This entire month I have recorded my thoughts but have not had the opportunity to edit them and make them coherent enough to post here. There are lots of thoughts tumbling around inside me and I will work harder this coming month to get them on to the page here.
This morning, though, while recovering from the overnight shift at work on the sofa, I watched a courageous and determined Andrew Pollock speak to the CNN reporter about the loss of his daughter, Meadow, in the Parkland Florida Shooting. As I listened, I couldn’t imagine the strength it took to hold himself together while speaking, and I wept at the sight of the Dad hugging his daughter, now tragically lost…
As a father to five daughters, and a son, all of whom I cherish more than my own life, my heart became heavy with the thought of how the parents and families of these young people must be suffering, and it gave me pause to consider how small all of my concerns are by comparison.
There will be more thoughts to share on this soon.
May all who suffer loss find solace in the days to come…..John H.
As 2017 winds down and 2018 approaches, I would like to extend my personal, heartfelt “Season’s Greetings” to all of my readers and visitors here at John’s Consciousness, and to express my gratitude for the many thoughtful comments and communications from visitors all across the globe. It has been a turbulent and challenging year for many people in all parts of the world, and in spite of what must seem like a particularly daunting year for many of us in the United States and elsewhere, I still feel strongly that with the right emphasis, we can move forward into the future with hope for all of humanity.
Recognizing that there are still many areas in the world where the conditions and circumstances of everyday people are more challenging than my own, as someone who has persistently pursued the topic of the nature of subjective experience, I set myself to the task recently of composing a theatrical scene that would address questions surrounding the sometimes challenging circumstances for individuals, and at the same time, speak to the important matter of the spiritual component that I feel certain belongs in any discussion of human consciousness.
As we gathered this year at our annual family Christmas celebration, preparations were made to perform this scene for what is always the rousing and chaotic audience who is my extended family. As a former student of the theater in my youth, I trained as an actor at Temple University in Philadelphia, and had a fair amount of success in those endeavors. While I ultimately chose to concentrate on English literature in my subsequent studies, I never lost interest in all things theatrical.
I had the great good fortune to be joined in this effort by my beautiful and talented niece, Laura, who graciously agreed to perform the scene with me on very short notice. A recent graduate of the University for the Performing Arts in New York, I felt sure she would enjoy the challenge of performing before such a familiar audience. I sent her the material I had prepared with notes on how we might improvise during the impromptu interactions, along with a basic foundational script to support the performance. I was additionally blessed by the assistance of several family members in arranging for lighting and sound support, and in acquiring props that enhanced the production.
Throughout the preparation phase, I was astonished to find that I began to have many of the same emotions and anxieties as those which always overtook me when performing years ago. It was as though the neural pathways which contained those memories were suddenly lit up…well…like a Christmas tree! Last minute instructions to our hosts for the evening yielded yet another level of cooperation and help that proved invaluable as the lights dimmed and the performance began.
The scene opens with my character, Grandpa, sitting in a wheelchair, talking to himself as he awaits the arrival of his granddaughter. The theme throughout emphasizes how the human spirit can provide a true basis for hope, but also how that same spirit can move us to continue in the face of adversity. It takes place some fifteen years in the future, where my character is in his eighties and partially disabled. He’s doing alright but is becoming increasingly frail, and dependent on his family for his regular care. As the scene unfolds, he secretly contemplates his own mortality, but with the spirit of a hopeful soul. The thoughts that run through his mind are not carefree, but clearly tempered by longevity and a lifetime of loving.
Here is an excerpt from the opening monologue:
“There are so many reasons for me to have hope for the future, however long it might be for me. In spite of the sometimes unceremonious departures from this life of others in the same neighborhood of age as mine, I have seen the brightness of spirit that filled many of the moments of their lives, and I am heartened beyond measure to have shared such a range of wonders with these bright spirits, that it begs the question for me, “What contribution have I made?” and “What might I still contribute in the days that remain?”
“My granddaughter will be here shortly for her annual Christmas visit and I want so much to share with her my appreciation for the joy she brings me throughout the year, but especially at this time in my life, when every morning is a gift, and every effort requires the presence of hope.”
The arrival of his granddaughter for her annual Christmas visit clearly improves his mood, and her bubbling and vivacious demeanor is a most welcome development anytime. Laura’s professional and heartfelt performance gave the scene a certain power and heft that inspired my own performance, and she surprised me several times with her improvised responses.
Laura responded well to my brief story about the sadness I felt being estranged from my only son, and encouraged me well to continue to hope, in spite of his years of total absence from my life.
At one point, caught up in the emotion of the moment, her acceptance of the invitation to perform together with her aging Uncle became a gift in itself, and it felt like it always did when I performed on a public stage.
Here is an excerpt from the closing monologue:
“I don’t know how much time I have left, but I do know who I am on the inside. I know what I feel. I know there are like spirits that surround me. And when I say they surround me, I know they may not be in close proximity. They may be far away or years removed from me, but the spirit knows no boundaries. No matter where they reside, they are still with me…or within me.
When I’m alone, looking back over the years, I can still hear the beautiful song of hope that played in my head as a child. It was like a siren song, but I still believed in it. I believed in it because I could sense that it was not a song that would lead to destruction, but one that was calling me to my task. That beautiful voice gave me hope.
Now that I look back on it, I know that it was not just one voice. I know that each time I heard it, I recognized the spirit who dwelled within it. Perhaps, it may have been the voice of my as yet unborn grandchild, or maybe a voice from the future or from an ancient past. But when I heard that voice, I knew that essence.
In unguarded moments, in the silence between words, in moments of quiet contemplation, I know that it is a part of me, telling me to move forward with hope.”
Just as it appears that another Christmas will pass with no word from my son, the knock at the door, which I expected would be from my caretaker daughter, turns out to be from my son, who enters with a familiar greeting that ends the scene, as I gasp, “…My son!”
The whole experience was extraordinary from start to finish, and the rewards were almost entirely spiritual, although the curtain call at the end was also quite wonderful!
May the New Year bring all of humanity an improvement in their circumstances, and to each and every one of my readers and visitors here, many new reasons to look with hope to the future.
Warmest regards…..John H.
November has flown by with a swiftness of a fleeting blink of an eye. The autumn this year was reluctant to begin, with summer-like temperatures holding fairly steady well into October in the Northeast corridor, and the delay in arriving at more seasonal weather seemed to mute the changing colors when they finally began to change in earnest. As I came slowly to consciousness this past Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of a robust and formidable wind stirring the trees outside my bedroom window. Since I had no urgent events scheduled for the day, I was able to awaken slowly and reflect for a bit before rising.
I sat up for a moment or two once I had gathered my wits and took a few photos as the day began, and then settled back down again to contemplate the day’s beginning and the events of late that accompanied the strangeness of the reluctant autumn taking place all around me. I generally try to capture some seasonal images as the earth alters its course around the sun each year, but this time around, it seems that mother nature had other ideas, and stubbornly withheld the expected changes until just last week.
In the yard next door, my usual view out the window on that side would have displayed this scene a month ago, but only last week came into full blossom with many of the leaves already missing. In just the last few days, most all of the foliage in the trees lining the street was gone. The wind had wreaked havoc on whatever plumage remained and the tree now appears almost totally bare. This experience goes against the traditional one I generally expect at this time of year, and as I lay in bed pondering these changes, I looked back over several extraordinary life events that led up to the strangeness of my early morning awakening.
Beginning in late August, as I traveled to the first of three family gatherings as autumn approached, the sky above me looked so strange and peculiar as I rode astonished at the sight, that I had to capture the event, as though it were an omen of some sort. I couldn’t decide if this sky was ominous or simply extraordinary.
Gliding down the highway in silence, almost mesmerized by the sight of it, it gave me shivers as I held my eye up to viewfinder. What an amazing sight!
Last month brought me once again into the emotional rollercoaster ride as Father of the Bride. As we gathered for the marriage of my youngest daughter in the spectacular landscape of rural Virginia, the anticipated autumnal awesomeness was only barely underway as we prepared for the outdoor ceremony in the afternoon of Saturday, the 21st of October. Driving through the beauty of the sun kissed scenery, my heart already primed for the flood of feelings and memories, I was struck by the contrast with the previous driving experience, and could barely contain myself as I soaked in the spectacle before me.
On the first morning in Virginia before the wedding, I awoke at sunrise in the mountains, and was able to observe the first light while chatting with my daughter who called me on the phone. It was a compelling moment of many that would occur during the trip, but all the more poignant as I was able to share some fatherly advice with a nervous bride.
The view off the deck of the rental house above was taken on October 23rd and offered only a hint of Autumn’s colors, and while the temperatures were mild during the day, it was still chilly in the morning and that helped to remind me that we were indeed experiencing the autumnal transition. The thoughts passing through my mind on that morning turned to one of the most poignant moments that occurred over the weekend, when I first saw my youngest daughter in her wedding dress. I nearly fainted!
With one day available to me after the wedding to relax and look around, I decided to travel to nearby Charlottesville, Virginia to satisfy a lifelong desire to visit Monticello–the home of Thomas Jefferson. Ever since I was a small boy learning American History in school, I had wanted to visit this historical home, and it was another monumental and emotional experience on a weekend full of them. I will be writing a separate blog post about that visit soon, but I wanted to include an image from that day. The visit and tour of the estate will remain as one of the most significant of the many I acquired in any autumn season.
There have been so many moments throughout the season before winter this year that seemed to overwhelm my ability to process them well, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the confluence of each of these events and what the meaning might be for me personally. The perspective of years of memories of past autumns has run the gamut from the most stunningly beautiful to the personally devastating, and all along the way, every variation in between has contributed to the auguries of autumn for me.
It is sometimes said that a person in their sixth decade of life is approaching the “autumn of their years,” but I wonder now just how close the winter might be, and what wonders await me.
Autumn’s on the Way
Time passes swiftly now–
More yesterdays than tomorrows.
How many will I see?
How much time is there for me?
I’m afraid I won’t know.
I’m afraid I’ll wait too long.
I’m afraid that the end will come too soon.
I’m even afraid my heart will swoon.
I’ll loose control and make a mess—
Doing things that I confess,
I have done all my life.
Can’t seem to stop myself.
Can’t seem to rest.
Can’t let the moments go.
I have to invest.
I look at my children.
What will they do? How will they cope?
It’s not for me to say.
Thoughts come flying in and fly out.
Nothing stays the same.
My heart aches with a pain
That not is not yet real.
I know it’s coming.
I can see it; I can sense it; I can feel it–
Just like all the other times before.
Just like all the other times before.
It seems I never could quite make it work–
Never could quite find the right formula.
I’m still looking—still searching;
I don’t know what the ending is—
I don’t know where it goes,
And I don’t know how to say it.
I reach, probably, too far, as always.
I expect too much.
I want too much.
It’s not for me to say.
I search for you.
I watch the horizon.
I scan for signs of life.
And when I find them—
When I see them, when I feel them, when I sense them—
I always follow them,
But they don’t lead me anywhere.
Toward the end of the winter,
With the very first inklings of spring,
That’s when you appeared;
Brilliant eyes—sparkling smile;
My heart lept at the sight of your face.
Could it be? Could it be?
The signals were mixed.
Once, unrestrained joy, and then—silence;
And then, clever conversation.
Listening, sensing, contemplating, caution—
Unrestrained enthusiasm; laughing; sadness; comfort;
A loving embrace—and then another, and then another;
My heart and spirit seemed to rise every single time.
My enthusiasm always exceeded what I would find.
One day—penetrating glances, closeness—
Sweetness beyond any I had ever seen;
And then—silence; like a rising tide
That lifts me up to see the shoreline;
Giving me hope—and then the swell recedes,
And the horizon disappears—for a time;
I don’t know when I will see the shoreline again.
Darkness falls—intermediate absence—lack of energy;
Nearly giving up; sudden recovery; joyful expressions;
Loving embrace—silence—I cannot say;
I keep missing the target; I keep missing the mark.
I keep coming too soon or too late—
The story of my life— too soon or too late—
But more often—too late.
But even when the odds are even,
Even fifty-fifty disappoints me more than not.
I can’t seem to find the proper time, the proper place,
Where everything comes together unambiguously.
I thought this was my great discovery;
This place where I am now, and all the events
That took place here while I stayed here,
But even that will soon be over.
My heart is aching in your absence.
My mind—defeated by indecision and hopelessness.
It can’t simply be because of the distance in time and space;
It can’t be simply that it’s too difficult.
When I was with you, I just wanted
To run up to you and grab you and hold you.
I wanted to throw away everything and start again,
Like Michelangelo—destroy it all and start over.
And it wouldn’t be that difficult to manage it,
But clinging to sanity afterwards—
That would be a task for Hercules.
There’s no doubt in my mind—my heart rises;
My soul rises, the moment you come into view.
I want to throw my arms around you and steal you away;
Find a place to be and start over.
It’s worse than ridiculous—it’s absurd.
It cannot be. It cannot be.
Maybe next time; maybe someday; maybe never.
Maybe my destiny is to know and to be without.
That’s all that’s ever happened.
Can’t seem to get it right.
Can’t seem to find the sweet spot.
I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I think maybe, I’ll die alone—in silence.
I could live—in joy—if only you were there.
We can only know our own future—our own place in the sun.
One of these days, I will find that sweet spot;
And I will embrace you, and hold you close,
And you will kiss me, and our lives will have meaning,
And purpose, and all will be well.
It will be in a daydream—a daydream of you and me.
© November 2016 by JJHII24
This post has been receiving some attention recently and addresses some important points relating to the posts coming shortly, so i thought my readers might enjoy a review here…
As an attentive consumer of various scientific publications available in the world today, particularly those concerning the science of mind and brain, while the information is often intriguing and illuminating in regards to how the physiology of the brain results in the extraordinary variety of symptoms, characteristics, and behavior of modern humans, what is often lacking, in my view, is the simple connection to humanity itself, which we might wish to describe as the “human factor.” No matter how ingenious these researchers are as they structure the studies to produce useful results, what we frequently end up with in the end is an explanation of a process, or a determination of how it is that our fantastically wondrous temporal mental assets manifest a particular result, either as an ability or some sort of pathology.
What genuinely supports and nourishes our miraculous brains is endlessly fascinating for those of us who…
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I’ve received many compliments on the photo for my “About.me” page and thought the readers might enjoy reading the poem I wrote about the experience of creating the image….Enjoy!
As I press my hand to the brass knob
Level with my blurred line of sight,
Releasing the bolt which holds the door firmly closed,
Streaks of brilliant light flood the foyer
Through the beveled prisms
Of my uncertainty.
A mechanical clack announces the release
Of the lock as I step tentatively backward,
To allow for the swinging, sweeping sound
As my heart opens to newly born morning light,
Mingled with the winter’s frosty breath,
Provoking both wonder and curious resistance.
Shimmering icy sparkles rise up in all directions;
Stillness soothes the stinging bite of winter breezes;
Solar pulses of colored hues caress the tips of snowy knolls
While rhythmic heartbeats warm my inner frame,
Sustaining the memories of moments within me–
Cherished thoughts and awkward apprehensions.
Stumbling back to the kitchen counter,
Searching for the implements of the morning grind,
A glance again toward the world without
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“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — C. G. Jung from CW 12, par. 126 and “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies
The dream began in a nearly total darkness, with only a sliver of light highlighting the edges of the highway. I seemed to be floating along the road, as I was not inside my car or able to discern any structure around me. It took a few minutes, but I suddenly recognized the location as the road I traveled in the “deep forest vision,” mentioned in the previous post. It felt oddly serene to be traveling in this way, although I wondered briefly why I would even entertain the notion of returning there, and as I approached what seemed to be the edge of the forest, I began to feel a creeping, gradually increasing sensation of dread. This night had already been stressful, and it felt as though the split between my inner and outer self was widening as the dream progressed.
Before I was able to set my feet on the ground, I had to slow myself by dragging them along the surface of the area approaching the clearing where I had previously observed the tree without any leaves. Once I was able to walk on my own, I deliberately began running away from that place, as I had no interest in revisiting it after what had happened there. Before I knew it, I had stumbled upon an open field. I felt my hands lightly touching the tips of tall grass as I walked toward a small, somewhat battered house, which initially felt disconcerting. I heard the distant sound of ocean waves breaking on the shoreline, and wondered why I had not heard them during my last visit. As I approached the house, it seemed much less inviting, and my pace slowed as an ominously darkened interior beyond my viewpoint loomed within. I hesitated to get too close. This was not my destination. There was no one there.
I turned slowly toward the horizon which now seemed to be brightening, and I once again began running, wanting mostly to go toward the light. Before long, the stark forest landscape opened into a lush, green meadow, with all the leaves lit from behind by the sun. In the distance I could see a small cottage that gave me a much more comforting feeling, almost like coming home. As my steps once again slowed, I saw her standing by the fence surrounding the simple cottage. I wasn’t sure if what I saw was real. I hesitated again. My heart was pounding in my chest.
I walked gladly toward her, gently eased open the gate, and we embraced willingly and joyfully. It was, for the moment, a wonderful moment in the dream that comforted me. She seemed, as usual, uncertain about her course, and even though she pretended to be alright, I knew she wasn’t. She tried to tell me she wasn’t concerned about the darkness nearby, but it was so obviously untrue, that I looked at her squarely and said, “I know what you said is untrue.” She appeared to be stunned for a moment or two, but then asked me to follow her. I took her hand and we walked around to the back of the house. There was a bit of a steep slope leading to a plateau where there was a large outcrop of rock. She led me around to one side and pointed to a painted image of a sunrise over water. As we began walking back toward the house, it was getting darker. I stopped in my tracks, as she turned her face toward me, and let go of my hand. I could feel the dream fading. I didn’t want it to end.
Upon first waking, I sat up in my bed, as if I might see her outside my window. The dream had vanished, completely against my will, and I immediately went to my desk to write it down. My hands were trembling, and I was breathing heavily while I wrote. I sensed increasingly powerful vibrations from far away, somehow shaking me as I wrote. Why hadn’t she sent word? What circumstances could make me feel these intuitions so strongly?
While having only limited knowledge and experience regarding what might possibly explain such feelings and ideas, such unavoidable sensations and thoughts compelled me to acknowledge her presence within me, and my concerns for her well being drove with me to meet her that afternoon at a local park at the time we had agreed.
We embraced upon meeting, and I immediately felt the same willingness and joy of the embrace of the dream. She excitedly began to relate the tale of her trip to visit a friend, which included getting lost in an unfamiliar area, and being caught in a violent rainstorm. She and her friend had taken refuge in an abandoned farmhouse to wait out the storm. It had been approaching darkness before the storm let up, and it had frightened them both. I said nothing about my dream, and we walked down the path leading to the area she had told me about and which we were about to visit. We spent several hours walking along the paths in the sunlit woods and in open fields. Without any mention to her of the dream, she took my hand, and led me to an overhang with a fabulous scenic view of the mountains in the distance. It was lovely and it felt as though we were closer than before. Stepping down to the return path out of the park, I nearly fell down as I turned to see an image of a sun over water painted on the lower portion of the rock we had just been standing on.
As we sat together on the screen porch back at her house, I told her of the dream and of my certainty that she had been in distress. She listened patiently and seemed to understand that it was unusual, but not impossible that such things could happen. Somehow, we had found each other and were connected in ways we were only beginning to appreciate. She seemed only vaguely aware of a connection between us, and now appeared mildly uncomfortable talking about it. I promised not to bring it up again, and we embraced on parting. We agreed to meet again the next day to attend a family dinner at her parents home. I held her close and kissed her deeply. She smiled and giggled for a moment. The wheels were in motion. It had begun.