An Anniversary Reflection on my Coast Guard Service and Lifetime Commitment to Core Values: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty

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Taking oath of enlistment on Tuesday, April 17th, 2001

Greetings everyone and Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone is doing well.

Thought I would post a substantially-revised and updated version of a previous blog entry I composed last month in light of the immense significance this present day holds for me: the 17th anniversary of my enlistment into military service. I hope it provides a much more complete picture of my military service and mental health advocacy journey. Enjoy the read.

You know, in recent weeks I had been reflecting on my past military service in the United States Coast Guard with a certain measure of tenderness and pride, perhaps even sentimentality as well. One of the best decisions I ever made, without question, and certainly one of the experiential “pillars” that you could say comprised a good chunk of the valuable perspective, insight and character that makes me who I am today.

I entered as a Radarman (RD) in the Spring of 2001, Sierra-159 company. Yep, that’s right, the famed “It’s Just Eight Weeks” recruitment video company. My “claim to fame” was being the kid who was interviewed while fighting back tears in segment 7 after just learning that I had been reverted after failing the Performance Enhancement Platoon (PEP), which was essentially a mega-boot camp within boot camp (read: absolute unmitigated Hell) for recruits who let’s say needed a little more of a “push” to uphold the very high standards of discipline and obedience demanded of us. It’s not so much that I was a “problem recruit” behaviorally speaking as it was me being a bit scatterbrained from time to time and in need of a good tune-up in the interest of training me to realize and reach my highest potential. And boy did they tune me up alright, even though I still managed to get sent back a company because I continued to make a chain of small mistakes! I did earn a Command Master Chief key a few years later after the CMC of Pacific Area/D-11 showed the embarrassing video to the entire crew aboard the my ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Munro! 😱😂

RD was the rating (specialty) that dealt with everything operations oriented, including intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination, communications, and of course, radar surveillance and navigation. Not long after I enlisted the rating name was changed to Operations Specialist (OS) to reflect specialty’s rapidly-growing purview of responsibility and scope throughout the maritime environment. I learned about the RD rating at ‘A’ school during the summer and fall of 2001, on a base in Yorktown, VA, just north of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Structurally and environmentally, it was a rather seamless and natural transition from the relentless rigor of boot camp, combining elements of a salient culture conducive to the upkeep of military bearing (falling in for ‘muster’ and marching to class as a group, regular workout days, etc.) and the general ambience of a university campus. I loved ‘A’ school, and enjoyed the increased freedom very much. Indeed, it would be my first little taste of independence, where I bought my first car, a beautiful supercharged 1995 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite, which represented a perfect marriage of subdued luxury and impressive power (my first solo cross-country trip after graduation remains one my most cherished memories). I took an easy liking to the talented and very capable instructors, the study and practice. My favorite subject was maneuvering boards, which I quickly mastered. They were incredibly fun and sometimes very challenging, like puzzles, but with vectors (later on my ship I would become the ‘go-to’ guy for maneuvering board training, tutoring enlisted and officer alike for their qualifications boards and personal edification).
On the morning of 9/11, a Tuesday, the class was learning about plotting and figuring true and desired winds on the maneuvering boards. The drudgery of the morning lesson was quickly interrupted when the lead instructor, Chief Bach, burst in the classroom to tell us that class was over because two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York. Some of us in the class chuckled as Chief was well-known for his humorous antics and levity. His red face, the look on his eyes and a deadpan “I’m totally serious” comment immediately convinced us otherwise. The base went into what is called Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) 1 and closed immediately, no entry or exit, for almost two weeks. There was concern that the class wouldn’t graduate on time and that some of us would even be shipped out in preparation for war. In retrospect, that day and the ensuing weeks pretty much marked the moment I truly realized what it meant to be a member of the armed forces, the moment I truly became a Coastie.

As OS’s, we were charged with coordinating resources and logistics to prosecute search and rescue and other critical missions, and many lives were saved from being stranded on the high seas and other waterways in the process. Sometimes, unfortunately, one of our local units would answer a rescue call concerning a person who jumped from a high bridge in an attempt to take their own life, many of them while at my first duty station in Alameda, CA, right in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area. These calls were always the hardest because they almost always ended up with the person passing away. While attached to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro, I took to the high seas and traveled outside of the country for the first time in my life. Life aboard ship was brutal at times, but humbling and in many ways enriching. You definitely learned to appreciate being on land and doing “mundane” things like grocery shopping or going to the park after months out at sea. Like many young enlisted folks, I lived on board ship even while at home port. It wasn’t terrible; you were able to come and go as you pleased during liberty periods, but the constant checking in and out got old quickly. After ten months, I got my first apartment. That first night as a 21-year old sleeping in his own bed in his own place also remains one of my most cherished memories. There was no shortage of action on the ship; we mostly did counter-drug, counter-terrorism/homeland security and fisheries patrols all up and down the west coast, from the Aleutian Islands to South America. I was chronically sea-sick, and had to take promethazine tablets, skin patches and even a motion-sickness wrist band regularly just to be able to function. Among the highlights of my memorable tour of duty aboard the Munro were:

-A search and rescue case where we located and picked up a British rowboat enthusiast who for some reason thought it would be a great idea to take a 14-ft sport rowboat from Peru to Australia. Needless to say his journey wasn’t a successful one, but he did succeed in eventually winning our admiration and even becoming an honorary member of our crew. Fair winds and following seas wherever you may be, Andrew (“Captain Andy”) Halsey.

-An epic drug bust (one of the largest in history) after weeks of intense tracking, coordination and surveillance. Many metric tons of cocaine. Made national news and got plenty of local and state recognition from politicians and media alike.

-An extended 14-hour pursuit of a drug-filled “go-fast” vessel, the final dramatic moments of which was seen by a big group of officers and crew crammed into our little shop, the Combat Information Center (CIC), via closed circuit TV broadcast by a network of infrared cameras. At the end of the chase one of the occupants torched the vessel while everyone was sill on board, resulting in a tremendous blast of fulgurant light that occupuied the entire screen for several seconds.

-Noting the stark contrast between appreciating the paradisical beauty of the Alaskan landscape and fighting behemoth 60-ft ocean waves and swells during some of our most intense fisheries patrols (I’ll just say that walking horizontally didn’t bode particularly well for my chronic mal de mer, even while heavily medicated).

-Partying it up at some of the hottest dance clubs on Mexico’s and Central America’s west coast, especially spending spring break and the start of the Iraq War in Acapulco, partaking of the idyllic cityscape of Victoria, BC on the weekend of Victoria Day, training the Coast Guards (Guardacostas) of developing countries during diplomatic visits and volunteeering to participate in a tearfully-moving Memorial Day commemoration at the Cle Ellum, Washington gravesite of our ship’s namesake, Petty Officer Douglas Munro, the first and only Coast Guard recipient of the Medal of Honor.

-Unfortunately, though, my tour aboard the Mighty Munro would also give rise to the first salient signs of clinical depression, a condition which I have suffered from since the age of 14, and would intensify significantly during some of our longer patrols.

I’d have to say that the highlight of my career began when I was on overnight watch as the Response Duty Officer at District Eight Command Center the moment Hurricane Katrina made landfall. My LT and I looked at each other and pretty much decided right then to rock and roll. He phoned the Admiral right away and I made other calls. It was time to put all our training and contingency plans into motion, and get the hell out of Dodge.

We reconstituted the District Headquarters in St Louis, and immediately set up a makeshift command center in a small office at a downtown mixed-use office building. During the first week alone we answered over 4,100 calls for assistance while pulling non-stop “port and starboard” watch schedules, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, day in, day out. Many of the calls came from people in search of loved ones, and people stranded themselves but who unfortunately had no clear sense of geographic reference to pass on to the servicing Air Station in Mississippi due to the massive flooding. Many were sick and in need of emergency medications either for themselves or others close to them. Some of the callers were children who were separated from their families, and vice-versa. We were of course exhausted and had a sense of helplessness as we realized there was very little we could personally do to help these people other than take their contact info down and approximate address/general geographic location to pass onto one of a few Air Stations/remote response stations for further coordination. But the adrenaline brought on and kept on by the elevated operational tempo gave us all the momentum we needed to keep pressing on. After about the second week one of the Captains allowed for the crew to take leave in staggered segments, where one group would be allowed to take a certain number of days at a time to return to the New Orleans area to check on their homes, gather their families and coordinate the logistics of where they were going to be staying and so on. Once the first group reported back another group would be free to go and so on. My apartment fared relatively well, but the complex as a whole was ravaged and had to be extensively renovated. If I recall correctly, there was at least one fatality there. The neighborhood and of course the metro as a whole looked like it could have been straight from a Mad Max-type apocalyptic thriller. Some of my shipmates were not so lucky, returning to substantially and in some cases completely-submerged homes.

We ended up staying in St Louis for several months, eventually relocating to a much bigger area to accommodate all of the District Offices, including a larger and more comfortable office to house the command center. The crew was relocated from temporary to more permanent housing and the constant outpouring of generosity, love, support and appreciation from the wider community was very moving. The command center crew eventually found ways to blow off steam and have fun during our free time. And boy did we blow off some major steam! In the process, we without a doubt solidified as a team and became much closer than ever before. We were the “Katrina Crew,” the tight band of officers, OS’s, and Marine Science Technicians (MST’s) who made it through one of the worst natural disasters in US history to contribute to the saving/assisting of over 33,000 lives in our own little way, while up against an unprecedented operational and logistical environment.

Little did I know, after a number of recurrences in my depressive episodes post-Katrina, my career would come to an abrupt and unceremonious end after the fallout from a civilian legal issue I became involved in, which also resulted in the loss of my apartment, security clearance, friends, life savings, dignity and peace of mind (news of the legal situation quickly spread through local news outlets, and unfortunately is still the first thing the world sees attached to my name on the web to this day). The official notice of my discharge in the office of the District Chief of Administration resulted in my first public utterance of suicidal ideation, resulting in my immediate referral to a residential treatment facility in the area pending separation. The two-week stay at the facility was surprisingly productive and eye-opening for me, for it was the first time I would come into direct contact with others who suffered from mental health issues as I did, and would be the first time I would receive treatment of any kind for my depression, marking the beginning of my long and very rocky journey towards recovery. It would even be the first time my creative forces and impulses would coalesce into fruition, resulting in a much more acute awareness and demonstration of my creative potential, specifically in art, music and poetry.

When I raised my hand to enlist, I swore to live by the core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty, instilled in me from day 1 of basic training. These core values are the Guard’s guiding principles in everything we do, from search and rescue (SAR), ports and waterways security, marine mammal/marine environmental protection, drug interdiction, servicing aids to navigation (ATON), to humane treatment of migrants, defense readiness/homeland security, ice ops, diplomatic visits, and so on.

Even though I am long out of the Coast Guard now I still feel that it is my mission to live by these core values as I work to try to save lives in a different way, through being a staunch advocate for mental health awareness and support for all, not the least of whom my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. In the nearly 11 years I’ve been separated, I’ve been to the deepest oceanic trenches of despair with my own battle with depression and suicidal ideation. Indeed, last year was pretty much the closest I had ever been to being one of the roughly 22 veterans who on average succumb to the demons they so courageously and heroically tried to battle. But somehow, someway, I have managed to keep those demons at bay, enough to proudly proclaim my lifetime commitment to:

1) Honor the value of every life.

2) Respect everyone I come across, regardless of who they are or where they come from or what they believe or who they choose to love.

3) Remain fully Devoted to what I consider to be the noble and privileged Duty of reaching out to people who are hurting to show them love and appreciation for who they are and who they can become, and to advocate ceaselessly for those who hurt.

I’m not a trained therapist or mental health professional or anything. Just a regular guy who loves humanity and cries when you cry, always with a shoulder for you to cry on if necessary. I have come a very long way since those early enlistment days and my life has changed far beyond measure, far beyond what I could have ever anticipated. Despite my immense loss and emotional suffering over the years, I made a decision to keep pushing along the path towards redemption and true greatness, and the horizon from this current vantage is indeed beautiful and promising. Of course, I’m still growing and learning, and there will be future conflict, countercurrents, rip tides and other assorted setbacks, but I will keep the sails rigged, keep the ship steady as she goes. Maneuver the speed as necessary, but stay the course overall. It is my only option.

I am above all else a friend. A friend to all. A friend to you. A friend on a new mission, which is to be a lighthouse of hope to all who are hurting, and to urge everyone who has bravely overcome their own personal demons to please, please be a lighthouse of hope to others, for I can’t save everyone by myself, as much as I would like to be able to. Drop a few words of kindness and encouragement to people you come across in the course of your daily lives, online and offline, family, friend and stranger alike. Be especially kind and compassionate to those who make their hurt and pain known, whether explicitly or through suggestion. Together, we can get through this. And we will. Because I am ready for any opportunity that may come my way to help improve the human condition. And I want you to always be ready as well. Why? Because Semper Paratus, that’s why!

Take care. Be well. Love all.

On Coast Guard Service and Lifetime Commitment to Core Values

Greetings everyone and Happy Monday!

Hope everybody is doing well. You know, in recent weeks I had been reflecting on my past military service in the United States Coast Guard with a certain measure of  tenderness and pride, perhaps even sentimentality as well. One of the best decisions I ever made, without question, and certainly one of the experiential “pillars” that you could say comprised a good chunk of the valuable perspective, insight and character that makes me who I am today.

I entered as a Radarman (RD) in the Spring of 2001, Sierra-159 company. Yep, that’s right, the famed “It’s Just Eight Weeks” recruitment video company. My “claim to fame” was being the kid who was interviewed while fighting back tears in segment 7 after just learning that I had been reverted after300px-Munro-SSD failing the Performance Enhancement Platoon (PEP), which was essentially a mega-boot camp within boot camp (read: absolute unmitigated Hell) for recruits who let’s say needed a little more of a “push” to uphold the very high standards of discipline and obedience demanded of us. It’s not so much that I was a “problem recruit” behaviorally speaking as it was me being a bit scatterbrained from time to time and in need of a good tune-up in the interest of training me to realize and reach my highest potential. And boy did they tune me up alright, even though I still managed to get sent back a company because I continued to make a chain of small mistakes! I did earn a Command Master Chief key a few years later after the CMC of Pacific Area/D-11 showed the embarrassing video to the entire crew aboard the my ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Munro! 😱😂

RD was the rating (specialty) that dealt with everything operations oriented, including intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination, communications, and of course, radar surveillance and navigation. Not long after I enlisted the rating name was changed to Operations Specialist (OS) to reflect specialty’s rapidly-growing purview of responsibility and scope throughout the maritime environment.

As OS’s, we were charged with coordinating resources and logistics to prosecute search and rescue and other critical missions, and many lives were saved from being stranded on the high seas and other waterways in the process. Sometimes, unfortunately, one of our local units would answer a rescue call concerning a person who jumped from a high bridge in an attempt to take their own life. These calls were always the hardest because they almost always ended up with the person passing away.

I’d have to say that the highlight of my career began when I was on overnight watch as the Response Duty Officer at District Eight Command Center the moment Hurricane Katrina made landfall. My LT and I looked at each other and pretty much decided right then to rock and roll. He phoned the Admiral right away and I made other calls. It was time to put all our training and contingency plans into motion, and get the hell out of Dodge.

We reconstituted the District Headquarters in St Louis, and immediately set up a makeshift command center in a small office at a downtown mixed-use office building. During the first week alone we answered over 4,100 calls for assistance while pulling non-stop “port and starboard” watch schedules, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, day in, day out. Many of the calls came from people in search of loved ones, and people stranded themselves but who unfortunately had no clear sense of geographic reference to pass on to the servicing Air Station in Mississippi due to the massive flooding. Many were sick and in need of emergency medications either for themselves or others close to them. Some of the callers were children who were separated from their families, and vice-versa. We were of course exhausted and had a sense of helplessness as we realized there was very little we could personally do to help these people other than take their contact info down and approximate address/general geographic location to pass onto one of a few Air Stations/remote response stations for further coordination. But the adrenaline brought on and kept on by the elevated operational tempo gave us all the momentum we needed to keep pressing on. After about the second week one of the Captains allowed for the crew to take leave in staggered segments, where one group would be allowed to take a certain number of days at a time to return to the New Orleans area to check on their homes, gather their families and coordinate the logistics of where they were going to be staying and so on. Once the first group reported back another group would be free to go and so on. My apartment fared relatively well, but the complex as a whole was ravaged and had to be extensively renovated. If I recall correctly, there was at least one fatality there. The neighborhood and of course the metro as a whole looked like it could have been straight from a Mad Max-type apocalyptic thriller. Some of my shipmates were not so lucky, returning to substantially and in some cases completely-submerged homes.

We ended up staying in St Louis for several months, eventually relocating to a much bigger area to accommodate all of the District Offices, including a larger and more comfortable office to house the command center. The crew was relocated from temporary to more permanent housing and the constant outpouring of generosity, love, support and appreciation from the wider community was very moving. The command center crew eventually found ways to blow off steam and have fun during our free time. And boy did we blow off some major steam! In the process, we without a doubt solidified as a team and became much closer than ever before. We were the “Katrina Crew,” the tight band of officers, OS’s, and Marine Science Technicians (MST’s) who made it through one of the worst natural disasters in US history to contribute to the saving/assisting of over 33,000 lives in our own little way, while up against an unprecedented operational and logistical environment.

When I raised my hand to enlist, I swore to live by the core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty, instilled in me from day 1 of basic training. These core values are the Guard’s guiding principles in everything we do, from search and rescue (SAR), ports and waterways security, marine mammal/marine environmental protection, drug interdiction, servicing aids to navigation (ATON), to humane treatment of migrants, defense readiness/homeland security, ice ops, diplomatic visits, and so on.

Even though I am long out of the Coast Guard now I still feel that it is my mission to live by these core values as I work to try to save lives in a different way, through being a staunch advocate for mental health awareness and support for all, not the least of whom my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. In the nearly 11 years I’ve been separated, I’ve been to the deepest oceanic trenches of despair with my own battle with depression and suicidal ideation. Indeed, last year was pretty much the closest I had ever been to being one of the roughly 22 veterans who on average succumb to the demons they so courageously and heroically tried to battle. But somehow, someway, I have managed to keep those demons at bay, enough to proudly proclaim my lifetime commitment to:

1) Honor the value of every life.

2) Respect everyone I come across, regardless of who they are or where they come from or what they believe or who they choose to love.

3) Remain fully Devoted to what I consider to be the noble and privileged Duty of reaching out to people who are hurting to show them love and appreciation for who they are and who they can become, and to advocate ceaselessly for those who hurt.

I’m not a trained therapist or mental health professional or anything. Just a regular guy who loves humanity and cries when you cry, always with a shoulder for you to cry on if necessary.

I am above all else a friend. A friend to all. A friend to you. A friend on a new mission, which is to be a lighthouse of hope to all who are hurting, and to urge everyone who has bravely overcome their own personal demons to please, please be a lighthouse of hope to others, for I can’t save everyone by myself, as much as I would like to be able to. Drop a few words of kindness and encouragement to people you come across in the course of your daily lives, online and offline, family, friend and stranger alike. Be especially kind and compassionate to those who make their hurt and pain known, whether explicitly or through suggestion. Together, we can get through this. And we will. Because I am ready for any opportunity that may come my way to help improve the human condition. And I want you to always be ready as well. Why? Because Semper Paratus, that’s why!

Take care.

A Tale of Two Geniuses: A Personal Reflection on the Nature of Genius and the Human Condition

Nathan Rockwell Haselbauer

Professor Stephen Hawking

 

Hi friends,

Seems that Synchronicity has stricken once again. Several days ago I had been planning to write a post about genius. And, voila! One of the world’s foremost geniuses in history has just ascended into the celestial realm.

Regarding the concept itself, though, I wanted to explore the essential nature of genius and the way in which it tends to find manifestation in the realm of externality. My working interpretation has always been that genius is not so much a fixed capacity to absorb and reproduce a seemingly inexhaustible array of facts as it is an organic process of synthesis of various realms of knowledge in order to create or reveal new realms. In fact, I made this very observation in a Facebook post a couple years ago, about two weeks to the day (the date of the posting was 3/28/2016). On that post, I followed up with the caution that if one ever happened to run into a genius, to be patient with them, as you would a person of limited intellectual capacity. You may get bombarded with numerous strands of seemingly disconnected thought, which is simply evidence of the fact that some geniuses are simply better at synthesizing than others.

Initially I had been planning to more or less limit my exploration of genius to this working interpretation, which of course is essentially entailed in most conventional definitions of genius. But I was actually moved to delve more deeply into the human component of genius not only in light of Professor Hawking’s ascension, but also upon recently learning of the tragic suicide of Nathan Haselbauer at 40 years old in March 2015.

Nathan was pretty much by all accounts a genius. His IQ was tested to be around 162, and his keen intellect helped propel him into a very lucrative career as a Wall Street speculator at the tender age of 18. He would go on to develop a variety of logic puzzles, IQ tests and brain games, and had even established an international high IQ organization on par with Mensa.

I first took notice of him when he appeared as a guest on a BBC Horizon documentary episode called “Battle of the Brains” in 2007. The documentary was basically an investigation into the nature of intelligence and an exploration of some of the current theories about what intelligence is, including Howard Gardner’s famous theory of multiple intelligences, the concept of emotional intelligence, and the nature of creativity. Nathan was one of several guests who were by all accounts very intelligent and highly successful in their respective fields.

There was a child musical prodigy, who at 14 was already composing his own symphonies and other works. There was a supersonic jet pilot, a career which needless to say requires not only an extreme amount of intelligence, but also a highly-advanced problem-solving capacity, keen attention to detail and a transcendent level of focus. There was also a very talented self-taught artist who never finished high school, but who routinely sold her paintings to art collectors and galleries for thousands. There was a dramatist/playwright/literary critic, who began writing plays as a young girl. Aside from plays, she has also written several novels, musicals, radio plays, films, TV shows, even an opera. There was also an internationally-accomplished chess grandmaster, who had been called the “female Bobby Fischer.” And last, a quantum physicist who is currently a distinguished professor at MIT.

The guests went through a battery of tests in a competition-like setting in order to determine which brilliant mind would emerge as the most quintessentially intelligent, who most accurately represented the concept of intelligence in human form. The tests were really fun to watch, and included a variety of exercises designed to gauge each person’s aptitude for creative expression, creative thought, spatial awareness, IQ testing ability, and so on. Nathan, the quantum physicist, and the dramatist/playwright/critic all emerged as the “winners” at the end, indicating that, at least within the scope and purview of the show’s testing structure, they each most closely represented the “true” definition of intelligence (I was particularly proud of the literary arts being represented, being a poet and all. Lord knows we’re generally not the first thing people think of when they are asked to picture a ‘genius,’ hahaha, Shakespeare of course being an uncommon exception 🤣🤔🤓).

Back to Nathan’s story. I took a liking to him almost right away. Aside from being incredibly smart he also had an air of gentleness about him. You could say he was even soft-spoken. I never once picked up an attitude of grandiosity or narcissism, despite being the guest with the highest IQ and the wealthiest to boot. I learned that he was living in a small Colorado town at the time of his demise. He generally kept to himself, and it was learned some time after his death that he simply dreaded the thought of living a lonely life. He suffered from depression and was given to extreme isolation, and finally decided to end it all shortly after his 40th birthday.

Nathan’s story moved me deeply, because I just as easily could have been him. I am 3 years away from 40, and have been assessed by at least one clinical psychologist in the past who, let’s just say, was astounded and very encouraged by cognitive/intellectual ability, specifically as it relates to language. That’s as far as I’ll go with that, because I don’t believe in talking about IQ and I am certainly loath to self-aggrandizement, aka “tooting my own horn.” (If anyone is interested in hearing more about my experience with the clinical psychologist, message me).

Anyway, I also suffered as Nathan suffered. I have battled clinical depression and feelings of loneliness for a very long time, and just last year when I was at my life’s lowest point, I, too, dreaded the thought of going through my 40’s and 50’s with little prospect of meaningful social interaction. I guess you could say that I was tricked, as I am almost certain poor Nathan was, into thinking that the only thing I needed to live a purposeful, fulfilling and self-actualized existence was my intellectual capacity. I romanticized the hermit, the recluse, the lone wolf who retreated into the hidden depths of a forest to dedicate his entire life to the constant acquisition of knowledge for its own sake.

And boy was I wrong! In fact, that thinking had caused me so much emotional anguish and despair that it nearly took my own life. So what have I learned? Simple, that we as human beings are BY DESIGN to be involved in humanity, and we thrive the most when we dedicate our lives not to isolated study, but to the advancement of civilization towards greater and greater enlightenment. The more we fight this design, the more we suffer.

Professor Hawking accepted this design; nay, embraced it fully, dedicating his entire life to advancing humanity through a ceaseless and unconditional commitment to curiosity. I admired him very much, and was especially inspired by his perseverance through tremendous physical adversity. ALS is a devastating degenerative condition, and the fact that he managed to survive nearly 50 years with the condition is nothing short of remarkable. But it is also a testament to the fact that once you decide to open the precious intellectual gifts in your mind to the world, you are pretty much destined to thrive, in spite of whatever adversity life tries to throw at you. It is not lost on me that Hawking lived to be about the same age as Einstein, and that the date of his ascension, 3/14, has brought many things in life, well, full circle, or at least much closer to it.

Be well everyone. And dare to be brilliant. And compassionate. And loved.

“The intellect is good but until it has become the servant of the heart, it is of little avail.”

― Abdu’l-Bahá

 

 

Release

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All that torment has loved has disappeared,
and we remain hopeful.
The significance of her efforts
have not gone unnoticed; indeed,
they have recapitulated old victories
and insights that had been hitherto obscured
by notions unseen and ideations to come.
We rally together for a promise of worlds to be

And fully satiate our desire for sanity
by committing to novel patterns of doing and breathing
deeper and more profound
as if the air we knew all along turned in on itself
and proclaimed that only the decadent shadow
could partake of her beauty.
We do not hope for redemption; it is irrelevant.
We do not participate in the vagaries of mindfulness

As we have already been thrice illumined by chariots
sallying forth in a devil’s mist.
After all, we have connected eons ago by the
hands of molecular consistencies and arrangements,
morphed into ornaments of a quiet and intricate despair,
became ripe for contemplation and eventual division,
and ennobled by a distinction not quite unlike
that we have seen in the old woman by the sea,

Who recalls those she instilled with benedictions and protections,

those who knew nothing of the imminent greying of the cloud,
or the sable rainfall in late winter,
or the cellular dance taking place in her furrowed hand.
We knew she didn’t exist as a fullness or even a drop of contingency,
but Fate would make it clear that this handmaiden of the gods
had no choice but to enjoin the waves to cease,
the moon to readjust and the whispers to become

Psalms of renewal and purpose.
Perhaps when I awaken from my slumber,
I shall call upon the disenchantment of the lost,
and be reunited with my passion for the nuance of colored thoughts
in a colorless world. I will know breath anew,
and each movement toward being will ripen
throughout successive periods of clarity and understanding.
It is then that I will become ingrained in myself, and project in infinite directions.

Art: “Phoenix (Peace Eagle)”
Matthew Day Jackson

Anatomy of a Tear

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Formless and inconstant paths,
weighted roots with no foundation;
whence does it arise but from a
disjointed countenance with no proportion,
or a leaf from a broken branch?

Dust in the fields,
sunless clouds in aimless procession,
breathless winds and incorporeal birds
that have forgotten their wings;
the water’s edge no longer beckons.

The once gentle and complaisant calf limps away in fear
along a scabrous meadow that has turned in unto itself,
where the borders now fold into jagged embankments on all sides,
where the drought-weakened oak palliates no more
and the hope of a thousand tomorrows goes to rest

Face down, arms tucked in, like a child stroked gently by the lapping shore.
Fate has made its final trek across the mound
and now comes to compel my love,
to usurp my longings and make sprightly
each of my steps to a sweet place beneath

A darkened moon where the leaves are heard no more,
where the touch has faded and this thoughtless mass
has swallowed the desiderium of yesteryear’s solace.
A singular drop seeks nothingness but does not find.
It vacillates between atonement and quietude

As have all the drops before it,
as have the senescent imaginings of an unattainable peace
that broods just below a smiling face.
I will not see it fall to the earth below;
The eyes have chosen the undifferentiated sky, and the sky, the unseen.

Art: “Bosque De Abdules”
Gustav Klimt

Flash of the Crow

Flash of the Crow

These eyes have laid bare
A tendency to drift
Among currents of
Impalpable impressions of thought,
Wherein only the wither’d vestiges
Of youthful wings doth abound,
Now intermittently aflutter
To the last plainchant of the grave warden
Resolutely resigned to his own extinction:

———————————

A solitary wind meanders on,
Too noble for stagnation,
But too humble for forgiveness.
Every color is uprooted and scattered
Along this serpentine path,
Until usurped by velvety drops of blackened rain
That slowly fill a wooden ladle
Perched against a dessicant rock
That patiently abides a child’s return.

She once kept post at the entrance
To a vale of wonderment-
Unconditionally-
Where the cackle of children
Flourished day and night, freely conceived
Amid raucous cavalcades
Of homespun instruments,
Where artless impromptu anthems
Blared possibilities that became harmony
And harmony recalled
Colorful vingettes
Of its own possibility
During occasions of tenderness.

From time to time
The winds would heed
Her strident call to order.
And a cluster of buds
Would dance their Christening dance
As the flocks looked on
With amusement.
These were the times
Her silken essence
Glistened the most,
Reflecting restless, variegated hues
Perpetually seeking flight
Back into the womb of the Sun.

One day she left,
No sooner than she appeared.
The children are now asleep,
Hastened to rest
By an unbidden hiatus in verse.
All that is left to wonderment
Is absorbed in a sodden chimera
Of beady unblinked eyes
And a violent twitch
Of a deciduous patchwork coat
That glistens no more.

From this abandoned ladle
Harmony takes a drink
And begins to remember
A song from old,
But the words escape him.

Art: “Dire Straights”
Judith Gebhard Smith

Water

Caroline_Zimmermann_Water_Paintings_19

 

Startled by the shrill cries of feathered sable-winged imps, I awaken.

I stumble with purpose to the bathroom, turn on the faucet, allowing the stark cold deluge of life to overtop my cupped hands. Perched over the sink like a sordid mendicant in the throes of his final prostration, I am momentarily transfixed by the effortless and inconstant swishing and swirling, movement upon movement, all manner of transparent, tenuous being turning back on itself.

Just as soon as it is there, it is not, and no sooner it is there again. In a singular thrust my face is fully immersed, arising to a glass bespattered with errant streams scurrying toward the white porcelain base like fugitive tears from a dozen eyes, giving it a cracked and mottled appearance. I am confronted by a mere semblance of a man, slipping in and out of definition, his visage melting and separating into disjointed components of an indifferent and superfluous reality.

I peer out of the kitchen window, expecting to find the imps alighting on the balcony’s ledge. They usually gather around at this time to discuss the day’s events, to celebrate the passing whispers of days and seasons, to plan, plot, make love, then polish their sleek sweptback wings for yet another excursion.

They are gone. Treeless limbs rest lethargically in the distance, valgus and brittle. The rays of a rapidly descending sun cast them in a particularly stark and reprehensible relief. I make my way to the door, turning back once to take in this vast expanse of muddled ambitions. For the first time I leave it unlocked. A clear, bitter calipash congeals around my neck, through my nose, and over my eyes no sooner than I can manage two steps outside, asphyxiating me whole with stoic hands that only toil in withered fields.

I push my way past a gaggle of unkempt urchins frolicking aimlessly along the side street that eventually leads up to the old abandoned tea house two or so blocks east. I make my way south down towards the sparsely-dressed hillock that seems to be in perpetual solicitation for souls or at least a once-in-a-year ablution from the fleeting but curious clouds.

To my right is the road to Happy Ville where I often drowned myself in liquid sanity and floated along swells of lusty, sweltering bacchants with no faces. A particularly fearsome bacchante bedecked in an exotic suite of blue nainsook, rose beads and flowers coruscates with vulgar abandon, cheered on enthusiastically by bearded virtuoso vagabonds camped on the corner with whatever managed to produce just enough euphonious strands of harmony to get them through another night.

Two knights perched on horses look on with authority half subdued by prurient amusement. Tonight I drift along implacable currents of beings who knew no care but their own, bodiless heads weaving in and out of art galleries and watering holes like little organic molecules connected by skeins of dilapidated spirits and proud destitution. For all the activity, there is no life in this place.

I stand atop the hillock and set my gaze on the lake below, coloring it with what little my eyes have left. Forms arise, disappear, then back again, but always stagnant, an enticing tableau vivant bedewing my affections with delicate but devilish hands. My form is incomplete, my body a disjointed mass turning back on itself to find completion in a broken world. “It’s all vain, vain,” I cry, wringing my sweaty hands as I ponder the depths for all the answers I’ve ever needed.

Art: “Turquoise Blues III”
Carolyn Zimmerman