Life and Death in Tower Times

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It’s dark all the time now, but it seems like I never sleep.

My hands ache for bread dough beneath them, for action, for distraction, for the pressing of soft matter between fingers, the yielding to pressure. But, I used up all the flour today on another batch of bagels, so the memory in my muscles will have to satisfy for now.

What I really want, what we all do I suppose, is a break from the heartstopping pace of violence eating our lives away. The simplicity of a moment to forget the terrifying fragility of our lives, our bodies; the insanely close and easy contact we make each day with machines designed to undo us; the way a tiny piece of metal can slip in where it doesn’t belong and sever the connection of body to soul, and life just floats away like a balloon whose string has been cut.

I’m not afraid, just tired, resigned to this ongoing display of the very ugliest of human possibilities. Like I have a front row seat to the scariest, most confusing movie ever made. It’s like David Lynch meets Quentin Tarantino meets Rocky Horror Picture Show. How can it even be real? Am I losing my mind? How do we all manage to get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work and keep this society machine running?

All this death, this ugliness, this mind-numbing, heart-sickening violence, this anti-life, makes me want to revolt. To be even more alive: to cook until my back aches and all of the dishes are dirty and the fridge is full and my beloveds are clutching their bloated bellies groaning, “oh no, I couldn’t eat one more bite.” I want to work on every creative project – finish that collage, that painting, that song; to write the poetry that lurks half-formed and too timid to announce itself. I want to stay up into the darkest darkness of night counting what few stars I can see above my home in the city. I want to go out into the woods and lay in the leaves and breathe in the blue sky and watch the sun roll through the branches of bare trees. I want to read beautiful words aloud. I want to kiss all of the beautiful mouths, tired faces, and worn hands on all the fragile bodies I love so dearly. I want to listen to all of the songs I’ve forgotten and all of the songs I’ve never heard before and I want to fall in crazy obsessive love with music. I want to move this body in ways it didn’t know it could. I want to have a party and invite everyone I know. I want to read all of the books on the nightstand, at once, right now. Right now. All of it. Now.

That’s all I feel is left these days: right now. Wait too long and the chance could pass by, be gone, stolen by the melting ice caps or the stray bullet or the political fanatic or the religious fundamentalist. There is no wrong place – wrong time. There is only here, only now. No time for nostalgia. No time to mourn the slow-motion collapse of safety and order. And why should we mourn the death of illusion? The Reaper can have it, and all of the deadly lies it’s woven into the sacred fabric of life.

What’s happening now has been happening for as long as there have been people. There has always been death, and war, and oppression and inequality for as long as history can recall. The difference today is the scale, and that we can see it, all of it, all happening at once everywhere to everybody. It’s more apparent than ever that life exists in the shadow of death. We can see it, and it’s tearing us apart.

But there is an amazing thing about life – amazing, beautiful, unbelievable. It wants to be lived. It wants to go on. And even though we are caught in this crazy-making moment in time, and even though we won’t all survive to see what the next moment brings, life will go on.

Embodiment in this incarnation is not for the faint of heart. Besides the vital work of undoing systemic violence and oppression, creating a world of social and economic justice and radical compassion, getting out of the way so the Earth can heal herself, and the seemingly impossible task of loving one another, the dishes are dirty. People need to eat, and to be nourished and healed and loved in other ways. What can we do, together or separately, right here and right now?

I don’t have an answer, by the way. I’m just a weird little soul tucked into my weird little life, staying up all night writing because it’s easier than lying awake in bed counting the endless dripping of rain on the skylight. I refuse to let this environment ruin me. I refuse to become bitter and fearful and dysfunctional. I refuse to lose my ability to love, to be useful, to be alive. There’s too much to do.

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