death

A good story doesn’t necessarily need words.

I’m obsessed with Son Lux and all their side projects lately. They also have phenomenal videos.

Make sure you watch this one till the end. There’s a twist in the tale.

What did you think of this story?

SICK Quotes Saturday 4: A psychological suspense novella

SICK Quotes

Free on Halloween.

John Branch to his wife Susan on the topic of assisted suicide.

Today’s the last free Sick Day. Get your copy.

#Writers Blooming Everywhere

Writing Quotes Christa Wojo

I’m now on Instagram! @christawojo

I live in the Chiriquí highlands, a land of eternal spring that bursts with flowers all year long. My yard is full of countless colors and species. There are pinks, yellow, blues, reds, purples, fiery oranges, and blazing whites. There are orchids, daffodils, roses, hibiscus, and many kinds of plants that I can’t identify.

I try to make sure I crawl out of my writing/working cave for a few minutes a day to appreciate the flowers. Not only is it soothing to get away from the glowing screens of my electronics, but I do it for the plant life too. I feel it’s a shame to ignore them as they strain upward to bloom as brightly as they can. I know that all too quickly they will wilt and die. Someone should be there to watch their performance.

On hikes through the cloud forest, I often notice a lone, exotic flower in the mist. It waits there in silence, sparkling with dew, and trembles in the breeze like it’s excited to see me. I think of how easily I might not have been in that spot at that moment to witness it in its pinnacle of existence. What a pity for those countless hidden beauties who go through the trouble of making a such a performance only to be missed!

But I realize that whether I was there or not, the flower would’ve opened in the darkness of the jungle anyway. It would have raised its petals to the moon and folded back into itself again, a marvel never to be seen.

I think of artists like flowers – painters, dancers, singers, and writers. We are designed to bloom and can’t help ourselves from doing so. It doesn’t matter if anyone is there to witness it or appreciate it. It doesn’t matter if it’s practical or not. It’s what we were made to do, and we must do it or we’ll be miserable.

We may get trampled on or devoured by insects. We may be clipped short and put in a vase to be put on a brief display for others and then shrivel before our time. We may be watered and nurtured so that we thrive and mature to our fullest potential, blooming season after season, becoming an attraction for bees and butterflies and hummingbirds.

On the other hand, we may never be noticed or acknowledged by a single soul. We might throw all our energies, passions, and resources into becoming the most spectacular blossom, only to crumple back into the ground without attracting the slightest notice.

The point is this. Don’t write to be seen. Write to become yourself.

No matter what, we must break from the soil, unfurl with determination, and reach for the sun. As flowers bloom, so we must write. We must write. We must write!

So go write!

What are your goals as a writer?

Would you still write if you knew no one would ever read it?

What are you working on right now?

Writing Advice from The Hands of God

Artist quotes

Sculptor, Antoni Azarov

I love to nag people for interviews, and annoying as I may be, some very famous people occasionally indulge me.

This was the case with world renowned sculptor, Antoni Azarov. Even though the press dub him, and I quote, an “asshole,” I’ve discovered once you get used to his intensity, he’s kind of funny in his own dry way.

Let me first tell you, I admire Azarov’s work with the gushing of a sixteen-year-old at a boyband concert. This man’s hands can make clay into a sculpture so striking that you feel uncomfortable being in the same room with it; as if it were a vessel that held a ghost, one that might want to escape its ceramic shell to jump into your living skin.

Not to say Azarov’s a realist. His sculptures are minutely distorted, just slightly exaggerated–preventing them from being exact human replicas. But the distortion is what gives the sculptures souls, their naked bodies adorned by the invisible cloth of their psyches.

Azarov arrived on his Ducati, a big, black machine whose vibrating engine shook my porte cochere, flooding my house with its throbbing sound. He wore dark, indigo jeans and a black racing jacket. His dark hair was overgrown, past his jaw, and blew in tangles around his face after he removed his helmet.

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Holy or broken, it’s always “Hallelujah”

 

Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah became more poignant for me after his somewhat absurd and untimely death, especially when I contemplated the meaning behind the song’s words.

I like Jeff Kober’s interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, which I have pasted from his blog about Vedic meditation.

 

Hallelujah begins with reference to one of the great kings of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic world and mythos:

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

 

In the second verse, Mr. Cohen takes his musings into the realm of love while continuing with the Biblical imagery, now including Samson and Delilah:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

 

Thus far Mr. Buckley’s version remains faithful to Mr. Cohen’s, and this faithfulness continues through the next two verses, both of which deal with the fraility of love and memories of what once was, and always with the holy chorus repeating its praise of the Creator:

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

 

This is where it becomes interesting. This next verse also is shared by both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Buckley, but, aside from the repeating chorus ending the song (itself one of the most sublime croonings you ever will hear), this is Mr. Buckley’s last word on the subject:

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shot at someone who outdrew you.
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

 

Sad, despairing, hopeless. Maybe there’s a God (not that he’ll ever do me any good), but love, that place wherein I sought salvation here on the earth–love itself is darker and more full of despair even than my heart.

This is the version so many have re-recorded. Ending here. How many? The song has been recorded more than 150 times.

Mr. Cohen is now 76 years old. He has spent and continues to spend time and attention and energy examining the spiritual aspect of things. He knows that nothing real ends in despair. Here’s his next verse:

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

 

“There’s a blaze of light in every word.” “In the beginning was the Word.” God is in everything, the holy and the broken. And all of it is Hallelujah, all worthy of praise. There is nothing that is not God.

And what does the humble poet, do, knowing this? Mr. Cohen’s final verse:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah”

 

I struggle with comprehending our existence in this mind-blowingly vast Universe, but even though I’m confused about who I am and why I’m here, I find this song tremendously comforting.

Whether we are lost or not, whether we are bitter are not, we must make ourselves submissive and grateful to the beauty and wondrousness of it all.

Believer or non-believer,

Peaceful or discontent,

Holy or broken,

It’s always Hallelujah.

 

 

Subscribe to Jeff Kober’s Vedic meditation blog. (I highly recommend it!)

 

Rest in Peace Jeff Buckley 1966-1997

Existential Nihilism and the Dead Dog Blues

RIP Roscoe Wojciechowski

I’ve been avoiding this article for a long time, which is a sure sign that it must be written. As individuals, we often hide from the truth, especially about ourselves. Our souls’ innocence and hope slowly deteriorate inside our soft bodies while we occupy our short time on Earth with vapid entertainment, aggression and judgment, and the pursuit of accumulating “stuff.” We swallow the fear we feel down deep inside with the help of a pill or bottle.

Some people are not so easily distracted. It has always taken me enormous effort to avoid thinking about the Great Unknowingness. I tried Christianity and chaos. I constantly sought diversions and substances to avoid the questions that I had always feared the most, the questions that left me in a quiet desperation that could never be buried or drowned.

More recently I tried to focus on life’s small milestones and achievements. I began writing as a less direct way to figure out what is going on, and it has brought me purpose and peace, but how easily the fragile veil of happiness is torn.

My dog died last November. His name was Roscoe, and he was my best friend. We had grown up a lot together. We watched each other go through growing pains as we both tried to learn how to behave like adults. Roscoe tolerated my loser boyfriends as they came and went. I endured his chewing stage and his great escapes from the yard. Finally, I met my Prince Charming, and we left the United States. After we got settled, Roscoe took a very brave flight to live with us in Panama.

Moving to a foreign country with no family or friends was very hard for me. Roscoe was the only part of my old life that I was able to take with me. I don’t have any children, so he became my son. Roscoe was my shadow every waking moment and my guardian during every hour I dreamed. I came when he called. I cooked for him. I doted on him day and night. He grew older and grayer, sweeter and wiser. I honestly liked Old Rossy better than the young one.

Then came the time that I knew he would die, and I hoped for it as much as dreaded it. We were both having a difficult time dealing with his failing body. He was suffering with a diseased heart and arthritis. He knew what was coming, and he’d look at me as if asking if he was dying correctly. Of course, he was doing a noble job.

Before Halloween, the Hubs and I had to go to Nicaragua for a week. Roscoe protested by lying across my closet floor so that it was almost impossible for me to pack my suitcase, but I had to be tough because whenever I got upset it always made it worse for him.

I knew he was afraid he was going to die while I was gone. He told me in very clear, sad-doggie-eye language that he couldn’t hold on much longer, but I said, “Just stay here till I get back,” and like a good dog, he did.

The night we returned home, Roscoe looked great. I thought the break from me helped him. We had a great night together with his two little brother dogs, Le-Le and Teri. I was relieved. Everything was going to be okay.

Roscoe and Christa Wojo's dogs.

…with his brothers, Teri (the spotted mutt) and Le-Le (the Rottie) during Christmas time.

The next day Roscoe wouldn’t eat. I was concerned, but thought it would pass until that night he laid his head in my hand. I knew this meant something because Roscoe was not a cuddly dog. For some reason he wanted to be held, and I cradled his head so long my arm went numb. We were watching a movie, Pacific Rim, which it seemed so stupid and absurd because I knew my doggie was slipping away. What are we doing watching a movie? We’re dying. We’re all dying.

When we woke up the following morning, Ros was in an unnatural position on the floor. His tongue hung out, and his eyes were wide and unseeing. I came to his side and straightened out his body. His consciousness returned for a moment, and he and I were able to look at each other one last time, but within the hour I felt the last trembling of his heart, and he was gone.

(Time to get the tissues! I knew I wouldn’t get through this without crying).

DSC02509

Roscoe–always a deep thinker.

I had no idea how bad the grief would be. He was a dog, right? This was nature. And he had the best golden years any animal could have. He went from a tiny apartment in Florida to spending the last half of his life in the wild mountains of Chiriquí. Lucky dog! Now it was his time to go, and it couldn’t have gone any better as far as dying goes. He waited till we got home from our trip. He passed peacefully in my arms. We were so fortunate to be with him when he took his last breath.

These thoughts should’ve consoled me, but they didn’t. I was a mess and cried erratically for months. I thought I would just need some time to adjust, but I haven’t really. I wasn’t sure how to live without my companion, and his death reopened the sucking black void of the Great Unknowingness. I couldn’t figure out why we humans evolved to love so much that we are crippled when someone we love dies. It’s mentally and physically debilitating. It’s miserable for your clan and every creature around you. It makes you weak and vulnerable. How did that improve our ancestors’ chances of survival?

Loss is like a morbid disease.

Although I never felt it so keenly before, this anguish was not surprising to me. Since I was a girl, I’ve cried myself to sleep at night knowing one day my parents would be dead. I’ve spent my entire life with this fear of loss and thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Later, I found out that this condition is often referred to as existential depression, and though I’m not an unhappy person by any means, there is an undercurrent of anguish that never leaves me.

Nothing has brought me relief so far. From experimenting with psychedelics and drinking myself into a stupor to huffing through kundalini kriyas and training my brain with binaural beats—no matter what I do, nothing truly and permanently exterminates that nagging black thought that fingers my mind.

Why are we here?

Where do we go?

What does it all mean?

At least with this manner of thinking there are questions to ask. This assumes there is a reason for us being here, that we do go somewhere after our bodies rot, and that our lives do mean something. One simply must endure the mystery, but then there’s the more terrifying possibility to contemplate. What if we just die and that’s it? There is no why, where, or what. What if we are as important to the Universe as a flea’s fart is to us?

What if it all means nothing?

Everything we see and feel is a perception or illusion and is limited by what our human body can sense. What we see is not the truth of existence. And I want to know The Truth. The only problem is billions of people have died without ever knowing the truth, and my greatest fear is that I will suffer the same fate.

I do have an inner soul; some might say it’s my higher self. I try to summon her as much as I can with yoga and meditation. When she shows up, she speaks to me as if I’m a simpering toddler. With endless patience she tells me, and I’m quoting her on this, that she “knows everything” and it “will all be revealed” and “it’s all good.”

This placates me for a few hours if I’m in a receptive mood, but my anal, logical brain can’t accept the mystery and wants a concrete explanation for everything. Anal, logical brain knows there is reason and symmetry in nature, and it won’t let me sleep until we make sense of it all, damn it.

In another dark corner of gray matter shivers my ever-terrified subconscious, which clutches to attachments and goes into fits if ever anything threatens to change.

We fight all the time, and it’s exhausting.

The good news is that I’m not afraid of my death. I’ve been unconscious a number of times for varied reasons, and I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t remember a thing. Of course this notion when dwelled on too long will make one volunteer for a lobotomy. Not feeling a thing. Not remembering a thing.

Black,

silent

vacuum.

Ah, the meaning of life. Enough to drive any reasonable person batshit crazy. This is really the point of My Sweet Delirium. We can’t figure it all out, but we can have fun trying.

At least The Universe was kind enough to provide a suitable environment for the evolution of puppies and the advent of wine. These kindnesses do allow me to keep the faith. . . a little.

Miss you, Roscoe. . .

Christa Wojo's dog

RIP 11/4/2013

Do you have trouble coping with the Great Unknowingness?

How does it inform your day to day living?

Who’s helped you most with understanding the meaning of life? Death? 

Please leave your comments.

Edited by Candace Johnson at Change It Up Editing

The Tree of Life is Dead

Silver dollar Eucalyptus and volcano in Panama

The Tree seemed like a god: unmovable and indestructible. I worry—does it feel any pain? Is it whimpering as it withers, its face pushed in the dirt?

 

I was packing up, getting ready to leave for a short stop in Chitré for The Hubs’ business, and then onto Panama to catch a flight to the US to visit my family.

 

As I stood in the kitchen finishing my coffee, I listened to the wind and idly gazed outside. The branches of the giant eucalyptus tree were being blown to and fro and for some reason I thought, “Take it in. You may never see this place again.” I guess it was one of those fatalistic notions you have before going on an airliner. You never know if you’re ever going to come back home.

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Freedom Isn’t Free?

 

Photo credit: Jonathon Colman

Photo credit: Jonathon Colman

Freedom is not free. Sounds like a kickass phrase. Americans see it everywhere—stamped on bumper stickers, printed on coffee mugs, embroidered on couch pillows, and tattooed on arms and legs. It’s a salute to our troops. It’s a reality the rest of us must accept whenever our countrymen go to fight for our freedom. But where did this expression come from and what does it mean?

The phrase is attributed to an Air Force colonel, Walter Hitchcock. It was engraved on the Korean War Memorial, originally to “express gratitude” to soldiers and their families for the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.

However, I often find freedom is not free used in a different context. I hear it used in a way that says we will never have freedom unless we continually go to war. We must kill so that we, and other countries that ‘need’ us, can have freedom.

But how often are soldiers fighting for freedom and not some other agenda?

I feel this sentence is poorly formulated to express gratitude. It is written in present tense. It’s short and powerful.It’s definitive and leaves no room for dispute. As a writer of web copy, freedom is not free reads more like a marketing slogan. What will happen if we keep repeating this mantra as an affirmation for war and death–that freedom can only come at the price of killing others?

I know most people have never thought of the phrase in this way, but words are powerful, and I think it’s important to pay close attention to what we drill into our heads.

War propaganda has been around as long as wars themselves and those in power use slogans to invoke a sense of duty and bravery in soldiers so they will pick up their arms and do whatever dirty work needs to be done. These slogans appeal to a military family’s a sense of pride and patriotism, signaling them that it is their time to step up and become part of something bigger. In other words, they are used to convince citizens to obey orders without questioning.

Collateral damage has become another tough-guy euphemism used to describe government sanctioned murder. It says innocents will die. It’s part of war. Accept it. But killing never feels justified, because we know it’s never right. That’s why veterans don’t ever get over the fact that they may have bombed villages where women and children were hiding. They never recover from shooting boys their own age, who under normal circumstances, might have been their friends. My grandfather, who spent two years as a prisoner of war in Germany during WWII, is in hospice care and will be taking most of the horrors he witnessed and committed to his grave.

But aren’t we free once the war is won? No, we are caged by death. The son’s and daughter’s who are killed leave holes of empty resentment that never heal. Those soldiers who survive must endure injuries, mental illness, and disillusionment. Even if they recover from their emotional and physical wounds, they may eventually suffer from grotesque diseases caused by exposure to chemical agents like Agent Orange and Sarin gas.

I understand why sayings like freedom is not free help people cope with war. It gives military personnel a sense that they fought for the greater good of all Americans. It gives grieving families the reassurance that their fallen hero did not die in vain. There is no doubt every serviceman and woman is brave and selfless, and they deserve the fullest of honor, but when are we going to wake up?

We are born free and we die free.

Freedom is not something you earn, or something your only attain by forcing others to submit to your idea of it.

Freedom is not found in oil fields or weapons of mass destruction.

Freedom is a divine right.

Freedom, above all, means thinking for ourselves. We must always question what ideas we are being spoon-fed. We must always beware of insidious propaganda. What is it that we are saying to ourselves?

Freedom was always free. Only warmongers have put a deadly price tag on it.

 

From the book '1984'

From the book ‘1984’

 

 

Share your thoughts freely below.

 

 

  • What does the phrase Freedom is not free mean to you?

 

  • Do you feel war is a necessary part of humanity?

 

  • Do you believe that killing another human being during a war is excused?