18 September 2009

On High Steel

“In his every movement a man of great virtue
Follows the way and the way only.”

--Verse 65, Tao Ching, by Lao Tzu

“What is this by itself in its own constitution, what is its substance or substrate, what is its causal element, what is its function in the world and how long a time does it persist?”

--Chapter XI, Book VIII, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius


Who do you want to be today?

Can you answer that question quickly, directly? Do you really know, or have you known just who you want to be…ever?

It is not as easy as one might wish to be a human being of any stripe. The difficulty lies great in living life as a boundary condition, always riding the untidy fringe of chaos between unblemished states of order. Look at the swirling edges that demarcate the cloud bands on Jupiter; try not to blink while entranced by the shocking stain of the Great Red Spot on that mighty planet. Turn your attention to the microscopically ragged border between the oil and vinegar of the dressing you are about to pour on your salad. As the liquid anoints the leaves, consider that we as human beings are not so different than those fluids trying to coexist side by side, but never quite melding except under the duress of great force or sudden violence.

We walk the high steel that forms the skeletons of our lives, blinded by the actinic glare of an arc-welder sun and buffeted by ceaseless winds. We pray that we do not go blind. We pray that we do not lose our balance, such as it is, and fall off the beam.

But fall we do, always.

Where one lands depends on many things beyond our absolute control. The true desires of our hearts may guide us, with unconscious control, towards the strange attractors embedded in the soil of love and virtue found beyond the indeterminate surety of our foundations.


You may be asking yourself, what’s gotten into him? What prompted this sudden bout of navel-gazing? I can say it wasn’t the usual barstool philosophizing that seems to go on in my head all the time. The kind fueled by a beer or three in the belly of anxious loudmouths who can’t seem to stop talking, even to themselves.

What knocked the chocks out from under my wheels was something I read today, that I had the good fortune to stumble upon. It was a blog post that stunned me, made me think and unlocked some long-buried recollections of mine. Thoughtful, well-written with depth of feeling, this post, in its generalities, could have been written by me years ago. Only the author, a young man of twenty, elucidated matters of the heart and mind much better than I ever could have at that point in my life. The congruencies with my own state of mind raised the hairs on the back of my neck. In its specifics, it represents someone experiencing quite clearly the razor edge of choice distilled, infinite promise spread out like a meadow full of wildflowers. Fretting, dithering, the pain of deciding which flower to pick often blinds the mind to this:

The flowers, no matter which ends up in the hand, are beautiful.

Consider the mirror into which we gaze. Please, go read, and meditate on the flowers you picked:


  1. I remember being that age and not having a clue that I didn't know what I wanted. Glad those fuzzy years are behind me.

    Nice post.

  2. Indeed, I will have to steel myself before I gaze into the mirror.

  3. Talented kid. If that's his first post, I can't wait to see what his blog is going to evolve in to.

    For me? Today I'd like to be pain-free. Once I achieve that, I'd like to be my dog; he is probably the happiest and most content creature I've ever had the good fortune to know.

  4. I followed him. I want to hear what else he has to say, on that, or any other subject. Thanks for the link.

  5. I never knew what I wanted to do. Still don't.

  6. Fantastic post! And that young man? lovely.......

  7. Great stuff, Irish. Thanks for tip on the new blogger. He's quite brilliant in his own right.

  8. Let's see, what do I want to be when I grow up? Maybe a grown up Cajun! :) Sounds like he's going to be a great writer. Thanks for the link!

  9. I know this maybe a little detered from the topic but reading this I had a revelation about myself and I had to ask (myself, that is)...How is it that one day we look at the world and see it as empty, almost meaningless and then the next we find it full of all the things needed to sustain and fill the soul? Or how in a matter of seconds I can see or read something that seemingly makes me lose all hope in humanity and feel as if I will spiral into the dark abyss of my soul forever. Then ten minutes later, it’s as if a child with innocent hands reached into my body with its precious sunshine-filled touch and implanted eternal light into that which was dark. Call it being a female, or call it being a human being, but I often find myself dead to the world only to moments later be brought back to life. It forces me to believe that there is always a purpose for the pain. Then again, if we never fell – we would never truly know the triumphant feeling of getting back up again.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...