With some hesitancy and humility, Doug offers his own thoughts on current affairs, history, music and religion, including the cycles and beliefs that heal, harm and shape our complex world.
January 23, 2021
He comes up the street
mostly alone, never as kingly
as when he rides solo!
And man does he have wheels, all of them
crashed and crudely put back together.
His father trusts him from afar, his mother
never appears, possibly living in his world as a cup of evaporating steam,
love seen quickly and then gone.
When he circles the worn cul-de-sac 
where wanderers drive their work trucks 
and neighbors their beige cars,
he owns the black pavement as his skin holds
that same color.
And mine is as white as that evaporating steam from mother’s cup.
I feel his strength, much more when he rides solo, and my pain shudders
at his aloneness, and retreats back underneath my skin, the weathered wrap that
holds me together, year upon year.
I wish I could ride with his effortlessness, a casual push-off from the black ground that holds his bright future.
That boy is going places, and for now he vanishes out of sight,
back into his voiceless garage.
Maybe one day I can thank him with a chat,
possibly asking his name and humbly mentioning mine.
Our skin tones greeting one another in the day’s safe light.
August 24, 2020
If it’s only seen as mildly acceptable (and often shameful) for a teenager to struggle with identity confusion and self-security issues, then to do the same as an adult is nearly impossible. The confusion and deep struggle which accompanies trying to be whole, the fits of angry outbursts, the honest confessions of painful insecurity, these are all difficult things to navigate in an adult body. Somehow, we are expected to be past all these childish behaviors. Truth be told, most if not all adults have become grand performers who appear outwardly to have it all together, but cry inwardly for acceptance, affirmation, and love. There are countless ways that we try to appear “grown-up.”
Most of us move in environments that command us to hold it together. But what do we do on the days that we wake up to a war on the inside, sometimes for seemingly no reason? Finding the courage to open up and be honest is vital to becoming oneself, and an antidote to the toxic messages that live inside of us. But these safe spaces are only as safe as the folks that fill them. And they are tough to find, even more so during this pandemic.
Self-work can be defined as integrating our disparate internal parts; finding medicine for our wounds is essential for reclaiming one’s self. One of the keys to unlock and mend psychological and emotional pain is learning to implement self-soothing. It’s the same motion that was (hopefully) experienced in childhood by one’s mother. By leaning into the difficulty and vulnerability of the child’s fear and distress, she calms the storms which threaten security. By a mother offering nourishment (like the provision of breast milk) to the distressed infant, a calm is transmitted. And a resettling occurs that makes one feel more whole.
Though hardship will follow the individual who is denied the early nurturance of self-soothing, one can learn it at any age. At 61, I’m making progress in taking care of my internal world. I still unravel emotionally and psychologically from time to time, but I’m finding the ability to regroup quicker and settle into my “nurturing, wise, big self.” The lyrics from a song I recently heard called to mind the inner posture I need when feeling afraid and insecure … the need to calm down:
Top of the hill, still, coming up a couple bucks short
What more could you get? 
Running around, head in the clouds, an inch from the ground
Settle down
Calm yourself now
Settle down
If you even know how
~ From Settle Down on Amor Fati, 2020, Gabriel J. Wheeler
July 17, 2020
As my friends and family will attest, I’ve quoted the above quip many times. It’s true once I get hooked on a phrase like this, or a song, or just about anything, I tend to repeat it over and over. I’ve been hard at work on a creative project since getting smitten by the old story of Jonah the prophet. I guess you could say I’ve been pretty busy “thieving” from Jonah’s experience, and I owe a newfound personal freedom to the story of his painful journey.
In 2016, I picked up a bible that had long sat on my shelf to see if I could get anything of value out of Jonah’s story. I’d been asked to speak at a local church and knew that I needed something from the bible to support my message. At that point, I was not at all interested in the bible. In fact, I was fiercely at odds with it but knew nonetheless that speaking in a Sunday morning service required a biblical reference. I serendipitously titled my sermon, “Jonah as Guide,” which certainly got the attention of my listeners. I understand why this would be misunderstood by a Christian audience as Jonah has long been identified as a card-carrying challenger of God’s commands; he’s seen as a failure of a man. I, on the other hand, was in the early stages of heralding Jonah as a hero! 
Months after having this revelation about Jonah, I lost my older brother (and only sibling) to suicide. Months after my trauma I began seeing Jonah’s perpetual cry for help as an expression of a suicidal ideation. This was jolting to my senses as it opened up an even deeper insight into Jonah’s precarious journey and furthered my hunch that he was a bona fide guide. He was inadvertently leading us to see where a unique type of pain originates and how it can be resolved. There are clues embedded in the written words of his story, one in particular that is primary to all others. A literary device of sorts found halfway through the story magnetizes Jonah’s potential flight to freedom.
Jonah is “renamed” or better said, re-identified when he is referred to by the narrator as simply “Jonah.” This is in contrast to the first line of the story where Jonah is referred to as “the son of Amittay.” I propose that Jonah begins the story carrying the weight of his father, and is released in Chapter 3 to differentiate into his own self, his true self. What happens in the story after this halfway mark of differentiation is, in my reckoning, Jonah working out his personal issues, which is not without grave difficulty. He has to reach deep inside to find the voice of love and acceptance within. The lyrics below from one of my favorite artists highlight quite well Jonah’s experience: 
Gone out walking through the city tonight
Sittin' through the wreckage underneath the lights
All you can do is pray with all your might
There's a few thousand souls no where in sight
It's hard to swing at something you can't see
Sometimes we just don’t know the enemy
Can’t live by fear can’t live by deception
Hey I’m a man of peace with a few exceptions
I need a drink of something like water
I need a taste of love divine
Sometimes you just gotta do what you oughta
Sometimes you bring up the water when the well is dry
~ From Water When the Well Is Dry on Midnight and Lonesome, 2002, Buddy Miller
July 9, 2020
What makes a good song? Well, let’s simply look at what affect it has. What does it move you to do? Often, it makes you dance, or sing. Often it makes you smile, or cry. Sometimes it makes you hurt so bad you don’t know if you can withstand it, but somehow you do. And you want to hear it again. You need to hear it again. A good song can hold magical powers, like a shaman doing sacred work!
I was thinking yesterday about songs that I love. I’m confident you have yours as well. All sorts of stuff gets stirred within us when those songs show up. Like a shovel digging in dirt, they break us open. Layers of feelings and memories roll over and through us in real time. It’s that experience that we want and crave, even when it hurts. These songs, with all the hurt and joy that they bring, make us feel alive, and their lyrics move us into charted and uncharted territories as memories and futures are recreated. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Some of these songs are the backdrop of our childhood, the soundbites of our adolescence. Others we’ve befriended in adulthood. The relationships we have with these songs are real, they’re tangible, akin to a friendship.
I believe that lyrics hold a unique literary power. I struggled reading books as a kid, my attention span was too flighty. The words on the pages overwhelmed me, the lack of diversity in shape and color bored me. For me, nothing popped. It wasn’t until I began getting my own records that my love affair with the written word began. I loved the look and texture of vinyl, and I became hooked on both the music and the reading material that often accompanied a new record. The format of the writing on the jackets of these vinyl records made it easy for me to stay engaged, and the images and colors soothed my active mind. The words in the songs became my poetry. I fell in love with records, radio, and the spoken word!
I was spurred to revisit my relationship with lyrics the other day while listening to one of my favorite songwriters during a run. I found that while the ebb and flow of my running pace was affected by the powerful, pulsating instrumentation of the songs, my more intense focus was on the words of one particular song. They aroused an anger within me. An anger towards injustice, towards the squandering of precious resources, towards an ever present force quieting the oppressed and the seemingly endless power grab of the entitled. I felt a hatred so real, so hot it might burn me up. Two days out from the jolt, I still feel the burn:
God protect us from the thoughts in some men's minds
God protect us from the pain he leaves behind
Now you see him against the sky
Believing in his own lies
And he's power drunk
Yeah, look at his eyes
Better sober up
It's the truth within him makes a good man rise
~ From Power Drunk on Hypnotic Eye, 2014, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
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