important to eat everything he could as quickly as he could so that no other dog could. Never mind that he and Charley Girl had separate bowls and separate food and there was no other dog around. Nor did he know that there were dogs who had food in their bowls all the time and ate only intermittently. All that he saw was the food right in front of him.

After he gobbled his food and licked his bowl to get any crumbs, he made it a habit to inspect Charley Girl’s bowl, too. Usually there was nothing there but occasionally she would miss something or wouldn’t eat. Then he would feast, assuming the human didn’t remove the bowl before he was done.

He forgot himself completely when he ate. He wasn’t aware of anything but his food. He didn’t remember himself at all until after he was done. Only then did he become aware enough of himself again to have any hope of becoming Doggie Chi. He didn’t bite or growl or anything like that but he wasn’t conscious of himself, either.

Lying down afterwards, digesting his meal, he speculated on the difference between his own behavior and that of Charley Girl. Her behavior was not inconsistent with the exuberance of The Puppy Wonder but his behavior was most definitely different from the enlightened awareness of Doggie Chi.

Feeling full and satisfied, he laid his head down between his fore paws and his eyelids drooped. While his body dissolved into the familiar rhythms of sleep, he pondered the difference between the way he was when he ate and the practice of being aware that led to Doggie Chi. There were definitely two different practices. One focused on being aware. The other emphasized a particular goal and suppressed everything else.

The gathering sense of relaxation continued to mount. His thoughts slowed down as he did. Why did he descend into his animal nature at such times? Why did he forget himself? Was it just a habit? Wasn’t it natural for higher forms like dogs to evolve toward something finer, more divine?

He imagined his ideal dog, with soft fur, slim, strong tail, and keen nose, towering over other dogs. He imagined himself as that ideal dog and smiled to himself as sleep overcame him.

Some time later, he resurfaced into his final burst of wakefulness. He groggily continued his train of thought. He reminded himself that base animal behavior was completely concerned with getting food, shelter, and warmth – the things of survival. But surely he had progressed beyond that stage…

…hadn’t he?

As the last remnants of conscious awareness disappeared, he was left with this final question. No one, however, could say if he knew its context any longer.

Then he was sound asleep.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

Creative Commons License
”Feeding Time” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The 5 Kingdoms

Creative Commons License

by DCH Park

The 5 KingdomsThere were once 5 Kingdoms who traded with each other. They grew prosperous from the trade and all was well.

The people of the first kingdom were great foresters and farmers. They cared for the land and all the plants and animals that grew upon it. The farmers grew things in great variety but always allowed the land to lie fallow for one year out of four. The foresters cared for different plants and animals from the farmers and did it in a different way but produced delicacies that no one else could. The changes of the seasons and the rhythms of the land and the reverence they felt for the land were all in the food they produced.

The people of the second kingdom were hardy fishermen and women. They harvested all manner of wealth from the sea. They knew that their lives were intricately bound up in the sea. They even timed their comings and goings to coincide with the tides. They had parties and celebrations on the beach and gladly took any excuse for a clam bake or a crab bake or a lobster bake or just a dance party with no bake at all. High tide under a full moon was a particularly special time for them.

The people of the third kingdom were excellent miners, which was fortunate because mineral deposits in their their land were rich and varied. They had an intimate knowledge of the land and were constantly probing and imaging it to find new deposits or a new cave. They loved nothing more than to explore a new cave or digging through the earth, searching out the hidden roots of things.

The people of the fourth kingdom were masters of the fiber arts. They could weave a basket or take hemp or linen fibers and make a fine suit of clothes or delicate paper out of them. The things they made were the finest imaginable. They could make rope of any thickness or colored thread, yarn, or paper and make all sorts of things from these materials. Their costumes and decorations were beautiful and surprising. Their festivals were always bright and colorful. It was said that you hadn’t lived until you’d attended a festival in the fourth kingdom.

The people of the fifth kingdom were smiths of all types. They worked with wood and stone as well as with metals. They could make a fine needle or a complex machine. Their people also included marvelous chemists. They were able to fashion fuels and other raw materials out of things they bought or found. They refined metals from some stones and cut others into jewelry and statues. They made porcelain tableware and figurines out of earth, glass implements out of sand, and caved wood into a variety of objects both useful and decorative.

The 5 Kingdoms were very different but they shared a sense of respect and reverence for the land. It sustained them. It gave them their lives and also their livelihoods. There was no reason it couldn’t continue to do so forever as long as it was taken care of. So each generation took care of the land so they could pass it on to future generations. They knew they didn’t own the land. They knew that they were merely part of a long succession – a chain of generations – who managed the land together. They formed a symbiotic relationship with the land. They benefited from the land and the land benefited from them.

Still, the people of The 5 Kingdoms knew that the land would be nothing without the people. People were the true source of wealth. Prosperity flowed from the efforts and genius of the people. Everyone in The 5 Kingdoms owed the creation of his or her personal wealth to everyone else. They all rose and sank together and they knew it.

Thus the various peoples traded with each other and were able to get everything they couldn’t make for themselves from each other. They had everything they needed for life. In fact, they became so wealthy and life was so fulfilling together that the life expectancy of the peoples of The 5 Kingdoms increased to a phenomenal degree.

Rarely did anyone mention one of the kingdoms as a separate entity even in passing. They were legally separate kingdoms but their trade agreements had lasted for so long and their cultures and traditions had merged so much that they seemed more like regional variations of a single, vast country than separate kingdoms and although there was certainly no law against trading with anyone else, there was little incentive to do so.

Strangers were welcome in any of the kingdoms. Many times such strangers were destitute in the beginning but had come to make valuable contributions. Many of them had risen to become highly regarded and influential. Who knew if the next stranger wouldn’t create the next great thing?

So all was well in The 5 Kingdoms for many generations. Then one day a money counter appeared in the first kingdom. He was obviously poor and had traveled a great distance. No doubt, thought the people of the first kingdom, he sought the prosperity of The 5 Kingdoms. However all the money counter could see was the vast wealth in the forests and the farms of the first kingdom. He imagined they were all his or controlled by him and everyone in the kingdom worked for him but he kept his imaginings secret. He said nothing to the people of the first kingdom.

As was their custom, the people of the first kingdom put him up in one of the apartments they had set aside for indigents. He was provided food and means to wash and press his meager clothes. He was left alone to tend to his needs and get his bearings.

Soon he was hard at work in his trade, keeping track of the coming and going of money. He had a practiced way of looking at money and his suggestions invariably increased profits. The businesses of those he worked for grew even richer. He started his own company and hired employees to satisfy demand.

The people of the first kingdom didn’t know why he had failed where he came from. He was certainly wise in the ways of business. Nor did they understand why he had shown up in their kingdom alone, with no family or tokens or anything reminiscent of any ties. But they were glad that he had come. They assumed that he would talk when he was ready. At any rate, they were certain that a person’s actions would be consistent with his thinking, whether voiced or unvoiced, so they didn’t press.

In the meanwhile, they were focused on making more money. The promise of riches often produces a kind of mania. That mania was taking hold of the people of the first kingdom. It was so slow and they were so distracted by their mounting frenzy that they failed to notice what was happening to them. Instead, they set their sights on the money they imagined before them. Soon that was all that they could see.

The money counter was in high demand as excitement spread. He became very rich but that didn’t satisfy him. There were others who had more money than he had. He had to be the best. He had no family or friends to share his money with and he didn’t trust new people. He was sure they wanted nothing more than to separate him from his money so it was hard for him to make new friends.

Rather than feeling out the hard things to understand them so he could heal them and make them easy, the money counter followed his training and avoided the hard things. In a way, the money counter was a victim. He was trying to be true to his training but that didn’t remove his personal responsibility for what he did or towards other people.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t help him make friends. In fact, avoidance made it harder to make friends. However, he was unaware of all of this. Without awareness of what he was doing, he pursued the only thing left to him. He pursued money with a single-mindedness that was inhuman.

In a short time, he became the most successful money counter in the whole kingdom yet that wasn’t enough. One day, he announced to his employees that he was going on a trip. He would go to the second kingdom to begin operations there. Surely the people of the second kingdom would appreciate him and his keen insight and counting abilities just as the people of the first kingdom had.

So he set off for the second kingdom. But this time he did not travel on foot wearing threadbare clothes. This time he rode in a fabulous carriage and wore expensive, new clothes. He made arrangements for his living space and counting house ahead of time, so they were waiting for him when he arrived.

His reputation preceded him. As soon as he opened for business, he had as much business as he wanted. Soon everyone in the whole kingdom employed him. He did the same with each of the other kingdoms.

After he became well known throughout all of The 5 Kingdoms, he settled back and looked at the figures from his business. He wasn’t the richest person yet but he was gaining. His growth was faster than anyone else’s. Still he wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t feel secure.

There were people in The 5 Kingdoms, thought the money counter to himself, who were so powerful that they could have him arrested and exiled. He remembered what had happened in the country of his birth. He was determined to not let that happen to him again. He imagined that the powerful people could have him thrown into a deep, dark dungeon to rot, cut off and forgotten. Never mind that such places didn’t exist in The 5 Kingdoms. His imagination was ruled by fear.

Fear demanded that he act. Fear demanded that in addition to being the richest person in all the land, he should be the most powerful person in all the land so he wouldn’t be thrown into the dungeon of his imagination. He would have to act cunningly and slowly at first, but after events gained their own momentum, he would be able sit back and relax and watch things unfold.

He waited patiently and continued to pretend to be everyone’s faithful friend while secretly working to undermine them. He used his position as money counter to all the businesses in The 5 Kingdoms to casually say things or whisper things to certain individuals in each of the kingdoms. He made suggestions that sounded wise but always caused business owners to question the motives of anyone from any of the other kingdoms. He raised questions about their reasons for doing things.

Later, when he was somewhat bolder, he suggested that they needed to protect themselves. Who knew, he would whisper, what hidden plans there might be to steal someone’s wealth? He planted seeds of doubt and suspicion all over The 5 Kingdoms. Slowly doubt and suspicion became normal. Contracts became long and laboriously exacting. Safeguards were built into every transaction. If someone began with an attitude of trust, that person was considered a fool and people tried to take advantage of him by presenting one face while secretly honoring another.

By the time that the first price increase was charged for exporting something to another kingdom, the pressure between kingdoms was nearly unbearable. That first increase led to a firestorm of reprisals as increase followed increase. No one trusted anyone else, especially those from another kingdom. Generations of successful trading were forgotten in the frenzy of suspicion and distrust.

The only thing that anyone seemed to be aware of was his own money. Each would-be trader imagined his own little treasure increasing beyond measure and a horde of jackals waiting to steal it from him. The money counter had successfully changed people’s expectations without revealing the truth so the norm was defined by suspicion. This created an opening for the money counter.

The only person whom everyone would accept was the money counter. His company was already present in all the kingdoms and he wasn’t from any of the kingdoms. He had originally come from a foreign land, they reasoned, so they sought him out. They begged him to oversee their deals and to make sure they were fair.

Putting on a big show, he feigned reluctance but he secretly celebrated. He agreed but he said that his staff was already overburdened. He would have to hire more staff, which would require more funds. He would also need to expand his staff further as the number of trades increased. So in addition to the startup funds, he required a portion of every trade that passed between the kingdoms. The former trading partners were desperate and didn’t know what else to do. The money counter’s demands seemed reasonable, if somewhat stiff, so they gave him what he asked for.

The money counter set up his main headquarters near the location of his first company in the first kingdom but he had offices in every kingdom to oversee transactions. His various offices were lavish and extravagant but that was only fitting, so the people told themselves, for someone overseeing every transaction between any of the 5 Kingdoms.

Fewer saw his personal apartments. These were more lavish even than his offices. They rivaled even those of the various Kings of The 5 Kingdoms. Yet still, the money counter was not satisfied.

He looked about him and saw that he was the richest man in The 5 Kingdoms. No one had more money than he had. He was also extremely powerful, perhaps more powerful than the Kings themselves, since he controlled the trade between kingdoms.

Best of all, certainly most ironic, he had done it through their respect and love for him! He had managed to get them to hate and fear each other while their love for him grew! It was as if they had traded one for the other and made him rich and famous while impoverishing themselves at the same time! He licked his lips and smiled. The pretty picture he presented to the world hinted at none of the thoughts he carried within. He would use their distrust of one another to even further separate the kingdoms and boost their love of him.

He took a moment to ponder the age-old philosophical question. Was it better to be loved or feared? Which was safer, he asked himself.

He couldn’t see that he had already chosen fear. He could only see his actions. He failed to notice his own thoughts or expectations or how his choices shaped them. He failed to see that the actions he took were in turn shaped by his expectations so his actions were ultimately shaped by his choices.

He was acting in accordance with fear but he didn’t see that those actions only seemed reasonable from within a context of separation – a context that he had chosen to begin with. He was already driving people apart and thus honoring the illusion of separation. Thus it should be no surprise that the money counter decided it was better to be feared but only after he thought himself safe.

In this way, he was no different from anyone who chooses fear and separation in any form. He was basically a coward. He “reasoned” that once he had isolated everyone to the point that they had no choice but to live within the system that he created, he would be absolute ruler, imperiously doling out things that no one else could even question because he had crushed all opposition with his strength.

Once they were all in his system and had given up hope of living any other way, then he could let drop his mask and reveal his true face. He could let go of all pretenses to love and acceptance and let fear show itself.

He would be the most feared person in The 5 Kingdoms. He would be terrible and wrathful most of the time and kind and merciful when it pleased him. He would be unpredictable and that would just make people fear him more. He would be free, he told himself. It would be wonderful.

He sat there, imagining his power and freedom for a few minutes and then pulled himself out of his reverie. Perhaps, he told himself, it would be wonderful but he wasn’t there yet.

He continued to sow seeds of distrust and suspicion throughout the kingdoms while continuing to pretend to be everyone’s friend. He continued to oversee the trades that passed between kingdoms while collecting a growing percentage of each transaction. He watched while relations between the kingdoms continued to fray and tensions continued to mount.

When the fifth kingdom erected a fence all around its border and checkpoints on highways to neighboring kingdoms, the money counter was surprised and delighted. Soon all of the borders were patrolled and fortified. The money counter knew that increased threats of violence gave him a built-in excuse to charge even higher fees and he did.

As misunderstandings grew into conflicts and conflicts became fights, the checkpoints and their surroundings grew more and more desolate. The money counter quietly supported installing higher and stronger walls. He quietly encouraged each kingdom to separate itself more and more from the other kingdoms.

The people of the kingdoms were suffering. The things that they needed, which had once been plentiful and easy to find had become scarce and expensive. As trade became more restricted, fewer and fewer goods were sold. At first, people banded together and distributed the reduction in income across everyone. They all shared the burden. But instead of passing, as such troubles had always done in the past, the reductions kept mounting. Eventually, they became so severe that many people lost their livelihoods altogether.

Many necessities were beyond the means that most people had remaining. They grew desperate. They began to organize, agitate, or steal – anything to stay alive. Marshal law was imposed in the various kingdoms. Conscription followed after that and border patrols and fences came soon after that.

Conscription into the armed forces was a welcome change for most because it meant that they could at least eat and send their wages home but the royal stocks, on which most people now depended, were limited. They were vast but they would run out eventually.

In addition, royal treasuries were tapped to pay wages to the vastly increased army and to subsidize the high fees that were charged for the trades that still went through to keep things running. The 5 Kings didn’t realize it, perhaps the money counter himself didn’t realize it, but the vast stores of food and treasure were being used to enrich the money counter. The money counter was benefiting and everyone else, including the Kings, were being hurt.

But the Kings realized none of this at the time. All they were aware of was their alarmingly rapidly dwindling stores, their swollen armies (swollen with people who would soon become desperate again once their conscription ended), and the apparent inevitable war. None of them wanted to go to war but none of them could think of any alternative plan. It seemed that the walls between the kingdoms were higher and the trades that passed between them were fewer every day. The people grew more and more desperate. War seemed unavoidable.

Then, just as he was about to proclaim war, the King of the fifth kingdom heard of a little market that had just sprung up in one of his towns. Intrigued by what he heard, he went to see it.

He traveled for a day and a night and finally came to a little village on the edge of his realm. It sat near the border his kingdom shared with the first kingdom. Being honest folk, the people of the village told the King the truth about their market even though they were afraid. They were technically breaching the border between kingdoms although they hadn’t directly broken any laws. The fence and then the wall had been erected to protect the people of the fifth kingdom from the people of the first kingdom. It wasn’t thought that any laws were needed.

But people from the villages on either side of the border had interacted and traded freely with each other for generations. Many had family members who had crossed over from or gone to the other side, before the fence had been built. Apparently they had found a way to continue trade under the notice of the money counter and the border patrol.

They had constructed a trebuchet and with it, they could shoot things high over the border to the other side. The King looked at the trebuchet and admired its craftsmanship. After they’d launched the plans for the trebuchet to the other side and established that it was possible to have two-way communication and material transfer, all that remained was negotiation on what to send, how much to send, and its price. Of course since no money changed hands, prices were based on exchange. But since each side needed what the other had in abundance, exchange was easy.

Furthermore, since no money was involved, there was no need for a money counter. People on both sides benefited and this benefited their neighbors and their respective Kings. Both kingdoms benefited. The people didn’t even notice the lack of a money counter.

The King went back to his castle in a daze. It seemed that even in a situation in which all trade is strictly limited and controlled to enrich one person or a small group at the whole community’s expense, a way to trade freely will be found. Being wise and well-schooled, the King saw that this implied that love and connection are more powerful than separation and control – that openness and honesty are more powerful than secrecy and lies. Of course, the King realized, they would be. Why else would secrets be held? Why else would something pretend to be something else? He pondered this all the way back to the capital.

Once he returned, he immediately called for a conference with the other Kings. While he waited he noticed that news of that first market had spread like wildfire all across his entire kingdom. Soon, similar markets had appeared in towns along every border that his kingdom shared with another kingdom.

When the Kings were all together, he recounted his experience and what he’d learned. He wasn’t too surprised to learn that the markets had spread across all five kingdoms. They now connected The 5 Kingdoms together. There were now two exchanges. One was an official exchange, overseen by the money counter, and the other had been invented by and was managed by the people.

The significance of the markets was not lost on the Kings. They agreed to immediately open the checkpoints between their lands to allow for free trade among the people, in accordance with their original agreements. They also tasked their armies to dismantle and destroy the border fences and walls before the conscriptees were released back to their families.

Finally, they issued a joint decree, calling for the money counter to cease all operations and for him to be arrested and all of his records seized and all of his assets frozen.

It took many years for all of the money counter’s records to be found, organized, and read. It also took many years to find the money counter, himself. This was because once he realized the soldiers were coming to arrest him, he fled. Having kept his plans secret and working to separate individuals from each other just to increase profit or to feel more powerful, when he realized that he had been discovered, he fled. This does not mean that fleeing proves guilt but in the money counter’s case, since he couldn’t hide his secret any longer, he tried to hide himself.

Over the years, he tried to remain hidden while moving to escape The 5 Kingdoms and take his hidden stash of gold with him. This is what undid him in the end. Someone saw him and reported it. He was arrested and brought before a special panel of judges from each of the kingdoms and a jury composed of citizens from each of the five kingdoms.

He was found guilty and stripped of all of his money, which he coveted so highly. He was removed from The 5 Kingdoms and exiled. He was sentenced to remove himself from that place for three times as long as he had been there. At the end of his exile, he could return if he wished, provided that his activities from that moment onward were motivated out of genuine concern for the betterment of everyone and not just himself as measured against other people.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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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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Charley Girl Acts Smart

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by DCH Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Picture by Chelsea Nesvig

He pulled the container of eggs out of the refrigerator. It had been a little over a week since he’d hard-boiled and peeled them but he figured they would still be good. He didn’t expect that Thanksgiving would adversely affect the eggs. He thought they would still be there sitting in the refrigerator after they were done eating turkey. He was wrong.

He opened the container to find slightly discolored eggs. A reddish tinge seemed to be spreading on them. He guessed that it was some sort of bacterium. There was a whitish, watery liquid on the bottom of the container, too, and he noticed an odor of ripe decay.

That didn’t stop Charley Girl, though. If anything, the odor of over-ripe eggs made her more frenzied. She furiously wagged her tail and danced about. All of her attention was focused on the eggs. When she wasn’t dancing, she sat expectantly, sniffing the air. She tried to be good and sit still but she was too excited. A whine occasionally escaped her lips as if to remind him that she was there – as if he could forget her.

He remembered that one theory held that the first dogs ate garbage. The theory suggested that that was how the barrier between humans and dogs was first breached. But however it had been first breached, it had been. Since then both dogs and humans had made progress. They were fed things that were not rotten now but dogs in general seemed to sniff out garbage and were known for putting their noses in unpleasant things, although to be fair, people sometimes ate pretty rotten things, too. He remembered a description of cheese that characterized the dairy product as rotten milk. And wasn’t there a bacterium that was used in cheese-making that was responsible for body odor? And so-called “dry aged beef” was really rotten meat.

At any rate, on more than one walk Charley Girl had apparently reveled in smelling where garbage bags had been and even eating things from off the street or that had been found in the woods and she definitely got her share of fresh dog food. He could only imagine what a truly hungry dog would eat.

He let that thought recede back into the mists it emerged from. In the present moment Charley Girl was very excited over the eggs. There were three eggs in the container. He looked around. Fitzwilly was nowhere to be seen. He was probably in another part of the house doing doggie things.

He decided to give the eggs to the dogs if the bacteria would wash off. They were slippery but as he rubbed the first one under the water, the redness came off. He smelled the egg. He broke it open and smelled the inside. He didn’t want to eat it but it seemed to be okay. The bacteria didn’t seem to have penetrated into the egg. They seemed to be confined to the layer he’d washed away.

As he ran the water and washed the rest of the eggs, Charley Girl got even more excited. Fitzwilly must have heard the commotion because he came running.

Charley Girl snatched the first egg out of his hand and ran into the nearby dog crate just as Fitzwilly came down the stairs. There, she consumed the egg greedily while Fitzwilly’s attention was focused on the remaining eggs.

There were two eggs left. He gave one to Fitzwilly, and called Charley Girl. He hadn’t quite decided what to do. He had some vague intention of splitting the remainder somehow but he wasn’t sure how. She outweighed the smaller dog by factor of over 2 but he had nothing to measure the egg with.

He needn’t have bothered. Charley Girl stayed in the crate, eating her egg and sniffing pieces of it out of the bedding. He turned back to the smaller dog. He was attacking the egg with comedic gusto. The egg was almost as big as his head. It was certainly bigger than his mouth. But that didn’t stop him or even slow him down. He bit it in two, revealing the yolk, and proceeded to eat the white half. He saved the yolk for last. Was he “saving the best for last” or eating the part he liked most first? Fitzwilly gave no clue but he stripped the egg white from around the yolk, leaving the naked yolk on the floor along with scraps of white. He ate the yolk in one massive bite and looked up at him licking his lips. There appeared to be a smile on his face.

He called again and Charley Girl still refused to come so he gave Fitzwilly the third egg. He ate it greedily and quickly. By the time that Charley Girl came out of the crate, there were only scraps of egg white left. Fitzwilly licked them up off the floor while Charley Girl was sniffing around, getting oriented. No doubt, she could smell the eggs but she wasn’t sure where the smell came from. Fitzwilly finished “cleaning up.” Charley Girl sniffed the air then went over to where Fitzwilly sat and smelled the smaller dog’s face. Fitzwilly smelled hers.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Behavior vs. Being

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by DCH Park

One of the apparently more difficult things to deal with is the difference between behavior and being. We are trained to confuse these two. Often people react to hearing criticism of their beings when all that was intended was criticism of behavior or (worse) honest appraisal and reaction to behavior.

My wife once reminded me of how it is possible to love the divine in the other and to hold that love above everything else. Loving the divine in the other also makes healing possible. Embracing that divine makes many things possible that seem impossible otherwise. In many ways embracing the divine in others and yourself is the very essence of spirituality.

Perhaps that is why it is so strongly resisted. Regardless of why it is resisted though, Ego benefits when it is. What I have noticed is that in your outrage over being criticized, the tendency is to lose sight of yourself feeling outrage and to become submerged in the outrage. Other emotions work as well.

What they have in common is the tendency or expectation (some even encourage) the emotional reaction that protects Ego and is seen to come from criticism. It is remarkable that such criticism can be reacted to when it is not meant.

If I am catching something in a conversation that was not thrown by you, the other participant in the conversation, then it must have come from me, even though I may insist that it came from outside of myself. That is what I and resisting seeing and taking account of – myself.

One way to deal with this is to look for the difference between your being and your behavior. Is there something that you’re doing that assumes or restricts yourself and/or someone else? Is there some way that your actions or attitudes control those of another? How would better understanding and articulating them and/or your reasons for them lead to deeper realization of your own being or your reasons for choosing as you did and the wound(s) it (they) sprang from?

I find that pushing or trying to create behavior always boils down to control. I am trying to control myself and often trying to control others. I may be trying to control conversations or points of view, but I am trying to control.

Being is different. Being does not go away. It is in no rush. It can sit and placidly listen. It can even draw another out in the case that there is something waiting to be drawn out without losing focus or being diminished in any way.

What are you trying to control? What are you imposing Ego over? Is it strictly for Ego’s sake? How can you more clearly see and love the divine in yourself and the other?

© 2014, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Freedom

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by DCH Park

We live in a free society, or so we tell ourselves. We want to be free, but what is truly free? What is the nature of freedom? If it matters to us that others see us as free or powerful or popular, are we really? Can we be? These questions used to bother me greatly when I was younger. “How can I know that I am free if I don’t know what freedom is?” I would ask myself.

It seems pretty obvious that we are talking about one of two possible definitions of “free.” There may be others, but two spring to mind. Any good dictionary would point out that one definition of “free” applies to the price of something. Being a free person probably doesn’t have anything to do with prices in the marketplace, although economics would probably note that there is a connection between being a free person and how much things cost – if things cost too much, is it possible to be free?

The other definition of “free,” that of being at liberty, of not being imprisoned or enslaved, of not being controlled by obligation or the will of another, is at issue here. First of all, notice that you are not “at liberty” in some sense or other as long as you are enslaved, imprisoned, or controlled.

Secondly, notice that one of the ways to be controlled is through obligation. This control could be financial but it needn’t be. It could be cultural or traditional. It could be through something as ill-defined as “peer pressure” or expectations.

For example, I may have no connection to my neighbor at all other than that I live next to him or her. Nevertheless, that neighbor can have certain expectations for behavior and spending that affect choices that I make. All I have to do is accept those expectations into my worldview for them to control me.

I may rankle at what I perceive as the source of things that control me but the only thing at controls me, the only place such things can come from, is myself. On one level, I have to accept expectations into me for me to be subject to them. If I never accept them, they wouldn’t control me.

You can cleverly phrase things so that you use whatever language is fashionable. For example, you can claim that unless your neighbor cuts his grass in a certain way or disposes of his garbage and recycling just so, that neighbor is curtailing “your freedom.”

Such claims can be found in many places. Some of them are phrased more strongly or cleverly than others but they all boil down to attempts to control things. Specifically, people try to invoke changes in how they feel inside by controlling their external environments.

This is understandable. It is how we are trained in this society. We are taught to change the inside by changing the outside. In fact, we are taught to even find our own inner truth only obliquely, by looking outside first. We are taught to metaphorically tell what’s on on our left by looking only right. Even those who move so that they can see all around them without moving their heads, assume that everything stays fixed. If something moves, they may never see it.

We are even taught that it is somehow more “holy” or “honorable” to go outside to find what is inside. Who has not heard in this culture that those who serve others are more “blessed” or “selfless?”

To be sure, since everything is connected, it is possible to go the long way around and find yourself through service to others but it is shorter and quicker to find everyone within yourself through truly healing yourself. Besides, if you are in the habit of thinking that someone or some agency beyond you will notice your devotion and reward you then you are really thinking about yourself. You are possibly fooling yourself and you are using others. It seems cleaner and it is definitely quicker to free your head to look to yourself clearly first and truly heal yourself.

I have heard things in the media in the last ten or twenty years about “freedom from fear” or “freedom from terror.” Is this truly freedom? Maybe it is or at least leads to it. When I look within myself, I find that one way to be truly “free from fear” is to understand fear and where it comes from in an honest and courageous way. The first step toward healing what is there is to notice what is there.

If I am afraid to follow a connection that might lead me to my fear, rather than finding its root and healing it, I am controlled by it. The best that I can do is to restrict my behavior and minimize what I am afraid of, or to try to minimize it.

So it is important for healing not to become consumed by my wound, fear in this example. That way, rather than losing myself and being controlled by fear, I can find my way to its source and heal it. By healing it, I can transform it. It becomes a source of love and enlightenment. It becomes a source of power and understanding. Rather than a drain on resources as something to defend against, it is transformed into something that adds to my sense of energy and aliveness.

In other words, by fighting against it, I can never eliminate my fear. I can never heal it. I can only try to minimize it and reduce its effect on me and turning to things outside of myself too often leads to fighting. It’s like whistling in the graveyard. The whistling doesn’t eliminate what I’m afraid of nor does it eliminate my fear. At best, it distracts me or covers over what I fear.

In the meantime, I can hope that others are creating bulwarks to protect me while I’m whistling. What I don’t notice because I’m too busy being afraid is that those same bulwarks also limit me. They control me. I am not free.

Unfortunately, much of modern media seems to be geared toward engendering fear and providing a hated outsider to blame the fear on. By giving in to their fear, whole communities can come to hate other communities and individuals. They are so busy being afraid and finding things to be afraid of that they might not notice what they are doing.

Leaving aside for a moment who might benefit from such hatred, it seems clear that such benefits accrue only if hatred exists and is embraced by society. Since society is made up of the members of it, in other words, of you and I, if we each chose as individuals to heal instead of to hate, healing becomes possible on a societal level. It becomes commonplace.

This is the way in which we can all transcend fear together. This is what healing is and healing makes freedom possible. How do we heal?

One method that has been laid out very eloquently is Nonviolent Communication. Another is available through updated Ho’oponopono. What have you done lately to turn into your fear and heal it? Does it allow you to see or accept a hated other differently? Who is healed? The other person, or you, or both?

© 2014, 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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A Part of What Is

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by DCH Park

Remember that the “problem” of separation between body, mind, and spirit is not solved so much as it does not exist, in spite of what we may tell ourselves or expect to find. There is no separation between the three, They are all parts of a larger whole, just as your foot has no separation from your head because both are parts of the larger whole.

Expecting one part to always lead is silly. It may lead sometimes, but it can’t always lead. Sometimes a different part may have something to feel and/or add to the whole and being aware of it can allow you to recognize it as a part of the whole. Your idea or experience of the whole might change, but isn’t that possibility exciting? Isn’t that arguably why we incarnate in bodies to begin with?

Different things often come through in different ways. It would thus be silly to always expect that one part leads or that another part will never lead. Expecting the head or spirit to always lead or that one or the other never leads or does not exist is silly. Yet, some people insist on only admitting to the leadership of one and denying the possibility that the other could lead. Some even deny that one of them even exists.

What can be even more insidious is that by elevating something above others or by lowering it beneath others, one thing that becomes possible is that I cease to look at it at all. I stop really looking at it and experiencing it – I stop allowing it to be what it will be and stop myself from being what I will be. I think that I already know everything it might offer because I have labeled it, I can tell myself that I control it and that I know everything it will become. Because I tell myself that I know it, I can tell myself that I see it while I only see what I expect. I might never see it at all.

I am reminded of the parable, attributed to the Dalai Lama, about expecting to be able to cure an illness by only looking for its cause (and therefore its cure) in this life. It is said that ignoring other lives and looking only in this one is like looking for your lost keys in only one room in the house.

As told, the parable is ostensibly about past lives, but it points to a deeper truth – that the whole of reality may be vastly more complex than we suspect. It may also be vastly simpler than we expect. It may be both at the same time. One thing is clear. It is probably different than we were led to expect. Even if it is exactly as we were led to expect, it seems to me that we will never know that it is unless we allow it to be what it is.

I find that allowing the universe to be what it is is the same thing as allowing myself to be what I am. In order to do either, I have to recognize and release what I expect. As long as I am expecting something, I am not allowing. I am not discovering.

It may sound strange, but the body has a lot of wisdom. This is something that has become buried in modern culture, with its emphasis on the mind and intellectual prowess. In the culture, if something doesn’t make intellectual sense or isn’t rooted in what is popularly recognized as “logical” or “scientific” understanding, it is dismissed as so much gobbledygook or as fairy tales.

However, consider something as “simple” and everyday as healing from a pinprick. Perhaps a drop or two of blood is lost, but the blood rapidly clots, sealing itself in again. That in itself is amazing. If you were to design a system using a liquid carrier that stayed fluid indefinitely but that quickly solidified when a leak developed, sealing the leak and only the leak, how would you do it? Would your system carry oxygen, food, water, countless hormones, minerals, and other substances to every cell while simultaneously carrying wastes away from cells to be processed together? Would your designed system be as robust or as fast and effective as your naturally healing body?

Blood clotting is only the beginning, though. The body goes through an amazing process of creating new tissue to permanently seal the hole so that finally the site of the original injury is completely obscured. How many systems have you built that can do the same? How many systems has anyone built that can do that? The answer is simple. No one has.

All of the engineering and technological sophistication that modern society is so proud of is unable to match even the “simple,” everyday feat of healing from a tiny pinprick. How much more complex would an artificial device have to be to eat, digest, grow, and feel pain, hunger, thirst, and pleasure?

It’s not even clear where to begin to build a machine that can feel the fire and foment at the heart of true peace, joy, and love, much less use that insight to fuel truly immortal and universal creations. It’s not even clear what that creativity is or how it can reach across all lines of culture and tradition. It’s not clear how to even start asking questions about that. Building a machine to do it seems to lie even farther out.

Taken from the other extreme, some take spiritual things to be “right.” They seem to assume that anything spiritual must be right and they judge themselves, their lives, and those of others by their “spirituality.”

They assume, for example, that the spirit must always lead the body. Thus, they may look to spirit and, expecting the body (and reality) to follow, set out intentions in spirit alone. They may define wants in spirit that their bodies don’t reflect. Their bodies may be saying something completely different, or more to the point, acting on completely different assumptions from their spirits.

Since their expressions are in conflict, they get mud or they oscillate back and forth between receiving something and losing it or receiving something different from what they asked for. They are not wrong, in my experience, but they are not quite right, either. What’s more, I’m not sure that anything, including spirit, can be trusted to lead the self.

It seems to me that one way out of this quandary would be to start with the understanding that your emotions reflect your expectations and that both reflect you and your choices (which flow from you). In other words, your behavior and other conditions of your physical body reflect your being as much as your wants in spirit do.

These physical behaviors can block you from receiving what you consciously desire. You can also forget creating (or asking for) them in the first place. When you do, experiencing them without remembering asking for them can be onerous.

Nevertheless, the burden can become a link. What separates you from what you desire also connects you to what you desire. When you return to your sense of creation, operating over what blocks you becomes nothing more than a simple choice. Nothing is easier than choosing a different state. You can choose what you prefer simply and directly.

As you let go of the final expectation that separates you from your stated desire, your desire manifests effortlessly. Of course, you never know which expectation is the last one. Nevertheless, every release brings insights and benefits.

What are you releasing, now? What are you noticing? What are you aware of?

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”A Part of What Is” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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