Masked Ball on the Global Dance Floor

Dip, dive, whirl and swirl, three steps ahead, two back, feign and dodge. A waltz, a tango. Strobe lights bounce off mirrored balls hanging from the ceiling.

We are at a masked ball, reaching for the hand of one partner and then another, not sure who is behind each mask. See the fox face, rusty red? The noblewoman in black lace? Behind the column, is that magician kissing a ballerina en pointe?

A grizzly bear leads a lamb by a ribbon. An orangutan teases a leopard as a harlequin does handstands. Death is here, a scythe in one hand and the Mad Hatter in the other.

Nothing is as it seems, or perhaps everything is as it seems, which is the best disguise. We strive to see who is who and what is what in a cacophony of color, sound, and moving shapes. People disappear. Blood red dominates the smear of colors.

We strive to see behind the masks. Who is friend and who is foe? Who is aid and who is injury? We must be careful not to misjudge a friend as an enemy. Doesn’t misjudging or denying a friend create an enemy?

Sounds hit us, of guns, bombs, children crying. Louder is the silence, of hunger, kidnapping, destroyed cities, and of guilt.

Some people breech the chaos to tend children, refugees, the ill and starving, the bombed and shredded – those too vulnerable and wounded to have masks. Their faces are bare and tell us all.

My five-year-old granddaughter told me there are bad people in the world. “Pirates.”

“Pirates?” I asked.

“From Somali. There are pirates from Somali.”

I did not tell her that Somali pirates are among our lesser evils. Did the band just start playing “Pirates of Penzance”?

You want evil, I’ll tell you evil.

Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, any part of Syria, the killings and destruction in Gaza, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Kenya. And Yemen, the Congo, and, yes, Somali.

And ISIS. Members of ISIS wear ugly black masks, which is somehow more honest: I am a monster, I behead people.

The U.S. Congress appears more innocent, perhaps because sock hops appear innocent even when the dance floor is taken over by the popular high school kids who got C’s and D’s in science, math, and geography, while the nerds have their backs against the wall.

Ted Cruz heads key Senate committees and is running for president but doesn’t believe in global warming. Tom Cotton, who received $1 million from a conservative political group that supports military solutions for Israel, fancies himself a pen pal with foreign heads of state.

Congressional masks tend to look alike – fools with “This Space for Sale” printed across their foreheads. (The few good men in Congress are mainly women.)

At the global masked ball, dancers shift, weave, clash, sell arms, form unholy alliances, claim lands and people. Masks fall off and are grabbed again. (Think Netanyahu, though that mask might as well remain off. We have seen too much.)

And us? We who think we are good people? We who have trouble seeing through our own masks? We stumble. We fall. We try to regain our balance. We try to do our best.

Duck, there’s a drone overhead!

In the madness, this global confusion and anger and fear and camouflage, there is one sure line of sanity. That is to care for all children no matter what. All children must be safe from more than Somali pirates. They must be loved and protected and educated and allowed to dance beautiful dances together, in trust, in joy, in their full humanity, unwounded, unafraid, knowing we live best when we live in harmony.


Finding the Words for Eternity

Words become more precious as you age. Each one is required to be right, exact, capturing and cradling a clear intent. It is my belief there are several reasons for this.

First is that life itself becomes more precious. A limited supply of anything good becomes more precious, and as you come to grasp what remains of your life, to deal with it daily as people around you die, you want to have what remains to be superb. That includes the words you use. They must not degrade the preciousness of life.

Second, but related, is a desire to understand what life is in its pure form. In the living of your life when you are younger, you seldom need to understand what being alive is. You just are. You do what your species does. You don’t obsess over what is real and what is not real, or try to enter the DMZ area between consciousness and unconsciousness. You don’t focus so intently on your reactions to events and people that you have seen your reactions as passing sensations, vapors, mists, sandstorms, waves, occasionally particles. You don’t yet know that you are forming a matrix of these sensations and labeling them as “now” and “here” and “memory” and “reality.”

But, there is a need as you realize that your life is by all definitions at least 75% over to re-examine what life is – what it actually is instead of what happens within it. In this re-examining you can discover that being alive is more than living a life.

You feel the universe expand as your physical life shortens. To explain this intangible reality through tangible words is a delicate art. It has stymied me, though without anxiety. It is, actually, why I have not written in more than a month.

During that time I also spent two weeks in London, loathed a winter that overstayed its welcome, and for not altogether bad reasons have felt a lessening of closeness with two men who matter to me dearly. Yet I wrote of none of this because something larger is happening and it avoids words.

In any case, I don’t have the right words yet. I don’t believe there are any. Even so, I am trying.

I feel on the outer edge of the reality within which we classify and categorize sensations, memories, responses, and beliefs, and we call them reality and we try to hang on to them, when they are only imprints on our consciousness. I’m trying to say there are two worlds and they are both real, but in different ways.

I feel I am gently against the inside of the skin of a large bubble and on the other side is all time as timelessness and all space as beyond space. I think I may have stumbled on why so many older people become gentle. We have become more aware of what is on the other side of the bubble skin, and it gives hope, love, and patience. It also reorganizes our priorities. It tells us to live in ways that add beauty. Just that one rule.

I don’t pretend to know what is beyond individual consciousness, but I trust this awakening relationship with timelessness and unending space. I ask It questions occasionally.

Two nights ago I said: You will have to spell this out for me. I don’t quite get what is real and I don’t know what I am do to.

I asked It to spell it out and that night I had a dream in which I sing a song that flowed through me. I woke to listen to the song. It is the letters W, A, I, and T.

Only the letters W A I T, over and over. I will wait. There is time. There is eternity.