A Personal Sunrise

None of us are ever fully born are we?  Those fortunate enough to give birth to themselves, to experience rebirth, even partial rebirth, are countless seasons of bloom beyond the many whom, sadly, wander reacting, as if stillborn, unto death.

Once you are first born, the pressure of the contracting uterus is replaced by the contractions of life and culture.  This pressure reinforces steadiness, less change, not more.  The contractions of life press you into a tighter mold of who you were, deforming projections, extensions and surprise until you are smoother, smaller, more tightly wound, less festooned with unpredictability, surprise, bombshells and bonanza, until you are ultimately pressed back to a fetal form, simply reacting to your environment within a rigid decision frame you erroneously consider as thinking.  Here are some terms that come to mind from the lexicon of birth, and what they seem to transmogrify into…

  • the uterus becomes your perceptions of self, culture and life.
  • the pitosin becomes the rat race.
  • the episiotomy becomes alcohol, prime time tv, shopping, sports, treats.
  • the baby classes become self-help books and the best-seller wise men like Dr. phil.
  • the intervention by the hospital, doctors & insurers are replaced by govt, corporations & culture.
  • the vacuum extractor becomes the health “club” that pulls you forcefully into your new & improved form.
  • the sonogram becomes your facebook friends list.
  • the midwife… hmmm, who delivers you now, have you found a God, a guru, a distraction, an addiction?

Just as the classes and videos that new parents-to-be “consume” project a false illusion of what’s going to happen at birth, so too the media and videos they consume the remainder of their lives project false illusions of what life is, what ideal living is.  To hack an off-the-shelf example, women, it is especially easy to observe, are misinformed from cradle to grave, manipulated and coerced into acting, dressing, birthing, eating, dieting, and thinking in ways divergent from more natural, self-fulfilling ways.  When their id whispers in soft protest, our media culture reminds them, even scolds them, “just look at Jennifer Anniston or Angelina Jolie, they would…” or “the doctor said if it was ‘his’ wife, he’d do a c-section” or “Dr. Phil says any good mom worth her salt would always…”

As a wise and eloquent Harlem midwife named Nanku, introduced to me by my friend Geo Geller, once observed:

“Birthing” is almost a thing of the past–mothers squatting, screaming, and birthing their children.  Instead, today’s ideal has become a smooth predictable quiet painless “Delivery” in a quiet ward of birthing “suites,” only the soft melodic chirping from stations of remote fetal monitors fills the air.

A newborn delivery as smooth and happy as when your clean-cut UPS delivery person appears at your door with a little bundle from Amazon and a smile.  You sign the many hospital forms, insurance forms and waivers, co-opting their reality and control, they start the IVs, the pitosin, the episiotomy, the c-section… and your baby is delivered, nice and clean, right to your arms.

So too this process repeats itself relentlessly in your life as you struggle for a clean delivery of life to your soul, you sign on to responsibilities, and agreements with society, you work hard and follow the rules and goals you’ve agreed to, and your life is handed to you, without the squatting, screaming, and rebirthing of yourself into greater a consciousness, wider experience, or robust bloom of rebirth.

You don’t dare sell everything and move to a quaint little town in a beautiful foreign country–where would the kids go to school? how would we get medical care? what job could i find? could i ever learn the language as well as i expect of immigrants to my own country? would working as a waiter, now being an illegal on your planet, and living modestly, be worth the experience of washing yourself clean of your old life? for the opportunity to force change upon yourself? could you forge such a change, such a rebirth, without going to this extreme?

At the age of 53 i’m now four years older than my own mother, sweet Janice.  She died at the age of forty-nine, i still spell out her final age, where she froze motionless in time, as a small tribute to her, an attempt to represent more accurately the greater impact of her years of toil and joy upon my life, upon the world.  I mention her because her death, as with her birthing me, induced my rebirth later in life.  I count myself as one of the fortunate who’ve given birth to myself, and more than once.

First at the age of 22 after being told all my life i could not live like regular people, sighted people (i’m virtually blind due to a massive overdose of pure oxygen at my original birth).  I couldn’t see the blackboards or my friends’ faces, i was told that, of course, i’d never be able to drive, let alone do any kind of job that requires seeing anything, which seemed like every job from what i could determine.  In high school i was given a tour of a closed-workshop mop factory, full of blind people sewing mops at piece-rate wages to circumvent the minimum wage.  I didn’t bite, instead i went on to a nearby public college, however, after completing my studies even the campus interviews with IBM, Texas Instruments, the US Navy, and all the other large organizations I interviewed with underscored what i had been told again and again before–that i could not live as a regular sighted person.  Each informed me that i wouldn’t pass their screening physical, which included an eye test, there was nothing they could do as a campus recruiter about that, they always apologized.

So, instead of printing more resumes and making more appointments with recruiters, or groveling for a handout at the mop factory, for some reason I lost all fear, all doubt in myself.  I remember taking a shower, a long hot shower before a day of classes in the last weeks before the end of my formal schooling, and i cannot explain why, but the expectations of others, of my culture, washed away as i dreamed about what i “could” be if i was magical.

Then standing just outside of the shower, dripping, naked, i did not reach for the towel, i froze and let the water pool on the floor, i was not going to be the person i “should” be at that moment.  I remember thinking how naked i had been coming into the world, and told myself that right at this moment outside the shower i was no different, i was no different than my newborn self.  I concluded then that i had nothing to lose.  If i tried living as if i was whomever i imagined, the worst that could happen if i failed was i’d simply again be a naked boy dripping from a shower somewhere else in time.

Then, perhaps through sheer luck, an odd string of coincidences, divine intervention, i don’t know, i unfolded a very different life for myself than who i was told i was or would be.  It began right after the shower.  Instead of typing more resumes that day, I printed up business cards, i threw away my free bus pass for blind people and got a gas can so that when i hitchhiked people would pick me up quickly, and i began working as an independent inventor and systems man, which turned into software man, design man, and then big picture, big idea man, and today, some 30 years later, i can honestly say i have never been that blind person who was projected upon me before my rebirth outside that shower.

I mention my mother’s death at the age of forty-nine because in the decade as my age approached 49 i began to question how i would live my remaining years.  Was i sure my college rebirth was enough, complete, all inclusive of who i could be, perhaps it was for that place in time, but could i dance in new shoes again, see another sunrise of my life?  A rebirth ensued, almost instantly, labour was short, there was some internal screaming, warnings, don’t mess up what you have!  I fixated on my earlier after-shower experience whenever those voices would yell, i turned from them and ran naked toward myself, my new baby boyself.

I gave away or sold every physical possession, including my home, and began living out of two small satchels for about four years, traveling the earth, running my tech skunkworks at a much slower pace over the ether, flying into some infrequent meetings as required.  I spent much of this era in Costa Rica, on the western beaches at the feet of beautiful rainforests, writing and thinking.

Once, stopping over in Los Angeles while flying through this country, the US of A, the country i thought i might never permanently return to, i had a chance encounter with a beautiful girl, a brilliant woman, Jordonna.  Then we chased each other for a few years, eventually setting up house together in San Francisco, we married, and then brought two more delightful creatures into this world, and our world, our sons.

For us, as with many new parents, pre-parenthood was a consumption of classes, videos, and false visions of what we were doing, where we were going, and how we should be doing it.  Then parenthood began, bootcamp, shock and awe, disorientation, and when we finally started sleeping through the nights, and could find and remember our primal instincts about becoming parents, which had been anesthetized by all the cultural and commercial systems ensnarling that process, we were able to rethink and even re-experience what had happened, who we now were, a rebirth was upon us both, and i bloomed yet again, this time, together with her, in the garden of our young family.

I suspect my next rebirth will come when i lose my sons to their friends, lovers, or something better or worse.  I shudder, and tear, at that unthinkable inevitable.  i can only soak up all the sun in my garden now, fill my lungs with the life around me, the life that is the latest me, for now, and remember that “now” is the only thing that exists, as the past is gone, and the future unreliably hobbles closer.  And allowing the thought of losing my sons, even for a moment, i remember…

The memories of long love
gather like drifting snow,
poignant as the mandarin ducks
who float side by side in sleep.

— Lady Shikibu Murasaki (c. 978–c. 1030), Japanese novelist, poet and court lady, The Tale of Genji, don’t have her book anymore so can’t tell you the page, ISBN: 014043576X

And, who is your midwife?  Who is your day keeper?  I answer with this passage from a text that still echoes to me…

A day keeper, in the culture of the Qiché Indians of Guatemala, is someone who tells others how to use their days well … helps others live a “full life” by guiding them to spend each day as if living were an art–the equivalent of painting, composing music, or making a poem.  Any activity, no matter how dull, can be done from the heart, with joy, and every task performed as if for a loved one, in step with the earth and the pace of the seasons.

— Kimberly Olson Fakih, American author, Off the Clock: A Lexicon of Time, Words and Expressions 20-21, or thereabouts, ISBN: 0395663741.

And finally (i promise!)

The past is always a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.

— Max Beerbohm (1872–1956), British writer and caricaturist, quoted in Henry O. Dormann’s compilation The Speaker’s Book of Quotations 132, or thereabouts, ISBN: 0449005607.

In response to Max’s quote, I say…

The secret is sculpting your “now” into a work of art.

— Johnny Grace (1954–1976–1996–2005–), Premium Dude


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