Enlightened Conflict

fall winter and finding meaning in death

December 1st, 2016




“What I fear I avoid.

What I fear I pretend does not exist.

What I fear is quietly killing me.


Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me.


Let the light in before it is too late. “



 Jeanette Winterson from “The Green Man”



“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”




(via ginger-and-preppy)





Well <part 1>.


I just read a an article in one of those local papers you can pick up at Healthy Grocery stores which attempted to discuss how this time of the year <October/November/December> is the season of ‘decay and death’ … and how it was a potent time to connect with the dead <and highlighted several celebrations around the world which do just that>.

This thought was combined with the thought we human folk balk at connecting with death because it … well … seems morbid to do so.



and summer regrets

               getting rid

       of winter wishes


summer and i




Well <part 2>.


I balk at the whole concept of ‘decay & death’ as well as the ‘morbid‘ thought.


Simplistically, seasons remind of us the cycle of Life <not death> and that death, in and of itself a sad event, contains at its very core the very simple concept that without Death, there is no Life.


This was immortalized in pop culture by Blood Sweat & Tears in their absolutely fabulous song “and when I die”:



And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, when dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.



While each Life is a stepping stone for every future generation each death represents a stepping stone for … well … the future.

dialogue with pain


I don’t need any Eastern religion wisdom to remind me of this … I think we all know this.

Now … I will admit that connecting with this thought is much much easier for us when we remove any personalized death and accept it as simply a turning of generations. Therefore … one of the reasons we do not celebrate death is because it can get too personal. And if that is a reason … it sure as hell is a good one.


But death itself?


While death is something we dislike, facing seasons remain something we must face year in and year out. It is a constant affirmation of the turning of time and that some things we may have gained will most likely be inevitably lost in the natural turn of time.


And, yes, as today is December 1st I am reminded that Winter is the time of Life’s strategic retreat and conservation of what gives it all life.


It is not death. And it is not decay.


It is Life’s thoughtful way to insure its existence and survival.


It is the time of incubation and rest and restoration for all things to come in the following year.


I could also suggest that winter is a time of reflection and … well … comfort. In winter’s dark nights the stars are at their clearest and we have the opportunity to see them as the sparks of potential and wishes and dreams and … well … Life. Uhm. And dreaming is never a bad thing … particularly during the ‘ebb tide of seasonal Life.’


I will not argue that as Life recedes in autumn and rests in winter we do, at least emotionally, get closer to connecting with death … but I do balk at thinking of autumn & winter as ‘things associated with death.’


.... a time to Reflect ......

…. a time to Reflect ……

I would argue it actually does a nice job of reminding us we need to let go of things. and, sure, maybe we connect with ‘the dead’ better at this time because … well … it reminds us to celebrate what we had and embrace letting go.


And that is the thing about winter … it demands to not only be felt but also that you meet it on its terms. Even better … Winter demands us to let go of things we most typically hold onto with ragged claws.


You cannot refuse its existence and you cannot ignore what was because what is … is … well … is starkly different. Where Life was once obvious it is now starkly absent.


I would note that all Eastern mysticism and ‘being in touch with the universe’ and the ‘natural ebb of the earth’ and all that stuff, at its core, just suggests that we pay attention. Pay attention to whatever energy seasons give us … and more often than not that energy it gives us is … uhm … just good ole fashioned thinking. It gives us the energy to think about our lives, lives lost and lives yet to be lived.


Acknowledgement of all of that increases your overall connection not just with ‘the universe’ but rather to the eternal pattern of life and invests a sense of energy into pretty much everything <yourself and Life>.


And just as Death breaks things down to the bare essence, winter does the same.

And maybe that is the connection.


When things are at their barest, when we are drawn closer to endings rather than beginnings, we inevitably ponder the ‘great perhaps.’


Back in September I wrote this on the first day of Fall:




I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”. I think we all know what a better world really looks like. I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.


And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we begin to better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams. And maybe it is within Winter where , in ts barest of bare essences, we are forced to begin envisioning what could be in plans and dreams because it is left to us standing in the bare environment around us.




What I do know about all seasons is that they are markers of Time … and poetically speaking … Time is always hungry for many of the things we dearly want to endure and do.


This makes Time both beautiful and doomed. Yeah. Time is beautiful and doomed. And that is where I really believe the whole ‘morbid time of the year’ goes astray.



for it seems all of Fall’s stars

                       have fallen

and often summer and i

run through the last warm days

through the cool grass

       gathering stars caught in people’s dreams

with the intent

           to toss them to Winter

through windows of dawn.


Summer & i




We, especially in the West, hunger for time.

Conversely, time itself <to us Western folk> has a hunger and its hunger is for ‘things.’

It is a nasty emptiness waiting to be filled.




If there is one thing humans are fucking great at … it is filling time and stuffing whatever we can into any emptiness we can find.


Death and dying makes us reflect. It forces us to do so. Just as the bare often starkness of Winter does.

And it makes us reflect on what ‘stuff’ we have crammed into whatever Time we have had.


Oh. Maybe what it really forces us to do is reflect upon time. and that is where death truly makes us feel uncomfortable … not any morbid feeling but rather it’s just being dead livingthat we have been indoctrinated to focus on living … living life to its fullest, not wasting any time, to do lists that never get completed and just doing shit <just do it>.


Nowhere in that list of shit I just shared does death have a place. In fact. Death represents the exact opposite of everything society & our culture almost demands we think about 24/7.


And when forced to face death, or feel a need to connect, we are much less likely to celebrate but rather assess … assess our doing mantra versus ‘stop.’




Most of us don’t purposefully ignore connecting with death and those who have passed away because of sadness <because if it were we would be more likely to actually do it because the opposite of sadness is reflecting upon the inevitable happiness> but rather because death and past lives force us to reflect upon our ‘doing accomplishment’ <as well as it forces us to stop … which compounds the feeling of ‘shit, I haven’t done enough and I am not doing anything now>.



If you can get beyond the ‘doing’ aspect inherently death is more about sadness <loss of something or someone or time> more so than morbidity. Conquer the sadness and you have conquered death.


And all of this is just not that difficult <if you are willing to actually think about it>.


winter-fall-snow-season-change-lifeSeveral cultures do celebrate the autumnal solstice as the time life & death is closest. I would argue it is less a celebration but rather recognition of that which came before, and that which is dying, so that what will be will come forth.

Generations beget generations just as falls beget springs.


Death begets life.


This doesn’t mean we should celebrate impending death but rather recognize, even in sadness, life & beauty resides in the future.


Fall is of beautiful dying.

Winter is of starkness of death.

Spring is of rebirth from death.


This doesn’t mean you can find beautiful things to enjoy throughout any season.  Seasons simply remind us of the fact time does not stand still and no matter how hard we try and fill up the emptiness time offers us day in and day out … leaves fall, winter comes and spring arises.


I believe it is the Celtic wheel of the year describes this time of the year as Samhain … “the veil between the worlds is thin.” Just as several other cultures they use his time to reflect upon “that which was.” In my pea like brain … it is a celebration of navel gazing. It is an intentional event to purposefully explore the valuable relationship not only between Life and Death but the past and the future.


Listen to the cry of falling leaves,

            but winter breaks the silence

and warms us with words

of how to change it all

      before the Fall completely ends.

So, So



reflect brain things


I don’t believe we do not celebrate death and dying because we think it is morbid. I tend to believe we do not traditionally do so because we, as in Western civilization versus Eastern, don’t celebrate reflection.

We treat reflection more as  a personal thing and not a larger more public event and celebration.


Should we celebrate reflection? Shit. I don’t know. But understanding that seasons can offer us enlightening thoughts about how we actually think about death & Life & holding on & letting go is surely not a bad thing.


As for Fall and Winter? I do not think of death and decay. I actually think of flowers. Huh?


I credit Mark Strand for making me think Winter is the time to bring flowers into your Life as he describes Winter in his poem called Blizzard of One:


“A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that …”

Mark Strand <Blizzard of One>

Every funeral deserves flowers. Every Winter deserves thoughts of Life.

A dog does not care

September 5th, 2016

dog care 1 dog care 2 dog care 3 dog care 4 dog care 5 dog care 6 dog care 7



A dog doesn’t care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb.

Give him your heart and he’ll give you his.  <tyrells on tumblr>



I have absolutely no reason why i am posting this today other then I ran across this posted on tumblr by someone under the poster name of ‘tyrells’ and it reminded me of how great it was to own a dog.


The scenes come from Marley & Me. A movie that no dog owner, especially a guy dog owner, can watch without laughing throughout and sobbing at the end.





gracefully letting go

March 29th, 2015


———gracefully let go card




“Teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.”



via lilac-veinss







There are moments in the life of a man, and of a nation, when it is right to say:



I have done my utmost, and I can do no more, therefore I will cease my striving and seek another road.”







“People will try to hold on when their world starts to tilt.



They will grab onto whatever is in reach.”




Claire Zorn






freedom feels like hold




Letting go of shit may be one of the hardest things to do in the world.



Even more difficult?



Letting go gracefully.



These are the moments in which you have decided you have done what you have done, done what you consider enough … and you are … well … done.



These are the moments in which you actually consciously think:



How do I let go?

gracefully let go lemons

Where do I begin?

Do I let go memory by memory?

How many goodbyes will this take?

Do I leave words with everyone until I have no more words left to give?






And if I do all this, will it even matter?



In addition.


Maybe I should do nothing.


Maybe I should just stand here and let others let me <or ‘it’> go.


This stuff, letting go in general, let alone gracefully … is hard. Really hard.



And while we typically suck at letting the right things go, let alone anything I imagine, we REALLY suck at letting things go gracefully.



Suffice it to say..




Most people don’t let go gracefully let alone let go at all.



You just get stuck.


You just hold on tight … and then when you do let go you just want to throw it away and ignore it as if you never held it.



And maybe you get a little confused.







There is no handbook for “how to let things go gracefully. “


gracefully Yep time let go


It does not exist and so you must try to find ways to figure it out on your own.



Frankly … it seems almost cruel that a handbook on “letting go” doesn’t exist <let alone gracefully>. Because it may be one of the most common things we do in Life.



We don’t seem to notice the almost daily experience as we let go every single day of countless amounts of things:













We may not notice until we are faced with a situation that we want to hold on or that we are the ones being let go.


That must be it.



There comes a moment where we realize we are the ropes in a tug-of-war.


Someone holding on at each end … until one decides to let go.



Someone watches you leave.



Or maybe you end up watching someone else leave.







We have lots of personal experience letting shit go.



Most times things are let go little by little. And in these small but significant changes we don’t really learn the ‘gracefully’ part … just the letting go part.



In addition.



Not only do we let most things go in small insignificant increments … often you have no control.



Things get lost.



People are going to begin to let you go regardless of whether you ask them to or not.



I have said it before … but part of growing up is leaving shit – regrets, stuff, people, choices, etc. – behind.






That is the gracefully part.



Learning to let things go that you not only made the ‘let go decision’ but also the things that were ‘let go’ by someone else.



In other words … learning to let things go even when your world starts to tilt.






Holding on is a shitload easier than letting go.



And, in fact, I am not sure there is such a thing as ‘holding on gracefully.’



You are just … well … holding on.






Let’s end with this thought.


Unfortunately … I tend to believe you encounter more things not meant for you than those things actually meant for you in Life.

And while we may eventually get better as we get older with regard to sifting through all these things inevitably you will end up with a lot of shit that … well … aren’t really meant for you.


And even more unfortunately … there really isn’t anyone to help you sift thru … no one is going to … ‘teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.’



That is something you just gotta figure out on your own.


gracefully Life



I am a work in progress.




I have certainly learned to let go of things … but still learning to do so gracefully.



I can only hope that I am more graceful on the important things.

when not to let go (and balloons)

March 28th, 2015


hold on let go balloons

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go.

Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”


Terry Pratchett





I have written about how difficult it is for people, in business & Life, to let go of things so much I am not sure I can find any new words to share on that topic.



In fact … if you google “reasons to not let go” you get nothing.





You get jack shit on the topic.



All you get is page after page of ‘reasons to let go.’



And, yet, there are certainly times to know when to not let go.



To be clear … a purposeful ‘not let go’ is a different difficulty for us. While not letting go is something that is mostly based on some version of fear or doubt … knowing when to not let go of something seems to be more about our difficulty in discerning what is important, or good, and what is unimportant , or bad.



In fact.


I think part of the ‘not letting go’ difficulty resides in how we learned to hold on in childhood <the balloon thing>.



We learn very early on that when you let go of something good it floats away never to be seen again. So we have learned to hold on a tightly as possible to goodbye handanything that could be construed as good <even if it is really a crappy balloon>.


We have become so good at it we are almost proud of not letting go. Therefore the problem isn’t our ability to actually hold on … it is choosing what to really not let go of.



Not letting go is complex compounded by the fact we are complex people.



Why does the complexity matter?


Because there is no formula. No ‘rules of not letting go.’


Yeah, yeah, yeah.



Some things are obvious.



The self stuff, the character stuff, the ‘who you are as a person’ stuff you don’t let go of. They are good balloons.




But after a while you have so many balloons you can’t discern the good ones from the bad ones. Which leads me to suggest I sometimes believe the ‘what not to let go’ choice is an acquired intuition thing.




I just typed acquired and intuition side by side.



I like to remind people that you are not borne with good intuition. You may be borne with a good intuition muscle but experience strengthens the muscle and it takes some time & experience to ‘acquire’ the intuition necessary to ‘not let go’ of the right things.





I suggest intuition because unless one of the balloons has lost all its air and has sunk to the ground you are choosing amongst a shitload of balloons that maybe all look pretty good to you.



This may sound crazy because balloons float above you and should seem obvious at all times … but the connections to many of the balloons in your life are actually like links of a chain underwater.


“The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition.

Such intuitions give the appearance of miraculous flushes, or short-circuits of reasoning. In fact they may be likened to an immersed chain, of which only the beginning and the end are visible above the surface of consciousness.

The diver vanishes at one end of the chain and comes up at the other end, guided by invisible links.”

Arthur Koestler


learning to fly hands
You see the balloons.

Okay. You see some of them.

But the strings get all tangled up and you cannot tell which string to let go of <because you are not sure which balloon will go away> and which one to hold on to. Some of the choices you make as you look at the strings is intuitive. And given some time and experience I imagine the string feels a little different in your hand as you pluck it out from all the others. That is this version of intuition.






One of the things I admire most in people is consistent great intuition and how they manage what to not let go of.



It is an interesting characteristic to assess when you meet people and is fairly easy because you can just look up and see the balloons they carry with them.



So, in the end, maybe the balloon metaphor is bad … or maybe I simply overused it … but suffice it to say that while there is a lot of free advice on ‘letting go’ there isn’t a whole shitload of advice on ‘what to not let go of.’



I think it is obvious that there are certainly some ‘be yourself’ characteristics that you should never let go of <although figuring out what to not let go of as you try and improve yourself is not easy either>.
What is less obvious is the other stuff in your life. Experiences, knowledge, even people.


birds on hand

I don’t have any answers today. Just questions. And maybe some prompting that this is something we should think about a little more.



Most letting go advice online is vapid and a waste of time <albeit with good intent>.



I don’t have any advice for ‘not let go’ other than think about it. We all learn to hold on to balloons because they represent freedom and hope and good things waiting above us. Those should be the things we hold on to and not let go of.

autumnal winter-like memories

November 28th, 2013

border collie winter



In an odd quirk to weather patterns we actually had some snow flurries early yesterday morning <very odd for this time of the year if not any winter>.


The snow flurries made me think of my two favorite border collies of all time <two favorite dogs of all time>.


Ginger and Tigger


Ginger <the world’s greatest dog> and Tigger <the world’s second greatest dog>.



I chuckled a little because I know why I thought of them … because I was with both of them <at separate times> when they saw snow for the first time.


Ginger was a female border collie.

Probably the smartest sweetest hyperactive dog I have ever known.

She went bounding out into the snow immediately thinking the falling snow were things to catch and play with. She ran around non stop trying to catch one snowflake after another in her mouth. I am not really sure she even knew there was snow on the ground with her relentless focus on the falling snow.


Tigger was a male border collie. The falling snow meant nothing to him. All he saw was a white blanket on the ground which he was 100% positive was hiding something he needed to uncover. He ran around using his nose as a snowplow until the snow started covering his head and eyes. Would stop. Shake it off. Look around to make sure he hadn’t lost me. And then started all over.

And just to show he may not have been the sharpest border collie knife in the drawer … I could throw snowballs all day long and he would chase them and catch them and bring them back to me to throw again … only to find when he went to drop it for me there was nothing there.



I still laugh over all of this.

Good memories.

Great dogs.



tigger and snowBoth having grown up in warm weather … the first cold weather would almost make them exponentially hyper <if anyone ever wants to know what that is like for a border collie just watch a Tasmanian Devil cartoon> … for about 20 minutes.


Juts a short period.

Then all of a sudden they would realize “hey … I am cold … and I don’t like this.”

<border collies are so smart you actually hear them tell you this>

And both of them would go running to the door of the house looking to go back in for warmth.


I was always slightly amazed that they would choose warmth over activity <until they got back into the house when they would immediately start looking for something to do>.



The snow flurries were just that … just flurries. No snow on the ground. All that was left was a couple of good memories and a good chuckle or two.border collie companion



And don’t get me started on piles of raked leaves and what border collies do to them.



It is amazing what good friends good pets are. It is also amazing proof that anyone, and any pet, can be an architect of Life.

sometimes you just have to wonder

January 26th, 2012


This took me a couple of days to write … as I wrapped my head around it.


The other day (the 24th of January). I am driving up to a traffic light and to my left I see a dog (a Rhodesian Ridgeback I believe) kind of chugging along the sidewalk.

No owner. Just dog.

And I recognized the look.

Probably because I lived it far too many times.

The “where is my owner” look.

The “I saw him pull out of the driveway and now where the heck is he” look.

The “I miss him and, dammit, I am gonna find him” look.

It is a look of casual intensity.

Ah. That look.

To the ignorant non-dog owner the dog looks lost. But it is far from lost. It is searching … it has a mission.

And typically the dog is conducting its mission within ‘the rules’ … i.e., stay on sidewalk, be polite as you pass people, don’t pee in someone’s yard, don’t run out into traffic, etc.


And then the dog did the damndest thing … when he reached the intersection he stopped … refocused … and he crossed in front of the first stopped car at the stoplight and started walking down the driver sides … stopping at each driver window to check for his owner.

I say the damndest because … well … Tigger used to do that.

The smart bastard would know exactly who he was looking for and how to look.

(by the way … there is nothing more disconcerting then seeing your dog unexpectedly staring at you beside the car after you were pretty sure you had left him somewhere else)


And this is where you really have to sometimes wonder about things … the 24th is Tigger’s 2 year ‘gone to the dog biscuit factory in the sky’ date.


I certainly haven’t forgotten Tigger … but I have tended to put the box of all the good times (and the times I could have been a better companion) on a shelf just to pull out and scan like a box of old photographs.

But. That searching dog brought the box out and handed it to me (which as you would imagine is, mentally, different than pulling it off the shelf yourself).

Look. I knew Tigger wouldn’t be forever.

And I always knew losing him would possibly be the worst thing I have ever faced to date. But, I admit, nothing could ever have prepared me for this 2 years he has now been gone.

Yeah. It’s been a few years now. But I still miss him.

And, yeah, I have never gotten another dog (yet).

We grew up together (despite the fact I was in my 30’s when I got him).

He was a great dog. And a great friend. (and, yeah Tigger, in case you are reading this post from wherever you are, I still have your picture on my frig).

I have come to the conclusion I will always love that crazy too-smart always hyper but always devoted dog, oh, and I will always be mentally giving biscuits, treats and belly rubs forever.

My dog and I were inseparable. He went everywhere with me … pretty much always.


I think he visits me still on occasion.

And I know he still talks to me on occasion.

And, yeah, for some reason on this particular day … this one dog was walking down this sidewalk with the same ‘where is my owner’ look and I had this same maddening memory … which I believe only pet owners know  … the one that is a mixture of unbelievable fear that your best friend is going to be roadkill in his stupidity and the unequivocal bottomless love you feel with the disbelief that he would go to such extremes just for you.


Thanks to this one dog on his mission he reminded me of another one dog … on one special day.


It’s always worth writing a note about (and to) Tigger. Who knows. Maybe they have wireless in the great dog biscuit in the sky (and they taught him to read).


Sometimes you just have to wonder a little about destiny and how random things truly are that happen.

one year today

January 24th, 2011


It’s been a year now since Tigger (my dog) left me and went to the Great Dog Biscuit Factory in the sky.  He would have been 16 now.

Let’s just begin with its been one year and the good news is that the pain I experienced when he died has passed.

Looking back at that time, for a short time, it was crippling emotionally.

He was an extension of my personality. He was a part of me.

Today? Yeah. It still hurts on occasion. But it was an intense grief then. Now it is just a lingering occasional pain.

I guess it is natural. And in my own head I have resolved it wasn’t silly, crazy, or overly sentimental to feel so strongly at that time. He was a significant and constant part of life. He was a huge source of comfort and companionship, of unconditional love and acceptance, of fun and joy … if not maddening sometimes.

In his death I truly did learn how important he was to me.


And I did learn that people who don’t understand the pet/owner bond do not understand the pain.


I did learn that locking away grief doesn’t make it go away.

I did learn to not avoid grief by not thinking about him but instead I reminisced about the good times.

I also learned some things that I didn’t really pay attention to when Tigger was alive.

I learned that coming home was a major event … no matter how long I was away. I had become so used to anticipating Tigger’s welcome when I arrived that coming home was something to look forward to (even though I didn’t consciously think of it).

But now it is insanely silent.

I learned that coming home is no longer a major event.

I no longer experience that special sense of anticipation, heightened awareness and unbelievable greeting when I put the key in the lock and open the door.

All that said.

Suffice it to say the death of a beloved pet is traumatic. I certainly recognize Tigger’s death was.

He was family.

He was my best friend.

He filled a big space my life.

I would like to think wherever he is that he is young and rambunctious and tigger-bouncy and chasing sticks and endlessly running with other border collies.

I would also like to think one day he will hear a “tigga-boo” and he will stop whatever he is doing.

And there will be that one moment of stillness when the body is solidly motionless and head up  alert and the brown eyes are unblinking and the tail wags once or twice as he spots me coming over the hill. And he will sprint as only border collies do and my good friend and I will finally meet again.


I know I am not done grieving for my old buddy.

It’s taken me awhile but I have learned to accept my feelings. It still feels a little odd because you would think a pet should be somehow insignificant or less important than the death of a loved one. And, yes, a dog cannot be compared in any way to a human. But it doesn’t make the deep grief and the profound sense of loss any less.

It is what it is. And certainly not trivial. And certainly not done in my head yet.

I do know I still look for him on occasion.

I do know I have had some troubled moments (just those random things that life throws at you at times) where the empty space beside me feels as big as the grand canyon.


I do know I haven’t said goodbye yet.


And even when I do reach that point … just a quick note to my buddy … “Tigger, look for me one day, I will come home and we can be together.”

and to close this.

just a short note written by someone that seemed appropriate today.


Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there, I did not die.


NOTE: This is most commonly attributed to a Mary Frye (and believed to have been written around 1932); however, nothing is known of the author.

Enlightened Conflict