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.

candles, hope and flickers of light

December 6th, 2015

candle flame 5 advent light


How far that little candle throws his beams!

So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

William Shakespeare








I am certainly not religious but for some reason I was reminded today of the lighting of the candle upon the advent wreath <a Christian tradition>.


candle xmas lit

Whether you are religious or not the message it should send to everyone is a good reminder when fear and darkness in a troubled world sometimes seems to seep into the everyday aspects of Life.




<beware … I am going to mangle the real Christian meaning to craft my own thoughts>




The Advent wreath:

Traditionally holds four candles which are lit, one at a time, on each of the four Sundays of the Advent season leading up to Christmas day. Some Advent wreath traditions also include a fifth white “Christ” candle, symbolizing purity that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.




As we near Christmas … Christmas seems a little farther away than it normally does. Headlines scream of people fighting over limited amounts of ‘stuff’ they don’t really need on a ‘black’ Friday. Supposed leaders scream about taking actions based on salving societal fear while the leaders who do speak of tempered actions while tempering fear get shouted down as soft or not aggressive enough or … at the worst … not caring enough about the fears of the everyday people.



We, the everyday people, even on our good days these days are unsure. We understand logic but fight emotions. And most of all we are becoming increasingly clear that ‘feeling secure’ needs a new definition because the old one is gone.


And that is where the lighting of a candle on the advent wreath seems important.



A candle.



I am talking about a candle when we are worried about our safety and our lives and livelihoods.


And maybe I am talking about a small candle because … well … small steps are really important when giant leaps seem impossible and small actions can have a big impact.



Light, even just a small wavering flickering light, should be a reminder that this light not only shows up in darkness but marks the way forward.



Light, no matter how small permits us to see the way rather than stumble in darkness.


candles path advent


The candles within the advent days represent:


– Hope.


– Faith.


– Joy.


– Peace <or Love>.


– Purity.



And that is what the light of each candle offers us.



Hope. A hope that no matter how dark, no matter how chaotic or no matter how much fear … there is a path out of it all. There remains a way lit for us to follow and its name is Hope.


This light offers us this.




Faith that there is a path out of ‘where we are’ to ‘where we want to be’.

Some find it in God others just find it in ‘something better than what currently is.’ I imagine this little flickering light actually is a small gift given to us in Life as something tangible to focus on. The truth is that faith … the faith that it cannot get worse or faith that it has to get better … can sometimes seem so intangible.

So desirable but so difficult to grasp.

This candle offers us something tangible in our faith in what is good and right in Life.


This light offers us this.




Joy in simplicity. For within chaos, unrest and bedlam there is a strength & stability found in something as simple as a candle light.

In addition, in a world of celebrity events with huge spotlights, in a world in which we seem to celebrate the brightest of bright lights … it is nice to be reminded of the joy of a small simple light and the joy in reminding ourselves that small can create big things.


This light offers us this.



candle heart lit

Peace, or love, in … well … having the candle.

Have we ever so desperately loved even a glimmer of light than when we find ourselves stumbling in utter darkness?

Have we ever felt such calming peace with a glimmer of light then when having found ourselves wandering unsure down a road cloaked in darkness?


This light offers us this.



Purity of heart and what is good. Maybe I am naïve but I believe in people. I believe that when given a choice people will do good, will do what is right and will take the more difficult path to do those things. I believe that is the purity of people and human kind.

For some God offers the shining example of what we should aspire to and for others … a candle will have to do. For in its light we see not only hope, faith, joy and love … but also see within ourselves.


As it flickers to light we seem to take a moment where we get a glimpse of what we want to be.

And in that moment of pure reflection we sense our purity. That doesn’t mean we can grasp it <for I tend to believe it is a quest and not a destination> but it doesn’t matter. It offers us a glimpse of the power we have in making an impact against all that is not good, even evil, in our world.


This light offers us this.



That is what I thought about as someone somewhere lit another advent candle this Sunday.



My apology to God as well as to Christians who will most likely look at what I wrote in horror having stripped their message to clothe it in mine.



But because I am not affiliated with any specific religion I tend to believe my thoughts should appeal to everyone should they set aside their own religious filter.





There will always be someone somewhere who will bastardize what should be good and right into their own vision of what ‘right’ is.

And in doing so I could argue they no longer represent the true meaning from which they began their bastardized journey. They have lost sight of what is important and at their worst they come to embody something evil because it has strayed so far from the original true meaning.

candle advent 5 lit


Do I state that to justify my own bastardized journey on this topic? Maybe.


But I would like to think that I have remained in sight of what is important on my journey.






Maybe everyone should take a moment one night soon … at the darkest time of the night with no lights on and light a candle. And sit and think. It couldn’t do any harm.

And it may remind you of how good can be found in the smallest of things.

Fathers day 2015

June 21st, 2015


fathers day 15 hold

“I ached for him and the choice he had to make … that was his alone.

I’d said what I had to say and I figured it was better t keep my mouth shut.

Climb Mount Everest, discover a cure for the common cold, hit major league pitching, become president – they’re all a piece of cake.

If you’re looking for challenging, if you’re looking for tough – try being a parent.”

Les Roberts


“Soon afterward, like figures made of steam, father and son disappear into the crowd of the Ramblas, their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind.”

The Shadow of the Wind

<Carlos Ruiz Zafon>




Happy Father’s Day.


fathers day 1

This is one of the few ‘days’ I consistently write something.




Maybe because I think a child having a father figure is really important.



fathers day 2Shit.


Not just fathers but parents.





I imagine, in general, I just like adults participating in the nurturing of our youth.


fathers day 3

It is not an easy task.



You are expected to have all the answers … but you don’t.


You are expected to be perfect … but you aren’t.


fathers day 4You are expected to always rise to the occasion … but you can’t … that is impossible <even with 100% effort and focus>.


You know your behavior inevitably affects their behavior … sometimes just not in a simple stimulus- response way.



For me? … not being a parent I can only see the outcomes of parenting.



I know one of the most difficult ourtcomes to view .. from my perspective as well as good, well intended parents … is that adults, parents included, can so easily create, or ruin, the lives of the ones they love the most … their children.





Without even knowing it.




And that’s the thing.



Just as with almost anything in Life … it is difficult to see ‘without’ when you are deep in the ‘within.’ The majority of fathers, and parents, do what they do with the best intentions. They do the best they can.



They can watch their child naturally and happily embrace the world. They can watch how effortlessly, and sometimes not so effortlessly, their personality unveils itself.father daughter



They watch constantly wanting to warn them to ‘just be yourself’ and never try to become what others want you to be … also realizing at exactly the same time that view may be a little naive, maybe impossible, and certainly biased.



Ultimately … they are first & foremost parents, a father as we look at today, and the way a father  sees his children will inevitably affect how the child sees themself … a father cannot help but influence the person the child inevitably turns out to be.



That is a heavy burden to carry day in and day out.


father fish 15 togetherAll parents, not just fathers, have a tough job.


They have signed up for it but are not sure what they have actually signed up for until it actually happens.



In the end I imagine most fathers, especially the great ones, will look back and judge themselves harshly for all the times they may have done things poorly or wrong or whatever.


But I would also suggest that maybe all a father can judge themselves by is “I was there.”



Because as time disappears into the shadow of the wind if you can see shadows seemingly made of steam of a father beside their children … you should judge yourself well.





My Past Fathers Thoughts:

father & son pinterest















stars and shrinking

July 1st, 2014

stars and shrinking human


“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they’d live a lot differently. When you look into infinity, you realize there are more important things than what people do all day.”

Calvin and Hobbes



We seem to focus so much on what we do every day … the ‘doing’ in Life.

And while Life doesn’t force us to do so it certainly encourages us to do so.


Life does this by throwing obstacles and things to do and responsibility in front of us seemingly as we take each step into the day.

Because Life does this … it is seemingly impossible to do anything BUT think what we do all day as the most important thing.
And I am not here to suggest what we do each day isn’t important.





Maybe I am just thinking about it.

Thinking about it in a way to make sure we aren’t doing so because we are … well … shrinking.


Shrinking before the immensity of Life.immesnity of life norman-mailer




Immensity of life.


Let’s face it … it is easy to shrink before it.


Day to day, surprisingly, is actually easier for us to face. Not suggesting it is less difficult … just easier. It is represented in … well … things.


Things to do.


Things to say.


Things to check off on a list.


Things to put on a list.


There is never a shortage of ‘things.’

Life is … well … immense.


Immense in its intangible and vagueness.


I imagine I am suggesting we don’t <or at least make the attempt> shrink from purpose in Life simply using ‘what we do in daily life’ as an excuse.

shrinking focus on

But it is hard <really hard>.


Because ‘purpose’ is vague.


It is ‘doing good’.



But … does that mean doing good for whomever is in front of you at the expense of someone else? … or doing a greater good for the planet at the expense of someone in front of you?


Yikes <again> … yes … those choices are real.


Simplistically we try to believe it is simply ‘doing the right thing.’


But sometimes the right thing for you, or from your perspective, is the wrong thing from someone else.


It is ‘having a good heart’ <meaning well>.


But does that absolve you from meaning well but still causing harm because meaning well sometimes means not making the hard decision.

Or sometimes it does.



Purpose, to be meaningful, is a combination of intangible higher order type stuff … with some tangible daily <or weekly> decisions and choices.


And it is not easy.


And it is not easy on top of what you do in your daily lives.


I do believe most of us realize there are an infinite amount of ‘bigger things’ to be done.


I do believe most of us realize there are more important things than what people do all day.


And I do believe most of us shrink before the immensity of Life.



And I do not mean that as a criticism … just as something that is normal human behavior <or reaction to what is in Life>.
I don’t have answers here.
Just questions.


As in questioning whether I pay enough attention to things beyond what people, and I, do all day.



“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”
E.E. Cummings

——–stars and thinking boy


I imagine I believe that while I do not have the answer today if I keep asking the questions maybe I will get closer to an answer tomorrow … or in some day after that.



I kind of think that is what looking at the stars reminds us of.


imperfectly perfect fathers

June 15th, 2014

perfect fathers==



“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”


Angelique Arnauld





Today is Father’s Day <at least in many countries>.


This is dedicated to all my buddies who are great fathers … but don’t know it.


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … well … then maybe this is actually dedicated to 99% of fathers in the world.


I begin with this thought.

Most of my friends are good fathers if not great fathers … and yet … almost every father I know begins with some expression of doubt or regret when discussing being a father.


“I wish I had spent more time.”


“I wish I had listened more.”


“I wish I had been there more often.”



I don’t believe they are berating themselves but they certainly do not believe they deserve to be on the ‘father pedestal.’

And I think it is because being a father means that ‘not being at your best’ at every moment equals being a less than perfect dad <in their own heads>.



It comes down to ‘what is being a good father’ … and a general feeling, amongst most good dads, that they are ‘being a less than perfect dad.’



Reality in life rarely matches theoretical world <i.e., how it should be>.


It rarely even matches what we envision it should be.


Just to get the main point out of the way <in case you are bored and stop reading> … this is a Life truth.


Reality is that children do not need a perfect Dad.

Reality is that an imperfect father is perfect.


fathers day 1fathers day 2

I am constantly struck by how often a dad, in reflection, does not remind us of the importance of spending quality time with his children … but instead they remind themselves of their imperfect fatherness.


fathers day 3fathers day 4

It almost seems like they are constantly seeking some aspect of forgiveness for some failing they perceive they have committed.



“Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”

Oscar Wilde



Before you disagree with me … just take a minute and think about it.


Most fathers reflect upon their imperfect dad behavior … and their ‘less than perfect status’ as a father … rather than the truth that their best was pretty damn good.


Is it really all that important to be a perfect father? Nope.


But fathers feel that anything less than perfect is a failing in some way.



How would it be if all of us tried to live up to those standards?


<pretty damn awesome world I imagine>



I assume that nagging self-doubt about what type of father you were is quite common. And, frankly, I assume that all good fathers are burdened with this.


But there are no perfect fathers.


You just do the best you can … regardless if it isn’t always perfect or you aren’t perfect.


I have said this before on other topics … but perfection is shit.

perfection is shit

Do I like the fact that all my buddies seek perfection as the standard for being a father?

Sure. You bet.


In some form or fashion I imagine that is what makes them great dads.

An underlying state of dissatisfaction with regard to their own fatherhood.


In the end.


What makes a great father?


No specific deed.


No specific outcome.



No specific ‘thing’ you can point at or put your finger on.



It’s just about committing to doing the best you can.


“One day, you’ll just be a memory to some people. Do your best to be a good one.”



Perfection is found in imperfections.


You just do the best you can … regardless if it isn’t always perfect or you aren’t perfect.



I stand and applaud all the imperfectly perfect fathers on this day.




I will leave this father’s day with a reminder of a non fathers day father post I did n 2013.

children and dads


If this doesn’t remind you that imperfect fathers are perfect … well … you have no soul.


No Perfect Fathers: http://brucemctague.com/there-are-no-perfect-fathers





My other father’s day posts:


–          2013 http://brucemctague.com/crows-ravens-hope-and-fathers


–          2012 http://brucemctague.com/father%e2%80%99s-day-2


–          2011 http://brucemctague.com/father%e2%80%99s-day



By the way.

Just because I like knowing his shit.

About celebrating father’s day.


Many countries celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June. But it is not an international date <albeit an international celebration on different dates>.


And, of course <apologizing to my Russian friends & readers> … Russia doesn’t celebrate it … they celebrate ‘defender of the fatherland’ day <albeit they refer to Russia in a feminine form – Mother Russia>.







Countries that celebrate Father’s Day are:

February 23 – Russia (Defender of the Fatherland Day)

March 19 – Andorra (Dia del Pare); Antwerp, Belgium; Bolivia; Honduras; Italy (Festa del Pap); Liechtenstein; Portugal (Dia do Pai); Spain (Da del Padre, Dia del Pare, Da do Pai)

Second Sunday of May – Romaina (Ziua Barbatiului)

May 8 – South Korea (Parent’s Day)

Third Sunday of May – Tonga

Ascension Day – Germany

First Sunday of June – Lithuania, Switzerland

June 5 – Denmark (Constitution Day)

Second Sunday of June – Austria, Belgium

Third Sunday of June – Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe

June 13 – Oman

June 17 – El Salvador, Guatemala

June 21 – Lebanon

June 21 (first day of summer) – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Uganda

June 23 – Nicaragua, Poland

Second Sunday of July – Uruguay

Last Sunday of July – Dominican Republic

Second Sunday of August – Brazil, Samoa

August 8 – Taiwan

First Sunday of September – Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea

Third Sunday of September – Ukraine

August 23 – Nepal

First Sunday of October – Luxembourg

November 12 – Indonesia

Second Sunday of November – Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden

December 5 – Thailand

December 26 – Bulgaria



Happy Father’s Day.

Enlightened Conflict