no referer

Hearing his heartbeat, he crosses the worn wooden threshold of his apartment door and turns right down the sidewalk into the the little spits of mist floating in the sunlight. The speckled painting of fallen leaves coats every surface with fresh wet decay. He walks with intention, nowhere. We watch as he shrinks, sinking into the canvas, until his faded blue jeans are a twig to his damp, golden hair.

Playing What Is

A musician sits practicing alone in his room, as he has done most of his life. He is a beloved performer, respected and revered by many. He is concentrated and fearless in his focus. Time passes effortlessly here. Time stops.

The light in his room dims. He looks up from the piece he is playing, the solo part from the slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Above his music stand, there hovers a soft violet glow. He hears a chorus murmuring.

(voices of listeners from all time):You play the music in our hearts. You play things we feel. You are deep and wise.

(performer): No, I play what I am told to play. I play what I know you will feel. But I do not feel what you do. I am not wise.

This saddens us. You are not what you seem. Tell us why.

I think and feel as you do, but I am empty. I fill myself with things which give the impression I am full. I show you yourself.
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One Day it Dawned on Him

A story about identity.

Jay threw him across the room. Luckily Dorn didn’t get too busted up. It just made a racket as he knocked over a small table with some “family” photos of the couple and their friends. He was uncannily lucky that way. Rarely ever got hurt. The impact surprised and shocked him at first, but then felt kind of good, tingly all over. He felt like he’d just awakened from a dream.

Dorn’s whole life he’d gotten what he wanted, done what he wanted, gotten away with almost anything he did. For a few seconds now, he felt he’d arrived at the station, actually stopped in the middle of the room, instead of passing by on the train, while others had to stay behind and live their lives slowly and deliberately.

He was good at almost anything, and popular as well. Since he improved any situation with his presence, most people thought he was there just for them. And that was true. He liked pleasing people, but it wasn’t really him. Alone, he was lost. He needed something to match, something to adorn, in order to be something himself.

He took this jolt from Jay to be a sign. Someone had been watching, and now he was in for it. But that didn’t happen. Jay apologized profusely, and Dorn again had the upper hand.

Just like always.

They had quarreled before, but only when things got too strained for Jay to remain physically passive, which was work for him. He was a man of raw emotion, not a lot of detail. That’s why Dorn loved him, because Jay wasn’t like him. Dorn had complex emotions, but he hid behind the detailed analysis game, picking apart an event, looking at things objectively, until he convinced himself, and almost anyone else, that he was right.

“It’s tough being a chameleon” he thought. “No one understands you because they can never really know you. And even you can only guess what your next move will be.” Dorn used to have a dream where he was in a play and forgot his lines. We’ve all had that dream. But he’d learned to make them up as he went, and pretty soon, just flowed into any situation as if he created it.

While Jay retreated, Dorn sat there on the floor, thinking. He could just keep going with the flow, the usual, and use the new power he had over Jay to get more out of him, or he could try something new. He opted for newness, which didn’t surprise him. Dorn thrived on chaos. It’s so pregnant with possibility.

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Mahler and Bob

Bob the Demon: Hey Gustav, whatcha doin’?

Mahler: I’m composing a symphony. What do you think, that I’m staring at a fly on the table?

Bob: No need to get snitty. But why waste precious time on composing music for people you’ll never meet?

Mahler: Well, so I can rid myself and others of demons like you.

Bob: Hey, that was nasty. I pay you a nice, friendly visit and this is the way you treat me? Whadddd’ I do to you?

Mahler: Well, it’s not so much what you do to me. It’s what you do to all unwary humans. You haunt people all around the world with doubt, fear, loneliness, all kinds of suffering barely expressible in words; mute, frozen soul-less suffering, paralysis of spirit, guilt for just being different, judgment of those different souls. You slip open their heads and start whispering your dark messages of despair, gnawing at their confidence. You are Iago’s helper, telling Othello that his beautiful Desdemona has been unfaithful. You corrode happiness with your insidious apprehension.

Bob: Well, it keeps me busy. Otherwise I just sit around and watch reruns of “Angel” all day. That guy thinks he knows demons, HA!

Mahler: I don’t have a TV. So, I compose music I hear, what nature tells me, what people tell me, what my heart tells me. When we listen to our hearts, our fears disappear. So my music helps get rid of you.

Bob: Well, I’m a popular guy. Everyone knows me. By comparison, who’s ever heard of you? Huh? You think your music will change hearts. Dream on Gustav. You’ve been getting too much fresh air. You’re a hopeless romantic who cries after stepping on a flower. Geez, what a weak, wimpy, sissy, little nothing! (farts loudly) See, I even get gassy around you, you’re so pitiful. Nothing to work with.

Mahler: In fact, I can compose the whole worlds’ sorrow and joys and ecstasy in an hour’s worth of music. I can swallow the worlds malcontent within one symphony. I can heal suffering by exalting in it.

Bob: No Way!

Mahler: Way!

Bob: Show me. I gotta see this.

Mahler: Well, in my 4th symphony, the first movement starts dance like, in a wintry, cozy atmosphere, with sleigh bells signaling a festive, happy time. Dance is healing to humans. The movement carries you through the Alps, wisping through little towns of happy souls reveling in the cleansing exertion of dance.

The second movement is also a dance, a giddy waltz, but a macabre one. The rattle of skeletons from everyones closets is lightened by the satirical tone. The orchestra even makes fun of itself. In one spot, the second clarinet suddenly sticks his bell up and blasts out the melody, even though everyone else is playing softly. Through this movement we can smile at our fears and mistakes. We can face them and chuckle, knowing our conscience can be cleared if we did our best.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. I see everyone dancing. La Di La. But how ’bout when they get home and their loneliness comes back to haunt them? I love doing that part.

Mahler: I’ve haven’t finished with the symphony yet. Now we get to the slow movement. It starts with this sort of hymn of gratitude from the strings, with a heartbeat thumping of pizzicato from the basses, and a yearning song of thanks from the cellos at first, then from the violins. At one point the violins are floating way up high on one note, very close to the sky, while the rest of the strings stay earthbound with reverence.

At the end of this peaceful introduction, a wise old storyteller comes in the form of the oboe, someone who understands the pathos of our lives. He shows us our pain, helps us acknowledge our shared loneliness. His story carries us into our hearts to touch our sadness with tenderness. The strings pick up on this, weeping openly, which leads everyone to heavy hearted passion. We descend several times into this dark hole of desolation…

Bob: Wait a minute. You’re doing my job here. Wait’ll my lawyer hears.

Mahler: No, no. Just wait. I’ve taken the listener here for a reason. After opening up the soft pains of the heart, I bring them to a warm, comfortable room to sooth these vulnerabilities. We dance again together, with a new tenderness. Then the clouds come back, along with the oboe storyteller and his friend, the sad English Horn, and the French Horn. They tell us our pains and desolation is never far, the abyss always looming. The mother who’s lost her child, the grandmother left to die alone, the friend deserted or betrayed, all are family, all are embraced by this pain. I bring them together in their pain.

Bob: Man, these are gonna be some neurotic people. All the more fun for me to play with. He-he.

Mahler: (ignoring Bob) I bring them back to the dance, the joy, the fever of the moment. Then a circus comes through, and in whirl of frantic ecstasy they whiz by in a flurry, thrilling the listener, before they fade and disappear.

We are left with the thankful hymn from the beginning. Our lives bring us joys, they bring us sorrows, innumerable each, indescribable, complex, perfect, never old. We are lulled to sleep in this sweet gratitude. Then, a surprise!!

At the quietest moment, when all are cozy in a trance, the gates of heaven crash open, the sky blazes with golden fireworks, the boom of thunder announces the glory of an infinite place. As the fanfare dies away, an apparition appears to us, a ray through the sky, a stairway to heaven, a shimmering distortion of the air, a path of light. We are drawn upward effortlessly. As we take the first step, another curtain of sky opens, each more dreamy and crystalline, more ethereal. This happens several times. Each time we think we know where we are, the scene blossoms, as if we are stepping through time, beyond it. We finally end in ethereal bliss, with the highest tones fading gently into the distance.

The last movement is a child’s song of heaven, where delight and good food abound. It ends with a lullaby.

So, Bob, what do you think of my music?

(there is no answer)

This post was inspired by comments from Jessamyn and Betty from my post Daemons.

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My First Swimming Lesson

A story written at age ten.

When I had my first swimming lesson I was very scared of the water. Oh boy, I was shivering a lot. My mother tricked me by taking me to a fairly deep stream. We took a drink and suddenly she jumped in and swam to the other side. Surely I would not like to lose my mother. I got stiff as ever. Slowly my mother went around and came close. Then she pushed me in. I heard a loud noise like thumping. I began drifting down stream so I tried killing the water, but instead of killing it I was really swimming. Now I am king of the hard stuff as well as the watery stuff. I think I am the greatest.