Ghosts in the Music

The whole world is a wild game of musical chairs. While the music is playing, everything is turning into something else, everything constantly interpenetrates itself in kaleidoscopic formations, chameleon changes in a fun house of mirrors, but then the music suddenly stops. We don’t notice it, because we are still enamored and beguiled by how we look today in the mirror, but somewhere thousands of ghosts are now out of their bodies and trying to make sense of the new developments.

We are just like the ghosts, but still in these fleshy costumes, still in the musical game, and even if we suspect that the tune will someday stop playing for us, we try not to think about that. The ghosts were like us once — enjoying the game, moving from chair to chair, talking about politics, weather, pets, perfumes, famous people who seem to get a little older every time their pictures are published, and of course what’s for lunch.

The newly disembodied don’t care about any of that. Now they are finished with talking. What is there left to say? They walk along with us for a little while, they are happy for us, but they know something now, something that they would like to share, but it’s too late for that. We are going to have to find out for ourselves. That’s how this game is played.

Many players imagine that appearing in this game is rather serious, and not to be taken lightly. They are mistaken — it is just a game. We came to play. Why complicate something so simple? The ghosts themselves are moving into a new game. If there is a name for it, they can’t tell us, because the music here in the fun house has our complete attention, and now they have other things to do anyway — places to go and new fun to enjoy.

Some of us future ghosts might complain that the fun house here isn’t much fun — there is sickness, old age, and death to come. Perhaps they may even start a religion, offering liberation from the game. It seems they don’t realize that religion is one of the musical chairs too, but I won’t say it, if you won’t too. We still have plenty of things to do while everything is turning into something else, interpenetrating itself in kaleidoscopic formations, chameleon changes in a fun house of mirrors, at least until the music stops.

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How the Movie Ends

An exotic energy glides up the spine like an elevator on valium;
it’s a slow-motion champagne bubble destined for the head crown.

Suddenly, whatever was gestating in the lit sphere is released
into the great expansive whatever, before any camera can focus.

All the silent observers rejoice, they happily slap each other
on the back as if they had something to do with this,
which they most certainly did not.

Now we are free, then we were free, then we will be free —
so it’s been said, and who am I to disagree?

Just so, this exotic energy may have a mind of its own,
it doesn’t travel the transcribed paths of nodes
in hierarchical orbiting systems.

No, it goes where attention flows, it becomes a prayer
rising straight to heaven, the same place where we now
abide, the part of us which the sadness can’t reach, where
the raft is abandoned to float downstream, where the music
is playing in the key of serene, where all the ancestors wait
with open arms to welcome us back to our home in the stars.

Ah yes, how inviting it all sounds, except for the fact that
such notions are, more often than not, merely useless baggage
toted around from site to site by those who’d stammer, clueless,
when confronted in a real test of their fraudulent equanimity
by any random twist of fate — a broken toe, a new love
gone sour, or losing their power right before
finding out how the movie ends.

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Our Story

Yes, it’s true — those who survive have harrowing
stories to tell, but what about those who didn’t,
are their stories obliterated from the record,
like the amazing dreams from which we awaken,
those which vanish immediately, like morning mists
pierced and dispersed by the flood of sunny daylight?

Perhaps the non-survivors are relaxing around
a far campfire — some mellow hang drum music
tinkles in the background, a rosy sky turns overhead,
dotted with planets of the freshly bewildered dead,
and then as if on cue someone softly begins to speak.

Although they no longer possess a physical body,
they clear their throat anyway, then offer their story
to the assembled campers, and everyone leans close.

Although they are invisible to all but the occupants,
there are windows which open so that the ones inside
can record these stories, the tales of the fire sitters.

We cannot say for sure, but there may be one gazing
through their open window at us right now, carefully
documenting the movements we perform in our dream.

Our various mental creations seems so absorbing to us
that we don’t notice the slight echo of our transactions
as we go blithely about our business like an immortal
whose story seems to never end, though it someday will.

When we hear our own voice played back to us,
it doesn’t even sound like us — who is that?

Just so, when we watch our own recorded story
on the big screen, we might gaze a bit sheepishly
around the campfire, but everyone else understands,
they’ve been right where we are sitting, and in a way,
a way which is hard for the listener to comprehend
unless they’ve also not survived, our story is theirs too.

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First Page of a Contemporary Novel

“Now I am really upset!”, he muttered angrily to himself, as he took another swig of mass-market Pinot Noir and continued grimly scrolling through his Facebook feed. So many Republicans having unprotected sex, and then what comes next: more Republicans! Will there be no end to this madness? Something has to change!

He finally had had enough, and decided to take matters into his own hands. “I’ll subscribe to Netflix!” he thought to himself, and jotted this momentous decision down on the napkin next to his computer, so he would not forget it tomorrow when he reviewed his to-do list, which filled out the rest of the blank spaces on the food-stained paper towel which had accompanied his lunch.

Now he boldly projected himself mentally into the next morning, and envisioned himself sitting in this same chair, savoring a nice cup of strong dark coffee. He almost blurted out a sigh of satisfaction in anticipation, but first he would have to endure the night, and all of the complications that came with that dark and ambivalent time, overflowing as it does with nocturnal ambiguities and unanswered entreaties to the guardians dear who gather near and appear to take notes while he tosses and turns and dreams of being elsewhere.

The night! When it seemed as if hours had passed, he would look at the clock and in dismay, realize that only 5 minutes had gone by since his last clock check. This definitely disturbed him, this arbitrary play of time. He tried his left side first, but soon switched to his right. Neither offered him the release into oblivion which he sought, and so he lay there on his back, staring up into the darkness, feeling as if this must be what hell is like — tossing and turning in bed while Republicans consolidate their power in the House and Senate.

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Another You

Now imagine there is a parallel you, living a mirror life. All of the mistakes you remember making, it never made; all of the times you fell ill, it never did; all of the people you once harmed, it refrained from harming; for every lie you told, it told the truth; every time you hesitated, it jumped right in; every time you avoided love, it freely surrendered; every time you held on, it let go; every time you looked the other way, it went straight ahead; every time you wished there was another you, it was being that.

In the magical scheme of things, this ideal self takes over your life. It seems nothing can go wrong, but we never know the intricacies of these dramas before we find ourselves immersed in them, just as it is hard to know how the book will turn out, when we are only on the first page. If someone were to read the book of our life today, would they see some similarity in the various chapters, until they eventually recognized that it is just as much about them as it is about anybody?

Just so, the ideal mirror self has now assumed your life, but when there is a mistake to be made, it makes it. You are surprised, you had high hopes that it would be different now, but it seems that this other you could get ill, could be careless and selfish, could be dishonest and fearful, could long to change the narrative, just as we do, so as to arrive at a more satisfying resolution.

Maybe in our disappointment, however, we fail to notice the small variations. For example, this new idea of ourselves doesn’t make every mistake we had made in our previous version. There were a few times when a different outcome occurred. Nor did it always fall for the same old myths we once did, it occasionally was willing to question the consensus opinion.

There might be other little improvements like this, enough at least to inspire some hope that we are moving forward, evolving, gradually perfecting our image of ourselves, so that eventually we shall get it right and graduate from this endless loop of confusion and doubt.

How crushing it must be to directly see that this is not the case. We don’t really move forward, or backward either. Nor do we stay in one place. There are infinite variations on how we might appear at any given time, and yet none of them are true. We are not what changes, what begins in hope, endures countless challenges, and ends in ultimate victory, despite the arsenal of screenplays we can devise to pretend it all works out that way. It doesn’t all work out, there is no winner to collect the prize — this is more than disappointing.

If I were to just stop there, it would be too hard for many to swallow, and so I should speak about the other side of the matter, in which there is a parallel you living a mirror life, and every time you imagine there is only emptiness, the other you sees fullness. Every time you come to accept the fact that you truly and honestly don’t know, the other remains insatiable in its search for a liberating wisdom. And yes, the other one believes in love, and the power of loving transformation.

Though you may have resigned yourself to the darkness, and even become comfortable there, the other seeks that gleam of light, a portal to the home it left behind out of compassion, in order to be a reflection of you, to reveal to you that beyond your disappointment there is an incomprehensible joy. Maybe now you begin to remember this yourself — that there is only one reality, and you alone are that. Perhaps this time, you won’t as easily forget.



(Photo by Mazie Lane)

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She was quieter than death, because even though we can’t hear it, death has a little sound. Perhaps we could say that it is like watching a video program with the sound off, and gradually we notice that there is an ambient noise coming from all around us that we don’t normally hear, mostly because our attention is distracted by something else, something that we are turning over in our mind like a miser with his coins. Perhaps our particular coin is something from the past which we still feel a little ambivalent about.

Because the past is also the present, it has not really died, has it? It lives on as a memory, but not as a real thing. What is memory? Isn’t it really just a bit of neural happenstance which for a moment seems so real that the sounds all around us — even though we might hear them with our ears — actually pale in comparison to the movie playing in our head?

See, we are always the main character in our cranial productions, and in that way it appears that the waking state and the dream state are not really two different things. Sometimes in the midst of a dream, we hear a sound and wake up, but we are not sure if it was a waking sound or a dream sound. Often, we have to live with uncertainty, even though we would generally prefer everything to be lean and lawful, and without any cause for doubt.

She was quieter than death in that respect, because she didn’t appear as a memory, didn’t obliterate the ambient sounds, didn’t ask for any attention, but just seemed content to watch from the periphery as fabulous worlds silently collided and left colorful streaks of memories in their wake. Standing in the glare of it all, I raised my hand and she smiled, quietly.

There was nothing in need of being said, because the sound of the whole universe appearing in the form of that smile spontaneously achieved an elegant sufficiency. That is — in a way that we could never really imagine unless we were that silent ourselves, that utterly quiet — it was enough.

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Supreme Mandate

A flying insect presses against the window screen.
Although it is a fine mesh, perhaps the insect will
slip an egg through a tiny square in the screen.

The egg could grow large, become a looming shadow.
The shadow might block out the light, then the light
would retreat to the outside, become a flying insect.

If it went from house to house, the houses could band
together, become a thriving metropolis, like an enormous
moth nesting on the continental shelf — blind, but not deaf.

It could hear the wee sounds of the faintest heartbeat
coming from this original room, us, and in that way
it would know that it had completed its assignment.

All of the wars would cease, because there was nothing
to protect or defend, the whole world would have become
translucent, like an egg under the wing of an enormous moth.

In its own merciful style, it will have humbly fulfilled
the supreme mandate of heaven upon the good earth.
Every frightened animal will relax at last, and rest.



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